4 women are gathered around preparing one of their number to go off traveling – with many dos and don’ts and lots of promises to stay in touch. Which cumulates in a magical ritual invoking the 4 elements which is extremely impressive and looks pretty damn awesome. Though, as one of them observers in the aftermath, they should really start using none stick. Then her phone rings – her taxi’s here.
Now there’s an excellent introduction.
7 months later, Stella is sobbing after a panic attack. With an apology, she sends a text to Hannah. Hannah is traveling, she’s meditating in a room full of South Asian men also meditating – when her phone goes off. She scrabbles for it while everyone gives her the death glare. The message is one word “Switch”. She hurries off.
Jude, in a shop with her friend and co-worker, Aaron pause in checking out another, very hot co-worker, Miles when she gets the same text – “Switch”. She leaves mid conversation.
Grace is flirting, rather awkwardly, with a guy in a café when she gets a message “Switch! Now! Timmy’s dead!” She leaves, the guy she’s with left talking to empty air.
At the flat Grace and Jude gleefully greet Hannah after so long apart and Hannah asks what happened. The still upset Stella tells her the body’s in the other room. Hannah goes through sees it and expresses her annoyance. “You made me get an 11 hour flight back from India because you killed a cat.” Yes, Timmy is a cat. Turns out Stella, while trying to warm up her coffee, accidentally microwaved her boss’s cat. She needs a way to bring the cat back to life or she won’t be able to cover the rent – including Jude’s rent and Hannah’s.
Speaking of, her boss, Janet arrives looking for her cat. They quickly cobble together a ritual (massacring a potted plant for earth, fighting to light something for fire – it’s gloriously ad hoc) while the boss waits in the next room. She comes in wondering what’s going on – but her cat is alive which pleases her.
It’s the only thing that pleases her. She spends the rest of the time before she leaves lacing into Stella, nagging her, attacking her, blaming her for a difficult PR account (they’re in advertising) and generally treating her like shit. Which is exactly what the other witches say when Janet leaves. Stella tries to deflect blame on Grace’s mother ringing constantly but Jude drops in a solid realisation: Grace takes shit from her mum, Stella takes shit from her boss, no difference. Stella stomps off in a huff and Grace remarks that, sometimes, when she comes home she knows Stella has been crying.
The next day everyone’s much happier as the juggle getting ready for the day (it says all you need to know about these 4 that they have a sofa in the bathroom so they can talk to the girl brushing her teeth or doing her hair). Stella and Grace are practicing for Stella standing up to her boss, Janet and Grace drops the gentle hints that she wants Hannah to hang around, especially since their spells require all of them. They discuss Hannah’s traveling and Jude adds that if Hannah is going to go away, she’d like to do another switch (spell) before she does. An enchantment. An enchantment for Jude to get the hot co-worker to look at her (she tries to play the “it’s for a friend” first but is quickly seen through)
At work Aaron leaves to angst in a corner and Miles comes in. She puts on the enchanted brooch and he’s utterly enthralled and they end up making out by the till. Much to the shock of her friend.
At work, Stella tries to stand up to Janet who constantly speaks over here and insults her until she snaps and tells Janet to fuck off. She’s fired.
Hannah, at home is trying to block out the sound of extremely loud sex coming from Jude’s room, she’s inside with Miles (coupled with the walls shaking and furniture moving) when she gets a text from Stella – Switch again. She knocks on the door until she can get Jude to see the message.
All of them gather in Stella’s office with some supplies to try and erase 2 hours of Janet’s memory. Of course that requires getting something of Janet’s which takes a few more cunning shenanigans to get her shoe. But they get it and use Jude’s witch app (there’s an app for that) to cast a memory spell (pausing in the middle to laugh over Janet’s surname). Stella goes to see Janet who doesn’t seem to remember firing her – success. Maybe? She also looks awfully confused.
From work Stella calls Hannah to thank her for her help and offer to book a flight for her back to India. She also directs her to a draw in her room with a pack of things she saves for Hannah when she has one of her flying visits: Some money, DVDs with TV shows burnt on it and cards to send when it’s any of their birthdays because Hannah forgets. She rings off because work calls.
Thinking, Hannah goes to see Grace and ask if she’s a bad friend. She realises that Grace remembers her birthday and sends a present wherever she is, while Hannah forgets. Grace says it’s fine – when you’re having adventures you expect to forget home, but Hannah disagrees. Grace leaves and Hannah pulls out a card with everyone’s birthday written on it and a photograph of the 4 of them
At work, Janet is late for a meeting – and offers to help an overladen staff member who starts crying because she doesn’t understand the vicious Janet’s sudden kindness. Janet ends up going to the bathroom with the crying woman to comfort her tears while she complains about her boyfriend. Stella collects Janet who is surprised everyone hates her (Stella “of course everyone hates you but you like that”) and doesn’t remember Marcos at all. They’ve erased her memory of the client.
Back in her office Stella shows Janet several pictures of celebrities who Janet doesn’t recognise – including David Cameron (and some awful mental images), David Beckham and David Dickinson – until she reaches New Kids on the Block who Janet recognises. She thinks it’s 1990 and thinks she’s 17.
Which is when they get a video call from Macross Media – they’re not pleased at being stood up (Janet is impressed by video calls!) but Stella manages to convince them to give them another chance.
At Grace’s work – where she works as a physiotherapist and her client is the cute guy she was flirting with in the café who wants a massage for his bad knee (which explains the crutch he had earlier). And he reveals he’s joined the same fitness centre as her to get to know her (slightly creepy but he’s cute with it) and it looks like it’s going well – until Grace’s mother, Gloria, barges in in a panic. The poor cute guy, Joel Marsden flees in horror since he’s half-dressed on a massage table, but agrees to come back.
At the flat, Gloria nails Dream Catchers to the mantelpiece and begins judging everyone and complaining that none of them came to solstice (unlike Catherine and her oh-so-perfect coven). She’s briefly mollified when she hears that they summoned a cat from the dead (“wait ‘til I tell Rhiannon!” Oh I love this – the idea of witch parents boasting of their kids magic and trying to one-up each other). Unfortunately, this is when Stella comes home, with Janet, to reveal they messed up the memory switch.
After judging them for being a part time coven, Gloria reveals that to change it they have to lift the spell. And if someone’s under the influence of another, the way to do that is for them to “exchange a truth”.
Hannah tells Jude and Grace that she’s planning to go to South America – which upsets Grace because it’s so soon. And Jude goes on a date with her enchanted guy, Miles. She says how wonderful he is and he responds and that she’s the first woman he’s been with – because he was gay. He’d never even thought of a woman before – not until he met her (and her enchantment).
The next day Grace, Stella and Gloria are dealing with the fact Janet is still 17 and she has a presentation to perform. And Stella rants that she doesn’t care about Janet anyway – because she’s such an awful person to everyone. Gloria seizes on that and tells her to tell her that – tell Janet the truth. So she does – saying all the awful things she is but also conceding that without her there wouldn’t be an agency and she admires her for that. Janet responds with “do you also admire the fact I’m 43 and my only friend is my cat”, another shared truth which breaks the spell (and the television). Stella asks what Janet thinks of her – and Janet calls her lazy, incompetent and a low impact personality. Stella celebrates and takes her to get ready for the presentation.
Janet begins the presentation and makes a side reference to friendship before asking Stella to continue it.
Realising there’s still 2 hours left on the enchanted brooch, Jude rushes to the shop and gives it to her gay best friend Aaron, making Miles attracted to him instead, flirting ensures (but notably not the make out session in the middle of the shop that Jude and Miles had).
Gloria suggests to Grace she needs a better coven, that these witches are holding her back. Grace loses her temper and demands Gloria take it back. Gloria says she just doesn’t want her to make mistakes and Grace responds with “you’re supposed to make mistakes, that’s life. Now go home and let me have one.”
Grace talks to Hannah about having a row with her mum, but Hannah says Gloria and Grace fight because they care for each other. Hannah doesn’t even know where her mother is, they never fight because her mother doesn’t care enough to be that involved. Grace hurries to the coach station to catch up with Gloria and they make up.
She returns to find Hannah about to leave and is upset that she wasn’t going to say goodbye and that she was leaving again. Hannah finds Grace in Hannah’s room and realises Grace has been decorating it, making it less depressing and temporary, making it more of a home. One wall has a map of all the places she’s visited. Jude asks her to put a pin where she’s going next – and Hannah puts a pin in London. She’s staying. They celebrate and bless the room – using Hannah’s plane tickets as an air element.
But when they try to bless the room there’s a spark, and all of them are badly burned on the palms of their hands. They’ve been hexed. They use a spell to find out who hexed them and see an image of 4 women – the witches of Kensington.
Do you know sometimes how a show can just set up the entire series with one tiny scene? This did it awesomely with that first ritual – showing the good friends worrying about each other, then the magic that was integrated so smoothly and looked so impressive – then that glorious “we should really start using none stick” line. The combination of the mundane and the magical and friendship really laid out in one scene.
I loved so much about this show. The relationship between the 4 women was excellent, they had great fun, they feel like friends with their own lives but still very much in each other’s pockets. Their magic was interesting and some effort had gone into make the special effects decent. And there’s such a glorious mix of mundane and the magical. All the main characters are so real with their own personal issues and one of them is a Black woman so it’s not a completely white main cast.
It was doing so well – but then using magic to change a gay man’s sexuality and then have sex with him? That’s really really homophobic and beyond skeevy. And people forced to have sex without consent is rape – and not funny. And why the hell did he suddenly change his entire demeanour when he tells her he’s gay and become a thousand times camper? Because the minute a gay man is revealed the campness is unleashed?
I was vaguely hopeful with Aaron – but also cringing since they seemed to be setting him up to be Jude’s stereotypical GBF – but now? Now I don’t expect much.
So much awesome… and then something so very awful in the middle of it.