I give in. All hail Witches of East End, where the brownies are magic and the bartender spikes the drinks with poison antidotes. And where witches are apparently magical creatures from another world? Whatever. Come at me, show.
I'm not entirely sure what it was that made this last episode actually work — but something did. I think it might have been that the two plots were simple, but well integrated with each other. The humor was consistent, and Ingrid's character development actually worked. Granted, it ignores pretty much everything that happened last week, but a lot of shows have something early on that doesn't work and ends up being ignored.
So, Virginia Madsen tells Ingrid that she's found an old photo which shows someone "who looks just like Ingrid" with a young girl. The girl is Athena Browning, the daughter of Archibald Browning. Browning was the dude who built Fair Haven, the house Madsen and Freya's fiance live in. He was also, according to history, a cult leader who practiced dark magic. This was briefly mentioned in the premiere, but obviously never since then. Ingrid asks Wendy and Joanna if she knew Browning in her past life. They give a very believable denial:
In an effort to find out about her past, Ingrid finds a spell to help her remember. She bakes the ingredients into a brownie, which pretty much has the same effect on her that one would expect from the other kind of special brownie. Ingrid makes the same mistake as college freshmen all over the country, and eats the entire pan when just one doesn't immediately affect her.
Flash back to 1906, where Ingrid's desperately, and secretly, in love with Archibald Browning. Whose cult is not a fan of clothes.
It was about when Ingrid mind-tripped into her orgy-filled past, via magic brownie, that I jumped aboard this show's crazy train. This is exactly the kind of abandonment of sense and restraint this show needed.
The show's also just given up on being mysterious about the source of all the bad things that have happened. In the past, Browning draws the same symbol the shapeshifter's been drawing all over town. Granted, instead of drawing it on a tree, he draws it on Ingrid, but po-tay-to, po-tah-to.
Browning's not just a practitioner of the dark arts, he's also a supremacist. Of what, is a little unclear. I think it's nonmagical people? He calls himself and Ingrid "superior," and when an old woman gives him everything she has in order to be made young again, says that as an inferior, they should be glad they're deigning to help her at all. And when the spell kills her, he says, "This is what we get for trying to help an inferior creature."
Her death is going to bring torch- and pitchfork-wielding villagers, so Browning asks for an elopement. Wendy catches Ingrid in a wedding dress, and tries to convince her that Browning's evil and using her. Ingrid says that he cares about their "kind," and has found a way "through" to where "they" came from. It's all wonderfully vague — but I'm really hoping that magic users in this show are actually aliens. GO FOR IT, SHOW.
Anyway, Browning shows up, with his daughter, and pins Wendy to the wall. While he and Ingrid argue about whether to kill her, Wendy fires off a spell. Ingrid jumps in front of Athena/Browning, gets hit, and then we see Ingrid fall and die.
Browning goes back to trying to strangle Wendy, Joanna summons a magic dagger, accidentally cuts Athena on the back, then stabs Browning. He burns from the inside out.
While Ingrid's reliving this, Freya's got her own plot. And for once, it's not just her her love life. She took the plant that was found in the throat of wife of the man the shapeshifter killed. It was being studied by Dash and another doctor. That doctor discovered that the same plant was found in the throat someone in Louisiana, who claimed she was cursed by a voodoo witch. Then the doctors who treated it in Louisiana died.
She takes the plant to Wendy, who says it's the Branch of Death. Touching it kills — unless you drink enough of the antidote to make your ears ring. Wendy gives Freya the ingredients and the instructions, and tells her to dose herself, Dash, and the other Doctor. So she just starts mixing the antidote at the bar, putting it in drinks she shoves down their throats. I almost thought it was weird that no one at the bar questioned the bartender just mixing up magic potions, but then I realized that, if I saw that, I'd just assume it was some super-fancy cocktail.
What? Don't all bartenders have a leather bag filled with special cocktail ingredients?
They all get drunk, go back to Fair Haven, and decide to explore the catacombs. There, Freya finds a whole wall of the Branch of Death. While she runs home to tell Joanna, Dash finds it, too. He just grabs a chunk and makes off with it.
The next morning, Virginia Madsen tells Freya, "You and your family mean so much to me Freya. And I have big plans for you." When she goes to hug Freya, her shawl slips and you see:
A scar just like Athena's! DUN. DUN DUNNNNN.
This episode interwove these two plots really well. When there's a ritual going on in the pool in Fair Haven in the past, Freya goes to the pool now. When Ingrid tells Browning to hide a body in the catacombs, Freya goes there in the present. The humor was consistent, with Ingrid snatching the crown from Wendy with her stoned scene. And there were bits in the past that really worked. I actually felt really bad for the old woman Browning killed. She gave him everything to be young again, and Ingrid so believed they were helping her.
The whole thing was essentially an exposition episode, because nothing really moved forward. The big reveal at the end was super-obvious, since the second Athena was introduced, you knew they were related. I'm glad they just told us, rather than pretending it was some sort of mystery. I do wonder if she hates the whole family, or just the whole family-except-Ingrid. As a little girl, she really loved Ingrid, and she had nothing to do with her father's death. I'd say this would make for an interesting conflict, but that's not what this show does. It does magically inflating pregnancy bellies, fishnadoes, and magic brownies. And, it turns out, I'm fine with that.