Charmed: Switches and Stones

“Don't let anyone come between you and your sisters.”

A good body swap story works best when the actors involved study each other’s tics, and have the natural prowess to pull the whole thing off. The performances on Charmed haven’t really given me much confidence that something like this could work, but ‘Switches and Stones’ was a solid effort and hit most of the right beats, even if the cast involved weren’t 100% worthy of the material.

It’s odd that OG Charmed only tried to body swap the Halliwells themselves just once in the series’ eight year history. There were several demon body hijackings, but just season four’s ‘Enter the Demon’ tackled a sister-to-sister combo, to mixed results. Alyssa Milano’s interpretation of Rose McGowan’s Paige was to do that “baby voice” thing that she completely wore out by season eight. Rose’s subdued approach was more successful, though it lacked anything truly “Phoebe” to make it worth the whole ordeal. Although the episode did take the time to highlight what made each of the girls so different, something the OG version was pretty great at.

Charmed 2.0’s approach to the body swap set-up was very similar to the original version’s; it took the two youngest siblings and forced them to understand one another’s differences. As Mel and Maggie struggled to come to grips with their sister's powers, and their very contradictory lifestyles, they understood a lot more about each other’s lives. Mel saw the warm side of Greek life, and Maggie started to understand why Mel has been losing faith in the Elders. The script smartly tied these respective revelations into the major plots that have been on-going for a while now, to the point that it all felt pretty natural, an aspect that is sometimes lacking in this series which is often trying way too hard to be something it isn’t.

On the negative side, Melonie Diaz wasn’t strong enough to pull Maggie off. She hit the basic notes – feminine, warm and bubbly – but failed to really highlight the fragility that makes Maggie such a wonderful character. Sarah Jeffrey did a better job as Mel, though it could stand to reason that a harsh exterior is a little easier to pull off, as is Melonie Diaz’s typical one-note performance. Neither woman was truly awful, but the set-up never reached its full potential because of these shortcomings.

Outside of the Freaky Friday moments, the episode was generally solid. The major arc involving Marisol’s death was finally rejuvenated, as was Fiona’s recuperation (is this the first time her identity has been confirmed?). As we discover more about Charity’s betrayal of her sister, we also learn something pretty shocking about the death of the Vera matriarch; Charity was there when Marisol fell. Not to mention, she killed her fellow Elder Priyanka when she revealed this to Macy. I’m guessing there’s a whole lot more to this than meets the eye. Is Alastair involved in all this, or is Charity truly capable of killing innocent witches? If she was able to turn on her sister as easily as Fiona claims she did, maybe it’s plausible.

One thing that I’m enjoying about the Elders vs. the Sarcana is how well the series is highlighting the very different approach each group takes to the world of magic. The Elders were always very by-the-book in the original, but there was never a big opposition to their reign until the Avatars in season seven, bar the Halliwells’ own forms of quiet rebellion. Given how green the Veras are to this world, it makes total sense to have a guiding force to cause them to question the rules they’re being forced to abide by so strictly. Now that Charity has been revealed as a potential villain, it’s made the situation that much more complicated, and infinitely more interesting. Are the Elders truly corrupt? Is Charity an exception? I hope the series is able to pull off the nuances of this kind of story, because the events this week have raised my hopes a lot.

Potions and Notions

The demon-of-the-week was Medusa. Only she wasn’t turning her victims to stone with eye contact. In this case, it was only when they refused to look right at her. The twist on the classic mythology here was actually fantastic, as was Macy using her compassion to save the day and send Medusa on her way.

Macy was connected to Medusa through her power of “evil sight.” The Elders seemed to want to control that power, and Priyanka even forced Macy to receive the incriminating vision of Charity on the night Marisol died. This is all very complicated.

The clash between Fiona and Charity was highlighted so well during the episode. I liked how it was tied into the larger theme of sisterhood. Hopefully it’s something that continues to be a major aspect of the story.

When she joined the Sarcana, the Elders banished Fiona to Tartarus so her power couldn’t be used by the group. I wonder if there’s more to this.

Fiona thought Mel/Maggie was Marisol. I get the impression they were close.

We still don’t know what the room under the Vera home is, but you can only access it magically.

Leah Pipes is such a great addition to the cast. I hope Fiona’s screen time increases a lot over the coming episodes.

Spells and Chants

Fiona: “When Charity joined the Elders, the very people who banished me to Tartarus, she lost the right to call herself my sister.”

Macy: “She was a powerful woman who wasn't under their control. So they feared her, and they punished her.”

Macy: “You were cursed to cover up the crime of a powerful man, so that no one would ever see your pain. But I see it, and I'm so sorry. Know that you are not to blame. And now you can let go.”

‘Switches and Stones’ was a very busy episode, but the show is finally embracing its more interesting story elements, which is lending itself to what is already a far more interesting season that it seemed to be initially. I really hope the writers don’t drop the ball, because the series finally feels right.

8 out of 10 magic needles.

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