Charmed: Season 3
February 19, 2006
The third season of Charmed marked the last one for Shannen Doherty. Officially, she left due to “creative differences” with rumours abounding that they were with Alyssa Milano. Seeing as how Milano was one of the show’s executive producers, it wasn’t long before Doherty got her walking papers.
As this season begins, Piper (Combs) and Leo (Krause) are off in the heavens getting to know each other better (setting up their eventual marriage later this season). Meanwhile, a supernaturally enhanced assassin kills someone and roughs up Detective Morris (Gregory). Prosecuting the case is a new Assistant District Attorney, Cole Turner (McMahon) who catches Phoebe’s (Milano) eye. She and Prue (Doherty) saw what the assassin did but if they testify then they run the risk of revealing that they’re witches.
There is excellent chemistry between the charismatic Julian McMahon and Alyssa Milano. The flirting between them in this episode foreshadows their inevitable romance. This episode also sets up another narrative arc with the Triad, a supernatural group of bad guys, versus the Charmed Ones. McMahon is a lot of fun to watch as he becomes a playful antagonist to Harris and goes back and forth from charming D.A. to deliciously evil Belthazor, unbeknownst to our heroes.
One of the best, if not the best, episodes of the season (and, I daresay, of the show’s entire run) is “All Halliwell’s Eve” where the Charmed Ones are sent back to Virginia in 1670 to save a baby from being killed (who they learn is their distant ancestor) before they can go back home. As the episode begins we see the Halliwell sisters dressed up in amusing costumes that reflect their personalities: Piper as the Good Witch from The Wizard of Oz (1939), Phoebe all sexed up like Elvira, Mistress of the Dark and Prue like some kind of Victorian witch. Leo is dressed in, well, his World War II Army uniform that he had back then when he was a mortal.
The fun of watching this episode is seeing the “origins” of several Halloween cliches and icons, like witches with their broomsticks and hats. In an interesting twist, the Charmed Ones’ powers don’t work in 1670 and so they have to resort to old school witchcraft, like homegrown spells from scratch, and good ol’ fashioned ingenuity.
The relationship between Cole and Phoebe gets more interesting in “Primrose Empath,” suggesting that he may actually have real feelings for her. Buffy fans should recognize Sunnydale’s ever-cheery mayor (Harry Groener) as the instigator for the empath curse placed on Prue. “Blinded by the Whitelighter” provides insight into the background of Whitelighters while McMahon shines in “Bride and Groom” as the complex emotions he has for Phoebe come to the surface. Cole started out as a villain you loved to hate and became, over the season, an almost sympathetic character.
Prue being transformed into a dog for most of “Look Who’s Barking” fueled rumours of on-set tension between Doherty and Milano which leads up to the season finale and Prue’s startling demise, paving the way for Rose McGowan’s addition to the cast in season four.