When the dearly departed Todd VanDerWerff wrote about the Witches Of East End’s pilot, he called the series out for being “supernatural horseshit.”
The rest of Witches Of East End’s first season did well to improve upon said horseshit. Unlike ABC’s failed attempt with regards to the similarly titled Eastwick, Lifetime’s Witches Of East End eventually figured out a way to make a compelling witch drama in a post-Charmed world. From its character work to its emphasis on the show’s deeper mythology (even though that mythology relies heavily on a world it sort of shares with Thor), Witches Of East End became more than just lighthearted, supernatural horseshit. It became Lifetime’s best kept secret.
Seeing the promotional material for the second season, it’s clear that Witches Of East End plans on going a darker route this time around. It’s not necessarily going to be an American Horror Story: Coven or a Salem, but Witches Of East End also isn’t going to go the late season, cartoonish Charmed route.
Instead, the threat of the open Asgardian portal from the season finale—only a week has passed in the show’s timeline—brings on new problems for the Beauchamp family. There’s the argument of whether or not the estranged Beauchamp brother Frederick (Christian Cooke) is to be trusted (probably not), but there’s also the very present worry of what else could have possibly come from the portal. While season one had a revenge plot driving the Big Bad’s motivations, there’s still a lot of mystery surrounding Asgard and the type of creatures that could come from the dimension.
The best thing Witches Of East End did early on was have its characters embrace their roles as witches. Newbie witches not wanting their new found responsibility—a pretty cool responsibility, if ever there was one—is a trope that gets old fast. Charmed went on for eight seasons, but even the Halliwell sisters never got over their quests for “normal” lives. Having Witches Of East End’s typical straight man, Ingrid, be the most accepting of her new found witchdom in the first season catapulted her into the role of Most Valuable Witch (the MVW, if you will) and gave Witches Of East End something to be proud of—making what would typically be a passive character the most interesting one. This acceptance along with the problems stemming from past live also allowed the Ingrid/Wendy relationship to be a surprising highlight of the first season. In fact, “A Moveable Beast” keeps the friction between the two, making it apparent that this is something that’s always going to be present in the series, boiling just beneath the surface.
However, Witches Of East End’s biggest failure last season came from (and continues to come from) the stereotypical interesting character—the “free-spirited” younger sister that Freya is supposed to be—being the most passive. Being stuck in a bland love triangle between two brothers from the get-go was never a good sign for the character, but the writers are not doing the typically affable Jenna Dewan-Tatum any favors by making it the sole focus of her character. With Freya’s love interests finally joining in on the magical action, one would assume that something fascinating comes out of it, but “A Moveable Beast” does nothing more than reaffirm that there’s nothing to be gained from the triangle.
So while Joanna deals with Argentum poisoning (when she’s not planning a welcome home party for her estranged son), Wendy tries to figure out who or what came through the Asgardian portal (when she’s not hitting on a sexy EMT), and Ingrid has both sleepwalking and weird demon sex antics to deal with (when she’s not worrying about her career), Freya spends the whole episode obsessing over Killian’s disappearance. That’s when she’s not worrying about Dash being upset with her for obsessing over Killian’s disappearance, that is. Not even a better actress—or actors, in the case of the male sides of the triangle—could improve this situation, because Witches Of East End takes the route that often hurts the fantasy/supernatural genre the most: It brings fate and destiny into it.
The moment in the first season when both Gardiner brothers became connected to Freya’s destiny was the moment Freya officially became a character who won’t exist outside of these brothers. Killian’s disappearance and Dash’s shift to the dark side don’t make these characters independent outside of Freya, and Freya’s obsession with both really does make her the weakest link of an otherwise fascinating, female-positive series.
Even with the Freya as the show’s anchor weighing it down, “A Moveable Beast” is a solid showing for Witches Of East End, setting the tone for the rest of the season going forward and introducing new elements that may or may not land. It’s a set-up episode, introducing a culture of distrust among the characters, so it could all fall apart come episode two. But coming off the heels of that first season, it’s a big step in the right direction. It really is for the best that Witches Of East End is no longer “supernatural horseshit.”
- Bianca Lawson makes her first appearance of the series as Eva in this episode. Chances are high that Eva is a witch. Then again: Chances are also high that Bianca Lawson herself is a witch.
- Julia Ormond and Mädchen Amick share some great emotional scenes in this episode, which makes it even more obvious that everything Jenna Dewan-Tatum is being given is nowhere near the level of anyone else on the show.
- Speaking of the type of creatures coming from Asgard, that Ingrid/demon sleepwalking-sex scene, huh? Huh?
- New hot EMT isn’t going to make me forget about silver fox Freddie Prinze, Jr., Witches Of East End! It’s only been a week since he and Wendy saw each other! It’s not the time to move on!
- Ingrid doesn’t really do much to hide her witchdom from her best friend Tom Lenk, so hopefully he finds out her “secret” this season. Hopefully it doesn’t come with the caveat of disintegrating as a result of said revelation. Sorry, Enver Gjokaj.
- We should probably also thank Witches Of East End for employing Mutant Enemy alumni. Next up is James Marsters.