Monday, January 24, 2011

Charmed: The Wendigo (1.12)

The first of many, many, many episodes about one of the sisters becoming possessed by something demonic, The Wendigo is nowhere near greatness, but it is an atmospheric little mystery. It's by turns fun, exciting and ridiculously contrived (all ingredients that create the best Charmed episodes), and there's enough here to make it one of those early classics. This is mostly down to Holly Marie Combs, who has so far created the most vivid of the three sisters, and who gets a real showcase here to display her versatility as well as Piper's neurotic charm.

What's interesting about the Wendigo story is not only how much it influenced the series, but also because it looks and feels so un-Charmed. The Wendigo itself is a monster more in line with Buffy than the demon types Charmed eventually settled upon, while the atmosphere created by the creepy forest scenes and the full-moon shots feels decidedly different, too. It's also the only episode I can recall that portrayed Andy and the rest of the show's procedural elements like they were all straight out of The X-Files. Agent Fallon is a weird amalgamation of both Mulder and Scully, only with more ridiculous dialogue ("All I'm interested in is sex"), and played by an actress who sounds like she's walked straight off the set of a soft-porn movie.

The subplot of the episode veered a little too much into Touched by an Angel territory. It's also pretty amusing that there were so many bidders for what is (essentially) a piece of junk jewelry. Heh. The story's only really notable for the brief appearance by a pre-teen Christina Millian, now best known for rolling around in oil while wearing a stripper get-up in her video for that hilariously awful Dip It Low song. Also of note here is that Prue and Phoebe don't work that well together. There's always an undercurrent of petulance from Prue's side, as if she's sick of the sight of her less 'together' sister. Shannen and Alyssa work well with other people, but not so much as a pair. And this isn't an opinion just formed via 'the rumors’; it's something that just strikes me in these early episodes.

Writer Edithe Swensen juggles a series of balls in the air to create a pretty dynamic episode. There's the neat whodunnit angle, the humor of Quake's health inspector visit, the abject horror Piper experiences before her full-blown transformation, as well as her cruelty towards her sisters. It's not a flawless hour, but it's probably the best indication of what the series will eventually become. Plus, it's a hell of a lot of fun. B+

Guest stars Jocelyn Seagrave (Agent Ashley Fallon); Billy Jayne (Billy Waters); J. Karen Thomas (Harriet Lane); Charles Chun (Laurence Beck); Cristine Rose (Claire Pryce)
Writer Edithe Swensen Director James L. Conway

No comments:

Post a Comment