Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Charmed: A Call to Arms (7.1)

I may be imagining it, but there's a sense of renewed energy here, presumably because most of the present/future baggage that weighed down season six swiftly exited with the departure of Drew Fuller. There are still stories that have been carried over from last year, but they didn't bug me too much. Leo is being thrust center stage, more so than ever, and while that would ordinarily inspire eye-rolls, I liked the moral ambiguity of his quest to kill Barbas, as well as the sinister skull-faced presence that is following him everywhere. A Call to Arms isn't a great episode by any means, but it's that rare Charmed season premiere that immediately sets up an overall arc for the future.

The Indian thing arrives just as quickly as it casually departs, an unnecessary excuse to give Piper a couple of additional arms. There's nothing else to the story, and the CGI is horrible -- you can literally see the digital joins in the animation. You can't help but wonder if this was supposed to be a two-hour episode at one point, since this particular storyline feels perfunctory and detached from everything else on-screen.

Phoebe's annoying dramas haven't left the building since last season, and her story here is spectacularly ridiculous. She has a problem with giving the same advice she gave to another reader a year ago, but has no problem lying to her (ahem) 'fans' by having somebody else write under her name? Plus, what's with the casual sexism over Leslie? And could Leslie be any more of a vacuous non-entity? Nick damn Lachey, folks. The mid-'00s just came screaming back to me.

Elsewhere, Magic School is facing closure (God forbid!), and Paige is making it her personal crusade to stop it from happening. Blah. There's also some annoying hoodoo with Inspector Sheridan investigating the Halliwells, but the story is so useless and illogical that there isn't a whole lot to report there.

A Call to Arms is strange in that so much of it bugs, but there's a definite tone that feels kind of entertaining. Then again, I said the same thing at the very beginning of last season, and we all know how that turned out. I think there's just a natural burst of enthusiasm with the start of a new Charmed year, and this episode definitely achieves that in some unexplainable way. C+

Guest stars Nick Lachey (Leslie St. Claire); Billy Drago (Barbas); Rebecca Balding (Elise Rothman); Jenya Lano (Inspector Sheridan); James Avery (Zola); Hawthorne James (Demonic Healer); Betsy Randle (Mrs. Winterbourne); Branscombe Richmond (Demon); Eddie Matos (Garcia)
Writer Brad Kern Director James L. Conway

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