I’ll admit, I was skeptical. A show about witches, airing on Lifetime, teased for being the “Women’s Channel.” I must remember that it also brought me Blood Ties, which was fun for the first season at least. I was also skeptical because I’d read some not-so-nice book reviews of the novel, Witches of East End. I must also admit, the book synopsis didn’t grab me the way the show has, and it’s likely I will never read it, now that I’ve seen how much the show strays from it (Much like Vampire Diaries and The 100 have, to their credit).
Perhaps the thing that made me most skeptical of all, however, was the cover image on Netflix (this is also the DVD cover image, as far as I can tell, for season 1).
My first thought was “Witches of Jersey Shore??” Because. This image. It’s ridiculous. Everyone’s hair is enormous. The girl on the far right, Ingrid (I’ll talk about each of them in a minute) is dressed pretty much the complete opposite of how her character actually dresses. Freya (far left) looks like she has evil eyes (she doesn’t, she actually has very pretty eyes). But luckily for me, my love of all things supernatural won out, and I gave this show a chance.
I was not disappointed, and I was hooked by the first episode. I am the first to admit if it takes me a few episodes to get into a show, and this was definitely not the case with Witches of East End.
The number one thing that drew me in was the fact that this is very much a female-driven show. It centers around the Beauchamp women of East End – Wendy and Joanna, and Freya and Ingrid (Joanna’s daughters). Each of these women has a curse that gives them immortality. Wendy can transform at will into a cat, and she therefore has 9 lives. The other three are much more intertwined. When one of Joanna’s daughters dies, the other dies shortly after, often due to unrelated circumstances. Before Joanna has finished grieving, she finds herself pregnant with one, and then the other. This has been their pattern for hundreds of years.
This time around, when the show begins, Joanna has decided to hide from her daughters that they’re witches. You see, they never seem to survive past their mid-twenties in all their previous lives, and in all their previous lives they have learned to use their magic from a very young age. Joanna puts some kind of enchantment on them, and hides their magic.
That is, until Wendy shows up after 100 years and tells her sister they’re all in danger.
This is a lot to pack into a pilot episode, especially since the girls learn about their magic by the end of it, and I personally thought the writers, actors, and director all did an excellent job of pulling it off. I love all things supernatural, like I said above, but that isn’t what kept me around. It was this ensemble of strong female characters running the show (Dash and Killian, the two leading men on the show, certainly helped though, but I’ll get to them later).
Ingrid is definitely my favorite character. She’s a total bookworm, and she’s practical, and skeptical. I found her instantly relatable. She works in East End’s library and is continuously working on a PhD dissertation about the history of witchcraft in New England. Ingrid has the most trouble adjusting to having magic in her life, compared to her sister, Freya. She begins by taking a practical approach, and ends up unleashing a curse on herself. The first few episodes are quite a roller coaster for her, and she makes several attempts to never use magic again, to no avail. She struggles with this drastic change in her life, but becomes stronger for it. Watching her grow through the first season (and now into the 2nd season) has been amazing to watch.
Wendy is my second favorite. She’s the free spirit, semi-hippie of the bunch. She breaks the rules when she feels it’s appropriate, and she’s extremely comfortable with herself. Wendy is the aunt we all wish we had. I suppose this might make her a sterotype, but I like her. Her history has clearly shaped who she is today, and she still makes plenty of mistakes and has difficulty trusting people. Yet she is refreshingly confident and often surprisingly the voice of reason in the family. Wendy is also a little bit psychic and has the best collection of jewelry.
Oh, Freya. This girl is ruled by the dramatic, and worries intensely about EVERYTHING. Oh, hey, that sounds a little like me… Anyway… Freya is also a little bit psychic, and she is super into learning she’s a witch, considering she thought she was going crazy through some of her formative years. Freya is often the comic relief, but her story revolves around her love for two brothers (ok, I know, this is starting to sound like Vampire Diaries, but bear with me). She is extremely passionate about everything she does, including her bar tending (it turns out she was great at mixing potions in her previous lives, and when she grew up without magic, this turned into an impressive drink-mixing skill). Freya has a strange sort of innocence about her, which makes her one of the kindest characters ever. It also gets her into a lot of trouble, but I love this girl, and kind of wish she was MY little sister. The friendship she shares with Ingrid is very similar to the sisters in the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, or Charmed.
I couldn’t find a photo of Joanna that I thought captured her well, so here’s a photo of her with Wendy making strange faces as they try to explain something unpleasant. This sort of thing happens often. Many delightfully awkward moments on this show. Joanna’s character is fun because she gets to be both a mother and a sister. She’s the most stable character in the group. Her fatal flaw, however, is that she is often idealistic – a fact Wendy likes to point out on more than one occasion. She has many enemies, but it seems they were all created while she was in pursuit of saving her family. Joanna is probably my least favorite of the main characters, but she is a great mother and sister.
And now for the boys…
Killian is your standard gorgeous bad boy with a bit of a checkered past. He shows up out of nowhere for Dash and Freya’s engagement party, yet he and Freya have been dreaming about each other for weeks. It’s all very romantic and stuff. I like this guy simply because I like this archetype character. Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Damon from Vampire Diaries… I like these guys. I’m ok with that. What makes Killian a little different is his relationship with Freya, which we have only just begun to scratch the surface of, so I won’t leave too many spoilers. Honestly, the other men who come and go in this show are more interesting to me, but Killian is pretty, and he brings a good sense of humor, so I’m curious to see where they take his story, especially with season 2.
I also really like this photo of them, deciding to just be friends:
We have the stereotypical bad boy, and Dash is our stereotypical good boy. This is probably the biggest flaw in this show – these two stereotypes, and the fact that they’re in love with the same girl (this is season 1 we’re talking about though, things have changed in season 2 in many ways). Luckily we get some variety with the other women and the men in their lives, and by the end of season one, the Gardiner boys become very interesting indeed. Season 2 will be much more interesting watching their stories unfold, I think. But the best way I can describe Dash? He’s the Angel (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) or Stefan (Vampire Diaries) equivalent. Aside from his silly name, Dash is set up to be the “perfect guy.” He’s a doctor, he’s extremely wealthy, and cares deeply for Freya, his bride-to-be. If he stayed like that for the entire show, he would be extremely boring. But as the first season progresses, he slowly unravels, and we start to get a better picture of who he really is. I honestly didn’t find him interesting until the very end of the season, but I was in this show for the strong women characters to begin with anyway, so it didn’t bother me too much.
In addition to these excellent characters, the show has my favorite blend of drama and humor. Plus magic that ALWAYS has a price, which they continue to state clearly when the girls are first learning how to use their magic. One final point – this show is very sex-positive. These women are very clear about not judging each other for their habits (or lack thereof) and that includes the older two women, which in my experience is a bit of a rarity. In my humble opinion, this is a well-done show, if cheesy at times the way Charmed was sometimes cheesy. My only other complaints are that sometimes really strange things happen that remind me of Torchwood in a bad way, and it’s possible the guys could be better at acting. I’m sure people with a more critical eye than mine could find more flaws, but on the whole, I really enjoy this show, and I can’t wait to see more with strong leading ladies. And now I must leave you – as I’ve got another episode of Witches of East End to watch.