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REVIEW: The Charmed Reboot Offers a Clever, Entertaining Update on a Classic

The original Charmed, which ran from 1998 to 2006, was one of the cornerstones of The WB, along with shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dawson’s Creek, One Tree Hill and Smallville, and the new reboot (premiering October 14 at 9 p.m.) brings a bit of that old WB spark to The CW. Developed by Jane the Virgin creator Jennie Snyder Urman along with fellow Jane writer-producers Jessica O’Toole and Amy Rardin, the new version adds some very 2018 buzzwords and casts women of color as its lead characters, but the core of the show remains the same: Following the death of their mother (or grandmother in the original), three adult sisters discover that they’re the “Charmed Ones,” destined to be the greatest witches in history, using the “Power of Three” to fight the forces of evil.

At first, there are only two sisters: Brash, outspoken Mel (Melonie Diaz) is a women’s studies graduate student and teaching assistant at Hilltowne University, where her mother is the chair of the women’s studies department. Mel’s younger sister Maggie (Sarah Jeffery) is an undergraduate at Hilltowne, where she’s more interested in partying and rushing a sorority than in fighting for social justice. When their mother dies under mysterious circumstances, the sisters discover that they have a family heritage as witches, and also that they have a previously unknown half-sister, Macy (Madeleine Mantock), who’s been drawn to Hilltowne by forces both mystical and academic (she’s a geneticist who’s been recently hired as a professor at the university).

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The first episode (the only one available for review) establishes the show’s basics and brings the sisters together, setting up a few ongoing storylines that should play out over the course of the season (including the mystery of who killed their mother). The sisters’ witch powers have been awakened not only because of their reunion following their mother’s death, but also because of an apparent impending apocalypse (the first sign of which, according to an ancient witchcraft tome, is the election of Donald Trump as president), which they’ve been enlisted to avert.

The sisters learn all of this thanks to their self-appointed mentor and advisor Harry Greenwood (Rupert Evans), a stuffy British academic very reminiscent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Rupert Giles. Harry is younger than Giles, and as a “Whitelighter,” he has powers of his own, including teleportation and healing. The dynamic between Harry and the three sisters is playful and fun, with a hint of something sinister on the horizon, and it’s one of the ways that the first episode effectively draws the audience in for future installments.

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