Charmed Season 2 Episode 12 Review: Needs to Know

Charmed continues to squander its potential, both as a fantasy drama and a feminist one.

This Charmed review contains spoilers.

Charmed Season 2, Episode 12

Charmed is missing the thing that is pivotal to it’s premise and the foundation on which it is built on: magic. There is nothing fantastical about the series; unfortunately, it lacks any of the wonder or excitement one would expect from a show where nearly anything is possible. The basic premise offers so much potential that squandering it is almost a talent in and of itself.

In “Needs to Know,” the Charmed Ones spend the first half of the season looking for a way to regain their power, and now that they’ve done that, they’re hoping to reclaim the Power of Three. But Macy is still without her witchy abilities and believes removing her demon powers is the key to getting them back. She seeks Abigael’s help in removing her demon powers, despite her utter distrust, and Abigael is all too eager to help because Macy’s particular (fire) powerset is coveted in the demon world. Plus, Abbie never refuses a chance to gain power and take something away from her frenemy witches.

Abigael reveals to Macy that Parker is still alive and Macy has to convince him to give up the location of the ritual dagger they need to strip her powers. He agrees, on the condition that she delivers his letter to Maggie. Abigael does the ritual, and to no one’s surprise, takes the power for herself. But Macy doesn’t get her witch powers back and is now really powerless. Perhaps it wasn’t her demon powers, but her emotional constipation that has caused the blockage in her magical flow? She thinks it may be the universe punishing her for finding a modicum of happiness with Julian, but he’s new and her power shortage is not. As a woman of science, I expect better logic from her.

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I know I mention this every week, but I still do not see it for Abigael, The Overlord/villain. She toes the line between enemy and ally, and while her mildly antagonistic behavior toward the Charmed Ones works in-universe, it does nothing for the audience. Macy and Mel, especially, don’t trust her but they see her as effectively harmless, which makes her dangerous to them. But for the audience, Abigael doesn’t feel dangerous. Everything she does out of their view seems equally non-threatening. Abigael’s reveals, like showing off her newly acquired fire powers at the end of this episode, fall flat, because they seem like foregone conclusions and there’s never any mystery or intrigue surrounding them.

We don’t yet know what Abigael’s endgame is, and she is keeping her cards close to her chest, but nothing she’s done in the interim makes her seem formidable. I don’t mind her as a character, but I aggressively dislike her as a villain. She is barely a bad guy, and If she turns out to be this season’s Biggest Bad, I might have to have words with the show’s writers. Hopefully they step her up or she’s a red herring and someone or something much more interesting reveals itself.

This show is capable of saying something. Earlier in the season, we met Helen, who was the first Whitelighter (and the first to have her Dark half stripped away from her). When someone attacks the asylum where she lives, Dark Helen kills them and escapes. Maggie and Harry track her down in her hometown, and after Maggie empathetically gets through to her, they bring her back to the command center where Helen is waiting.

When Dark Harry emerged from his grave, earlier this season, I knew that he couldn’t die if Harry was alive, and that neither could kill the other. Helen confirmed this when Harry and the Charmed Ones wondered why she wasn’t killed by her Darklighter. Once reunited, Helen asks to be merged with her dark half. But when Macy looks for answers in the Book of Elders, Dark Helen attacks her, mistaking her for an Elder. To stop her dark half, Helen puts a dagger into her own chest, killing her Darklighter and herself.

It was inevitable that Helen would sacrifice herself to stop her dark half, and it is powerful, even if there were better ways to resolve her story. Helen is whole in her last moments, and when Harry asks why she did it, she says it was her choice. In her life, she was married off to a man more than twice her age and denied the choice to be with the person she loved. She was then denied the choice of whether to be split in two to become a Whitelighter. We can debate all day about the rightness of her choice, but we can’t dismiss the power of her having that choice.

That said, it would’ve been more powerful for Helen to become whole and be allowed to live, in this time —as Mel reminds us— where women have the power to choose. For a show that tries to be progressive, it still employs cliches and falls into easily avoidable traps. Women being martyrs or sacrificing their lives for the greater good is not new or inspired.

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Another uninspired choice is having Macy, who promised to deliver Parker’s letter to Maggie, not do that. Maggie finally decides by the end of this episode that she is ready to move on, potentially with Jordan, and Macy takes that as justification for not telling her Parker is alive. Macy was empowered by the choice she made herself, consciously and knowingly, to give up her demon powers but would deprive Maggie of the opportunity to choose for herself whether she wanted to move on from Parker.

Characters are at the mercy of their writers, and the writers of this show need to be reminded that actions speak louder than words. Saying something is one thing doesn’t make it so, if the writing doesn’t support it. Mel can talk about feminism all the live-long day, but as long as the show makes the same, obvious choices in character’s actions and motivations, it will never rise to the base standards it set for itself.

Additional comments.

Earlier in the episode, Mel meets a girl named Ruby, and decides to exercise her choice, and end the (flimsy, frequently disregarded) no dating rule. And while I’m very here for Mel finding love, I’m reminded that Kat is gone and was wasted in the time she was here, and why can’t I have nice things?

Abigael is still doggedly pursuing Harry and he’s resistant because, he says, she’s half demon. But Macy is also half-demon, so what’s good?

Did Jordan break up with his girlfriend off-screen or is Maggie about to steal somebody’s man? We didn’t need to meet his girlfriend, but now that we have, she is a factor, so they have to address it. Classic love-v. (Triangle is A likes B, who likes C, who likes A and not A and B like C, who like both. Thanks for coming to my TED talk.)

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2 out of 5