TV Review – Charmed (2018)
This series about three sisters who are witches with strong magical powers used to fight evil originally premiered in 1998 on the WB network. It was such a success that it ran for eight seasons, finally ending in 2006. It was just as good a TV series about female heroes as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which had premiered the year prior in 1997. In the 20 years since, there haven’t been that many TV shows with a titular, female superhero. Currently, there’s Supergirl on the CW and Jessica Jones on Netflix. Given last year’s success of Wonder Woman (2017) in the box office, there appears to be proof for Hollywood that there is a market for female superheroes.
Yet, Hollywood still wants somewhat sure bets, so this reboot of the 1998 series seems like a no-brainer. Obviously, the reboot will make changes to reflect the current culture. Those changes clearly have come to reflect the preponderance toward diversity and with more women of color on screen. Those changes also have come to reflect the recent Me Too and Time’s Up movements. All of those are fine, if it’s supported with characters and a narrative that is just as charming as the original series. Right now, this reboot isn’t as charming. It’s darker than the original. Even nighttime scenes back in 1998 seemed to have more light and airiness to them than this dreary and overtly ominous reboot. Simply put, so far this reboot isn’t as fun.
Melonie Diaz (Fruitvale Station and A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints) stars as Mel Vera, a graduate student and teaching assistant at a university in Hilltowne, Michigan. She’s a staunch feminist and proponent of the Time’s Up movement. She’s an activist for sure. She’s also a lesbian with an on-again, off-again girlfriend. She realizes that she’s cryo-kinetic or she has the power to freeze things, typically stopping time for them and not just turning them into a Popsicle.
Sarah Jeffery (Shades of Blue) co-stars as Maggie Vera, the younger sister to Mel. She’s a student at the same university where Mel works. She’s currently pledging a sorority, Kappa Tau Kappa where the leader is a bit bitchy. She realizes that she’s telepathic. If she touches someone, she can read their minds.
Madeleine Mantock (Into the Badlands and The Tomorrow People) also stars as Macy Vaughn, the eldest sister to both Maggie and Mel. She’s technically a half-sister. She has the same mother but a different father than Mel and Maggie. She never knew their mother and she only learned about her sisters after their mother’s death. She works as a scientist at the university, doing research. She realizes that her power is telekinesis or the ability to move objects with her mind.
Rupert Evans (The Man in the High Castle) co-stars as Harry Greenwood, a professor at the same university as the sisters. He takes over the position of the sisters’ mother after she dies, which perturbs Mel. But later it’s revealed that Harry is a white-lighter, a guardian angel for witches or for potential white-lighters who helps in the fight against demons or other evil beings. He has various powers including orbing, which is teleportation. He has telekinesis and can also heal bodily wounds.
Unfortunately, it’s through the conduct of this character, of Harry, that this show falls apart. In the 1998 series, the white-lighter was named Leo and he didn’t first appear until the third episode, but his identity as a white-lighter wasn’t revealed until the 14th episode. This reboot rushes Harry’s introduction and does so in a very clunky way. He’s essentially an exposition machine that gives a data dump of who the sisters are, that they are the so-called “Charmed Ones,” a trio of special witches, more powerful when they cast spells together than any other magical being, good or evil. He also explains what the Book of Shadows is, which is a living tome of incantations.
Aside from his clunky introduction, his personality isn’t the most welcoming. Leo was so warm and inviting. Leo was in fact gentle and easygoing. Harry is abrasive. He’s arrogant in a way and is definitely guilty of “mansplaining.” Strangely, his first act is to kidnap the sisters and tie them to chairs, as he then lays out this data dump. He just seems antithetical to what white-lighters are supposed to be, at least according to the original series. His character instead comes across as a more unlikable Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Giles was basically a bitter librarian. Here, Harry comes off as much worse than that.
The original series had the sisters discover the legacy of the Charmed Ones themselves. It had them discover and learn about the Book of Shadows themselves. This reboot has a man hand them all of it and explain it all to them, and that feels less than empowering to the female characters.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Sundays at 9 p.m. on CW.