Brain Drain takes a formulaic fantasy series plot device and runs with it, creating something that has considerable power. At the heart of the episode is a now familiar idea, Piper once again wishing for some kind of ordinary life. But miraculously the writers stumble down an avenue which doesn't entirely blow, Piper's neurosis manipulated by the Source and sending her flying into a vivid illusion where she's a patient in a mental hospital.
The fun here lies with the differences between 'our' world and Piper's hallucinations. The childlike Book of Shadows, basically a big wordpad with page after page of scribbling, is hilarious. Similarly, I loved the concept of Prue getting better and being let out of the sanitarium, corresponding with Prue's death in the real world. It adds a layer of darkness to the hour, the thought of Piper swiftly making one of her fellow patients (Paige) her 'new sister'.
Brain Drain's concept, making a fantasy series protagonist question their own sanity when told that the world they inhabit isn't actually real, is tried-and-tested, but there's an emotional investment to the hour which makes you forget that you're watching something unoriginal. And unlike the mistake of other series to make the viewer suspect that the 'asylum' world is actually real, we're aware from the very beginning that this is the latest plan concocted by the Source. So we follow Piper's breakdown far more personally, knowing that her fragility is being manipulated by dark forces. It's a welcome decision, something that raises the bar entirely. A
Guest stars Alastair Duncan (Alastair); Rachel Wilson (Becca); Krista Allen (The Oracle); Ben Guillory (The Source)
Writer Curtis Kheel Director John Behring