July 7, 2014

THE SKED Season Premiere Review: “Witches of East End”


WITCHES OF EAST END:  Sunday 9PM on Lifetime

The marketing campaign for Season 2 of WITCHES OF EAST END has been working hard to create the impression of a darker, edgier show this time around.  Apart from the odd decision to shoot most of the season premiere in semi-darkness, though, the series appears to be pretty much as it was, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing:  the madcap qualities of Ingrid and Freya Beauchamp (Rachel Boston and Jenna Dewan Tatum) as they discovered that they, along with mother Joanna (Julia Ormond) and aunt Wendy (Madchen Amick), were witches, had its charms, and besides–TV already has enough shows that take their occult with deadly seriousness.

Tonight’s season premiere, written by series creator Maggie Friedman and directed by Allan Arkush, served as a transition hour, taking place a week after last season’s finale and clearing the deck of some of its dangling storylines while setting things up for the rest of this season.  Joanna, who had previously been more or less immortal, had been fatally poisoned by an evil witch at the end of last season, but while she spent much of the hour in pain and deciding which of her heirs should get her prized possessions, she was cured by the time the hour was over.  The finale had opened the portal to Asgard, the other dimension from whence the Beauchamps had arrived 400 years ago (not to be confused with Thor‘s Asgard), and tonight we learned that Joanna’s son Frederick (new regular Christian Cooke) had come through, and although clearly not to be trusted (he’d apparently sided with Joanna’s father against her during the Asgard civil war all those centuries ago), he claimed to have turned over a new leaf, and pulled the poison out of his mom.  Meanwhile, Ingrid’s nightly sleepwalking jaunts in the nearby forest turned out to be opportunities for some kind of man-beast to feed on her with his/its tentacles, and it’s not clear whether he/it is also Asgardian.

Ormond, Amick, Boston and Dewan Tatum remain very pleasant company, but the men of Witches continue to be its blandest components.  In the other major continuing storyline, Dr. Dash (Eric Winter), whom Freya jilted shortly before the altar last season, now has magic powers of his own (although he hasn’t quite realized it), but isn’t much more interesting with them than he was without.  His brother Killian (Daniel Di Tomasso), Freya’s preferred suitor, had been attacked by Dash and sent off on his boat, where he had somehow run aground in Santo Domingo and been rescued by the ambiguous but probably evil Eva (Bianca Lawson), and he’ll presumably be back in East End soon enough.  Wendy, too, looks to be getting a beau, an EMT with whom she’s already had a pair of flirty conversations.

Witches of East End is hardly the most ingeniously plotted of the current flood of supernatural dramas, or for that matter the one to watch when in search of narrative metaphor or deep characterizations.  At its best, it’s a diverting hour, driven by its four female stars and their ease together.  Humor and even a dose of silliness has been part of that appeal, so one hopes Witches won’t try too hard to be “dark” this season.  The series was moderately successful for Lifetime last fall, with 0.6-0.7 ratings, but while a summer berth used to be considered an easy slot, the competition these days, especially on Sunday nights, is so strong that the network would probably be content to stay at the same level.  Witches isn’t exactly magical, but if it can hold onto its romantic, amiable tone, it could continue to cast its spells well enough.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."