Seven seasons in, and the tropes that once made Charmed so engaging and fun have rapidly become tired and annoying. This season is already doing a strong job in breaking new ground, but Charmed Noir is probably the most single-handedly inventive Charmed hour since, gosh, Chick Flick? It looks gorgeous, has a visual identity all its own, utilizes each character well, features some perceptive dialogue, and entirely resists throwing in a bunch of badly-performed demon characters. Yes, this is still the later years of Charmed.
The story unfolds wonderfully, with a knowing script that cleverly exploits how derivative the novel-within-the-show actually is, from the 'Burmese' Falcon to the predictable plot twists. Like any disposable writing, the Mullen brothers thrust themselves center stage in the story, and Curtis Kheel showcases his admirable knowledge of writing tropes, from Mary-Sue's to gumshoe detective stories.
Rose McGowan is famed for her love of everything 1930's, and fits into this little bubble perfectly. She gives her most arresting performance in a long time, especially when she embraces the femme fatale within and recites dialogue straight out of a Bogart movie. There's also a memorably jazzy score, and the direction by Michael Grossman is inspired, notably the awkward camera angles and melodramatic blocking of the actors whenever they're involved in some kind of stand-off. I also loved the way Phoebe and Piper were positioned into the story, literally writing events as Paige and Kyle experienced them.
If there's anything to complain about, it's Phoebe's distrust of Kyle, one of the most annoying subplots in a while. It's not annoying on its own (Kyle is mighty shifty), but frustrating when you remember Phoebe's own anger at Prue and Paige when they distrusted Cole -- Cole being the dastardly bastard who tried killing the Halliwells on countless occasions. Damn hypocrite.
But Charmed Noir is a gorgeous standalone mystery, something fresh and attention-grabbing with great characterization and a beautiful visual elegance. Probably one of the more underrated Charmed classics. A
Guest stars Bug Hall (Eddie Mullen); Joel Swetow (Alpha); Patrice Fisher (Beta); Al Sapienza (Johnny the Gent); Ann Cusack (Miss Donovan); Michael Lee Gogin (Gnome); Beverly Sanders (Mrs. Mullen); Chris Diamantopoulos (Inspector Davis); Sal Landi (Lieutenant Snyder); Rick Pasqualone (Lips); Kerr Smith (Kyle Brody)
Writer Curtis Kheel Director Michael Grossman