The mystical pregnancy is one of the most overused tropes in science fiction and fantasy — and now, we've seen this idea taken to its most ludicrous extreme, in the new Lifetime show Witches of East End. Watch the magical self-inflating belly for yourself, below.
Here's the premise of Witches of East End (although the show didn't let you in on the secret until the thirty minute mark):
Joanna (Julia Ormond) and her sister, Wendy (Madchen Amick), are centuries-old witches. They've both been cursed, for some reason. Joanna's curse is immortality and constant motherhood. She gives birth to two daughters, they learn magic, are killed by it, AND THEN SHE IS INSTANTLY PREGNANT AGAIN. No joke, the flashback shows her at the grave of her daughters and BAM, she looks down to an inflating belly.
She experiences the lives and deaths of her daughters, Ingrid and Freya, over and over again. Because apparently, never-ending motherhood is the worst thing you can do to a woman.
Wendy, on the other hand, apparently was cursed to... turn into a cat? And she only has nine lives? And can't have children? It's not entirely clear. Plus, she's markedly less angst-ridden than her sister.
Anyway, Wendy shows up to tell Joanna that someone wants her dead. Permanently dead, since apparently she's only sort-of immortal. Also, Joanna has spelled her daughters not to know about their witchiness, to try to keep them from dying this time around, but the aforementioned plan to kill her forces her to reveal that secret to them. So, it looks like the show is going to be about the mystery of who wants to take out Joanna, and about the daughters growing into their magic and trying to avert their destiny.
The specifics of the episode are a little bit of a mess, so let's run through what happens with Joanna, Ingrid (Rachel Boston), and Freya (Jenna Dewan-Tatum).
So, yeah, her whole plot is kind of outlined above. Apparently, her curse has sucked in all sorts of ways. She says, "Immortality with endless motherhood. Do you know how many times I gave birth before they invented the epidural? Or soap?" Women!
All that needs to be added is that there's a shapeshifter wearing her face and doing all sorts of evil magic around town. And when one of the shapeshifter's victims wakes up and IDs Joanna as her attacker, she's arrested. But she has just enough time to tell Ingrid that they're witches and she needs to use the hidden information about magic to help her sister.
Poor Ingrid. She's the character given the least development, and what little she does have is pretty awful. She has a brief flirtation with a cop, but he ends up arresting her mother, so that's probably on hold for a while. She majored in the history of the occult, and does not believe in any of it. She literally says, out loud, twice, during the episode, "I'm a rational skeptic." That's it. That's her entire character.
She says things like, "I think soulmates is a concept Hollywood invented to sell tickets to Meg Ryan movies. And, "I think romantic love is a concept Hollywood invented to sell tickets to Katherine Heigl movies." That's how you know there's something wrong with her. Because no woman would ever dismiss the notion of soulmates and romantic love! Also, in this show's world, she is shown to be wrong, because her sister experiences both of these things. Women, am I right?
She has a friend who really wants to get pregnant (Women, am I right?), but the in vitro has failed and she and her husband can't afford to try again. So they, and another friend from the library, jokingly do a fertility spell. And literally the next day, she hands Ingrid a postive pregnancy test. Seriously, what brand is it that can detect a pregnancy the day after conception? Because her friend says that her doctor tested her just the day before, and she wasn't pregnant.
As her mother's getting arrested, Joanna tells Ingrid that her skepticism is the result of her spell to make the girls forget their magic. Because it worked too well. Because skepticism's NEVER actually valid in shows like this.
Freya, on the other hand, has almost too much to do in the pilot. Her thing is that, on the opposite end of her sister, she's always kind of known she had powers, since she can see auras and has prophetic dreams.
She's engaged to rich, altruistic Doctor Without Borders Dash (Eric Winter). Dash's mother is not Freya's biggest fan. She comes right out and says that it's not Freya's fault she's so low-class, but she can help! She can teach her all about the important things about being a wife: etiquette, style, "and all the other things [she] never had a chance to learn." Also, she's going to take her shopping for a properly fitting bra! Women, am I right?
At her engagement party, she meets the man of her dreams. In that, Dash's brother, Killian (Daniel DiTomasso), is literally all over her dreams. The sight of him spontaneously turns the white flower in her hair red! Because he's all sexy and everything. No one seems to notice that however.
They make out at the party, and it causes a vase of flowers to erupt in flames and flowers to bloom and explode in slow motion.
She's pretty torn between Dash and Killian. She thinks Dash is "safe and warm and comforting and familiar and hot and funny and romantic and sweet." We barely see him, so we have to take her word for it. But then there's Killian, who's all "lighting bolt passion crazy amazing awesome soulmate sexual insanity." How can she pick between the good guy and his mysterious brother? Women, am I right?
In a dream, Freya runs down a foggy bridge to a shirtless Killian. They make out again int the dream, and he says, "I've waited 400 years for this, and it's not even really happening." There's a bit of mystery as to how that can be true and he can be Dash's brother, since an honestly hilarious flashback shows Joanna stabbing Dash to check that he's not immortal. She and Killian try to be friends, but while they're hanging out at a bar, a guy corners Freya, forces her to do magic, and pushes her into a photo of the 1920s.
He was apparently once engaged to Freya, and when she broke it off, he got violent. So he got trapped in a painting — and now, the shapeshifter has let him out, to go after her. Here's a screencap of him, so you will understand why I will be referring to him as "Sun Burnt Will Forte" (Cary Elwes? Will Forte.)
The next episode will probably be Ingrid learning magic to save her sister from the 1920s and Sun Burnt Will Forte.
All in all, there's a lot of questionable characterization of women in this premiere. For example, one of the first things Ingrid says to Freya is, "You only have one superpower, and it's your breasts." Um, yeah?
On the other hand, there are some actually hilarious moments. This exchange worked:
"Hey, you wanna help us cast a magic spell to try to get Barb pregnant?"
"Only if I can make hats."
But the best parts of the show involved Wendy, who died at the end of the last episode. That better not be her last life, because Wendy is this show's redeeming feature. Her lines are hilarious, and always delivered with a kind of hilarious off-handedness:
- "Well, I died this morning. So sorry if my hair isn't perfect."
- "I can't believe I got hit by a car. That's almost as dumb as the time I died from syphilis."
- "I've been busy. I moved to New Orleans. I opened up this cute little voodoo shop in the French Quarter. I got married, I got divorced, I got married again, I got widowed. I got eaten by a crocodile."
- "Oh, don't even act like your curse isn't way better than mine."
- "You stabbed me. Plus I think I ruined your towel."
So, Lifetime, less weird messages about motherhood and women, more wacky Wendy, please.