Charmed: Season Eight

"We've truly been Charmed."

And so we hit rock bottom. Charmed's final season is an abomination; a dull and lazy slough to the finish line, where budget cuts make the sets look almost as tired as the cast do, and the dialogue has sunk so low that even Holly Marie Combs struggles to make it work. Help.

After the explosive ending of Season Seven, the writers clumsily write themselves out of the hole they dug themselves into, with Leo and the sisters forced into assuming new identities. This concept is played out over the course of the first five episodes, before an absurd confrontation at the FBI allows them to step back into their old lives. Even side-stepping the plot holes that plague that whole development, the silliness of the girls playing the Halliwells’ "cousins", and attempting to resume their old lives is bizarre. Only 'Run Piper Run' tries to use this idea in a vaguely interesting way, with Piper's assumed identity baring resemblance to a girl on the run from the authorities. The episode itself is awful, but the idea isn't a total crock.

Aside from the awkward journey back to normality, the season's central focus is the introduction of novice witch Billie Jenkins (played by the woefully cast, but somewhat alright Kaley Cuoco) and her long-lost sister, Christy (played by Marnette Patterson, who seems to be sucking on a lemon every time she's on screen). We soon learn about the "prophecy" that pits the Jenkins against the Halliwells, something that Billie is wholly unaware of until her older sister returns and tries to sway the impressionable younger sister to her side. It's an arc that fails to truly ignite, though it has a few sparks of potential sprinkled throughout, notably the manipulation of Christy at the hands of the resurrected Triad. The moment she kills the last remaining member is an interesting turn that is never fully realized afterwards, with any subsequent Christy scenes painting her as a one-note wench.

Largely it's a total flop of an arc, one that was a bitter pill for some fans when it aired, since its inclusion meant the temporary exile of Brian Krause so the squashed budget could accommodate Kaley's salary. Since Leo was barely even a character at this point I personally wasn't bothered by his absence, and at least there's material with some depth when Piper has to say goodbye in 'Vaya Con Leos'. It was the missed opportunity of an all-out war between two sets of sisters that truly stung, especially since said war was a flashy staring contest that was lazily set-up by getting Piper to behave like an ignorant wagon, and forcing Billie to play the role of the most gullible fool in history. 'The Jung and the Restless' is a somewhat interesting hour that explores how "lost" the sisters have become and how their powers were being abused, giving Billie's eventual betrayal some sort of basis. Sadly, any interesting material is squashed in the following episode, 'Gone with the Witches', in which every magical creature we already hate decides to turn on the Halliwells, based on very flimsy evidence strung together by two nobody hacks.

Elsewhere, the beautiful sibling dynamic that elevated the early seasons is completely buried, with the sisters’ transformation into unrecognizable, whinging crones ruining any hope of ever truly engaging with them again. It's hard to discuss any narrative growth in terms of the sisters this season, since it's all so underwhelming and lazy. What's worse than their horrific behavior is the archaic idea that Piper, Phoebe and Paige could only ever get happy endings if they were to settle down with a man and pop out three babies a piece - which is the ending each of them got, by the way.

For a series that was once a great example of imperfect, relatable women kicking ass, it's a cold slap in the face to relegate them to such offensive stereotypes. Piper's ending is the least difficult to accept, since she was already half way there, and her eventually selling P3 and buying a restaurant of her own is nice, as is her finally having the adorable little girl she saw in the future. Paige falls in love with a detective named Henry this season, and though he's a perfectly likable guy, it doesn’t feel right to see her adapt to such basic ideals, especially when you look at how progressive she was back in her early season four days. Phoebe's ending is similarly contrived, with her eventual union with cupid Coop coinciding with her fully cemented transition from fun, life-loving wild child, to boy crazed, single-minded bimbo. All this character assassination is just so...disappointing. Even more disappointing is the complete eradication of the sisterly bond that anchored the show when it first started. By this point, the Power of Three is barely even a factor, and we get next to no moments that reflect the true meaning of the Charmed Ones power.

Potions and Notions

Daryl is completely written out of the show this season thanks to budget cuts, but his exit isn't all that sad since his character was tired by season three at a push.

The Source is temporarily resurrected in the 40 minute aneurysm that is 'Desperate Housewitches'. Such a waste of a truly imposing villain.

Alyssa phones it in this season, but it’s Rose who’s truly the worst of the established cast members, twitching her way through every scene. You can see how completely fed up she was throughout the entire season, a dissatisfaction that was evident from as early as Season Six. Who can blame her considering how awful Paige became. For those interested, Rose’s book spills some serious tea about how much she did not like her time on the show.

I wonder what possessed the producers to choose Kaley Cuoco for the role of Billie? Surely someone less sitcom-ey would have been a better fit? I honestly think she was fine as the baby witch, the problem was more the shoddy character writing than anything Kaley was doing, though it’s clear she wasn’t a good fit for the series. At least she's found her groove now?

Spells and Chants

Paige: "I've had it with the leprechauns."
I'm already with you, Paige.

Phoebe: "So much has happened over the last 8 years. So much has been gained and lost. Still, in some ways I feel like my life is really just beginning... "

Piper: "We're a family of survivors and we always will be. Which is why we've truly been Charmed."

Best Episode: Vaya Con Leos.

Honorable Mention: The Jung and the Restless.

Worst Episode: Malice in Wonderland.

I will always remember Charmed fondly. It was the show that taught me how great television could be when it was created with heart and enthusiasm. It's a shame to see what was once a fun and uninhibited adventure turn into a trashy, embarrassing mess, but those initial seasons will always be there to get lost in, as will the beautiful family dynamics that helped to create the series Charmed was during its imperial phase. Its legacy may be tarnished by the three shitbags that were the Charmed Ones of the later seasons, but it’s a legacy that remains nonetheless. Isn't it enough to celebrate what this show (initially) represented and appreciate anything it inspires in its wake?

3 out of 10 Rose McGowan facial twitches.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great review. Did not like Billie, but hey Kaley found her show later. Do not see Paige and Phoebe ending like that, no. Piper, sure.
This was such a mess of a season. The fun times were long gone, sadly.
mazephoenix

Panda said...

Absolutely. It was like Ghost Charmed, trundling along out of begrudging obligation.