‘Charmed’ 1×01 Review: We Could Have Had It All

Oh, Charmed. I had high hopes for you the first time I watched this pilot episode. Funnily enough, the episode hasn’t changed, but my views on you – if not the episode – have.

We could have had it all, we really could.

A part of me feels like I played myself. Having one latinx in the room doesn’t mean this show’s writer’s room is latinx enough to understand me, and I should have seen that before. I should have compared it with shows like Vida, and One Day at a Time, and I should have remembered that this is the CW, and they only pretend to care.

Dare to do the more-of-the-same should be their motto.

But you know what they say about hope. So I allowed myself that. And I was disappointed. Not by the episode itself, which was good, if not brilliant, charming at times, cheesy and campy at others, but in a good way; but by what I now know is behind the episode, about the casting, about the half- heartedness of this effort.

So, before I go into trying to do an analysis, I just want to say: my fellow latinx, go write your own stories. It’s time we push back against this view of our identity, as defined by white people. It’s time we showcase who we really are.

And, with that, let’s go into what happened in this pilot, not without first addressing…

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM*

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I have to start here because, even though this episode gives absolutely no answers to the underlying questions that made this section necessary, that doesn’t mean the questions don’t need to be asked, again and again, till we get the answers.

This is not an easy discussion; let me preface this with that. We’re all taught different things. I was born in Panama, and I was taught in school that the Caribbean was part of Latin America, for example. So when Madeleine Mantock was announced for Charmed, I googled her, found she was Afro-Caribbean, and said yes, I guess it could be better, but that works.

But we’re not going to go into those nuances today, no. We’re going to go into the big things – like Sarah Jeffery being or not being latinx.

Like everyone else, when this show was announced, I googled her. Everywhere I could find online said her father was Mexican, which is latinx, so I didn’t give it much thought. I have seen the tweets when she, herself, says she’d never identified as latinx, so I’m not sure if the information about her father is wrong, or she herself doesn’t identify as such.

I do know Madeline doesn’t identify as such. So, at best, that’s two of the three actresses who don’t identify as latinx.

Would that normally be a problem? No. I’ll take ONE main latinx character, AND BE HAPPY. I really will. That’s how starved for representation I am. One, and I would have been happy. One.

Except that I was promised three.

But, was I? I’ve been wondering this for the past few weeks. Did I just misunderstand? Was I not clear when I asked, at San Diego Comic Con, what it meant to have latinx representation? Was I wrong to assume that the show casting a latinx actress to play the Charmed one’s mom and giving her a latinx name meant …she was latinx?

That’s when I stopped, took a deep breath, walked away from the computer and realized I was gas-lighting myself. I was trying so hard to see other people’s point of view, I was putting that above my own. This is a thing I do, a lot, and I’m not sure if it comes from being a woman, a minority or both, but in this regard, I have caught myself in the act and effectively, stopped myself from falling into the trap.

The trap of giving this show more credit than it deserves.

Because, as I see it, there are two different possibilities here, and they both suck. Either they meant to portray Marisol, and her three daughters as latinx, and they didn’t care to cast three latinx actresses, OR they baited me with the possibility of Marisol and the three Charmed ones being latinx, only to make them all, except one, white.

I’m not sure what hurts more, to be honest. And this is now going to color everything the show does, going forward. Because either way, the well of trust is depleted. I am not really being represented, not fully, I’m just seeing a white person’s interpretation of what I could be.

And there’s enough of that to go around without Charmed needing to remind me that my story, my face, don’t really matter to Hollywood.

SISTERHOOD

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I was a kid when the original Charmed aired, and what I remember most distinctly about it was loving this idea of sisterhood above everything else. Sure, there was Piper and Leo and Chris and Wyatt and Cole for a while, and so many other characters that came and went, but the story was always about the sisters first and foremost. It was the first show I remember selling the idea that sisterhood was powerful and amazing and something to be celebrated.

Something worth writing a show around.

How does the reboot do in that regard? Pretty damn well, for a Pilot. The three main actresses have enough chemistry to be believable as sisters, though there’s still a level of awkwardness there when it comes to Macy that’s totally understandable, and in a way, necessary for the dynamic to really grow.

Still, this is both the show’s strongest point so far and the biggest thing the show needs to build on. The show will live or die right here, on the strength of what these three women can do to sell me that their sisterhood is more important than anything that’s thrown their way.

And yes, that includes all the inevitable questions about casting. They earned those ones.

WE ONLY STAN MEL

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Mel was already the best character before we knew Melonie Diaz was the only latinx actress of the bunch, but now that I know that, I feel comfortable in staning her and her alone for the rest of the time this show is on the air.

This was easy before, as I said. This episode does a great job of making Mel the most relatable one of the sisters, and that’s not only on Melonie, but on the writing as well, which seems comfortable making her the kind of social justice warrior we all feel like we are in this day and age. If you learned you had these powers, after all, especially in 2018, the age of Trump, wouldn’t you want to do something with them?

I feel immense rage every day, and I wouldn’t mind some powers to try to channel that rage in a positive direction.

Mel, however, is the only one who’s sure right away, just as she’s the one that can’t let go of their mother’s death (I can’t imagine being any other way) and the one that’s pretty much kicking the patriarchy in the chin every day (literally) and trying to engage people in conversations about rape culture, not to mention THE ONLY ONE INTERESTED IN CHANGING THE COURSE OF HUMANITY.

Also, she’s the one with the girlfriend.

Now, saying I stan her because of her ethnicity or her sexual orientation is saying that I stan her because of what she is and not who she is, and that’s categorically not the case. But those things help her character feel more grounded in reality, make me connect more to the one character that actually has a spark.

It’s not who Mel loves or what ethnicity the actress is, and it’s not even that when I see her, she looks like me; it’s that when she speaks – be it about her mother’s death, or just what it means to be a woman in 2018, she sounds like me.

And, isn’t that what we watch TV for?

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Things I think I think:

  • The pilot is very campy – not that that’s a bad thing. The original was full on campy and we enjoyed it.
  • WHY IS THEIR MAGIC ROOTED IN ANY CELTIC NONSENSE AREN’T THEY LATINX? HAVE YOU HEARD OF BRUJERÍA?
  • Because the mom is latina, I recognize a latina mom when I see one.
  • This episode was written by Jessica O’Toole & Amy Rardin and directed by Brad Siberling. For most other shows I’d be going yay two women got to write the pilot, and yet for this one I’m legitimately going like: Eh, could we have gotten one latinx in there? If we continue to have shows about minorities mainly from the perspective of white people, then that’s not real representation, it’s a white fantasy of what minorities are like.
  • “WHEN IT COMES TO CONSENT, YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR MIND AT ANY TIME.”
  • “This is not a witch-hunt, it’s a reckoning” is a damn good line.
  • DAMN IT SHOW, I WANTED TO LOVE YOU.
  • There are some clever one-liners in this episode, and some nods to the current political climate that would be way more powerful if the show had actually taken the time to do the casting right.
  • But I do agree that the Trump presidency is probably the first sign of the Apocalypse.
  • The callback to Melinda Warren is a cool nod, but it raises TONS of questions. Do these Charmed ones exist in the same universe as the original Charmed ones? What’s the explanation there? Boy, there better be one.
  • One thing I hope they explore more is Maggie and Mel’s feelings of guilt regarding the night their mother died. That’s not something that goes away, no matter how much time passes.
  • I love the touch of science in between the magic.
  • Not sure I love that Harry is there to explain everything, but I appreciate his Giles meets Leo vibe so far. Just a Leo vibe wouldn’t have worked here.
  • However, I shouldn’t have to be the one saying this, someone else should have, way earlier in the process, but a cis white male who, incidentally, is a Women’s Studies professor, tying up three women to them explain their powers to them, which, the show could have explained many other ways, is just NOT A GOOD LOOK.
  • Also, even if he corrected himself, the calling them girls thing is also NOT A GOOD LOOK.
  • “If you’re wrong, what’s the point of calling you?” See – this is what I always wish people would ask in supernatural shows.
  • No way Harry is actually evil. This is episode one. No way. I know TV.

*This section is going to turn into: WHAT CHARMED COULD HAVE DONE RIGHT FOR LATINX REPRESENTATION IN “INSERT EPISODE NAME” starting next episode. And yes, it’s going to be a thing. Every episode. They don’t get to erase my identity without me calling them out on it. Every. Single. Week.

Agree? Disagree? Share with us in the comments below!

Charmed airs Sundays at 9/8c on the CW.

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