Paramount // 2005 // 918 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // December 1st, 2007
The power of three, err, four will set you free.
The eighth and final season of Charmed failed to recapture the glory days of the first few seasons. Instead of going out with a bang, it melted like ChapStick in a Texas summer.
So I've decided to let the honorable Mrs. Keefer have a crack at another season of television on DVD, one because she's good (and that's not her holding a knife to my neck to prove it), but it's also been fun for her and for me. She might come back around here or there, so give her some love! Wait, the last part came out wrong...
Charmed had been a WB/UPN/CWTV staple since 1998 with the last couple of seasons reaching for material to interest viewers which resulted in a loss of originality and momentum for the final season.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a hardcore fan of the televised supernatural -- Ghost Whisperer, Smallville, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural are some of my favorites. And a few years ago, Charmed would have been on that list. For me, it was more about what these shows do with the powers they are given. Take a look at all of the shows on that list. In each one, there are people that have unique gifts or abilities that all come with huge responsibilities. Superheroes are always asked why they do what they do, why bother? The answer is that they do it because no one else can.
The Halliwell sisters, Piper (Holly Marie Combs, Born on the Fourth of July), Phoebe (Alyssa Milano, Kiss the Bride), and Paige (Rose McGowan, Jawbreaker) are witches fighting a good fight in the perpetual battle between good and evil. Along with being the oldest sister, Piper is wife to husband Leo (Brian Krause, Return to the Blue Lagoon), a "white-lighter" (someone who helps witches with their powers), and mother to their two young boys, Wyatt and Chris. The other two sisters had only just been given their own loves and lives in the last few seasons of the series and they changed so often that it's not worth the play-by-play.
Honestly, the show was kicked around so much over its lifespan that I'm surprised it lasted this long. It was Shannen Doherty's abrupt departure in Season Three that left them in the lurch for another "charmed" sister. Enter McGowan, an odd choice to say the least. In the final season, Kaley Cuoco (Cougar Club) is introduced as a young girl new to the wiccan occupation for the sisters to mentor. This last move by the show's producers was a poor choice in my opinion. If it hadn't already been established that this was the last season, this event would have sealed the cancellation deal. On top of all of that, add the gossip from various cast members that suggested there were issues and attitude behind camera, and it all added up to me saying, "I'm out." So, I went along for the seven season ride and couldn't bring myself to watch the eighth...until now.
You know how some celebrities say that people come up to them and feel like they know them because of the character they play? Well I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. I would think that a lot of people who watched the final season of Charmed did so because of their commitment to the show and more specifically, to the characters.
The three episode commentaries shed some light on where the show was headed in this last season and it may surprise you to learn that they wrote the seventh season finale as a series finale, because at that point they weren't sure they'd be picked up for an eighth. The cast and crew said their goodbyes and had a good cry, so when they heard they'd have another season, they were trying to figure out what to do with it. So between the surprise new season and the fact that the network had cut their per episode budget by $250,000 from the previous season, they were scrambling to come up with some new ideas. My suggestion is to just pretend that Season Seven was the final season.
It was also interesting to hear Cuoco's comments on a commentary when McGowan came into the scene. They went something like this:
Cuoco: "Oh, Rose."
Brad Kern and James Conway (writer and director on the show, respectively): "Care to elaborate?"
Cuoco: "No." (Upon further discussion, apparently on Cuoco's first day on set, McGowan told her she hated her outfit as prelude to a hug.)
In the seventh season finale, the girls had faked their deaths and created new identities for themselves, vowing to quit the fast-paced world of demon-slaying. This season, the major storylines start with Cuoco's introduction as Billie, a witch who seems to "get off" on wrestling with demons. Her relationship with the sisters is that of mentor/mentee and acts as a kind of magical front for the sisters. Billie goes after demons that threaten the sisters and Wyatt so that they don't expose themselves. That was the initial idea anyway. It's hard to be someone else and the sisters feel a bit trapped in their new identities, so by the fifth episode, they decide to show the world they're not dead. As the season goes on, Billie realizes that her childhood memories of the kidnapping of her sister, Christy, was actually a demon attack, and she focuses all her efforts on finding her. This obsession that Billie has with her sister hurts her relationship with the Halliwells when Leo is taken by the Angel of Destiny who tells Piper that Leo will be returned to her after some ultimate battle. These conflicting feelings between the sisters and Billie will follow the season to the finale, which I will admit is this season's best episode.
The extras on this six-disc set are typical. In "The Making of Charmed" you'll find just that, an 18-minute look at story ideas, makeup, wardrobe, special effects and students. "Story of Charmed: Genesis" covers in 17 minutes how the creators came up with the idea for Charmed which included going through mythology books and finally settling on witches. Shannen Doherty wanted to be on the show and wanted her best friend, Holly Marie Combs to be a fellow witch, an idea which Aaron Spelling was fully behind, which is why it's interesting that the network said they "weren't enamored of Holly." The show's producers made a deal with the network, Holly would do the pilot and she'd do a great job. If she didn't, the producers would pay to reshoot the pilot with their choice of actress. Thank goodness it didn't come to that. "Story of Charmed: Charmed Again" goes into depth (for 19 minutes) on the introduction of Paige, the demon hierarchy system, the major love stories in the show -- Leo and Cole, and other new characters. "The Manor Born" is a nine-minute piece on the primary set location, the Victorian mansion set in San Francisco. "Forever Charmed" is an 11-minute talk with diehard fans of the show and web site creators. I'm guessing these are the people that watched the final season and liked it.
There are still hints in this final season of what made it so great to begin with. Check out "Vaya Con Leos" for Piper's incredibly emotional goodbye to Leo. Quite honestly, watching Holly Marie Combs in the role of Piper is the saving grace for this season.
What was an original, top-notch supernatural drama will now be remembered as a series that was left to flounder when the show's creative team stopped doing that "thinking" thing.
Review content copyright © 2007 Ryan Keefer; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 918 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Selected Episode Commentaries with Cast and Crew
* "Making of Charmed" Featurette
* "Story of Charmed" Documentary
* "To The Manor Born" Featurette
* "Forever Charmed" Featurette
* Official Site
* Charmed Ones Fan Site
* Season One Review
* Season Two Review
* Season Three Review
* Season Four Review
* Season Five Review
* Season Six Review
* Season Seven Review