Whatever rules you think exist for an episode of television mean nothing to Witches of East End. There aren't acts. Or narrative. Or anything that makes the episode stand on its own. But it's not an avant garde experiment, either. It's nothing at all.
This episode is like television nihilism: everything that makes an episode of television meaningful is nonexistent. So any expectations for a narrative, character development, or coherence are left unmet. And yet this is undeniably on television, despite ignoring any of the rules that television is supposed to follow. I watched this episode a bunch of times to recap it, and I can't for the life of me find anything like a 3-act structure in this. Trying to find a point to anything that happened in this episode is a useless endeavor, leading to an existential despair that Sartre would have been proud to evoke.
The first hint that nothing in this episode is going to go as planned is that it all takes place on the 4th of July. Now, it could be that they thought this show was going to start airing a week earlier, which would make episode 2 air on the real 4th of July weekend. By I instead propose that it's on purpose. The misalignment in the calendar reflects the way the show fails to match any of the expected beats of an episode of television. Of course the 4th of July episode's not airing near the 4th of July. That would imply that time and setting had any meaning.
We start off, as usual, with the casual dismissal of something which should be a huge red flag: The Beauchamps find Ingrid passed out in the yard after her night of tentacle sexing. While some people might probe a little further into why their daughter/sister/niece keeps ending up asleep in front of the house, this show has a lot of things to do, so they dismiss it as her being drunk (even though she told Freya it happened before that night) and move on. Someone notice that this is a problem! But, alas, there is no real follow-up as we flit to another topic entirely, trading one disappointment in this for another.
(Later, Ingrid will say that the sleepwalking's been her body's way of telling her to move out of the house. Sure? I mean, I guess if you're already a witch, anything's possible.)
So the rest of this episode: Joanna introduces Frederick to Freya and Ingrid. It turns out he's Freya's twin and they used to sent their "thought bodies" to Earth together when they were kids. "Thought bodies." Despair grows. I hate everything.
The spell to get Ingrid her dream job manifested in a higher up hiring her over her actual boss's objections. Now, that tension and the lesson about how using magic as a short cut doesn't guarantee perfection might, on another show, last long enough to lead to some sort of character growth. On this show, the boss who hates her is immediately dragged into the forest by what I'm guessing is her tentacled lover. He ends up running into the carnival, covered in blood and ranting about the symbol of the king and how someone is coming, just like the guy from last week. Then he dies. By that point, ten minutes from the end of the episode, I am jealous of him.
There is no growth. There is no character. There is only nothingness and The Witches of East End.
At her new, totally unearned job looking after historical witch documents, Ingrid finds one book with drawings of her whole family. Portraits are labeled "The Dagger," "The Bridge," "The Traveler," and "The Gatherer," whom Ingrid can't identify. She does identify herself as "The Key," though, since we discovered that particular identity last year when she opened the portal. That may be just one special power she has, since the book she found says she has "four arcane abilities."
Dash is still seeing Killian in his head, who chastises him for paying the blackmailer who saw Dash "kill" Killian. Which is an odd motivation for Killian to have, but nervous breakdowns can't be choosers. Also, he's still trying to figure out how to make his magic work and hunts down Ingrid to ask about their similar brain anomalies. Ingrid is a horrible liar, and a brief moment of light comes into this episode as she says that "Everything's been really, totally, super-normal."
Joanna and Wendy pay Dash a visit to see what he knows about his powers, giving him a dose of a plant that makes you tell the truth. They apologize and he rightfully says "For what, Freya ditching me at the alter or my mother committing suicide?" So, at least we know what Dash thinks happened to his mother. She burned to a crisp, so it's not like there's evidence to the contrary. OH WAIT, WHAT ABOUT THE GIANT STRUGGLE SHE HAD AGAINST WENDY AND JOANNA? Did they magic all signs of that away?
I can't believe it, since he's the most boring man alive, but Dash was in the two best scenes of the night: Ingrid's botched cover-up for magic and his confrontation with Wendy and Joanna. Just look at Wendy trying to figure out if she's more sorry about Freya or his mother:
But these brief bits of humor only highlight the utter nothingness of the rest of this episode.
Speaking of Killian, he's doing much better than Dash at using his newfound powers. And doing much better at figuring out what they are. His power makes him a terror to casinos, but when a game goes wrong, magic breaks the hand holding a gun on him. Dash can't even light a candle. Ava convinces him that he has special abilities and does a "ceremony" to prove it. Given that she keeps showing up as a predatory owl in visions and tarot readings, that's not suspicious at all.
Yeah, vision Ava (a horrible CGI owl) attacks Frederick and Freya's "thought bodies" that they send to find Killian. Just typing that sentence sends me further into the abyss.
Part of Frederick's plot this week is learning to not use magic openly. And to also not strangle the fuck out of people who yell at his sister. And if the temper wasn't a sign that something's up with Frederick, the fact that he swallows one of Wendy's earrings to magic it and gives it to her would be a hint.
In any other episode, I might delight in the weirdness. In this episode, the search for a narrative has beat me down. A man from Asgard swallows his aunt's earring and all can think is "Why not?" Every time this episode lurched from moment to moment, with no connection, that's what I came back to. "Why not?"
As ever, I return to hoping that Wendy gets her own show. Joanna trying to gently break the news about Frederick and being interrupted by Wendy's "You have brother named Frederick and he's asleep upstairs" was funny. But even Wendy's antics are getting tired at this point.
In keeping with the theme established last week that this season is beat-for-beat the exact same as last season, we're once again plunged into an episode that juggles a billion plot points but on a single PLOT. Going all the way back to episode two of season 1, I had the exact same problem with the show back then. I can only hope that the season picks up steam like season 1 did. Where are our time travel brownies? Our magically animated coats? Asgard? WHERE IS ASGARD? THIS IS ALL I ASKED FOR, AND I GOT TENTACLE SEX INSTEAD. I'm helplessly sobbing here.
Finally, an update on our pool about Wendy and the EMT. In addition to spying on him as a cat (thankfully, they mostly used a real cat, rather than last week's CGI mess), Wendy also sees him at the carnival. He says that his number's 911, and Wendy responds, "No. You did not just do that." Wendy: the light in the darkness that is this show. For a minute before he said that, I was worried they might actually get together this episode. But, suck it, everyone who said my episode 4 guess was too much. I'm feeling as lucky as Killian at a poker game with that choice.