Following the tragic ending to Season 3, I think a lot of people were wondering how Charmed could carry on without Prue in it. They found their solution in the casting of another sister, portrayed by Rose McGowan. Interestingly, this new cast member fits excellently into the scheme of things and brings forth the theme of adjustment that makes Season 4 so great. With the continuing darkness of the last season, it proves Season 4 is another entertaining and enthralling entry in the Charmed universe. Be warned, spoilers will follow.
We begin with the emotional fallout following Prue’s death. Piper(Holly Marie Combs) is taking it particularly badly as she has always had someone older than her to lean on. Despite having guardian angel and husband Leo(Brian Krause) there for comfort, Piper initially can’t handle what has happened. Phoebe(Alyssa Milano) feels sadness but attempts to remain strong by focusing her energies on protecting half demon lover Cole(Julian McMahon), as there is a bounty on his head courtesy of The Source. With Prue’s death, The Power of Three is severed and Piper and Phoebe are now more open to demonic threat. Yet through strange events another person comes into their life. This person is Paige Matthews(Rose McGowan), who it transpires is their half-sister that they never knew about. The girl’s mother had an affair with her Whitelighter which resulted in her giving birth to this magical child. In order to keep it secret from The Elders, they had her adopted at birth. Paige is independent, feisty yet also sympathetic. Her powers which stem from her Whitelighter side include orbing herself and objects around her. As Piper and Phoebe welcome her into their circle after initial hesitation, Paige begins to find it difficult having led such a seemingly normal life and now battling evil. She does eventually get the hang of it and harness the craft. With The Power of Three restored again, the girls are powerful once more as well as closer. And they’re going to need to be with The Source attempting to kill them on a regular basis. Yet even when it appears that they vanquish The Source, he finds a way to come back and turns Cole back to the dark side once more. With evil now consuming him and aided by the intelligent but cunning Seer( Debbi Morgan), Cole transpires to make Phoebe his dark queen of evil. So in the midst of battling demons, Phoebe must make her choice: fulfill her destiny as a Charmed one or transfer to the side of evil in order to be with her beloved.
With Shannen Doherty not on the show, you can imagine that it was a big gamble to introduce a new character into the mix. But it actually works having another sister as it gives a new dynamic to the girls. Piper shifts from being the middle sister to the strong-willed oldest, although this adjustment is painful for her. Phoebe, having always been the most free-spirited is now the middle sister, trying to keep peace and be level-headed. And the newest addition Paige is spontaneous, sexy and initially reluctant to make sense of her role in this circle. It helps that McGowan works so well with her co-stars and gradually shows us the growing bond that heals the broken Power of Three. Season 4 also succeeds based on the dark overtones carried over from Season 3. The presence of death is always there, from Prue’s untimely demise to the various threats that want to eliminate the girls, death is surrounding all of them. Plus battling The Source( we actually see his monstrous face this season) and then contending with demonic Cole provides for explosive action. The episode in which they battle The Source is one of the best episodes in the show’s run with excitement, dread and magic all playing their parts. Once more, there is a consistency throughout Season 4 that puts it up there with the best work in the show. Season 3 has the advantage of being my favourite, but Season 4 comes an extremely close second. Sure there’s the odd dud episode here and there, but the overall quality is high.
What is really impressive over the course of this season is the way in which it gives mostly equal time to each sister’s arcs. Phoebe has the biggest arc this time, with her precarious love for a tempted Cole putting her in a particularly difficult position. It’s interesting to see how much Phoebe has grown up now, and how being now in the middle of two sisters, she has a greater understanding of how Piper used to feel. Phoebe is full of passion for Cole and is turned to side of evil by him for a time and realises that she’s carrying a child of pure evil, but Phoebe’s heart is good and true and this is what stops her from fully transitioning to demon queen. When she and her sisters finally vanquish evil Cole( fear not fans of Cole, he finds a way to return), you can see the devastation on her face at the result of her doomed romance. The vanquish then leads to a heartfelt scene in which Piper and Paige silently comfort a sobbing Phoebe. By the linking of hands and embraces, their care for their sister is rendered beautifully without any words. Phoebe must then contend with carrying the heir to evil and The Seer attempting to steal it. Eventually, the child proves too strong for The Seer when she gets it and she is vanquished by its great power.
Piper is portrayed now as the most maternal sister as she manages to harness her newer power and use it well. It is only right that she discuss the possibility of having a child with Leo, but Piper is still unsure of whether it is safe for a child in a world full of demons and danger. Piper has clearly evolved from how she was originally in Season 1, in terms of both personal and emotional strength. And with now having to fill the shoes of her deceased sister, Piper continues to slowly grow stronger as the head of the family. Piper may have always been the glue to the family, but now she must embrace her role as the oldest and most responsible of the sisters.
The character of Paige gives us fun and vibrancy, with a dash of awkwardness at getting to know her long-lost sisters after being independent for most of her life. But that’s not all, we glimpse a sadness to Paige that stems from her adopted parent’s death in a car wreck when she was a rebellious teenager. In one of the strongest episodes of the season, she journeys back to discover what happened. What she learns is that none of it was not her fault, there was nothing she could do to stop their death. Although she does see that she managed to survive by accidentally orbing out of the car before it crashed and this answers her question of why she didn’t perish. Paige is such a great character that slots into the scheme of things with her stubborn personality and compassion making her relatable, as well as her suspicions that Cole is back to his old self again.
Once more, the cast of Charmed delivers with great performances for all. Alyssa Milano continues to impress in the role of Phoebe and now shows her mature and grounded side. Although she can still be impulsive and still have a sense of fun, having to be the middle sister changes her a lot as she takes on the mediator role between experienced Piper and novice Paige. Milano really sells it all the way, especially in Phoebe’s turn to evil for a time. Phoebe, as have all of her sisters, has at one point or another been taken over by evil and been able to fight it. But this time, she really comes close to becoming a dangerous force of evil. The newest addition to the cast, Rose McGowan, slots in very nicely as Paige. McGowan gives Paige a sense of fun and a compassionate core that manifests itself in her job as a social worker. Paige really has to grow quickly and learn the craft and while she may find it difficult, she shows that she is a talented and powerful third of The Power of Three. Rose McGowan works excellently alongside Holly Marie Combs and Alyssa Milano to create a fresh dynamic within the sisters that grows as the season progresses. Holly Marie Combs exudes the struggle of changing roles as Piper becomes the responsible older one, twinned with a vulnerability. With the moving delivery of Combs, Piper begins to embrace the role and take on the maternal side of her personality. Just like with Phoebe, it is great to see the growth that Piper has gone through and how she is now becoming a commanding person.
Julian McMahon excels at showing Cole being taken over by evil with malicious glee and a sinister smile. There is still a part of the character that loves Phoebe, but it is not enough to overcome the evil that has always been inside of him. Although Brian Krause isn’t given as much to do this season as Leo as he has in previous seasons, he still makes his presence felt with his humane words and guiding spirit aiding the girls. Dorian Gregory portraying Darryl becomes more involved with his protective nature and his deep appreciation of the girls. This is probably the first season in which Darryl faces a lot of the dangers that the girls experience which in turn draws him closer to them. It helps that Gregory is given more material to work with than before and does it excellently. Special mention for this season has to go to Debbi Morgan in her portrayal of The Seer. Sneaky, wise and silver-tongued, she knows exactly what she wants and how to manipulate others to get it. Morgan is clearly having a ball playing this despicable character with her throaty voice and sneaky grins, while adding that sense of mystery surrounding The Seer.
- Charmed Again Part 1- A
- Charmed Again Part 2- A
- Hell Hath No Fury- B+
- Enter the Demon – C-
- Size Matters – D
- A Knight to Remember – B
- Brain Drain – A
- Black as Cole – B-
- Muse to My Ears – B+
- A Paige from the Past – A
- Trial by Magic – D
- Lost and Bound – B+
- Charmed and Dangerous – A+
- The Three Faces of Phoebe – C
- Marry-Go-Round – B
- The Fifth Halliwheel – A
- Saving Private Leo – B-
- Bite Me – B
- We’re Off to See the Wizard – B+
- Long Live the Queen – A
- Womb Raider – B
- Witch Way Now? – B
Fresh, intriguing and often quite moving, Season 4 of Charmed is proof that a show can bounce back after losing a cast member and still be successful.