Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Charmed: Battle of the Hexes (8.8)

It's easy to look back at vintage Charmed through rose-tinted glasses, especially in light of the steaming piles of wet poop being thrust in our collective faces this season. But the Prue years certainly weren't perfect. Remember the teeth-pulling Dan/Leo love triangle? Lovestruck owls? Jenny Gordon? But in spite of all that, the one thing that kept you coming back to this show was the chemistry between the sisters and the believable interaction between absorbing characters. They were certainly flawed individuals, but their flaws rang true, and the Halliwell sisters were fun to be around. I bring all this up because what was once the show's saving grace has long vanished. I dislike everybody right now. Paige is a moron, Piper is angry all the time, and Phoebe is eternally wrapped up in her quest for semen...

There also seems to be this generally dismissive tone that the sisters have, like they're so tired of saving innocents and killing demons that anything remotely supernatural is a huge burden. Now a well-written show would make the sisters likable despite all this, since their feelings are actually understandable -- given that they've done this for eight long years now. But when continuity is flatlining on a gurney somewhere and each actress is counting the days until they can finally break free of this show's shackles, it's hard to find anything remotely likable or sympathetic about them anymore. And that just saddens me, since it's so easy to remember the days when these were strong females with relatable personalities. Now they're just bitchy hags.

Battle of the Hexes is one of the worst episodes in Charmed history. It's another horrible attempt at exploring gender politics (and after The Bare Witch Project, writer Jeannine Renshaw seriously needs to quit trying with that), only entirely undermined by how obscenely offensive the whole thing is to both genders. Billie's scene in her college lecture is horrifyingly misjudged, the girl coming off like a raging asshole with her bubblegum-popping, cellphone-yakking and illogical sexism. If this is what Charmed considers a strong female, then clearly the writers are dumber than I previously thought.

The story quickly descends into predictability, and here's another thing I can't stand. I'm getting real tired of the sisters exposition-ing, the show cutting to some magical hijinks, then back to the sisters and their incessant talking, then cutting back to more demon stuff, before returning to the Halliwells and their awkward vanquishing schemes. It's the same pattern every damn week, and ridiculously boring to watch. The superhero belt story makes no sense, features more expendable demons and another wacky outfit.

Elsewhere, Piper spends the episode whining (again) because P3 is supposedly failing (again!!??), and Leo is schmoozing some misogynist jackass in order to book a hot musical guest (Liz Phair, have you no shame?). While it's a story that ties into the whole 'man-hating' theme, they really didn't have to make Piper even more shrewish than usual. Ugh. Paige's subplot is also horrible, full of racial stereotypes and ghetto kids named 'Speed'. But it's saved by a winning performance by Ivan Sergei, who nails that sort of sleepy, charming manliness that Paige unsurprisingly falls for. They have actual chemistry for once, which makes for a welcome change.

But besides the Sergei, Battle of the Hexes is a ridiculous shit-show of hideous morals, hideous outfits, and Kaley Cuoco even more horrifying than usual. Kill it with fire. F

Guest stars
Ivan Sergei (Henry Mitchell); Jennifer Tung (Zira); Arjay Smith (Speed); Thomas Newton (Dr. Harris); Chris Spencer (Smitty); David Figlioli (Tai); Scott Allen Rinker (Sollal); Liz Phair (Herself)
Writer Jeannine Renshaw Director Levar Burton


  1. Haha I'm greatly enjoying your abuse of one of the worst television seasons of all time. They beyond deserve it, and I frequently wonder what the writers were smoking that year.

  2. Isn't F a little harsh? You said you enjoyed Ivan Sergei, who's character; Henry is actually an ongoing character. So as far as good introductions go, shouldn't that count for something? If you like something in the episode shouldn't that make it E? I don't think I've seen you rank any episode with an E as of yet?

  3. The dismissive tone is something the sisters have had off an on since the beginning of the show. The only difference is its more understanding in the beginning. In the later years it comes off as selfish & if they haven't learned anything from their supernatural life.

  4. Anonymous #1 I follow the GPA system, so it's A, B, C, D and Fail. I was tempted to give this one a D- because of Henry, but the gender story was just so crass, alienating, ignorant and offensive that it crossed into that area where it's not just "Charmed bad", but literally "damaging for society bad". And there's no way back from there. Heh. Plus, Henry's in a bunch of further episodes, so it's not like his presence makes this one any better generally.

    Thanks for the other comments, guys. Glad you're having fun Nad and agreed about being all dismissive, Anonymous #2. They just dropped the ball majorly.

  5. Great review. This episode is a crap pile.

    I loved what you wrote about the sister's losing their likability in the face of their hatred for demon fighting. Those feelings were always there, but the writers always managed to make them seem relatable even at the worst times.

    And even I detest Billie, here. That says a lot.