Reviews

Charmed: The Final Season: (Season 8)

In its final season Charmed, which had consistently wrung life out of otherwise mundane material, lost sight of exactly what it was that kept the moving parts interesting.


Charmed

Distributor: Paramount
Cast: Holly Marie Combs, Alyssa Milano, Rose McGowan, Kaley Cuoco, and Brian Krause
Subtitle: (Season 8)
Network: WB
First date: 1998
US Release Date: 2007-09-11
Last date: 2006
Amazon
“That's exactly what we're going to do Billie; we're going to kill.”

Largely because of its Aaron Spelling-pedigree, Charmed rarely got notice for, more often than not, being smarter and more entertaining than much of its competition. It never got the critical nods or achieved the cult status of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but Charmed had plenty to offer and was often much better than it needed to be.

The show slipped markedly in season seven, a slide that continues to its logical conclusion here. It abandons the elements -- smart casting (a pre-Fantastic Four, pre-Nip/ Tuck Julian McMahon, the even trade of Shannon Doherty for Rose McGowan, Billy Drago as Barbas), and an attention to relationship drama that was smarter and more nuanced than it ever received credit for -- that helped previous seasons rise above the low-brow trimmings of lukewarm T&A and lightweight new ageisms that should have sunk the show years ago, but instead made it surprisingly enjoyable and engaging.

Season Eight introduces Kaley Cuoco as Billie, a young witch that the Halliwell sisters (Combs, Milano, and McGowan) mentor and who is the catalyst for a battle that's supposed to have the potential to destroy the world. She's consistently painful to watch and her awkward presence and acting call attention to the show's weaknesses when in the past, the cast was able to distract from them (Drew Fuller, who provided a similar presence in the previous season, returns for a handful of episodes).

She never fits in and the mid-season introduction of Christy (Marnette Patterson), the sister who helps bring about the season-ending battle, only compounds the problems. Patterson huffs and puffs through her on-camera time and, when combined with Cuoco's inability to generate any kind of life with her character, leaves you wondering with each episode why the main actresses so noticeably removed themselves from the show (both Combs and Milano are producers on the series). The family drama that frames the sister's backstory (Christy was kidnapped by demons as a child and was presumed dead by her parents until Billie and the Halliwell sisters rescue her) generates none of the interest that the show's other defining relationships created in past seasons.

That the other major relationships that draw focus come off as equally forced leaves an unfillable hole. What's left are B-movie effects and acting and middle-brow attempts at pop culture parody, from Paige's involvement in a Harry Potter-ish school of magic to the individual episode titles (“Kill Billie”, “Run, Piper, Run”, “Desperate Housewitches”, “The Torn Identity”, “Repo Manor”), that in the past were endearingly ineffective but here only feel lazy. It all only serves to emphasize what made past seasons work.

Rose McGowan, who replaced Shannen Doherty after Season Three, was clearly smarter than the material but never seemed to figure out exactly how to approach it. It never seemed to matter but here, settling in on a screwball approach to the comedy and a misplaced seriousness for the drama, she never fully meshes and her awkward style calls attention to itself. Ditto for Milano's hokey earnestness.

But there is a moment, midway through, when the show's most reliable characters, Piper (Combs) and her husband, Leo (Brian Krause), give voice to the frustrations at the heart of their marriage. Leo, a former Elder who gave up his supernatural status to stay on Earth, can't get comfortable as a mortal married to an all-powerful witch. Piper, struggling with her own conflicted emotions as well as with two children brimming with their own powers, refuses to be pulled into her husband's issues. It provides the only moments of genuine emotion and it comes as such a shock that when the thread is abandoned almost as quickly as it began, it saps the life from the remaining episodes.

You're left with the two blonds battling the three brunettes for, of course, the fate of mankind (it seems that in every season, the world is hanging in the balance for some reason or another). Things explode and people die, but it's unlikely that anyone other than diehards will find much to be interested in. The final episode manages a brief respite and sends the show out on small upswing. But by the end, Charmed, which had consistently wrung life out of otherwise mundane material, had willfully lost sight of exactly what it was that kept the moving parts interesting and its final season falls victim to all of the Spelling-style stereotypes past seasons managed to both embrace and overcome.

3
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Dancing in the Street: Our 25 Favorite Motown Singles

Detroit's Motown Records will forever be important as both a hit factory and an African American-owned label that achieved massive mainstream success and influence. We select our 25 favorite singles from the "Sound of Young America".

Music

The Durutti Column's 'Vini Reilly' Is the Post-Punk's Band's Definitive Statement

Mancunian guitarist/texturalist Vini Reilly parlayed the momentum from his famous Morrissey collaboration into an essential, definitive statement for the Durutti Column.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

What Will Come? COVID-19 and the Politics of Economic Depression

The financial crash of 2008-2010 reemphasized that traumatic economic shifts drive political change, so what might we imagine — or fear — will emerge from the COVID-19 depression?

Music

Datura4 Take Us Down the "West Coast Highway Cosmic" (premiere)

Australia's Datura4 deliver a highway anthem for a new generation with "West Coast Highway Cosmic". Take a trip without leaving the couch.

Music

Teddy Thompson Sings About Love on 'Heartbreaker Please'

Teddy Thompson's Heartbreaker Please raises one's spirits by accepting the end as a new beginning. He's re-joining the world and out looking for love.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Little Protests Everywhere

Wherever you are, let's invite our neighbors not to look away from police violence against African Americans and others. Let's encourage them not to forget about George Floyd and so many before him.

Music

Carey Mercer's New Band Soft Plastics Score Big with Debut '5 Dreams'

Two years after Frog Eyes dissolved, Carey Mercer is back with a new band, Soft Plastics. 5 Dreams and Mercer's surreal sense of incongruity should be welcomed with open arms and open ears.

Music

Sondre Lerche Rewards 'Patience' with Clever and Sophisticated Indie Pop

Patience joins its predecessors, Please and Pleasure, to form a loose trilogy that stands as the finest work of Sondre Lerche's career.

Film

Ruben Fleischer's 'Venom' Has No Bite

Ruben Fleischer's toothless antihero film, Venom is like a blockbuster from 15 years earlier: one-dimensional, loose plot, inconsistent tone, and packaged in the least-offensive, most mass appeal way possible. Sigh.

Books

Cordelia Strube's 'Misconduct of the Heart' Palpitates with Dysfunction

Cordelia Strube's 11th novel, Misconduct of the Heart, depicts trauma survivors in a form that's compelling but difficult to digest.

Music

Reaching For the Vibe: Sonic Boom Fears for the Planet on 'All Things Being Equal'

Sonic Boom is Peter Kember, a veteran of 1980s indie space rockers Spacemen 3, as well as Spectrum, E.A.R., and a whole bunch of other fascinating stuff. On his first solo album in 30 years, he urges us all to take our foot off the gas pedal.

Film

Old British Films, Boring? Pshaw!

The passage of time tends to make old films more interesting, such as these seven films of the late '40s and '50s from British directors John Boulting, Carol Reed, David Lean, Anthony Kimmins, Charles Frend, Guy Hamilton, and Leslie Norman.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.