Following on from the emotional finale of Season 1, Charmed returns more assured and expansive for a great second season that delivers thrills, laughs and battles. If it’s magic you want, you can’t go wrong with Charmed. Be warned, spoilers will be following in this review.
The bewitching trio of Halliwell sisters; Prue(Shannen Doherty), Piper( Holly Marie Combs) and Phoebe( Alyssa Milano) are back. In the beginning of the season, they are approaching their one year anniversary of receiving their powers. And while demon activity has been strangely quiet as of late, it soon begins to rear its head again and the girls must continue to honor their duties as good witches. Whilst having to vanquish all forms of evil to protect innocent people and their powers starting to grow, the sisters have other parts of their lives to deal with. Prue is still reeling from Andy’s death and considers giving up magic if it can’t help save loved ones. She then realises that she can’t deny magic as part of her existence and that she may have lost Andy, but it wasn’t her fault. She then begins to emerge as a dedicated witch( complete with her new power of astral projection), when before she feared its presence in her life. Piper has quit her job as a chef and attempts to open up a nightclub, not without a few issues first. When the spot opens, it is appropriately named P3. Piper is also dealing with the absence of Leo( Brian Krause), whose duties as a Whitelighter often scupper their time for romance. While she waits for Leo, Piper strikes up a relationship with handsome next door neighbour Dan Gordon( Greg Vaughan), who has moved in with his teenage niece Jenny( Karis Paige Bryant). Yet this proves hard for her, as Piper’s heart isn’t in the relationship as she loves Leo too much. Phoebe as the youngest, is still as rebellious and curious as ever. Yet she has matured slightly and now wants some responsibility in her life. Having always felt like the sister who is blamed a lot and the one who is the first to cause trouble, she sees that going back to college after she previously dropped out may be the way to get out of the rut and achieve something( while still battling evil on a weekly basis that is). There is also the matter of Darryl( Dorian Gregory), Andy’s former superior who looks out for the girls and eventually discovers their secret. Just as Andy had helped the girls with certain cases, Darryl assumes that position and becomes a vital ally to them when they need information.
The budget seems definitely well spent this time and the effects for the many forms of evil are pretty cool. The demons are stronger this time around and we learn of The Source, who rules the demon underworld and dispatches demons to take out the sisters ( he becomes a major threat in the future when he finally emerges from his confines). Following the groundwork of the great first season, the producers really step it up a gear to create many memorable moments in this excellent season. Some of the standout parts are Prue going undercover in demon circles as a sexy assassin clad in leopard fur and leather, the sisters being transported to a strange future to learn about their actions. Sure certain premises still have a goofy quality, they feel more controlled this time and flow better with the narrative. The writing is still a blast in the way it blends humour, pathos and action into a well made package. Plus nothing beats these girls vanquishing the evils of San Francisco in style. Season 2 also still has the deep emotional current throughout and addresses the importance of sisterhood and sticking by your family. The girls may still be learning about the craft but when things get tough, they always have each other, through thick and thin. There is a refreshing shift in personal growth in Season 2 as the sisters grow in terms of Wiccan power but also as young women. We get to see the healing of past wounds and how it makes the stronger by getting to grips with things.
There is also an extra dash of sexiness which is a definite plus, mainly coming from the revealing outfits and romantic interludes that the sisters have. And not all this sexy material is purely for the men in the audience, there’s plenty of it for the ladies. I mean there’s a spell that turns animals into hunky but dangerous men on Valentine’s Day, Prue having a heated dalliance with a convicted criminal on the run who isn’t all he seems and the girls reliving their past lives as flapper bad girls who lived in the Manor during the scandalous 1920’s.
The cast on Charmed definitely deliver the goods with aplomb. Shannen Doherty brings mature energy to the part of Prue, who begins to emerge as a confident witch in control of her powers and her life( seen when she quits her job at the auction house and deciding to make a job from her passion for photography). While Prue is often seen as the most serious sister out of The Charmed Ones, Shannen Doherty gives Prue a sense of fun this season that shows that Prue can have a laugh and let loose when she wants to but knows when to keep her emotions in check. Holly Marie Combs charts Piper’s emergence from meek middle sister to much stronger and sarcastic woman with great assurance. It is very pleasing to see Piper grow from being scared and vulnerable to gradually more assertive and feisty thanks to Combs stunning and convincing delivery. Her relationship with Leo is further explored beautifully as they fight against the odds to stay together. Alyssa Milano gives free-spirited energy, a dash of humour and a sense of growing up to Phoebe, who desperately wants to prove she can succeed in life. Milano makes Phoebe such a fun and relatable character who makes mistakes and learns from them. And since she started to practice martial arts last season, she has proven that she can physically fight the enemies that attack after feeling like the sister with the most passive power.
Greg Vaughan as Dan does a credible job as the nice guy who falls for Piper, but his character feels somewhat bland at times. It’s obvious that Piper’s heart belongs with Leo, so why did the writer’s feel the need to introduce Dan? The couple have been through enough obstacles to get to where they are, so why bring in another romantic link? Saying this, you do feel sorry a little for Dan as he is a harmless guy, who realises that the girl he is with love’s someone else. The writer’s flirted with the idea of Piper being with someone else in the form of Dan, but they decided that Leo was the one for her and to be honest it’s a good thing they did because of the emotional connection between Leo and Piper that I always feel so prominently. Dan leaves at the end of the season for a job in another part of the country. The bringing in of Dan’s niece Jenny is a misstep and though Karis Paige Bryant tries her best to make the character a little bit interesting, she has nothing to work with. The writers wisely wrote the character of Jenny out of Charmed as she really didn’t have much of a purpose within the spectrum of the show. Brian Krause continues to flesh Leo out as a character, showing us what he feels like when he has his wings clipped temporarily and he is rendered mortal ( don’t worry he gets his Whitelighter powers back). His relationship with Piper continues to blossom despite all the trouble that is thrown at them and really becomes a moving courtship that will eventually transcend the laws of Witches and Whitelighters not being allowed to love another. Dorian Gregory fills the role of the girl’s inspector friend Darryl with dry humour and eye-rolling disbelief at the situations he finds himself in because of magic. Yet Darryl is also incredibly loyal to the girls and has sworn to keep their secret, hence he often feels protective over them as both a friend and an ally.
And now for my rundown ratings or each individual episode that populates this season:
- Witch Trial – A
- Morality Bites – A+
- The Painted World – B-
- The Devil’s Music – C
- She’s a Man, baby, a Man! – B-
- That Old Black Magic – B
- They’re Everywhere – B-
- P3 H2O – A
- Ms. Hellfire – A+
- Heartbreak City – B-
- Reckless Abandon – B-
- Awakened – A
- Animal Pragmatism – C
- Pardon My Past – B+
- Give Me a Sign – B
- Murphy’s Luck – B
- How to Make a Quilt Out of Americans – D
- Chick Flick – A
- Ex Libris – C-
- Astral Monkey – B+
- Apocalypse, Not – B
- Be Careful What You Witch For – B
With Season 2, magic is all around as Charmed once again delivers the goods and casts a strong and bewitching spell.