“This isn’t a witch hunt, this is a reckoning,” Marisol Vera (Valerie Cruz) says in the opening minutes of the CW’s much-talked-about Charmed reboot, which premieres with a very topical #MeToo episode.
Marisol is on the phone having a heated exchange regarding a professor who’s protesting his sexual harassment suspension. When her daughter’s, Mel (Melonie Diaz) and Maggie (Sarah Jeffery), hear her arguing, they pause their argument over Mel’s boots and Maggie’s desire to join a sorority to see if their mom’s okay. Marisol sits them down and delivers a heartfelt speech, reminding them that they are “better together” and that “nothing is stronger than their sisterhood.” Maggie’s continuous eye-rolling suggests this is a monologue they’ve heard before.
The sisters make half-hearted promises to have each other’s back before taking off, Mel to see her girlfriend and Maggie to a sorority party. At home, Marisol senses something’s wrong and seconds later, a crow bursts through her open window (never a good sign). After sending Mel and Maggie an urgent text to return home, Marisol races to the attic and starts performing a spell. She also warns the circling crows and an approaching smoke monster that she “has three.” Unfortunately, by the time Mel and Maggie arrive home, delayed by Maggie’s reluctance to leave the sorority party, their mother is dead, having seemingly fallen out the attic window.
Three months later, the sisters aren’t exactly heeding their mother’s words. Mel, a grad student in Hilltowne University women’s studies department, is consumed by anger and continuing her mother’s fight against Professor Thaine, who was reinstated at the school after his suspension. She’s hanging up Time’s Up posters — yes, really — when she’s approached by her mother’s replacement in the women’s studies department, a cis white man who claims to have been retweeted by Roxane Gay, among other accolades. He tries to break the ice by complimenting her on a recent article, saying, “It really made me feel like my penis had been torn from my body.” To which Mel responds, “Oh good, you read it right.” After laying out the reasons she doesn’t like him, she continues advertising the upcoming rally.
Immediately following her interaction with the women’s studies professor, Mel clashes with Cameron, an ardent supporter of Professor Thaine, punching him in the face after he insults her mom and Thaine’s accuser. News of Mel punching an undergraduate student immediately cause tension between her and Maggie. The sisters have very different approaches to grieving their mother. While Mel is convinced there was foul play involved in Marisol’s death, and thinks Professor Thaine had something to do with it, Maggie is trying to retain a semblance of normalcy in her life, which includes rushing the sorority Kappa Tau Kappa, where she was the night her mother died.
Meanwhile, Marisol’s long-lost daughter Macy Vaughn (Madeleine Mantock) arrives in Hilltowne to work as a molecular geneticist in the University’s lab — under the tutelage of Professor Thaine, no less. She stumbles across the Vera house while walking with her new coworker Galvin (Ser’Darius Blain), who fills her in on the tragedy that took place there. Discovering that the mother she thought to be long dead actually died just three months earlier, Macy goes to the house to seek out her newfound sisters, interrupting their fight.
Naturally, the reunion goes horribly, as Mel and Maggie aren’t aware they have another sister. However, after the initial awkwardness wears off, the three each begin to experience their powers for the first time. Macy exhibits her newfound telekinetic capabilities while venting about her disastrous meeting at a bar with Galvin. Maggie discovers she can read minds — a change from the original Charmed’s premonition — at a sorority event, and Mel discovers she can freeze time during a coffee date with her now ex-girlfriend Niko (Ellen Tamaki), a Hilltowne detective who broke up with her following her mother’s death.
The sisters are then kidnapped (to their attic) by the new women’s studies professor (Rupert Evans), who, to their surprise, informs them that they are the Charmed Ones, “the most powerful trio of witches.” He also reveals himself to be none other than Harry, their Whitelighter — who definitely seems more like Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer than Leo Wyatt. He explains that their mother was a powerful witch who bound each of her daughter’s powers when they were born, but was in the process of releasing the bind when she was murdered. Yep, Mel was right, there was foul play. However, Harry doesn’t know who killed her, noting their only lead is the ice found at the scene, meaning this a cold demon.
He then whips out the Book of Shadows — which contains one of the episode’s biggest nods to the original series in the form of a page about Melinda Warren — and explains that it’s their guide to using the Power of Three. Harry tells the sisters they have 48 hours to decide whether to accept their destinies as witches — it’s a “fully pro-choice enterprise,” after all — but there’s a catch: they all have to be in. If they decline, everything magical that has recently occurred in their lives will be undone.
Mel is immediately all in, Macy tries to take a scientific approach to rationalize everything that’s happening, and Maggie just wants to be normal and focus on her sorority rush. Harry tells them that luckily, none of the demons know their powers have been unleashed, but the crow cawing outside their house seems to indicate otherwise.
Later, cutting through the woods to get to her final rush party, Maggie is attacked by a demon dog. Naturally, a demon dog means a demon is nearby, likely in the form of a possessed person. The sisters and Harry deduce that Lucy, the Kappa Tau Kappa president is likely the demon in question and Maggie uses science to discover that sodium bicarbonate, a.k.a. baking soda, is the key to neutralizing it.
Alone on the front porch after fighting with Mel about their mom’s death, Maggie is kidnapped, but it turns out it’s because she’s officially been accepted into Kappa Tau Kappa. Receiving word that Maggie is at the sorority house, Macy and Mel head that way, armed with baking soda. Lucy tells Maggie to meet her somewhere secret but Maggie uses the arrival of Brian, her ex-boyfriend who has been stalking and texting her all episode, to avoid the presumed demon. Mel intercepts Lucy — who, ironically is dressed as an angel — and throws the box of baking soda on her. It turns out Lucy is not a demon but had just been trying to offer Maggie alcohol from the sorority’s secret stash since their party is supposed to be dry. Whoops.
In the sorority library, Brian asks to kiss Maggie one last time before suddenly revealing himself to be the demon. Rescinding her consent to the kiss, Maggie throws him off the couch as Macy bursts in and dumps baking soda on him, vanquishing the demon and leaving a very confused, newly lucid Brian on the floor.
The events at the sorority house lead the sisters to bond, with Mel and Maggie telling Macy about their mom and Macy opening about her lonely childhood. Later, with Maggie and Mel sleeping on either side of her, Macy realizes they aren’t quite out of the demon woods just yet. Brian apparently wasn’t cold, which means he wasn’t the demon who killed their mom. She relays this news to Maggie the next morning but unfortunately, Mel is already at the rally against Professor Thaine’s reinstatement.
At the rally, Mel begins to feel cold and senses something is wrong. She enters the freezing academic building and comes face to face with Professor Thaine, who reveals his true icy form. According to Macy, the demon feeds off strong women, draining their strength — which is almost too on-the-nose even for this episode.
Maggie and Macy rush in before the demon can hurt Mel and summon Harry, who tells them their spell won’t work unless they use the Power of Three. But to do so, they need to finally make their choice. With Mel very much on board, Macy agrees, saying she wants the chance to get to know her sisters and vows to use science to get to the bottom of this whole witchcraft thing. Now the lone holdout, Maggie reluctantly agrees and the sisters harness the Power of Three and defeat the icy demon, who in his dying breath reveals he didn’t kill their mom and implies more dark forces are on their way.
The episode ends with the sisters having fully embraced their destiny and their sisterhood as Macy moves into the Vera house. Mel finds their mother’s old Ouija board and they decide to try to make contact with her. After seeming to reach her, they receive an ominous warning not to trust Harry…who appears behind them at that very second.