Thursday, November 8, 2018

Charmed, Season 1, Episode 4: Exorcise Your Demons

Apparently we need an emotional prequel to really get Mel invested this episode and to properly feel bad so we’re going to have a prequel to when Angela was reporting being molested by Professor Frost Demon to Mel and her mother and she was worried about the consequences since the professor was so influential and powerful. Her mother wisely offers support but leaves the decision to Angela - while Mel pressures her to report

Now to the present Angela is tied up in the attic burning rats to death and generally being demonic and scary. They’re waiting for the elders to drop in and tell them what to do so they can get rid of the spooky demonic houseguest.  Also Maggie is worried about flunking and Macy makes a quip about her never attending class. Oh Charmed poke that fourth wall, lampshade that she has never actually attended a lesson

For more complications, Niko and her partner Tripp drop in to ask about Angela because she was last seen at their party. It doesn’t help that they’re super nervous and awkward. Thankfully, mid interview, an elder arrives. Charity is classy, clever and clearly capable of pulling out some awesome cover stories to shoo the police out of there. She’s also skillful, magically awesome, able to silence Harry when he insists on talking too much, runs a progressive organisation providing micro-loans to develop female entrepreneurs and is generally someone who is pretty impressive to everyone

She also reveals that the Elders are actually senior witches (and not necessarily super old) and that their mother, Marisol, was also one. This should be a surprise to no-one but everyone acts surprised mainly because it’s a departure from old Charmed canon but also weird because Mel was calling them “hasbeing witches” last episode… so did she have sudden amnesia

In all I quite like her introduction because she’s not a caricature of awful. It’s clear there’s a lot about Charity to respect and honour - if not necessarily to be as obsequious as Harry is. I do like it when authority figures aren’t presented as incompetent monsters just to make rebellion easy and cool - I like the added conflict that comes from disagreeing with an authority figure who is worthy of respect and may actually be right.

Which is the situation they have here - because Charity’s plan to stop the Harbinger is to kill Angela, something they need the power of three for and some big big daggers. Mel is, of course, super against this. Maggie is aghast they’re being asked to make such a big decision. Macy, however, is more clinical and factual - she thinks Mel is being super emotional about all this and they should consider the Elder’s wisdom and maybe killing one to save many is necessary.

Charity gives them various tasks and Macy goes to work and her studies kind of confirm her theory - the rat the demon killed has like Super Smallpox and if the Harbinger escapes (scheduled for that full moon) then everyone is going to be squished. But when talking to Galvin she’s surprised that he doesn’t agree that killing one person to maybe save everyone is a good idea: that maybe is a hook. He also thinks it’s a very cold decision and while logical lacks emotion - and asks why she thinks emotion is so unimportant. It gives her more to think on even as she ducks out of another date with him

Maggie actually attends class and tells Lucy, the kappa head, that she’s really struggling so she offers up the services of her boyfriend Parker to help tutor Maggie

And I need a moment to talk about Lucy. Part of me wants to praise Charmed for not making Lucy a vapid mean girl shallow stereotype of awfulness… but I’m also not entirely sure the writers realise that’s what they’ve created? I just get this idea I’m supposed to roll my eyes at her even though by all accounts she’s kind, she cares about Maggie, wants to help her and even tried to get Mel booze at their dry party (when Mel through baking powder at her). Which sounds ridiculous - but considering Lucy has every reason not to like Mel, she was still going out her way to make Mel feel welcome. She may not be the deepest pond but she seems to be a good person.

Mel gets instructions to try and distract Niko and Tripp from investigating them - but instead goes to use a spell to prove that Angela is still inside the Harbinger body - which Charity denied. Charity is wrong (quelle surprise). Despite that she points out that there’s no actual way to exorcise her and she still needs a good stabbing for the greater good.

Mel also insists that her mother, an elder, would never do such a thing which… maybe? But Charity also knew Marisol well - and knew her as an elder and is confident she would have backed her. Again, while Charity is somewhat cold here, her logic isn’t sadistic and while she’s annoyed Mel ignored her orders, she still doesn’t make that much of a fuss on it.

Mel asks the book for a spell powerful enough to exorcise the Harbinger… and gets a blank page.

So she decides to sneak out, with possessed Angela in her boot (because Mel makes good decisions) to grab Maggie and use time freezing to try and avoid Tripp - who is following them. He’s super suspicious of how evasive they were and though he accepts Niko’s explanation that as a woman of colour she has every reason to be nervous around the police and that she doesn’t like guns, he continues to follow them

With no plan, Mel and Maggie take demon Angela to where the Kappa float is being prepared for the parade.

While Macy, newly informed about the plague the Harbinger will unleash goes to Charity fully expecting to do some stabbing but then finds that Angela has been taken - she’s quite stunned that Mel would disobey. Clearly she doesn’t know Mel. Harry is dispatched to find her but Mel says (to his surprise) that Charity was wrong but also how she feels to blame: she pushed Angela to report which led to her coma which led to her being possessed

And damn, what is this? 6 degrees of separation to make someone else’s choices all about you? Leave that for the Legacies Mel.

Macy and Charity talk  about how Cool unemotional Macy is a perfect leader - and about how Marisol once asked her to cast a terrible spell to free her from some utterly devastating emotional pain. Macy realises it was the pain of abandoning her and gets very emotional and tearful.

And with this emotional wave she goes to the others to offer to help… she knows she seems cold but she’s always suppressed emotion to protect herself but now she’s all tapped in. And with the three sisters present the book reveals the exorcism spell. It was written by Marisol, to all her daughters, in Spanish and based on Santeria magic

Which I definitely celebrate - it is common in the genre to have POC without any cultural markers; this is especially true in adaptations when original white characters are recast as POC. Too many writers think merely casting someone with a darker skin tone is sufficient to transform the character, missing how life experiences, culture, et al are likely to differ. I won’t say old Charmed was celtic based because I think the celts would like to be excluded from a narrative that includes the spell “get him the Trokk out of here”

The Harbinger escapes - and they have to call Charity to stop her. They appeal to her in the name of Marisol and her gift of policy - and with Harry’s support Charity agrees for them to try an exorcism

Oh and Parker just happens to be passing -so Maggie has to convince him to leave… and she kisses him. Before realising this is a total mistake and he should go. Maggie, Lucy has been nice to you, this is officially a Dick Move. Parker - not stepping out of that kiss is also an ultra dick move. As is not agreeing that it was a mistake.

Also visiting is Tripp - mid exorcism. He pulls a gun and Charity throws out some magic easily disarming him.

The exorcism goes ahead and, aided by Maggie’s empathy, they succeed - they cleanse Angela and trap the demon in a paint can.

But in the fight, Tripp is hit by falling debris and dies. Mel is duly shaken by this but Charity is comforting and caring and tells them to leave and she will deal with it

Mel is wracked with guilt because if she’d have done what Charity asked and diffused Trip and Niko’s suspicions. Charity is kind and reassuring and tells her sadly this is just a very hard part of the job of being a witch

Which is comforting, especially with Angela alive and well. Except she then has to comfort a tearful Niko when she learns Charity staged Tripp’s death as a suicide and left evidence that maybe he was behind the killings. Yes it’s a great, professional, neat cover up - but it’s also heartless and cruel.

Harry congratulates them, complains about their tea but also warns them that there will be consequences to disobeying the elders

Maggie doubles down in telling Parker that they cannot be a thing

And Charity loses the harbinger to a mind controlling magic man. Oops

I say again, I like Charity. She wasn’t evil, she wasn’t incompetent. She was capable, powerful, intelligent and even caring. But, as Mel points out, just a little TOO certain she’s right. She’s overly confident and, like many who have fought a dangerous war for too long, perhaps too quick to make those hard decisions. She’s a good leader and a good person but also one who has been playing end-justifies-the-means too long. It makes for a more interesting characters than the elders of original Charmed who were all involved in Piper and Leo’s lovelife.