One paper, Lifetime’s newest drama Witches of East End sounds like a complete disaster, following in the footsteps of failed series of recent years like Eastwick and Secret Circle that failed to make witchcraft work as well as vampire and werewolves have on the small screen. Imagine my surprise, then, that Witches of East End is a charming show that seems to actually have legs. It’s not unlike Charmed, of course, but that’s not necessarily a criticism.
There’s a reason Charmed was such as long-running success despite questionable quality – it was the charisma of its actresses and the lightness of touch with which it treated it’s cheesy witchcraft sequences – and this show shares that appealing irreverence. Focusing on two sisters Ingrid and Freya Beauchamp, their mother Joanna and their wayward aunt Wendy, Witches of East End will use this family dynamic and promisingly varied female characters to tell the story of curses and magic.
The writers chose to throw a fair amount of plot at the audience in this pilot, leaving us on a cliffhanger no less, but it was just enough to pique the interest of anyone already that way inclined. Freya is getting married to a sweet guy who travels a lot but, after dreaming about a hot guy who turns out to be her fiancé’s brother, things go slightly awry. Ingrid, meanwhile, is the sensible sister who debunks claims of magic and prescient dreams quite a lot, but she’s also the one on whose shoulder’s saving the day rests at the close of this episode. With Freya trapped in a painting by a scorned ex-lover from a past life and Joanna imprisoned for a crime her doppelganger committed, Ingrid is the family’s only hope.
I realise that synopsis will make little sense to anyone who hasn’t seen the episode, but that’s the kind of bonkers show Witches of East End is. In this first episode we discover that Joanna’s curse is immortality and endless fertility, meaning that she’s loved and lost her daughters a dozen times over the years, deciding this time to keep their true identity from them in order to keep them safe. Wendy, meanwhile, has nine lives just like a cat, and she loses two of those lives in this episode alone. She says she’s lost count, but I think the show better start rationing those death scenes if they want to keep Wendy around.
Then there’s the evil shifter, who has been going around town murdering people while wearing Joanna’s face, which means that we’ll probably see some triumphant show of united family magic next week in order to get her out of prison. As cliffhangers go, it’s an efficient one, and will hopefully allow Ingrid – the standout character for me – to shine in episode two. I’m already pleasantly surprised by Witches of East End, however flawed and silly it might be, and I hope it lasts a little longer than the many fallen witch-centric shows it follows.
What did you think of the episode? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.