Charmed Rewitch: Episode 11 – The one where everybody’s a superhero

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: 5.05 ‘Witches In Tights’
Writer: Mark Wilding
Director: David Straiton

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It’s crazy to think that it was in 2002 – six years before Marvel unleashed Iron Man and took over comic-book moviedom – that Charmed let its geek flag fly with a superhero episode. With its glittering cityscapes, smokey alleys and cool costumes (punk-chick Paige FTW), ‘Witches In Tights’ is an unapologetically camp love letter to comics that has fun sending up things like Adam West’s classic Batman TV series, all while giving the girls a chance to raid the dress-up box for possibly their coolest ever transformation.

This is also one of the busiest ever episodes of Charmed, which has a tendency to make it feel like it’s stuck on fast-forward, like one of the newly superpowered sisters. First up, Piper’s worried that her pregnancy is making her boring, particularly when she discovers Phoebe and Paige have been checking out a hot new club without her.

Meanwhile, Paige is having problems with a hot guy who she can’t seem to relax around, and Phoebe is attempting to take down a villainous landlord; but with Cole determined to prove he’s good, things get more than a little complicated. On top of that, Leo (remember him?) has been charged with bringing an actual live Elder to the manor as the Elder prepares to pass on his powers.

And we haven’t even got to the A-plot, about a bullied teenager with the ability to bring his sketchbook creations to life. Yeah, this is one seriously over-caffeinated episode of Charmed, but for the most part, it all coalesces into an entertaining 40 minutes, particularly when the Halliwells are transformed into superheroes by the sketchy teenager, Kevin (Andrew James Allen).

Ignoring the fact that we have no idea how Kevin knew the Halliwells well enough to draw their super selves, the superhero stuff is handled with a perfectly judged side of cheese. There’s a thrilling moment where Piper catches a bullet with her bare hand (naturally – Holly Marie Combs’ hand choreography was always excellent), and Paige’s slow-mo fist-fight with a supervillain in the manor is hellacool.

Mark Wilding only wrote three episodes of Charmed (he returned for underwhelming season seven eps Freaky Phoebe and Ordinary Witches), and he went on to write regularly for Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. That perhaps explains the episode’s soapy feel, especially with regard to Paige’s bedroom bother and Phoebe’s tenancy crusade. Soapiness has always been part of Charmed’s DNA, particularly during its second season, which is probably why ‘Witches In Tights’ really resembles early Charmed.

505-2Easily the most interesting parts of the episode, though, are Leo’s conversations with Ramus the Elder (Gerry Becker). This is the first time we’ve properly met an Elder, after they briefly appeared (avec hoods) in season three’s ‘Blinded By The Whitelighter’. Ramus is every bit as enigmatic and snippy as you’d expect, and there’s a lovely scene in which Leo asks if his and Piper’s baby will be healthy. (That scene wasn’t originally in the script, but the episode ended up running short, and it was added in later.)

‘Witches In Tights’ was broadcast two years after the M. Night Shyamalan film Unbreakable, at a time when comic-book movies weren’t really a thing. Clearly, though, Charmed was ahead of the game – it probably helped that showrunner Brad Kern previously worked on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman.

Perhaps the episode’s funniest and most philosophical moment comes when Paige removes her superhero mask. “I don’t like it,” she says, discovering that the mask gives her more self-belief. It echoes a conversation Iron Man (aka Tony Stark) has with Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Homecoming. “If you’re nothing without this suit, then you shouldn’t have it,” he says. Luckily, we know the Halliwells are more than the sum of their powers; it’s their bond, brains and bravura that see them through.

Although, actually, Tony and the Halliwells… now there’s a team-up I’d like to see.

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

Charmed Rewitch: Episode 9 – The one with the hot hunk of Man-Wyatt

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: 6.10 ‘Chris-Crossed’
Writer: Cameron Litvack
Director: Joel J. Feigenbaum

Adult Wyatt CharmedWho is Chris? Why did he come back from the future? And how does he always get his hair so perfect? These questions and more are (sort of) addressed in this flash-forward-heavy sixth season episode, which administers 1,000 volts to the show’s lethargic ‘Chris arc’, giving the whitelighter from the future an intriguing backstory (or should that be forward-story?) without ever managing to make him more likeable.

“That’s one bitchy whitelighter,” snips Piper at the start of the episode, and it’s hard not to agree with her. For over nine episodes, Chris has orbed around like a whiny stick-in-the-mud, shoving his nose in the Halliwells’ business and irritating everybody with his pious attitude. That changes, though, in ‘Chris-Crossed’, when Chris is attacked by Bianca (Marisol Nichols), a hot mama in leather he clearly has a past (uh, future?) with.

Weakened and even more puppy-eyed than ever, he remembers his future (past? Oh, I give up) in handy flash-forwards that reveal he and Bianca were engaged before he hopped back in time to protect the Halliwells from an evil that will leave San Francisco resembling Planet Of The Apes by way of Minority Report.

Which brings us to Man-Wyatt (Wes Ramsey). See, it turns out Piper’s grown-up son is the reason this future San Fran has fallen into ruin. Wyatt’s seized control of Frisco like some sort of supernatural Al Capone – only an Al Capone with a surfer bod and L’oreal-style golden curls (he’s worth it). With the Charmed Ones dead and their home turned into the Halliwell Memorial Museum (a fun touch), he’s run wild – and only Chris is brave enough to take him on.

This episode’s named after Chris, but it should really be titled ‘Wyatt, Erp!’ Though he’s given little more than five minutes of screen-time, Wes Ramsey owns ‘Chris-Crossed’. Kept mostly in shadow, he’s an imposing, smouldering presence, filling the attic with the kind of charisma that Charmed lacked post-Cole. Sadly, he’s at the centre of one of Charmed‘s biggest disappointments because, despite the promising storyline ‘Chris-Crossed’ establishes, the show never followed through on it.

Charmed Chris-CrossedA future San Fran destroyed by one of the Halliwells’ offspring is a thrilling idea ripe with story potential – so much so that fans spent years campaigning for a ‘Charmed Sons’ spin-off that never materialised. But, after his big debut, Man-Wyatt is all-but forgotten by the show’s writers. Wes Ramsey only appears in one more season six episode (the ‘blah’ finale) before fan demand saw him cropping up once in season seven (the forgettable ‘Imaginary Fiends’) and series finale ‘Forever Charmed’.

Apparently Ramsey’s schedule kept him from making more appearances, and season six – and the ‘Chris arc’ as a whole – suffers massively from that. After this, we got a string of filler episodes (‘Witchstock’, ‘Prince Charmed’, ‘The Legend Of Sleepy Halliwell’) before the show attempted to introduce a replacement Big Bad in the form of preening evil elder Gideon (Gildart Jackson). Yawn.

So ‘Chris-Crossed’ represents both the best and the worst of season six. In a year where the girls became involved with increasingly one-dimensional men (does anybody really remember Greg? Or Richard?), their real-life dramas were becoming oddly stale. Meanwhile, great ideas like Man-Wyatt and the Phoenix coven are left almost entirely unexplored. With Charmed getting a reboot, here’s hoping some of those ideas will finally receive the attention they deserve.

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

Charmed Rewitch: Episode 7 – The one where everybody’s been taking happy pills (except they haven’t)

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: 7.13 ‘Charmageddon’
Writer: Henry Alonso Myers
Director: John T. Kretchmer

ca1c9d81e9aaf43e741f1914499ba67eWhen it came to creating alt-worlds, Charmed often slayed the competition. Whether depicting a weirdly plausible near-future (in ‘Morality Bites’), the manor as asylum (in ‘Brain Drain’) or a post-Prue apocalypse (in ‘Centennial Charmed’), the show often excelled at turning its iconography on its head. And while the alt-world in this episode doesn’t quite pack the same punch as those other episodes, it still takes an interesting look at the impossibility of utopia.

Season seven’s Big Bads were the Avatars, an impressively ethnically diverse group of black-clad pacifists who first seduced Leo (by, uh, appearing as a scary floating head) before enlisting the Halliwells to help them bring about their vision of a ‘perfect’ world. In ‘Charmageddon’, that utopia has been rolled out globally, resulting in thinner newspapers (crime’s down), generally happier people (cue lots of awful bit-players) and, most importantly, a genuine shot at a demon-free existence for the Halliwells.

Of course, it’s not that easy. Phoebe’s boss (Elise, always welcome) may claim “it’s like everybody’s been taking happy pills”, but this supposed utopia hides a dark side – the cost of a ‘perfect’ world, it seems, is extreme fascism. With the Avatars stating they “simply cannot abide” conflict, anybody who rocks the boat is immediately scrubbed out of existence. Which, clearly, is sort of a problem.

‘Charmageddon’ came just 13 episodes after the hyper-happy world of season six’s (ultimately disappointing) finale, but it has starker questions in mind. Charmed was always best when it blurred the line between good and evil and, in this episode, it becomes increasingly clear that the Avatars are basically soft-spoken extremists – damn-near supernatural terrorists. Their message is essentially: “We want peace and we’ll kill to get it.”

On the flipside, demon Zankou (the excellent Oded Fehr) sees through the whole thing and quickly pairs up with Leo to try to fix things. We all know this utopia can’t last but it’s interesting seeing why it can’t. In particular, the peculiarly trauma-free issue of death (if you lose a loved one, you immediately accept “they’re in a better place”), which culminates in one of Phoebe’s best scenes of the season as she suffers an uber-premonition reminding her of every loss the Halliwells have experienced since becoming witches (yes, that includes a shot of Prue’s grave).

This is notable as the only time Charmed ever delivered a mid-season two-parter (it follows the brilliantly-titled ‘Extreme Makeover: World Edition’), and the concept certainly justifies it. Though its depiction of utopia is ultimately a little thin, ‘Charmageddon’ features a handful of great moments – Piper’s tearful breakdown at losing Leo, Zankou’s Egyptian tomb foraging (a clear nod to Fehr’s role in the Mummy movies), that uber-premonition. There’s even a poignant send-off for Kyle Brody (Kerr Smith).

The Avatars ultimately retreat, setting the world back to rights (and wrongs). If their withdrawal feels anti-climactic, it’s leavened by the fact that Zankou’s still around. There’s a wonderful cinematic shot in which he vanishes when a bus passes him on the street, and his prickly presence throughout the rest of the season offers a controversial explanation for why a ‘perfect’ world would never work – when the baddies are this good, who needs utopia?

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

Charmed Rewitch: Episode 6 – The one where The Seer proves she’s an evil genius

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

screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-18-48-14“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.

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

Charmed Rewitch: Episode 5 – The one in black and white

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: 7.08 ‘Charmed Noir’
Writer: Curtis Kheel
Director: Michael Grossman

Charmed Noir“The ’30s was a fabulous era,” remarks Paige at one point in this season seven episode of Charmed, words Rose McGowan could have written herself. The actress has often spoken about her love of Hollywood’s most glamorous epoch and, with her vintage style and classic looks, I’m not sure many people would be surprised if one day we discovered McGowan had secretly time-travelled to the present from the 1930s. True to its title, ‘Charmed Noir’ fully capitalises on McGowan’s old-school allure by vaulting her into the past for a black-and-white storyline involving gangsters and crooked cops.

She gets there via a book at Magic School – Crossed And Double Crossed – which inexplicably sucks her and current-squeeze Brody (Kerr Smith) into a plot involving a hunt for the ‘Burmese Falcon’ (“You can’t be serious,” the latter rightly scoffs, “it’s a total rip off!”). In an episode with little magic (Paige’s powers don’t work in book world), writer Curtis Kheel cleverly plays with noir cliches, whether dropping pianos out of the sky or – in one gorgeous moment – unleashing a brilliantly realised flashback.

Of course, McGowan slips into ‘Lana Turner’ mode with the ease of a witch skimming clouds with a broomstick. Whether camping up the femme fatale or digging her claws into dirty cops, she’s clearly in her element. Her breathy delivery – at times so incongruous in a show as popcorn as Charmed ­– is bang on the money, and she plays off Smith’s bewildered agent brilliantly.

The real star, though, is the black and white. This stylistic flourish was a sticking point for The WB, the network that originally aired Charmed, which attempted to convince showrunner Brad Kern to dump the concept. He pushed back and thank goodness he did, because while ‘Charmed Noir’ suffers some unavoidable ‘late Charmed’ foibles (a fairy tale creature; a gnome, the dreaded Magical School), it’s also one of its most innovative outings ever.

We’ve seen black and white in the show before (season’s two ‘Chick Flick’ featured Phoebe’s favourite movie, Kill It Before It Dies), and Halliwells have been trapped in inanimate objects before (paintings, films), but that doesn’t diminish any of the fun to be had with ‘Charmed Noir’. There’s some solid continuity (“We don’t do bullets,” one character says, which is true – the last major plot to involve firearms was season two’s ‘Miss Hellfire’) and ‘Charmed Noir’ is ultimately a daring departure that’s masses of fun – and gives McGowan her shining moment in a season that too often lumbered her with fairy tale creatures and Magic School.

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

Charmed Rewitch: Episode 3 – The one where Piper loses it big time

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: 4.07 ‘Brain Drain’
Writer: Curtis Kheel
Director: John Behring

Every once in a while, Charmed pulled off something genuinely cool. There was the time Prue went undercover as a hitwoman (in season two’s ‘Ms Hellfire’), and that episode where they blew up the Manor (‘Kill Billie Vol. 2’). Top of the pile, though, is this scalpel-sharp season four entry, which flips the Charmed universe on its head as Piper is brainwashed into thinking she’s an inmate at a mental institute.

Well, it makes more sense than belonging to a family of witches, which is exactly why this episode works – as The Source kidnaps Piper, puts her into a coma and rewrites her life top to bottom, you totally understand why she starts to crumble and believe the lie. Her world has been nuts ever since she and her sisters first headed up to that dusty attic and found more than just spiders. In a nightmare of demons and ghosts, who can tell what’s real and what isn’t anymore anyway?

It helps that the Manor’s transformation from cosy antique repository to sterile hospital is so brilliantly realised. The show’s set dressers deserve serious kudos for completely renovating its central set, rendering it almost unrecognisable in the process. Sure, it makes little sense for a hospital to be located in an old manor house on a suburban street, but the transformation sells it, and it’s great fun discovering the Halliwells’ home all over again.

The same is true of the cast, who have a ball playing wacky variations on their now well-worn characters. In Piper’s coma world, Leo is recast as a sympathetic doctor (a nice nod to his past as a war medic), while Phoebe and Paige are no longer her sisters, but fellow patients. There’s a lovely moment where Piper’s told Prue isn’t dead but was merely discharged from hospital, and a brilliant gag involving Alt Phoebe’s childish Book Of Shadows.

Charmed Brain Drain

It’s very much a case of ‘Piper, Interrupted’, and the emotional journey Holly Marie Combs takes Piper on here is powerful stuff. At first disbelieving and snarky, she’s slowly broken down by The Source, (posing as a doctor) until she’s willing to give up everything just to be free of pain. Any episode that puts Combs front and centre is guaranteed to exhaust your tear ducts, and this episode is no different.

In a season that struggled to reestablish order in the wake of Hurricane Doherty, ‘Brain Drain’ feels bigger than most Charmed episodes, and that’s partly because season four is where the show became more of an ensemble than ever before. We get Cole and Leo working together to get Piper back (Cole even gets himself caught to lead them to The Source), while Paige has just moved in and is learning the rules, which mostly include ‘demons can attack at any time’ and ‘don’t keep anything nice’.

Charmed was often unfairly dismissed as a silly show with magic, but episodes like ‘Brain Drain’ scream otherwise. Sure, there’s a boobtastic seer in a gold bikini, but this is a seriously grown-up 40 minutes of supernatural entertainment. That writer Curtis Kheel manages to stitch his script with so many clever ideas without it ever unravelling is impressive – between the demon fights and hospital drama, we also get an explanation of why we never see any of the girls’ friends (they’re too busy kicking demon butt) and gags about the doomed grandfather clock (“dammit, we just got that thing fixed!”).

If there’s one downside to this episode, it’s that it kicks off Piper’s obsession with having a demon-free life. While it makes sense here, especially in the wake of Prue’s death, that obsession became the writers’ go-to crutch whenever Piper needed to have an ‘issue’ to deal with. (And what a sour issue to have when you can flippin’ freeze time.) If that’s the worst thing we can say about ‘Brain Drain’, though, we’re obviously dealing with a pretty potent witch’s brew.

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

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.