Since Charmed premiered all the way back in 1998, this pilot episode is quite dated from a technical standpoint. The script however is still as strong as ever, and that’s the real achievement.
The episode’s biggest strength is the relationship between the three sisters at its center. The sibling dynamics just feel very lived-in and realistic, and that supplies this opening hour with a whole lot of heart. Prue, Piper and Phoebe are all clearly defined way before they receive their powers, and that only amplifies the effect when they discover they are the descendants of a long line of witches. Even better is the fact that their relationship isn’t perfect (the animosity between Prue and Phoebe is off the charts) and that makes their coming together in the end all the more satisfying. Of course, it helps that Doherty, Combs and Milano are all superb in their respective roles. Talk about perfect casting!
The script wisely moves fast. It doesn’t take long for each of the sisters to unlock her abilities, and every one of those scenes is a treat. There’s Prue’s frustration at work culminating with her staining her boss/ex-boyfriend’s shirt (then hilariously choking him with his tie), Piper freezing time during her chef audition, and Phoebe saving a couple of kids thanks to a premonition. Interestingly enough, each of their powers is directly linked to their personalities, particularly with Phoebe finally finding a purpose to her life after being lost for so long.
Unfortunately, the pilot falls a bit flat with regards to the final confrontation. Anticlimaxes are kind of a staple throughout Charmed’s eight-season run, and this episode is no different. After all the buildup, all the sisters do is hold hands and endlessly repeat “The Power of Three will set us free” as the big bad blows up in cheap CGI. It’s a true testament that this pilot can survive such a horrendously embarrassing resolution.
Potions & Pieces
– The episode’s title is a play on the Shakespeare line “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”
– The opening teaser is pretty generic with a random witch getting killed by a mysterious figure.
– I do love the foreshadowing with Prue saying that Phoebe has “no vision and no sense of the future.” Just you wait Prue.
– I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the show’s opening credits. The song has always kind of annoyed me, but yet somehow, it fits the show.
– Funny that out of the two cops introduced in the pilot, Andy gets more screen-time whereas Darryl ultimately becomes one of the show’s longest-running guest-stars.
– How funny is it that the ladies’ names all start with the letter P? And how beautiful is the Halliwell manor?
– Great touch with Prue constantly trying to fix the chandelier only for it to completely light up when the sisters come together. And no one was even around to notice!
– Notice how the mysterious cat has the trifecta symbol around her neck. It’s also seen on the victim’s hand.
– The book that Phoebe finds in the attic is called “The Book of Shadows”. I’ve always wanted it for myself!
– Goosebump moment: the picture of the sisters magically coming together after their powers are unleashed. What a brilliant touch.
– The chemistry between Prue and Andy at the hospital is immediate. I love them already.
– I always found it weird how we don’t actually see Prue telekinetically pouring the cream in her coffee. I guess the budget didn’t permit? It ends up being awkward.
– My favorite scene in the entire hour: Prue and Phoebe arguing in the pharmacy. Everything about this sequence is just perfect: from Phoebe slowly provoking Prue until the whole “dad, dad, dad” taunt resulting in Prue trashing the entire pharmacy with her anger. It’s all so beautifully acted and realized.
– The effects with Piper freezing Jeremy in the warehouse aren’t half bad. The twist that he’s the villain however is kind of predictable.
– So Jeremy waited six months (ever since Grams was in the hospital) before he could finally make his move and attack the Halliwells. Now that’s dedication!
– I love that when the sisters are casting the spell, Piper and Prue are noticeably nervous and scared while Phoebe is completely excited and watching on with childlike wonder.
– So all that rose did was give Jeremy thorns? Effective.
– Before dying, Jeremy tells the sisters that more will come for them now that their powers have been revealed. It’s a simple line, but it sets up the show’s long-term prospects well.
– The ending is pretty cute with Andy asking Prue out, and the sisters sharing a little bonding moment before Prue telekinetically closes the Manor door. This touch actually bookends every season finale in the show’s run.
– It’s a quick moment, but Andy recognizes Kit the cat from the crime scene. Uh oh.
Piper: What happened?
Phoebe: Some woman got whacked.
Piper: Whacked? Phoebe, you’ve been in New York way too long.
Phoebe: Hey, I forgot your question.
Piper: I asked if Prue would have sex with someone other than herself this year.
Prue: Don’t you think you’re overreacting? We’re perfectly safe here.
Piper: Don’t say that. In horror movies, the person who says that is always the next to die.
Piper: It doesn’t matter because nothing happened, right Phoebe, when you did that incantation?
Phoebe: Well, my head spun around and I vomited split-pea soup. How should I know?
Piper: So, I’ll wait in the cab till he gets home from work.
Prue: That’ll be cheap.
Roger: All right, look, Phoebe, I know that you think you can see the future which is pretty ironic.
Phoebe: Since you don’t think I have one, that my vision of life is cloudy compared to your perfect hell? Even if you don’t want to believe me, just once can’t you trust me?
Prue: Phoebe, I do not have special powers. Now, where is the cream?
(The cream moves by itself and fills her cup of coffee with cream.)
Phoebe: Really? That looked pretty special to me.
Prue: Oh my god. So, um, I can move things with my mind?
Phoebe: With how much you hold inside, you should be a lethal weapon by now.
Phoebe: You know I’m not afraid of our powers. I mean, everyone inherits something from their family, right?
Prue: Yeah, money, antiques, a strong disposition – that’s what normal people inherit.
Prue: Look, I have just found out that I’m a witch, that my sisters are witches, and that we have powers that will apparently unleash all forms of evil. Evil that is apparently going to come looking for us. So excuse me Phoebe, but I’m not exactly in a homeopathic mood right now.
Prue: (to Phoebe) This is ridiculous! I thought that you landed on your arm, not your head.
Phoebe: (after Prue sends all the medicines flying) Feel better?
Phoebe: The Book of Shadows said our powers would grow.
Prue: Grow to what? (They laugh together)
It may not hold up too well, but Charmed’s pilot has so much heart and wit that it still makes for a memorable series premiere.
Note: Check out my retro review of the show’s eight seasons. Here’s hoping I get to review every episode individually one day.