It’s been over 10 years since the Halliwells hung up their brooms, so I’m heading back to San Francisco to see if Charmed‘s special brand of supernatural entertainment still casts a spell…
Episode: 4.15 ‘Marry-Go-Round’
Writer: Daniel Cerone
Director: Chris Long
“Is this a wedding or a coronation?” jokes Paige at the start of this fiendishly clever fourth season episode as Phoebe plans her predictably lavish (and eco-friendly) marriage to Cole. Of course, Paige is right on both counts: Phoebe’s Big Day is, in fact, a wedding and a coronation as she’s unwittingly coerced into marrying (gasp) The Source and being made his queen. And you thought your wedding was a ball-ache.
Naturally, the masterminding of this dark plan comes courtesy of Charmed‘s best ever baddie. The Seer (Debbi Morgan) hasn’t got a real name, but that doesn’t matter when she’s this brazen, sly and downright awesome. Like the best ‘mission: impossible’ scenarios, she sets out the episode’s seemingly absurd stakes early, informing Cole (now imbued with super-evil The Source, but still presumed “as defenceless as a cat toy” by Piper et al) that to produce an evil heir, he’ll have to marry Phoebe in “the dark way”.
That means Phoebe has to drink his blood, marry in a cemetery and be presided over by a dark priest (a nifty little role for Tony Amendola). Y’know, no biggie. The beauty of ‘Marry-Go-Round’, though, is watching the Seer slowly move all of the pieces in to place. With some ingenious twists and double-bluffs, she pulls off her plan and doesn’t even crack a smile afterwards – that’s how bad-ass she is.
Unlike so many of Charmed‘s one-dimensional villains, the Seer’s always one step ahead, and she’s forever looking to further her ambitions – here, everybody’s a puppet and she’s the one with strings soldered to her fingers. Debbi Morgan appeared in nine of the show’s episodes, and though the writers fudged her big moment (in anti-climactic exit ‘Womb Raider’), she’s integral to Charmed‘s first big (and deliciously dark) arc. It’s not hard to see why she was a must-have guest star in the show’s 100th episode a year later.
The Seer’s crafty gameplay revolves around pitting the sisters against each other. New witch Paige, naturally, is the weak link in the Charmed chain, and the Seer fully exploits the fact that Piper and Phoebe don’t know her as well as each other. Paige’s wedding preparation ‘mistakes’ are trivial (picking up the wrong dress, uh, accidentally making Phoebe invisible), but that’s their brilliance – who’d ever expect the Charmed Ones to be destroyed by a spat over night cream?
This episode first aired during ‘sweeps’ in the US (when all shows bring out the big guns), and Rose McGowan, Alyssa Milano and Holly Marie Combs are given a load of fun stuff to work with. Though Phoebe is inevitably the bridezilla to end them all (that fringe, though…), Paige gets many of the standout moments – she niftily orbs a sofa to cushion Piper’s fall during a fight, and selflessly surrenders herself so Phoebe can have her wedding. She’s also the one who keeps asking all the right questions, paving the way for her increasing mistrust of Cole/The Source.
‘Marry-Go-Round’ really is Charmed at its smartest and most darkly humorous. Even stunt casting in the form of rapper Coolio (avec his spider-plant hair) can’t ruin it as the “mean and unreliable” Lazarus demon, and there’s a hilarious dig at Shannen Doherty as Piper remembers her own wedding: “Only Prue could make my wedding day all about her.” Which is sort of fitting – this may be Phoebe’s Big Day, but it’s the Seer who steals the show.