Appellate Judge Rob Lineberger tries to shake off the spell. He's got better things to do than watch three nubile beauties fight evil. Right?
Our reviews of Charmed: The Complete First Season (published February 2nd, 2005), Charmed: The Complete Second Season (published October 5th, 2005), Charmed: The Complete Third Season (published December 14th, 2005), Charmed: The Complete Fourth Season (published March 15th, 2006), Charmed: The Complete Fifth Season (published November 8th, 2006), Charmed: The Complete Seventh Season (published March 28th, 2007), and Charmed: The Complete Eighth Season (published December 1st, 2007) are also available.
Once lucky, Twice smart, Three times Charmed
Though I'm not officially a fan, I secretly enjoyed Charmed: The Complete Fifth Season. Whether it was Alyssa Milano's hysterical physical presence, McGowan's impressive snarl, or the deep wells of Holly Marie Combs's eyes, something about the show drew me in. It couldn't have been the cleavage, or McGowan's perky attire. Okay, maybe nubile women had something to do with it. But Charmed also has a sense of fun, an aura of mystique, and a surprising capacity for darkness that set the hook. Will Season Six continue the seduction, or is the honeymoon over?
Facts of the Case
Piper (Holly Marie Combs, Picket Fences), Phoebe (Alyssa Milano, Fear), and Paige (Rose McGowan, Scream) continue to thwart evil from their posh San Francisco home. Leo has left to be an Elder, while the mysterious Chris (Drew Fuller, Vampire Clan) takes his place as their Whitelighter. The problem is Chris doesn't have Leo's power. He also has a restless agenda that has the sisters battling more Demons than ever. Season Six in these episodes:
• "Valhalley of the Dolls (1)"
Season Five altered the chemistry of the show with the exit of Cole and the birth of Wyatt, but Season Six has its own haymaker to throw. Chris, the trio's new Whitelighter, is ruthless and paradoxical. He seems to be helping the sisters, but does so with such duplicity that we are forced to ponder his true agenda. Whatever the agenda may be, there's one reality to contend with: Chris is a major character in this season, and they develop him very, very slowly. Chris is a love-him or hate-him kinda guy. This makes Season Six another line in the sand that divides Charmed fans.
Personally, I'm not on the Chris bandwagon. He's like an impatient tour guide rushing us through each episode. Drew Fuller does what he can with the character, but the truth is that some of the charm has worn off. As Leo and Piper squabble, Wyatt freaks everyone out with his superpowers, and Chris stonewalls the sisters with half-truths, the conspiratorial tone that was the heart of the show has become obscured.
Obscured, but not obliterated. Season Six hooked me with its opening episodes as though the couch seat were still warm from watching Season Five. Whatever twists the circumstances bring, the sisters are still the heart of the show. Rose is still smoking hot. Alyssa is still singularly, blissfully goofy. Holly Marie Combs is still unfathomable. And the dual reality of the magical and non-magical worlds is still compelling.
Season Six dramatically ups the ante with its two-part opener. We'll get to the plot in a moment; for now I want to praise the production values. "Valhalley of the Dolls" and the subsequent episodes benefit from absolutely stunning time-lapse photography of San Francisco. A lively shot of the Powell & Market cable car turnaround shows a blurred stream of traffic going up the hill. The Golden Gate bridge is swallowed by an unending stream of spooky clouds. "Valhalley of the Dolls" even has dramatic aerial photography of an island paradise.
It doesn't end with fantastic photography. The season begins with a performance by Smash Mouth, which indicates that Charmed has some pull. Whether you're a fan of the bands featured in this season or not, you can't deny the star power they bring to the show. The guest stars follow the same lead. From Jennie McCarthy to Billy Drago, famous people are everywhere.
The high production values bandwagon keeps rolling with the action pieces in "Valhalley of the Dolls." Ninjas, Mohawk war chiefs, barbarians, and other warriors engage in massive battles while hordes of belly-baring Valkyries look on. The episode gives you plenty to watch even if you aren't into the show.
"Forget Me…Not" continues the trend with an impressive CGI dragon. Whatever else you may say about Season Six, they pulled out all the stops. Good thing, too, because the Charmed vibe is in peril. "Forget Me…Not" pits the sisters against "cleaners" who want to erase Wyatt. The writers could have pleased a large portion of the Charmed audience with such a move.
The addition of Chris, the mysterious whitelighter, gives the writers a direction. Even so, this season is all over the map. Some episodes such as "The Power of Three Blondes" and "Witchstock" are corny, but not in the good way of last season's "Witches in Tights." Some episodes are derivative, such as "Sword and the City." But mostly, the season has a fidgety, uncomfortable edge as Chris drives the sisters to save Wyatt. The magic of "Valhalley of the Dolls" fades fast.
Somewhere along the way, Charmed became less fun and more soap operatic. Crying and tension replaced sibling rivalry and magical oopsie-daisies. Though pathologically glib, Season Five was somehow more fetching.
This dark tone culminates in the two-part "It's a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad World." Maybe they were trying to recapture the magic of "Centennial Charmed," or perhaps they were trying to wrap up the Chris storyline with a bang. In any case, "It's a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad World" seemed like a dumbed-down Harry Potter episode. No one was having fun, and the melodrama wasn't dramatic enough to make me care. There are interesting ideas at work, such as the riff on Pleasantville, but on the whole this season finale had me looking forward to the end. Maybe if I'd gotten more out of the Chris plotline I would have cared more.
The audio and visuals take a definite leap forward in Season Six. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the still nonexistent extras.
What I call uneven, others may call a failure to settle for the status quo. Charmed ran for eight seasons and the ride is far from over; nothing in this season is distasteful enough to detract from the show's undeniable quirk appeal. Even when it is ripping other stories off right and left, Charmed feels fresh. And the three sisters are still as sexy as ever.
Yeah, so I was watching Rose McGowan again. Where were we?
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