The Charmed Ones get a new whitelighter and learn to take their witchcraft more seriously as the stakes increase in Hilltowne.
Season 1, Episode 18: The Replacement
Directed by: Greg Beeman
Written by: Zoe Marshall & Marcos Luevanos
Starring: Melonie Diaz, Madeleine Mantock, Sarah Jeffery, Ser’Darius Blain & Ellen Tamaki
I have waxed lyrical about what I feel the successes of the new Charmed series are – namely their ability to provide a solid Monster of the Week while also furthering the main story arc throughout the season. What’s also great about Charmed is how well-paced it seems to be. Most storylines seem to get wrapped up within a couple of weeks from being introduced, instead of the mystery lasting for too long a period.
This episode welcomes back Galvin (Ser’Darius Blain) after a sizable absence investigating ways to rid Macy (Madeleine Mantock) of her demon side. In the interrim period she has decided that she doesn’t want to get rid of it at all and believes instead that she can harness it. Unfortunately, Galvin is not the only thing to have returned, as he has come back inhabited by a demon known as an Abiku. This a demon with a particular attraction to Macy as it feeds off the souls of dead children, which Macy technically is, in the least creepy way possible. Fortunately, using their combined smarts, the sisters defeat the invisible Abiku in the attic.
Elsewhere in this episode, the Elders have assigned a new Whitelighter to train the Charmed Ones in the form of Tessa (Chloe Bridges). They get off to a rocky start, with Tessa surprising the trio with a demon-drill, complete with invisible ghostly forces and a flaming Book of Shadows. Tessa criticises the way that the women have become lax with their attitude towards fighting evil, considering the prophecy concerning the Source returning soon. Therefore, they need the Charmed Ones at full strength to help defeat this evil. For the most part, the Veras are becoming much more confident in standing up to the Elders and not trusting them – including using a candle that cloaks them and hides their conversations from being overheard. Trying to kill Harry was definitely a turning point for the sisters and they clearly cannot trust leaders who would rule in this manner. Macy refuses to stab Galvin to rid him of the Abiku, instead choosing to use her own demonic side, which Tessa is adamant is uncontrollable. It is evident from the way that the sisters work best in her absence that Tessa’s guardianship is less effective than Harry’s has been, and needs to be focused more upon their bond and less upon memorising of spells and tactics. Having said that, however, she does have a meaningful impact upon Maggie (Sarah Jeffery) who experiences a power growth in her telepathy. Not only can Maggie hear thoughts of the living, but she also demonstrates the ability to communicate with spirits in this episode, which helps them to defeat the demon.
Maggie struggles with her identity in this episode, accompanying the revelation that her birth father is not who she thought he was. Instead, Maggie now finds herself belonging to a culture that she was unaware of. Consequently, Maggie finds herself eligible for scholarships made available for black students, which would conveniently help her out with the $30,000 she owes Hilltowne University since her mother passed away. Maggie seeks support in Macy in wondering whether this scholarship exists for her, but Macy tells her that there is no correct answer to the problem – which is true, and it’s not really necessary for the episode to arrive at a conclusion, rather to open the door to the dialogue and conversation is creates. As a white man it is nowhere near my place to comment, though it does seem to be strange and inappropriate to me should Maggie to have accepted this scholarship. Whether I’d necessarily be able to adequately explain why is another matter entirely. Ultimately, Maggie decides not to take the scholarship, but is keen to involve herself in the Black Student Union and explore her new identity.
Finally, we see some development on the Mel (Melonie Diaz) and Niko (Ellen Tamaki) front. Mel is forced to work at Niko’s bachelorette party at The Haunt, where Niko overhears Mel and Maggie talking about witchy topics. At the close of the episode, Niko calls Mel to the tattoo parlour that serves as the Sarcana hideout, where it appears ransacked. Flustered and impatient, Mel tells Niko that she needs to leave because it is dangerous, as well as finally revealing that she is a witch to her. Niko leaves, and Mel goes downstairs to discover the Sarcana all dead, with the exception of Jada (Aleyse Shannon). Jada says that Fiona killed the others and that she plans to leave town to escape, believing that Fiona’s actions are part of the prophecy: “With the blossoming of death brings the rise of the Source of All Evil.”. It appears that Mel has no aspirations to leave, however, especially considering that Fiona has Harry against his will involved in her plan somehow. Finding a key abandoned by Harry on the floor of the hideout, the sisters plan to use Tessa’s connection to other whitelighters to get to Harry. The tables are starting to turn.
Also in this episode, we saw Macy and Galvin break up after episodes upon episodes of him being completely absent. It’s slightly bizarre to call such an abrupt end to their relationship, but I believe they haven’t been particularly well received by fans. Personally, I have always found Macy and Harry to be quite a good pairing, and there were quite a few scenes hinting at this, especially early on. Ultimately, if Galvin cannot embrace all of Macy, then he doesn’t deserve her. It’s that simple.
It was great to see Maggie get some development. She’s been through a lot, and it’s easy to see her as the youngest and the ditzy and vague girl obsessed with pledging to a sorority. It was brilliant to see her powers develop, alongside the development of her identity within the episode. It’s so rare to see a programme confront issues of race head-on and to open that dialogue, though – as a white man, I cannot assess whether or not it was effective.
I am highly suspicious of Jada in the final sequence. She says that she survived because she’s half-whitelighter, but I’m not buying it. Surely Fiona would have noticed that she wasn’t dead? What is she planning here?
It’s strange to me how easily Mel told Niko that she was a witch. The fact that Mel erased herself from Niko’s life earlier in the season has defined most of Mel’s story arc, and yet she just blurts it out to get Niko out of the way. I can’t help but feel that this could have happened earlier in the season, especially now that Niko has a fiancée in the mix. I’d love for Mel and Niko to get back together, but that is messy.
I like how Charmed is unafraid to have their main cast sit some episodes out. Galvin was out for weeks, as was Niko and Parker are having weeks off. It makes sense. Not all characters have to be involved in the action all the time, and if it helps have meaningful development of the sisters while they are away, then that sounds like sensible storytelling to me.
This episode gave me callbacks to “Blinded by the Whitelighter” from the original Charmed series, in which stickler to the rules Natalie is assigned to train the Charmed Ones in a similar vein. Natalie in this episode ends up dying – ironically by playing by the rules – so I hope the same thing doesn’t happen to Tessa. Tessa seems a little bit annoying, but her heart is in the right place. She wants the Charmed Ones to do well and to be the best that they can be – ostensibly to protect the Elders, but any help is good help, even if her methods leave something to be desired.
I’m excited to see where Maggie’s powers develop from here, and whether we’ll see much development from Mel and Macy’s powers as we move forward into the next season too. It’ll be interesting to see whether they go down the same route as the original series, with Mel learning to explode things and Macy astral projecting.
It was great to see the sisters working together at the end of the episode in a proper fight sequence. It hasn’t happened terribly much and Tessa’s right – the Charmed Ones aren’t particularly trained for it. I was sitting at home wondering how on earth they could actually defeat demons with their powers alone.
The trailer for next week shows Fiona continuing with her evil plan, as we enter the final three episodes. I love a good prophecy, though with the competing forces of the Elders, Fiona as well as Alastair and Charity, I am slightly bamboozled as to how they are going to tie up all of these different plotlines.