Kaley Cuoco is probably the biggest problem with season eight. Because, shockingly, I actually like the concept of Billie and Christy as explained here. Lady-Elder tells Piper that the existence of the Jenkins sisters was set in motion long before the Charmed Ones came into their powers, as a means to destroy the essence of good in the world -- the Triad being keenly aware that it's not just ultimate power than would tip the scale, but sisterhood. It's an interesting approach that entirely resuscitates the Jenkins women as characters, grants them added purpose and calls back to what this show was at one point actually about: the Halliwells being, deeper than any of their powers, strong women with a sisterly connection.
But Kaley Cuoco got hired to play one half of these doppelganger sisters, and her manic, shrieky delivery entirely bulldozed any chance she had of becoming even slightly absorbing. Of course, the writing for her character at the start of the season was consistently hacky, the writers seemingly unaware of how she was supposed to work long-term. Sometimes she was this reckless pun-machine, other times she was positioned as adorable and ingratiating. Then she suddenly became whiny and rude, the sisters treating her like an annoying houseguest. She was messy at the best of times, but a stronger, more confident actor could have probably played the role more consistently, in spite of the horrible material she was handed every week.
Take guest star Sara Downing, an actress who here makes her stale 'doomed charge' character far more engaging than she has any right to be. She projects a certain something, an energy that doesn't quite jar with Charmed's tone, and makes Mikelle smart and naturally inquisitive -- a sensibility that Billie as a character was crying out for. Cuoco, however, always struggled to craft a different schtick to the one she perfected in sitcoms before and after Charmed, and it dragged the character down. Don't get me wrong, she's an actress who has since carved out an incredibly successful career and absolutely owns that, but was so miscast here. Which sucks, because as a concept, Billie could have been a strong presence to help close the series.
The Jung and the Restless is, without a doubt, the strongest episode of season eight. At its heart is the interesting running theme of self-analysis, all the sisters left wounded by Christy's belief that they've lost track of their responsibilities and have instead become driven by their own selfish desires. It's something I can't entirely disagree with, since I've always believed the Halliwells became increasingly shrewish and flaky over their last couple of seasons. But while the introspection leads to the ultimate declaration of "Yeah, we're selfish -- so sue us!", it's annoying that the ladies believe that wanting personal success is all that Christy is talking about.
There's nothing at all wrong with wanting a child, or wanting to settle down, or wanting to save your soulmate from being Han Solo'd. What is wrong are the many, many times in recent memory when the sisters martyred themselves and disregarded their duties in favor of whining about said duties -- in the process completely ignoring all the wonderful positivity they have in their lives already. Like the successful careers they have, or the businesses they run, or the important work they embarked on before irrationally abandoning it. It's not selfishness that made the sisters unlikable, it's all the success that they took for granted.
I bring all this up because The Jung and the Restless at least addresses it. Sure, it isn't entirely winning as an episode, but it's an hour that dares to treat its protagonists as less-than, or maybe not as amazingly-wonderfully-flawlessly perfect as Charmed does on a consistent basis. For that, it deserves significant praise.
It also looks gorgeous, the dreamworld given a sinister visual quality with its moody imagery and blurry focus. The dialogue is appropriately vague and ambiguous, while I adore that genuinely creepy moment in which dream-Paige opens up her mouth and projects a strange, detached scream. Elsewhere, I loved seeing the sisters actively working together again, instead of being permanently scattered across the show like they have been all season.
This is the only truly decent episode in Charmed season eight. While there are obviously overriding problems that the story could never entirely navigate around, it has strong themes and a sense of ambition that has been completely absent from the year so far. B+
Guest stars Marnette Patterson (Christy Jenkins); Sara Downing (Mikelle); Peter Wingfield (Salek); Elizabeth Dennehy (Sandra); Victor Webster (Coop)
Writer Cameron Litvack Director Derek Johansen