Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Charmed: Season 1, Episode 10: Keep Calm and Harry On

Harry is in Tartarus, the prison where the demons lock up their own worst. A place where you are tortured over and over with your worst memories so you can feel guilty and…

...wait, what? This is a prison for demons that tortures said demons by making them feel guilty? Despite Alistair McEvilName making it clear that demons don’t feel? I mean, showing demons all the bad stuff they did should be more of a greatest hits reel than actual torture? This makes no sense, Charmed.

So Harry is being tortured with memories of when he was alive before he became a Whitelighter which included such terribad awful deeds as bank robbery. What’s interesting is I did see a fan theory that the Whitelighters were actually bad people used to do penance in the afterlife by serving - which is somewhat backed up by his memories here

And also by the Charmed Ones turning to Charity and the elders and having them say “yeah, fuck it”. Partly it’s because they don’t know how but it’s also clear, despite Charity’s personal opinions, Whitelighters just don’t register very highly on their priority meter.

Of course the Charmed Ones aren’t having this and have a tantrum but Charity is determined they stay on topic - Mel to investigate the Sarcana and Macy to discover why Parker’s evil demon dad wants to run her lab in the first place.

While Maggie is in her room grieving heavily over Parker, a boy she’s known for a few days, being a demon and it just HURST SO MUCH. Mel offers comfort by comparing Maggie’s short term crush to her long term relationship with Niko - who, it has to be noted, Mel mourned approximately a tenth as intensely and for far less time. So, yeah… look Charmed I  get that your writers had no clue what they were doing when they started this season and tried to force in a clumsy retcon within like 4 episodes to remove Niko so Mel could hook up with the dark and dangerous Sarcana lady, but the way this has been handled is not just incompetent but also carries some really bad impressions. The same-sex relationship, which should have been longer term, more intense and more important than either Macy/Galvin or Maggie/Parker (both relationships are very very new) instead comes off as massively more dismissive than either.

So Maggie, the Empath, is in a full funk so decides to use magic so she doesn’t feel anything and my eyes are rolling so hard I have friction burns. I’m going to do my best to ignore Maggie and her drama

Macy now has to deal with Galvin who knows all about magic and, since they have no Whitelighter they can’t do the whole memory erase thing. But it’s fine because Galvin is totally cool with the whole witch thing and finds Macy’s magic fun and fascinating. Which I kind of like - I like the idea of people being intrigued and interested and even seeing the coolness factor of magic rather than, as is the usual trope, freaking out and hiding under the bed. What I’m less thrilled by is him putting this down to his grandmother being a Yoruba worshipper - because Yoruba is an actual religion and it seems more than a little exoticising; especially by linking magic directly to the predominantly Black people’s religion rather than putting it alongside.

She recruits him into investigating the company they work for, providing support, quick cover for why they’re there and generally being a great partner in crime and getting super close. So Macy drops the bombshell that she’s a virgin and Galvin is completely speechless and stunned about this way more than he was about her being a witch and my these people take virginity SUPER SERIOUSLY?! This causes a brief blip and them having to have a talk and Macy explaining that just because she’s a virgin now doesn’t mean she wants to be a virgin forever (which… ok? Do people need this explaining?) and Galvin somehow NOT seeing that line as a not-remotely-subtle-come-on hint.

They do discover that the evil company has been up to shenanigans trying to turn human DNA demon - though i don’t think this is nefarious so much as an attempt to heal Parker. They also find the company has run all the Charmed One’s DNA - and the results are weird. While Macy is the half-sister, the results point to Macy and Maggie being full sibling while Mel is the one with a different father

DUMDUMDUM have we ruled out someone mislabelling bottles? Have we considered that? No? Ok, we’re not going there? Ok. Back to the DUMDUMDUM!

Mel goes to the Sarcana and finds that the person they’ve freed from Tartarus isn’t doing so well because of all the evil torture - and she kind of needs a lot of hellfire to make her well… Mel doesn’t think the need for hellfire is an issue AT ALL for some reason. Instead she asks them about how to free someone from Tartarus and is told where there’s a guardian and a door

Wait… a guardian and a door? All the drama of the holy staff and pieces of the keys and all that last half of the season and there’s just a guardian and a door they can go to to deal/haggle kill? Really?

So it’s to haggle - and they decide that since the Harbinger is a really bad demon the guardian of Tartarus will totally exchange him for Harry. Which… what is tartarus for? Is it where the demons imprison rogues or their most powerful? I mean the Harbinger is powerful but he seems to be toeing the evil party line. Do they just lock up the most powerful demons? Someone needs to explain this in a way that makes sense?

Charity is obviously not thrilled about giving up the Harbinger but in the name of Harry she gives them the pain can. Unfortunately for them, this is the same paintcan that Alistair McEvilName mesmerised her over to swap for an empty one and Dante is super unimpressed with them trying to give them an empty paint can. He attacks and Macy quickly comes up with a plan to defeat him (he’s freezeable) and then use mind reading powers to figure out how to get someone out of Tartarus… which doesn’t work because Maggie has sabotaged her own empathy powers with her pouting tantrum and gets lobbed into Tartarus for it. Of course - who would have thought and empathy switching off emotions would mess with her powers?

She promptly freaks out so Harry offers trite lines about love and yawwwwwn saccharine blah

The others freak out and Charity remembers the mesmerisation, oopsie. So they need to get the real paint can from Alistair EvilName - so to angsty Parker (he and his human mother have already conspired to tell Alistair that Hunter totally ran off with the magic amulet from last season. Which is a weak cover story but does make more sense than most of the writing here so run with it guys) and recruiting him to get the Harbinger for them. And since he’s in love (and likely still dying) he goes for that and now they have the real paint can

But Alistair McEvil also mesmerises his ex-wife to tell him all what really happened - including Hunter being dropped in Tartarus so he heads to Dante’s as well. Apparently he’s Dante’s boss. So presumably always has access to Tartarus so why he was involved in hunting down the magic items to open Tartarus in the first place? Charmed you are not even 1 season old, you cannot be breaking your own cannon this badly

The Charmed ones have traded the old paint can and got Harry and Maggie back just in time for Alistair to arrive and give a rather comical speech about how big and bad he is because he has a dark ominous title which sounds cribbed from an 80s cartoon. And how pathetic they all are especially Maggie who has a passive power so is like the weakest most useless witch ever

No, she’s the weakest most useless witch ever because her power is mind reading and she managed to have a close physical relationship with a secretive plotting half demon and completely miss that.

This annoys Maggie so she gathers everyone together to invoke the power of love

Oh gods preserve me from this cliche. I am soooo tired of it. I will PAY a writer to have a character invoke the power of love and then be brutally defeated by an enemy with, say, the power of a very big axe.

The power of love means she can pull out a blue shiny shield thing. Made of love. This makes Alistair run away. And apparent skip town. Because of the blue bubble of love. It didn’t look that scary. This may be why Harry is quick to describe how incredible it is for Maggie to design a new spell

Though it’s less design and more just farted out. Yay Deus Ex convenient tool.

That means everyone can gather around and praise her for this rather than calling her a damn fool for locking out her powers.

And Charity comes back to be hissed at angrily by everyone because she’s a heartless elder - they demand she go take tea to Harry to comfort him if she truly cares. If she truly cared for him she would serve him tea made with hot water. Because that is stone cold - and it’s a violent offence against British people. But they kiss so he’s clearly a very very kind soul. She also reveals she broke the rules to look into his memories - and found out he was actually a super good guy despite the whole bank robbing.

Honestly, I think the idea that whitelighters were redeeming bad guys would be more interesting than the whole “we reward super good people with eternal servitude and amnesia” which is a bit weird..

While Mel who took the opportunity to steal some hellfire while wandering around, gave that to the Sarcana… again without questioning it at all. But they kiss so yay? This is not going to end well

Ok so the show clearly wants me to think the elders are terribad awful and maybe the Sarcana are the good guys. But… hmmm… instead I’m kind of getting a sense that the elders are mature and the Sarcana - and Mel for that matter - are rather… childish? This has been an issue ever since this plot line was introduced - with the over simplistic idea that witches should use magic to foil mortal crimes. I see this here - yes the elders look “heartless” but by all accounts the elders are involved in a long running difficult war against evil - one which, Charity has already made clear - means allocating resources (she was firm about this when it came to using magic to stop mortal crime). Yes it’s heartless to decide Whitelighter Harry isn’t worth rescuing but given they have no idea how to do this, isn’t this practical? Same goes with the Harbinger - is it practical to risk losing this dangerous captured demon - or risk them being unleashed to save the life of the human woman it was possessing for that matter.

I think it comes down to how many storylines have been rushed on Charmed. There’s been little to establish the elders except statements of their coldness but the show has done so little to address the wider conflict that it looks shallow. Similarly we can say the same of the Whitelighter’s origin (and any mysteries attached) and Maggie’s overwhelming and extremely hasty attachment with Parker - or Mel’s surprisingly quick trust of the Sarcana. Our rushing through the plot lines leaves them feeling simplistic, under-developed or even silly. Like this episode we have sudden digs about Maggie having a passive power - like, ok I can see this being a thing (it was with Phoebe in Original Charmed) but this has come out of nowhere and seems to have been resolved literally 10 seconds after it was invoked. Look at Alistair Caine (ye gods that name), we’re told he’s such a big bad demon but we’ve never been shown this great power so when he starts proclaiming he is the ridiculously titled Dark Master it feels like a pantomime (should I shout “oh no you’re not!”) or Monty Python (he’s not the Dark Master! He’s a very naughty boy!”)

And Tartarus makes not one lick of sense.