The CW’s Charmed reboot has a great message about female empowerment, while setting up a really intriguing mystery. We review the series’ pilot.
I had a chance to see the Charmed pilot at San Diego Comic-Con this summer, and I was impressed. I’m not a super, die-hard fan of the original series (though, I did watch the first couple of seasons). In any event, when it was announced that the show was getting a reboot featuring women of color, I was pretty excited. Right off the bat, I thought the pilot had a great message about female empowerment, while setting up a really intriguing mystery.
Since then, we’ve learned that two out of the three actresses playing the Vera/Vaughn sisters do not identify as Latinx. *SIGH* Our homegirl Lizzie with Fangirlish has addressed why this casting is deceptive. Yes, the series embraces #MeToo, but what about #RepresentationMatters? It’s particularly shocking since Charmed‘s EP Jennie Snyder Urman is also the creator of Jane The Virgin, a series that is unapologetic about celebrating Latinx culture and elevating political issues that are confronting the Latino-American community. It would just be really great if Hollywood could follow through on their lip service and actually do better…
And yet, there are very positive things about Charmed that still capture my attention, which is why I’ll keep watching, for now.
From the beginning of the pilot, sisterhood is made central. Dr. Marisol Vera tells her daughters Mel and Maggie, “You’re better together, your differences are your strengths, and nothing is more important than your sisterhood.” A wonderful message, especially since the sisters are quite different in terms of their personalities. Mel is an uber-feminist grad student, while Maggie is more concerned about joining her sorority of choice. But when the girls arrive home to see their mother flung out of a window and murdered, it becomes clear that mama has been keeping some secrets, y’all!
Three months later, Mel and Maggie take different approaches to coping (or not coping) with their mother’s death. Mel is determined to finish her mother’s mission by making sure Professor Thane (who has been accused of sexually harassing a student, Angela Wu) doesn’t get to resume his position at the university. This brings Mel to the attention of Harry Greenwood, the new chair of the Women’s Studies department (replacing Mama/Dr. Vera). On the other hand, Maggie is deep in the throes of sorority life. Maggie feels the bond between her and Mel has weakened, so she seeks sisterhood elsewhere. And then there’s Macy Vaughn, newly arrived to the university to work in Thane’s lab. While Macy’s friend Galvin shows her around town, they come across a house that looks very familiar. Macy later returns to the house, THE VERA HOUSE, with a photo of herself as a baby and Marisol standing in front. Mel is suspicious, but it’s pretty clear that these are the Sisters Three!
From that initial meeting, things start to go wonky. Macy can move objects with her mind. Maggie finds that she can hear people’s thoughts when she touches them. And Mel can stop time. WHAT??!!!
After a brief kidnapping by Harry, white lighter extraordinaire, they learn the truth. Macy, Mel, and Maggie are witches and their mother was a very power witch, too. Marisol spellbinds her daughters when they are young to allow them to live a normal life. On the night she unbinds their powers, she’s killed. Interestingly, it’s also Marisol who notifies Macy about the opening at the university. So, this reunion is definitely orchestrated. Harry presents the sisters with the Book of Shadows so they can start to hone their craft, particularly because some pretty dark forces are coming after them.
After a bout with a demon dog and an exorcism of Maggie’s ex-boyfriend, we learn that Professor Thane is the big-bad of the episode. Macy, Mel, and Maggie are forced to decide whether or not they will embrace this witchy life. Once they agree, they’re able to join hands, channeling the Power of Three to stop Demon Thane. Sisters before misters!!!
The ladies are feeling great, high off their win… that is, until a random game with a ouija board reveals the message that Harry can’t be trusted. WELPS, a twist!
Overall, the episode is clunky, but this is characteristic of pilots. A pilot episode tries to build a world, introduce characters, and set up key storylines, all while trying to get buy-in from viewers. And the truth is, I’m in. I love the dynamic between the Vera/Vaughn sisters, and the repeated messages about consent and girl power are very welcome on primetime TV. The potential love interests definitely have my attention, too… I’m looking at you, Detective Nico Hamada and Galvin! So, let’s all get together and fight evil, shall we?
Charmed airs Sundays at 9p/8c on The CW.