The 'Charmed' Reboot Casts A Shaky Feminist Spell
The new version of the beloved show feels spooky in a 2018 way.
The CW's reboot of the beloved television series Charmed aired on Sunday, October 14 amongst a fair amount of negativity. The original Charmed spent eight seasons on The WB from 1998 to 2006, starring Shannen Doherty, Holly Marie Combs, Alyssa Milano, and Rose McGowan — all of whom have voiced their distaste regarding the reboot. Many longtime Charmed fans were also vocal online about how they would've preferred a story about the original Charmed witches' children that included the original cast as mothers, rather than "capitalizing on our hard work," as Combs tweeted.
The revamped series instead features a new trio of sisters with first names starting with the letter M (Maggie, Mel, and Macy), whereas the original Halliwell sisters all had names that started with P (Prue, Piper, Phoebe, and later Paige after Prue dies).
The premiere episode of the Charmed reboot started off with a bang and wasted no time setting up some of the storylines that will be explored throughout the rest of the season. During a night out, Maggie and Mel both receive a text from their mother demanding they come home immediately. Unfortunately, the sisters come home too late and discover their mother has fallen to her death from the broken, attic window.
Flash forward three months, and we find Maggie rushing at a sorority during her freshman year of college. Meanwhile, Mel is attending grad school and having coffee dates with her ex-girlfriend while still struggling to move on from her mother's death (which she is convinced was a murder, not an accident). Macy, unconnected to the other sisters at this point, has just moved into town to start a research project at the same university that Mel and Maggie attend. Through a series of magical forces, all three girls find themselves joined together by a Whitelighter named Harry who introduces himself as an advisor to baby witches.
"You are the Charmed ones," Harry tells them, bringing out the all important Book of Shadows. "The most powerful trio of witches."
Harry explains that the girls' mother was a very powerful witch, and she had bound her daughters' powers when they were born so they could lead normal lives. He reveals that she was indeed murdered ⏤ solidifying Mel's suspicions ⏤ and that she had been in the process of unbinding their powers when she died. Now, it's up to the three sisters to decide whether or not they want to accept their powers. If they don't, any part of their lives that was affected by magic will be erased.
Not only do the girls have to come to grips with the fact that they are all sisters, but they must also grapple with the fact that they are a sisterly trio of witches. Mel can freeze time (a characteristic of a control freak, Harry says), Maggie can hear thoughts (due to a combination of sensitivity and insecurity), and Macy has telekinesis. They are strongest together, harnessing the "Power of Three" — which was an important part of the original Charmed series.
What's more? The Charmed series premiere has a strange undercurrent of politics and feminism running through it that feels heavy-handed and a little too timely. Right before their mother died, she had been trying to get the university to fire a professor accused of sexual misconduct, with Mel continuing her fight after her death. The professor refers to the accusations as a "witch hunt," a more obvious nod to the current presidency than anything paranormal.
That same professor turns out to be a demon who feeds off of strong women. He is the first supernatural force the three sisters must vanquish together with their powers — once they all choose to accept them, of course. In a rather unfortunate turn of events, an annoying anti-feminist boy oversees their fight with the demon, and Harry later insists he must erase the boy's memory. Mel tells him not to because no one will believe the boy's story; he's just another hysterical man in a he said/she said situation.
The pilot ends with Mel, Maggie, and Macy trying to contact their mother through a Ouija board, which spells out, "DON'T TRUST HARRY." Whether or not this cautionary message about Harry has to do with him being a man is left for another episode.
The addition of this very obvious feminist storyline seems insulting to the original, as if a series centered on the strength of three women wasn't feminist enough (although the addition of a lesbian sister is a very nice step up). While it's been 20 years since the original Charmed debuted, the reboot borders on feeling a little too 2018. To be fair, in a year full of revivals, it's also the only true remake we've seen.
The pilot has promise, but whether or not the #MeToo-era take on Charmed will win over the old fans remains to be seen.