Who: “Witches of East End,” aired on cable TV, specifically on Lifetime, Fall Sundays at 10:00 PM.
What: “Witches of East End,” a supernatural drama about a family of immortal witches. Julia Ormond (Legends of the Fall; Sabrina) plays the matriarch, who is cursed to bear two daughters and watch them die over several lifetimes while her younger sister is cursed to die and be reborn as a cat with nine lives to live. In this current life cycle, the two daughters, Ingrid and Freya, are not aware (as of yet) that they are witches.
Ingrid is a feminist, a librarian, and characterizes herself as a rationalist. Freya is a romantic and is engaged to the wealthy son of a local family after a whirlwind romance. Both girls are oblivious to the fact that they are immortal witches, daughters of mother Joanna (Ormond), who was cursed at the Salem Witch Trials to watch them die and to give birth to them all over again over countless centuries. Their mother decided to offer them a chance at normal lives, unaware of magic; however, past lives and odd occurrences are catching up with them, and now Ingrid and Freya are in danger – both of being exposed for who they are and for their lives in this current cycle.
When: The season finale aired on Lifetime, Sunday, December 15, 2013, at 10:00 PM.
Where: The show is set on Long Island, New York.
Why: My love of supernatural and fantasy stories made me curious, and I did love Charmed. Normally, the fact that the show airs on Lifetime would be a deterrent, but my curiosity got the better of me.
How – as in How Was It? – THOUGHTS
Wow! This show and its first season were impressively unexpected in so many ways. As this viewer noted in the review of the pilot, Witches of East End is a pure guilty pleasure and is completely derivative of fare like Charmed and Practical Magic. Still, the story, adapted from a series of novels, has veered around some exciting twists and turns. Plus, this show combines elements of harlequin romance, fantasy, strong female characters, fairy tale magic as well as witchy magic, and the story careened straight through its addicting first season, fast-paced and thrilling without losing itself, in ten episodes (rather than the thirteen originally quoted by this blogger).
The writing improved from the pilot, but the performances remain a hodgepodge of various levels of dedication and/or believable intent. The two younger actresses, including Jenna Dewan-Tatum (Channing Tatum’s current spouse) still react too melodramatically, too exaggeratedly, too unbelievably, at times, which tends to compromise suspension of disbelief. On the other hand, Julia Ormond and Madchen Amick, who plays Joanna’s sister Wendy, have moments of genuine heart and drama, while the two men in Freya’s life, Dash (Eric Winter) and Killian (Daniel DiTomasso), give their all in swoon-worthy performances as the possible “destroyer” and “soul-mate” of Freya.
Let’s examine each character’s journey this season:
Joanna Beauchamp (Julia Ormond)
As the matriarch of this family, Joanna has had to deal with the fact that Ingrid and Freya are becoming aware of their magical abilities, despite her attempts to shelter them and to provide them with normal, non-magical lives, not to mention making amends with her sister Wendy after her latest bout of being relegated to cat form. Joanna has a need to protect her daughters above all else, having watched them live lives and die young over and over again, but her mission to protect them is jeopardized by the fact that a shape-shifter has been stalking her every move, sometimes assuming her form. This season, Joanna was framed for murder and hexed by the shape-shifter, who turned out to be Penelope Gardiner (Virginia Madsen), aka Athena, daughter of the cult leader and black magic practitioner Archibald, Dash and Killian’s grandfather. It seems that Athena sought revenge for Joanna murdering Archibald when he wooed Ingrid to his side in a previous life, and the entire season revolved around Athena’s hidden agenda, as she donned persona Penelope, to keep the Beauchamps close, so that she could enact her murderous revenge and ultimately kill the nearly immortal Joanna. In the end, Wendy comes to her rescue, and the two incinerate Penelope/Athena. In addition, Joanna’s former husband and lover, as well as Ingrid and Freya’s biological father, Victor, returns at Joanna’s request. It’s clear that Joanna still harbors deep feelings for him, but their separation over the centuries and the reasons for it remain a mystery.
Wendy Beauchamp (Madchen Amick)
Wendy enjoyed being a human again, as she is a fairly free spirited and promiscuous human, but she also worked hard to make amends with her sister, Joanna, and to help her nieces, Ingrid and Freya, control their newly (re)discovered magical gifts. She was possessed by the key to Asgard for a time, a magical object that turns the wearer into a homing beacon to a portal into the world from whence Joanna, Victor, Wendy, Ingrid, and Freya all come as the immortal witches they are. Also, unfortunately, due to the shifter’s machinations, Wendy lost her lives one too many times this season. Her pendant changed from green to red, and she is now living her last life as human or feline witch. She also ultimately helps to save Joanna from the grips of Penelope/Athena.
Ingrid Beauchamp (Rachel Boston)
Ingrid has had a rough time of discovering her magical abilities this season. First, she discovered that her doctoral thesis on the paranormal and historical roots of witchcraft in East End was more real than she expected. Second, her dalliance with Adam Noble (the delicious Jason George), a local cop, ended tragically. Ingrid discovered her Aunt Wendy dead on the floor after the shifter broke into the Beauchamps’ house and struck Wendy down in her attempts to defend the homestead. Because Ingrid did not yet know that Wendy resurrected automatically after each death, she cast a spell to revive Wendy, but this type of magic induces a price. The price was ultimately the untimely death of Adam, who then visited Ingrid as a ghost after she cast a spell to draw his spirit to her. When she finally let Adam go, she found out about her past connection to Archibald and the fact that her Aunt Wendy actually killed her in that previous lifetime to prevent their association from causing harm or spreading beyond their cult. After she finally forgave her Aunt Wendy, a man named Mike (Enver Gjokaj) found her at the library where she works and tricked her into helping him research the entrance into Asgard. She discovers, through talking to Mike, that the snake key that previously possessed her aunt was not the only key to the Asgard portal: it seems Ingrid was also imbued with a magical spell, where her touch opens the portal as well. Though she magically assaults Mike and threatens him to stay away from her, he kidnaps her from her sister’s wedding at gunpoint and escorts her to the portal. At the end of the season, she and her mother and aunt look upon the searing light of the entryway to Asgard. Oh – and she does not forgive her father, Victor, for abandoning the family, if that’s, in fact, what he did.
Freya Beauchamp (Jenna Dewan-Tatum)
Freya begins the season engaged to Dash, but from her very first encounter with younger, ne’er-do-well brother Killian, she realizes she is instantly drawn to him, and that they have had dreams about each other. They have a few illicit kisses and end up bartending at the same local pub. Yet, Freya is determined to marry handsome Dr. Dash, who has nothing but vitriol for Killian, relative to the fact that Killian also wooed away Dash’s first wife. In the meantime, Dash’s mother Penelope, also known as Athena the vengeful shapeshifter, steals Freya’s powers in order to augment her black spells, leaving Freya “normal” and “mortal” for much of the second half of the season. Freya’s eternal struggle, as evidenced by a tarot reading performed by her mother Joanna, is her love for Dash and Killian, either of whom are depicted as the “Trickster” and the “Emperor” in the reading. In other words, one of the brothers is her soul-mate, while the other will be her destroyer. As her wedding draws near, and after she loses her powers, Joanna asks Freya’s father Victor, also a witch, to return to help their daughter regain her magical ability, but their efforts are unsuccessful. She reconnects with her long lost father and finds out much about her past, including the fact that Victor met Freya in another life, when she was in love with a piano player who looks exactly like Killian. That and other clues lead her to realize that Killian might actually be her soul-mate; as of the season finale, she breaks it off with Dash, whose anger overflows, to run after Killian, who she believes sailed away before she could catch up with him. Also, the death of Penelope/Athena allowed Freya to regain her powers.
Killian Gardiner (Daniel DiTomasso)
Killian fell instantly in love with Freya the moment he saw her and spends much of the season chasing after her while fighting the bad blood between him and his brother Dash. It’s clear that he might actually be the good brother of the two, but he’s a free spirit who shuns the wealth and structure of his family. Several times, he declares his love for Freya, and her resolve grows weaker every time, though, in the end, he boards his sailboat believing she means to go through with her wedding to Dash after all. Unfortunately, the death of his mother, Penelope/Athena, reveals that he and Dash were both born with magical ability themselves, inherited from their grandfather Archibald, which returned to both brothers when she was incinerated after being thwarted by Joanna and Wendy. Also unfortunately, Dash, running to confront Killian for throwing the wrench into his perfect life with Freya, discovers his powers first and telekinetically tosses Killian around like a rag doll, eventually near-killing him. Dash leaves Killian on his sailboat for dead and unties the anchors, as he floats out to sea.
Dash Gardiner (Eric Winter)
Dash, ever the dutiful physician, courted the doubt of his ex-wife and battled his younger brother Killian for the love of his fiancee Freya, only to lose her in the end. He also discovers his magical ability by accident and, equally accidentally, assaults his brother with the magic of the mind, leaving him for dead on his sailboat after Freya calls off the wedding.
Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations
1) What is Asgard, really? Why did it burn Mike up when the portal opened upon Ingrid’s touch? Why did the Beauchamps leave to begin with? What will happen now that the portal is open?
2) Is Killian dead? He can’t be! First of all, he is all kinds of deliciousness. Seriously, Mr. DiTomasso is a gorgeous man. Second, after all that soul-mate realization, I hope Freya is able to save him.
3) Why is Ingrid the key to the portal? Why does she seem to be the most magically powerful after her mother?
4) Why did Joanna and Victor ultimately split up?
5) What’s going to happen as Dash (and possibly Killian) discover their magical abilities? Is it significant that these two men, so connected to Freya, also have these abilities?
6) Was Archibald from Asgard? How did the Gardiners come by these abilities?
7) Wendy’s on her last life: how much time does she have?
Witches of East End is ultimately a highly entertaining, somewhat thrilling, lushly romantic presentation that was both highly addicting and not without its flaws. Still, this viewer finds herself sad that the season is over, as so many questions remain as of the season finale, and as the addictive quality of the show snagged me hook, line, and sinker.
Witches of East End was renewed for a second season on November 22, 2013, and will most likely premiere Fall 2014. Until then!