Charmed Rewitch: Episode 2 – The one with all the Prues

It’s been 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: 1.16 ‘Which Prue Is It, Anyway?’
Writer: Javier Grillo-Marxuach
Director: John Behring

Charmed 116 Which Prue Is It Anyway

It’s a question we all grapple with at some point in our lives: would the world be a better place if there were three Shannen Dohertys? On the evidence of this first season episode, in which Prue triples her power by magicking up a couple of colour-coded clones, probably.

‘Which Prue Is It, Anyway?’ is a standout hour for Doherty, who does much of the heavy lifting when a visit from a power-mad warlord prompts Prue to cast a spell that produces two doppelgängers. Essentially dividing her personality into three, we get Perky Prue (in pink, naturally), who’s a special kind of coked-up chipper, and Punk-Rock Prue, smouldering in black eyeliner and a constant come-on grin.

This really is, as Piper comments, “like The Parent Trap with a B-cup,” and the most fun is in the interplay between the three Prues, who compliment each others’ outfits (well you would, wouldn’t you?) and agree unanimously on everything. That latter development is particularly cute when Prue’s able to outvote her sisters with a ‘majority rules’ three-for-one.

With Prue dominating the story, Piper is sidelined taking inventory at Quake (who says Charmed never deals with real-life issues?). Phoebe fares a little better, having decided she’s “tired of being the one in the family with the passive power” and taken up kickboxing. It’s notable for a character who goes on to do much of the series’ fist fighting – and Phoebe even drop-kicks the week’s baddie in the final confrontation.

Charmed 116 Which Prue Is It Anyway

That baddie is a dull Jean-Claude Van Damme lookalike (check out that mullet) who wields a tacky fibreglass sword and comes complete with a useless sister who contributes nothing to the story. The episode’s biggest shortfall is the warlord’s dry, talky scenes, which would would have been better spent exploring Prue’s predicament.

Because, sadly, the clones ultimately give us little insight into the eldest Halliwell, and they prove ineffectual in the sisters’ fight against the Lord of War. They’re blade-fodder in an episode that takes macabre glee from repeatedly murdering one of its leads (small wonder Doherty became paranoid she wasn’t welcome on the show).

There’s also some truly terrible ‘grief’ acting from Ted King when Andy discovers Perky Prue laid out in the morgue. His attempt to deliver the news to Phoebe gives Alyssa Milano a chance to flex her comedy muscles, which only highlights how out of his depth King is. It’s hardly a surprise he was killed off six episodes later.

Season one of Charmed was definitely a see-what-sticks kind of year; the show ping-ponged between X-Files-type investigations and Buffy-esque monsters as it searched for its own identity. ‘Which Prue Is It, Anyway?’ is a confident step in the right direction, trusting its sisterly interplay and giving Doherty a platform to showcase her range – Perky Prue is a delight. The show often struggled to produce engaging villains, though, and this episode’s is a grade-A offender.

On the plus side, we end on a genuine cliffhanger as Andy puts together a creepy file on Prue. Seems he’s been keeping tabs on her for a while, and now he’s properly suspicious that she has some kind of witchy secrets. It sets up one of Charmed‘s first ever arcs (one that comes to a head in the season finale), and is perhaps the only really notable thing about an episode that never fully delivers on its fun premise.

Missed an episode? Catch up on the other Charmed Rewitches here.

Charmed Rewitch: Episode 1 – The one where Phoebe’s boyfriend dies (a lot)

It’s been 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: 5.08 ‘A Witch In Time’
Writer: Daniel Cerone
Director: John Behring

Charmed 508 A Witch In Time Phoebe

Time travel episodes were Charmed‘s bread and butter – the writers gave us one every season, and they were pretty much always a highlight. While there was the odd stinker (season two’s ‘Pardon My Past’, season six’s cringesome ‘Witchstock’), this season five time-warper is easily one of the best as Phoebe attempts to keep her new beau Miles (a likeable Ken Marino) alive, despite a series of premonitions spelling out his fate.

With Piper and Paige facing the hard truth that some innocents may be beyond saving, especially when the Angel of Death is involved, they attempt to help Phoebe see the truth. Which, obviously, goes down like a led cauldron as Phoebe becomes increasingly determined to save Miles.

Written by series stalwart Daniel Cerone, ‘A Witch In Time’ is classic Charmed. Phoebe’s fashion is horrific (what is that knitted skirt thing?), Leo is verbally abused throughout, and Piper turns on the waterworks to goose-pimply effect. Which of course means this is up there as one of the show’s finest outings.

With only two guest stars, it’s a lean 40 minutes with spot-on priorities. The straight-forward plot is peppered with stellar sisterly interplay – it’s great to see a show (especially this one) trusting its three leads so completely. Special banter points go to Piper, who manages to have an argument with herself thanks to a time rift that has her meeting her future self (“I’m not standing in her way!”).

Charmed Piper A WItch In Time

There’s also some great action courtesy director John Behring, who oversaw many of the show’s best episodes (season two’s ‘P3 H20’ among them). A slow-mo table dash is pure John Woo, and a vertiginous, heart-in-mouth balcony moment would have Hitchcock cowering. (No really.)

That’s not to say ‘A Witch In Time’ isn’t crammed full of Charmed hallmarks – there’s Phoebe/Cole angst, a himbo warlock with a silly plan and (sigh) yet more quickly-reversed sister deaths. None of that matters, though, when those hallmarks feel organic to a story that genuinely wants to explore the notion of fate. If you saw the show’s other exceptional time-travel episode, season two’s equally poignant ‘Mortality Bites’, you’ll know where ‘A Witch In Time’ is headed.

This is undoubtedly Alyssa Milano’s episode, but it’s to the show’s credit that her co-stars never feel sidelined. Cole memorably chows down on Chinese takeaway – surely the most depressed person ever to live in a Penthouse – and despite Phoebe’s emotional cyclone, it’s Piper (as ever) who gets to really dig us in the ribs, particularly in the final act.

Coming in the middle of an unprecedented hot streak for the show (it was preceded by haunted house ep ‘Sympathy For The Demon’ and followed by the excellent ‘Sam I Am’, ‘The Importance Of Being Phoebe’, and ‘Centennial Charmed’), this is Charmed at its best: chirpy, clever and emotionally honest. Oh, and with awful, awful fashion.

Missed an episode? Catch up on the other Charmed Rewitches here.