Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Charmed: P3 H20 (2.8)

Angsty and deeply personal for the series' protagonists, P3 H20 is season two's version of That '70s Episode, a dense family melodrama wrapped around an intriguing demon plot. The script explores the idea of history repeating itself, notably in Prue's terror that her life is becoming more and more like Patty's, making her worry that she'll suffer a similar fate -- her life cut short before she can experience anything truly meaningful. Meanwhile, Piper discovers that she is not the first member of the Halliwell genealogy to have a romance with a Whitelighter. Both stories are serviced with the care and time they individually deserve, and a lot of it is oddly prescient.

I'm a big fan of genre shows experimenting with fresh locations, removing the characters from their familiar surroundings and throwing them into different environments. The abandoned summer camp, as depicted here, was pretty great, and the various stylistic choices (the bubbling water, the POV shot of the demon) were all especially effective. The use of location shooting is particularly noticeable, especially since budget cuts forced the show to eventually drop all of that, leaving the show reliant on clunky sound stages and studio back lots.

Each character gets a moment to shine here. I especially loved Phoebe's anger at being asked to experience her mother's murder via her premonition, a real moment of horror in an otherwise light season. The episode also marks the first truly interesting chapter in the Piper/Leo saga, with the discovery of Patty's affair with her whitelighter Sam. The story, too, is interesting from a modern perspective. It's almost like the writers were fully aware that certain events and cast departures may occur, so they created a story to cover up any potential loopholes for the future. A

Guest stars Finola Hughes (Patty Halliwell); Brian Krause (Leo Wyatt); Scott Jaeck (Sam Wilder); Pat Crowley (Mrs. Johnson); Lochlyn Munro (Jack Sheridan)
Writers Chris Levinson, Zack Estrin Director John Behring


  1. "It's almost like the writers were fully aware that certain events and cast departures may occur, so they created a story to cover up any potential loopholes for the future."
    Yes. This.
    Now maybe I've just seen them too many times (and I really have. This is my one properly shameful guilty pleasure), but I never understood why people said Paige came about and it didn't make sense and it was ludicrous.
    I mean, yeah, it was still ludicrous, but there is at least this episode to back up the story.
    I'm done now.
    And loving the reviews, I must say :)

  2. Thanks so much! It actually surprised me how much it made sense from an internal logic perspective, especially when we're so used to 'long lost siblings' crawling out of nowhere on TV.

  3. I think this is not only one of the best Charmed episodes, but also probably the single-handedly most important one. Besides dealing with so much Halliwell history it lays down the groundwork for the revelation of Paige, Leo & Piper's marriage, and the coming of Wyatt. Much credit to the writers who brainstormed this one and filled out so much of the show's past and future. It's pretty rare that any one episode can do so much - and still manage to be entertaining and standalone too.

    Other bonus points? Everyone's dressed quite normal, low-key, and cute throughout. The appealing new location (as mentioned). And the fact that the demon, for once, isn't some terrible actor.

    I for one vote for this to be promoted to the elite ranks of A+.

  4. Yeah, it's certainly a classic. I think it's the location that really does it for me, but I loved the familial exploration as well as the character stuff here. The writers just seemed to "get" the characters so much better back when the show first began.

  5. Unlike many fans, I truly don't think this episode was set up to cover possible cast changes - everything was peachy with the cast during Season Two - it was only between Season Two and Three that tension between Doherty and Milano started as suddenly Milano became the star instead of Doherty.

    I think the producers were just lucky that Prue is the one chosen to worry about dying young, and that by using this to show Leo and Piper what could happen if a whitelighter falls in love with his charge just in order to get Leo out of the picture and allowing for the love scenes between Piper and Dan before "Awakened" they were allowed to fire Doherty and bring in McGowan. Personally I wish this was the last we'd seen of Leo so we wouldn't have had to tolerate the horrible changes in his and Piper's characters, or tolerate their sons.

    I also think this is Charmed at its finest and think this should be promoted to A+

  6. Heh, this probably could stand to be increased grade-wise. I'm always a little harsh on this show.

    And, yeah, they probably did luck out more than anything. Although it could have been an Aaron Spelling thing, creating a fail-safe in case one of the ladies decided to leave, a la Charlie's Angels back in the day.