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Hello all! After my rather long break from Ciaoing, I was suffering withdrawl symptoms, so what better way to fix that, than to write another Charmed review (Oh god, she's back says everyone!) : )
Spelling Entertainment’s hugely successful TV show ‘Charmed’ was originally the story of the 3 Halliwell sisters living in San Francisco, who discovered they were witches with magical powers. Prue (Shannen Doherty), Piper (Holly Marie Combs) and Phoebe (Alyssa Milano) battled demons and warlocks as the powerful Charmed Ones for 3 series, using their family heirloom, The Book of Shadows for guidance. They each had individual powers – Prue used telekinesis and astral projection, Piper could freeze time and blow things up and Phoebe had premonitions and could levitate. Together, they formed an almost unstoppable force, The Power of 3.
Along the way, they discovered secrets from their family’s mysterious past as well as finding love in both angelic and demonic form. Piper married the sister’s Whitelighter (guardian angel) Leo (Brian Krause), while Phoebe fell in love with the tortured half-demon Cole (Julian McMahon).
Series 4 sees the two remaining sisters, Piper and Phoebe, struggling to cope with the loss of their beloved elder sister Prue, who was killed by the demon Shax at the end of the last series. With the Power of 3 broken, the grief stricken sisters set about arranging Prue’s funeral, only to discover a cryptic message from their ‘Grams’ that their destiny still awaits. This turns out to be the discovery of a half sister, Paige Matthews (Rose McGowan) who they never knew they had.
Now the newly thrown-together trio must get to know one another and unite, before Evil can take advantage of their vulnerability. Piper and Phoebe have to teach the inexperienced, but headstrong and intelligent Paige, everything about her real heritage, help her with her new powers of telekinesis and orbing and reform the Power of 3, in order to fulfil their destiny of destroying the Source of Evil.
This entertaining series comes in a dusky pink box, with a lovely picture of the three girls on the front. Once you remove the sleeve, you get a ‘book’ type container with 6 discs, containing all 22 episodes on a separate ‘page’. There is also a little booklet with a brief synopsis of each episode. Here is how the discs are split:
DISC ONE 1. Charmed Again (Part 1) 2. Charmed Again (Part 2) 3. Hell Hath No Fury 4. Enter The Demon
DISC TWO 5. Size Matters 6. A Knight To Remember 7. Brain Drain 8. Black As Cole
DISC THREE 9. Muse To My Ears 10. A Paige From The Past 11. Trial By Magic 12. Lost And Bound
DISC FOUR 13. Charmed And Dangerous 14. The Three Faces of Phoebe 15. Marry-Go-Round 16. The Fifth Halliwheel
DISC FIVE 17. Saving Private Leo 18. Bite Me 19.
Pictures of Charmed - Series 4 (DVD)
The new Power of 3
We’re Off To See The Wizard 20. Long Live The QueenDISC SIX 21. Womb Raider 22. Witch Way Now?
Since I always get moaned at for giving too much away, I am going to try something different in this review and just give you a taster of my Top 5 episodes! There are so many good ones to choose from, but here are my favourites:
Episode 1. Charmed Again (Part 1) Piper and Phoebe give Prue a Wiccan funeral and try to grieve for their lost sister. A young social worker’s assistant, Paige Matthews, finds herself inexplicably drawn to the service, where Phoebe gets a premonition that Paige will be Shax’s next victim. In trying to protect their innocent, the sisters discover they are more connected to Paige than they ever realised….
This is a terrific series opener and sets the pace for the episodes to come. It is very well written, with the characters of Piper and Phoebe in mourning for their older sister. The funeral is beautiful, with well chosen music and the explanation of Paige’s existence is believable, due to a character we met in a past series. I love this episode, as Prue is very much still a part of it and the transition between last series and this one works well.
Featured music: Bell, Book And Candle – Eddi Reader
Episode 3. Hell Hath No Fury All unsure of where they fit in with this new family structure, the witches are vulnerable to demonic forces. In trying to come to terms with her new path, Paige misunderstands magic and steals the Book of Shadows for personal use. Phoebe ends up in the middle sister position trying to bridge the gap between her and Piper, who finds it difficult to accept her new sibling. While Piper continues to struggle with her grief and unexpressed anger, she falls prey to Furys – beings who punish wrong do-ers, but with no boundaries between slight mistakes and real evil.
This is by far my favourite episode for its pure understanding of the emotional turmoil of loss. Not only does it have an interesting storyline and a very clever twist of using a Fury to illustrate unexpressed anger, but it also has flawless dramatic acting and some good one-liners.
Holly Combs is fantastic throughout this series, but she is especially brilliant in this episode, particularly her outburst at the end, which never fails to bring a tear to my eye. You can tell she really felt this. Rose McGowan also gives a very strong performance, which really sets the scene for the girls’ future relationship.
Featured music: Who Am I? - Lily Frost
Episode 10. A Paige From The Past In this episode we get to find out more about Paige, when an accident triggers off memories of her adoptive parents’ tragic death. Leo takes Paige back in time to confront her past, accidentally allowing the escape of two trapped spirits of a Bonnie and Clyde type couple. Piper has to save the day alone when these spirits possess the bodies of Phoebe and Cole, intent on completing their unfinished business.
This is a great episode for understanding more about the new character and how she came to be as she is. The year is 1994 and includes a teenage makeover for Rose McGowan – braces and all! The possession of Phoebe and Cole is quite amusing, but has a rather dramatic ending!
Featured music: None
Episode 18: Bite Me In trying to unseat the new leader of the Underworld (someone a little too close to home!), a Vampire Queen attacks Paige and turns her into a blood sucking vampire. Will Paige turn on her sisters and become a killer?
I can’t describe too much of this episode, because it will give too much of the plot away! There have been several big twists by this point in the series and everything in the Underworld has changed. However, in true Charmed style, it contains a transformation of one of the sisters’ into some sort of creature and with Paige’s dark hair and very pale skin; a Vampire was the obvious choice! This is a great episode with lots of drama.
Featured music: None
Episode: 20 Long Live The Queen Cole has rediscovered his dark side, causing Phoebe a serious dilemma when she has to choose between her life as a Charmed One or standing by Cole. Will she find the strength to protect her sisters and help them destroy the Source, or will she choose her man?
This is a very dark episode with lots of twists and turns and big decisions. The Source’s Seer (played by Debi Morgan) is quite terrifying and there is a heart wrenching dramatic battle at the end, which changes everything and leaves Phoebe in a predicament. I really enjoyed this episode, as it was cleverly written, very well acted, full of emotion and there are some lovely sisterly moments.
Featured music: Courage – Sarah Polley
As you can tell, I really enjoyed this series. It has been said that the first 3 series were truly the best, but in my opinion this is easily as strong as those that preceded it. I believe this is because the original creator was still on board at this point and she seemed to have a gift for writing good sisterly storylines. Without her influence, I doubt the changeover would have been so smooth.
The change of cast and addition of a new character allowed the show to reinvent itself and gave it a fresh start with plenty of scope for getting to know the new sister. I liked the fact that the writers didn’t try to replace Prue. It would have been tempting to try to make Paige a copy of the old character, but instead they gave her an identity all of her own. In my opinion, Rose McGowan was a perfect casting and was completely believable as another sister.
The dynamic of the sisters changed completely with the new character, with all 3 girls now being on more equal terms, rather than having a strong leader. Although Shannen Doherty was fantastic and had such a presence that has subsequently been missing in the newer series, I thought the shift worked well and added a new dimension to the show.
The characters of Piper and Phoebe continued to be developed, with Phoebe becoming far more mature. Not only does she have to take on a new responsibility as the middle sister, but she also gets her career on track and has many personal decisions to grapple with. Piper is somewhat thrust into the role of protector as the eldest, which is very difficult for her, as she has always been the more fearful and timid. She has to come to terms with so much in these episodes and it is a true test of her strength.
Cole takes a more central role in this series and has some difficult decisions of his own to make. Cue lots more tortured Cole! Julian McMahon plays him brilliantly and you can really see why he has gone on to do films like ‘The Fantastic Four’ and ‘Premonition’. Leo continues to be a rock for Piper, but we also learn a bit more about his past before he became a Whitelighter, which we had little idea about up to this point. As in previous series, the girls are aided by the faithful detective Darryl Morris (Dorian Gregory), who continues risking his life and job to an even greater extent for the sisters.
This series seemed far darker than the others. So much happens and several issues are raised. Among these is coping with grief and loss, which is pretty much the over-riding focus of the series. I liked the fact that it was handled so tactfully - it wasn’t a case of ‘out with the old character and in with the new’. Prue remained very much a part of things for a long way into the series, being mentioned and referenced in most episodes. Also covered were adoption, fostering and coming to terms with a new family member.
This is the series where the girls finally come up against the Source and it is genuinely edge-of-your-seat stuff and doesn’t disappoint after 3 series worth of build-up. The witches face many other situations including a demon who turns people into wax (played by Nightmare on Elm Street actor Robert Englund no less!), a wizard, the ghosts of two soldiers Leo knows and a Chinese themed episode. There is a wedding and Phoebe has to take her turn doing jury service! Series 4 serves as a good continuation for existing fans, whilst being enough of a fresh start for new fans. With all its diversity, it has plenty to keep viewers entertained.
This series is definitely worth owning, so it gets a Good in the value for money stakes, as it has come down in price. You can now get the box set for under £30 depending on where you buy and I have seen it available for under £20. However, as with all Charmed DVD's, the lack of extras keeps it from getting full marks and is rather annoying. To make up for this (!), you do get subtitles in 9 languages (woohoo!) and the option to watch in English, German, French, Spanish and Italian (excitement knows no bounds!), but at least all episodes are un-edited so you get any swearing unbleeped!
So there you have it. Its good to be back on Ciao, chatting aimlessly about Charmed where I belong!