The good news: The plot of last night's Witches of East End was way more coherent than any of the previous outings. The bad news: The show still has a tone problem. And it's already clear the magic's made out of pure plot convenience. But hey, CGI bugs crawled all over Julia Ormond's face, and that was fun.
Spoilers ahead. . .
Last night's episode was called "Electric Avenue," so let's get this out of the way first:
This was a week where the plots the two sisters found themselves in dovetailed nicely with each other. That left Joanna stuck with the scattered remains of plots from previous episodes. But neither the semi-successful plotting of the sisters or the haphazard approach to Joanna held a candle to this show's transitionless swings from comedy to melodrama.
It turns out that, yes, the butterfly that Wendy stole from Freddie Prinze, Jr. was for a spell to wipe the memory of the woman who saw the shapeshifter kill her husband. So she can't remember what happened, the case against Joanna is dismissed, and Joanna sleeps with her lawyer. (Sidenote: To everyone in America who took the MPRE on Saturday, is this a breach of legal ethics? My memory is that, so long as your relationship as lawyer and client is over, feel free to bang.)
Harrison, her immortal lawyer friend, is essentially this show's male answer to Wendy. He's perfectly okay with his life and has an excellently blase approach to all things weird and witchy. For example, his reaction to Joanna magicking herself into clothes is: "Why are you getting dressed? No, no, no. We should be ordering Chinese food right now. I could feed you dumplings. Naked."
His declarations of love for Joanna are laid on so thick, by the way, that he's either actually out to get her or badly written. Congratulations, show — your poor writing may actually serve a purpose.
In terms of tone swing, Joanna's confrontation and reconciliation with Wendy is the winner. Joanna is furious at Wendy for wiping the woman's memory and causing her to hallucinate bugs, so she ends up committed to the psych ward. Wendy thinks a) that's rich coming from the woman who killed someone with a poker last week b) how about a "thank you" for saving you from a murder charge and c) why is everything Joanna does fine, while everything Wendy does is wrong?
Now, that might be an interesting conflict. Wendy's never been anything but cheerful and glib, so here's a sense of history between her and her sister. Oops, no, gone. Because, in their next scene together, Joanna interrupts Wendy trying to talk about the memory spell and why she did it with the news that she slept with Harrison. And that throws all of the tension out the window in favor of "OMG, girl, how was it?" and dick jokes. Which was funny, and this show is actually better at that, but, still — massive tonal shift.
Obligatory best Wendy moment:
Joanna: I ran out of there like my hair was on fire.
Wendy: Was it? What? It's not like it would be a first time.
They also resolve the problem of Wendy melting a lady's brain by spelling her into the delusion of living out a normal life with a not-dead husband. Because memory spells are irreversible. Convenient! Yeah, I bet that's never going to be contradicted as the plot demands it.
Why even bother establishing Ingrid as a "rational skeptic" in the first episode if she's just going to ditch it all the second she found out she was a witch? Because she's taking the death of Adam really well. She cast a spell to bring his spirit back from the great beyond, decided not to tell him he was dead, and was planning on forcing him to stay with her, by not telling him he had to either move on by the full moon or stay stuck as a ghost forever.
Above: Wendy's face when she realizes what Ingrid's done
This plot suffered the worst of the tone problems. Adam swings from deep existential crisis over being dead to being perfectly fine with it. There's a moment where he starts to relive his death and freaks out. Then he watches his own funeral. Then Wendy, Ingrid, and Freya engage in some light comic relief about the situation.
There's so much about the making out above that's hilarious and not meant to be: The choice of white for the funeral. The bagpiped "Amazing Grace." The fact that they've established that no one can see him (which caused ANGST), so she's in full view of all those people kissing no one.
Eventually, Freya emotionally confesses that he died because someone she loved had to die to balance out her magic debt, and that he has until sunrise to cross over or he never will. The latter he knows, because "Death brings an intrinsic wisdom that's hard to explain. Plus, you guys were really loud when you were talking about it earlier." Like Joanna and Wendy's conversation, this was funny, but also in no way followed tonally from what had previously occurred.
For a while, I was hopeful that Adam as a ghost meant that last week's death wasn't actually just burning through this plot, but an interesting twist to the cliche. That the conflict in the love of a never-aging ghost and the changing life of the living witch would be explored. Ha! Wrong. As usual, those ideas are delivered via monologue and then the plot just ends. Adam decides to cross over, and Ingrid tells him that magic only lets a person cross over from the other side once. Convenient!
We have another hint that something's up between Freya's fiance's family and hers. Some construction workers found a wedding dress hiding on the estate somewhere. The estate is called "Fair Haven," which gives me awful flashbacks to Star Trek: Voyager. Virginia Madsen is hilarious as the mother, just casually busting out that the antique dress "Is so much better than that tacky thing that Elise was going to wear at Dash's first wedding." She actually breathes some life into this boring love triangle. Virginia Madsen needs to be in every scene in this plot.
Now, in some shows, where this dress came from might be a mystery teased out. Not in Witches of East End! This show's motto is "Why build up tension, when you've got plot to burn?" When Wendy sees the dress, the past comes roaring back.
I'm sure it was fine...
Or not. Wendy magically incinerates the dress, claiming bad karma. Good luck telling your judgmental mother-in-law that your aunt burned the antique wedding dress because your sister died in it in a previous life, Freya!
It turns out that Elise, the Ghost of Fiancees past, followed Adam back from the great beyond. Freya doesn't get that at first, she just meets a blonde at the bar she and Killian work at. And when the woman asks about their relationship, Freya responds with the super-defensive "Oh no no, I'm engaged to his brother." The second she said that, you knew the blonde was the ex-fiancee. And the second Killian looked shocked at Freya saying she'd seen Elise, you knew Elise was dead.
For the record, perfect, nice, safe Dash has so far not told Freya: That he had a brother. That he was previously engaged. And that the last fiancee slept with his brother and then "committed suicide" after he broke it off. And, yeah, "committed suicide" is going in quotes. I do not trust this family.
In other not-meant-to-be-hilarious-but-totally-is news: Elise pays a visit to Dash. And either he's magical, too, and can see her and has to pretend he can't, or the actor is doing the worst job of pretending he can't see her. Once again, Witches of East End, your low standards add depth.
Freya wanders into this scene, where Dash tells her all about how he never loved Elise, how he was relieved when she cheated on him because he got to call off the wedding, and how he was mostly only hurt by his brother's betrayal. Maybe meant to be dramatic fuel to the vengeful ghost, but mostly HILARIOUS.
Elise doesn't care. She always loved Killian anyway. So she's going to kill him with her electricity powers and take him into the white light with her. Sadly, she fails to kill Killian and end this whole boring love triangle. She does pass on, though.
Above: Why not let the doctor work on his estranged brother? It's not like ERs have more than one doctor on duty at a time.
"Electric Avenue" ended with this shot:
Seriously?! They just keep the same name, over and over? In the same town? And no one notices? There's got to be some plot-convenient magic to explain that!
In conclusion: the humor's fine, the melodrama's not, and the transitions between the two are jarring at best. And, in the grand tradition of these kinds of shows, the magic follows whatever rules the show needs make the plot work.