Jennifer and I are watching Charmed on Netflix (as the DVDs cost quite a lot to purchase). Sure, some of the episodes are silly, some of the acting is poor, and sometimes the focus seems to be on hiring pretty faces. In case you’ve missed it, Charmed is about three sisters with magical powers.
Sometimes, though, the writing is superb. And I really like the central characters. Tonight we watched “Awakened” from the second season. It and “Morality Bites” are the two best episodes of the show so far, as far as I’m concerned. Both have the same theme: integrity. Doing the wrong thing can have unforeseen and disastrous consequences.
In “Awakened,” Piper (one of the sisters) brings unsafe fruit into her club, and she contracts a dangerous illness from an insect in the box. Then, the sisters try to save her by misusing magic, and that creates many more problems.
Unfortunately, the moral rules by which they use their powers are arbitrary and ambiguous. The idea is that they cannot use their power “for personal gain.” But that’s clearly not an enforced rule; all the time they use their powers to save themselves from nefarious creatures. Even if we add the exception of fighting magical villains, the characters still use their powers for personal gain all the time. For example, Piper regularly freezes people merely to chat privately with her sisters or to resolve some awkward situation. In the previous episode, another sister uses her powers to help care for a baby, for her own convenience.
So the sensible rule seems to be something more like, “Don’t try to control innocent people for unearned gain.”
The ridiculousness of the magical rules becomes obvious near the end of “Awakened.” Somehow it’s bad for two of the sisters to save the third from a non-magical malady by the use of magic, even though this is not for “personal gain,” yet it’s noble for another magical being to save Piper through magic (even though he’s punished for it by his order).
However, if you abstract away from the silly magical rules to the universal theme of integrity, it’s a good story. And the theme is actually carried off much better when a third sister quits her job in protest of her boss selling a painting she knows is not authentic. The show avoids the same flaw often enough to remain interesting.