Who: “Witches of East End,” airs on cable TV, specifically on Lifetime, Summer Sundays at 9:00 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 2 premiere aired on Lifetime, Sunday, July 6, 2014, at 9:00 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
The new TV season starts early (aside from the usual summer runs) with the premiere of Witches of East End last night on Lifetime. If you need to catch up or a refresher of what was, read this blog’s review/recap of the first season here.
This viewer’s initial impression is that there seems to be a disjointedness to the start of the second season. Apparently, Joanna (Julia Ormond) was poisoned when the door to Asgard was opened by key Ingrid (Rachel Boston) in the first season finale, which was not clear in that episode. Maybe Penelope did it when they tousled prior to Penelope’s incineration in the boiler room of her own mansion. The second season premiere episode begins with Victor, Joanna’s former lover and the father of her children, attempting to nurse the poison out of her by tying her to her bed and applying parasites to suck the poison from her blood. It’s clear that she doesn’t have much longer to live, and the girls are worried about her. Freya (Jenna Dewan-Tatum) also brews a potion that allows, when coupled with the proper chant, the three other women to delve into their memories, as the opening of the door to Asgard left them with selective amnesia regarding what came through the door. They remember the door and a shadowy figure emerging from it but not much else.
In the meantime, Wendy (Madchen Amick) has been prowling the woods in cat form and saw a shadowy form that she felt was evil and dark. This form alarms her. The mystery of Asgard heightens with what or who might have entered this realm from that one. She also encounters a flirtatious man in the library who also happens to work as a paramedic; he tries to steal her library book and brazenly argues with her. We see him in the woods a few times too, so it’s clear that he may know who or what Wendy is, but we have not yet learned of his purpose.
Ingrid, meanwhile, struggles with being the reliable, less than fearless daughter and with her emerging powers as a witch. Also, somehow, she has forgiven her father in the wake of her mother’s sickness, though it would have been nice to have seen that, because she was still angry with him for “abandoning” them at the end of the first season. Her major plot thread in the premiere centers on her application for a position to study the history of witchcraft on the island, for which only doctoral candidates are eligible. In order to receive an interview, she lies to the professor in charge of the study by saying she has a doctorate – when she has not yet even finished her dissertation – and then is late to the interview, given her involvement in the memory spell using Freya’s potion. Having failed to make a good impression enough to convince her hiring manager that she would be the most qualified candidate for the job, she is convinced by her sister and a library coworker to cast a spell. She agrees, and it works, though she gets drunk and falls off a bar stool (or maybe the bar itself) in the process. Wendy, when checking on Ingrid, sees the brazen paramedic who tried to steal her library book, even though there was a second copy. The show appears to be setting Wendy and this stranger up with some possible sexual tension, but his timely appearance on the scene may not have been coincidence.
Freya is concerned because she has not heard from Killian (Daniel DiTomasso) after calling off her wedding to Killian’s brother Dash (Eric Winter) and fears for his safety, believing she would have heard from him at least once, even if he was angry, though Killian left Freya in the first season finale, believing that she intended to go through with her wedding to Dash. She has a vision when looking in a mirror that signifies that he is alive but in danger. She asks her aunt Wendy to help her interpret the vision; Wendy reads the tarot and notes that he is safe, but that the “owl” (must be a new sort of tarot) is a harbinger of someone bringing him to safety but possibly for duplicitous reasons.
Later, we learn that Killian is, in fact, alive, having washed up in the Caribbean somewhere. He is winning an endless supply of money playing cards, and he tells a mysterious woman who enters his room that it’s as if he can read others’ minds and tell what they’re thinking. Remember: at the end of the first season, Killian’s mother Penelope, aka Athena, admitted to Joanna that she “borrowed” the magical abilities of her sons, which they would have inherited from their grandfather, in order to augment her own for her revenge against the Beauchamps. When she died, it seems magical abilities returned to the Gardiner boys. Killian doesn’t realize it yet and appears to forget that brother Dash tele-kinetically tossed him into a boat, leaving him unconscious and for dead, in the first season finale. Either way, he admits his uncanny card-playing ability to a mysterious woman, a friend who apparently saved his life. She coyly asks if he will be returning home; he indicates that there is “nothing” for him there, so he does not plan to do so. They then kiss, and the camera reveals an owl tattoo on her back.
Dash, on the other hand, is struggling with feelings of darkness and rage following his breakup from Freya. He enjoys coming into the Bent Elbow tavern where Freya works and glowering at her and/or telling her to stay away from him (men). Mostly, he has been attempting to use his new powers of his own free will; he caught on more quickly to the idea that he possesses some magical power after his altercation with Killian on the docks. In addition, a strange patient has come into the hospital with a symbol carved into his chest, raving about dark entities that are “coming.” The patient is treated as a psychiatric patient, but Dash is unconvinced, given the surprise and incredible existence of his magical abilities. He orders some tests and is informed that the results are anomalous to humans, and that the only other person with similar results ever to be discovered at the hospital came from Ingrid (when and where…I don’t know or remember).
The most interesting development in this episode is that, while Victor goes off to South America in search of a rare plant that might be able to cure Joanna, their son Frederick appears at Joanna’s doorstep, newly emerged from the door to Asgard. What we know as viewers is that Frederick was left behind by Joanna, mostly involuntarily, after he “sided with their father,” i.e. Frederick, Ingrid, and Freya’s grandfather. Frederick appears and doesn’t remember much, though he is able to find his mother. Wendy doesn’t trust her nephew, given the past and the fact that it was due to their father’s machinations that Joanna and Wendy and the girls left Asgard to begin with, but Frederick identifies Joanna as being ill due to poison and magically absorbs the poison from her body, which he indicates will not affect him because he has been building up an immunity to it (this viewer forgets the name of that poison). In any event, Wendy still finds it difficult to trust him, even as Joanna is ecstatic that Frederick is here, and that her life has been spared. The camera then cuts to Frederick sitting on his bed, listening to the conversation from an upper floor with enhanced hearing and with the same marking on his shoulder that appeared on the patient admitted to the hospital and under Dash’s care.
The tone of this premiere was a bit different than the tone of the entire season preceding it. The advertising for the show’s new season repeatedly suggests that “darkness is coming,” but this first episode was a bit clunky in its attempts to establish the new antagonists this year, though this viewer predicts that the “darkness” in question is Joanna and Wendy’s father, vague though the darkness may be at this point. Still, time will tell, and the soul-connection love between Freya and Killian in addition to the appearance of Frederick certainly offers some tantalizing tidbits of story to follow as the season progresses. Mostly, the mystery of Asgard looms – what drove the Beauchamps to this realm, and why are they sought so voraciously by beings from that one, including their father? And, really, when did Ingrid forgive her own father? So little time appears to have passed between first season finale and second season premiere, and yet, a few important details have been glossed over – hopefully, this show doesn’t suffer from a sophomore season slump.
One thing is for certain: the dialogue remains cheesy, and the performances of Boston and Dewan-Tatum still ring a bit melodramatic. Oh well – Witches of East End is the guiltiest of pleasures, after all. The story is fun, and the adult women, particularly Ormond, lend some credibility to the proceedings, though this viewer finds that I will miss Virginia Madsen (the erstwihle Penelope). She played the two-faced Penelope very well.
Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations
Questions Following the First Season
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?
These are the biggest questions so far, though Mike is gone for good. No answers yet.
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.
Answer: No, of course not. He and all of his gorgeousness are alive, but not thanks to Freya. He is in the Caribbean, kicking it with some new woman with an owl tattoo, and is determined to stay far away from home, believing that Freya married Dash, and that Dash wants him dead.
3) Why is Ingrid the key to the portal? Why does she seem to be the most magically powerful after her mother?
This is still a question. Hopefully, we’ll get an answer this season.
4) Why did Joanna and Victor ultimately split up?
Also, is Victor sticking around?
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?
The premiere percolated some possibilities for these brothers. I believe this season will explore these questions heavily.
6) Was Archibald from Asgard? How did the Gardiners come by these abilities?
Good questions! Still applicable!
7) Wendy’s on her last life: how much time does she have?
However little time she has left, she is well aware that she is on her last life and is frequently warned by Joanna to tread carefully. Wendy may be a casualty before long.
1) Why is Frederick here? Is he after his mother and aunt for whatever deeds offended their father? Or, is he really trying to get away from his grandfather, as he repeatedly suggested (I’m with Wendy, though…I don’t believe it).
2) What is the symbolic tattoo/scar indicative of? Why did the random patient and Frederick both have it? Does Wendy’s mysterious paramedic have it too?
3) How are Killian and Freya going to be reunited – are they going to be reunited at all? Who is the girl with the owl tattoo, and is she there by chance or with a purpose?
4) Why was Dash learning about Ingrid’s blood results significant? Will he make the connection that the Beauchamps are witches also? If he does: what then?
Items That Interest Me Less
1) Wendy’s new stranger – unless he is Asgardian. I feel as if he was introduced just to give Wendy more to do other than be the free spirit that is endlessly protective, though sometimes flippant, about the safety of her sister and nieces.
2) Ingrid’s new job, though I enjoy the presence of Tom Lenk, otherwise known as Andrew from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Does this mean she is leaving the library? Either way, unless it ties into the larger story: yawn.
The second season premiere of the Witches of East End was far more inconsistent, slower, and less interesting than the season preceding it. The first season was so addicting, most likely due to the love triangle between Freya, Dash, and Killian; the novelty of the Beauchamps’ magic; and the exploration of past lives, particularly Ingrid’s. In order for this Asgard angle to entice and be as riveting, the writers and producers are going to have to step up their game a bit to compensate for the loss of these interesting past story lines, since Freya chose Killian. It would be wonderful if the show implements some flashbacks of Asgard and mete out more of that back story, which has not been discussed at length as of yet on the show. Also, who is the real villain this year? Penelope emerged early in season one – is Dash becoming his mother, or are we really focused on the unspecified “darkness” looming in the woods near the portal to Asgard? Hopefully, this program won’t succumb to that second season slump after such a riveting and well written (if not necessarily well performed) first season, though the impression this viewer has is that the show is less comfortable with its new direction; perhaps, the producers were only expecting one season. Let’s hope they can rise to the challenge of an ongoing story.
Witches of East End was automatically ordered for a full second season of thirteen episodes. Renewal information will likely not be available until the fall. This blog will review the show again at the end of the second season; however, discussion on the episodes is welcome. If you have any thoughts or feelings about this or any of the other second season episodes, comment below! A discussion forum for interested parties may be created if there is a lot of interest. Absent that, enjoy the second season of Witches of East End!