Sunday, January 8, 2023

REVIEW: 'Mayfair Witches' - Generations of Mayfair Women Withhold the Truth From Their Daughters in 'The Witching Hour'

AMC's Mayfair Witches - Episode 1.01 "The Witching Hour"

Rowan's supernatural gift turns into a horrifying burden. In New Orleans, teenaged Deirdre rebels.

"The Witching Hour" was written by Michelle Ashford & Esta Spalding and directed by Michael Uppendahl

Rowan doesn't understand what's happening to her. During moments of heated emotion, she seemingly has the power to kill powerful men trying to exert their influence over her. It's crazy for anyone to think she is responsible for their sudden deaths. And yet, generations of her family have conspired to keep the loved ones they care for in the dark about the true nature of their identities and the threats they face. They believe if they don't talk about the perils of the past then they won't repeat in the future. That's a futile attempt though. Rowan and Deirdre are tempted because they don't know to fear the figure who looms in the shadows. They don't know the specific details of what happened to their mothers. Instead, it's all shrouded in mystery. With Deirdre, she was given a story about her mother dying from suicide. She has never believed it. However, no one is willing to share the truth with her. It's better to let her continue yearning for more. That way she can succumb to whatever manipulations they want to do. She gets to serve as a convenient pawn for their own power plays in this world. Carlotta is charged with protecting her niece. She hopes to do so by sending Deirdre's newborn baby away. Deirdre is told her daughter died due to an incurable heart condition shortly after birth. All agency was taken away from her after that day. She has been drugged ever since that moment. She was only a teenager then. She may only have the potential to escape this prison now because a new doctor is willing to question the orders given to him. He wants to know who Deirdre is without being sedated. He sees something malicious going on. He may not suspect the supernatural motivation behind it all. He lurks in a house that echoes to a former time. It's been safely preserved in the past. Rowan escaped to a potentially better life. She had a normal childhood where she wasn't told to fear anyone. She still had to endure the misogyny of society. She has had to appease fragile male egos even when she knows better in their profession. She is a trained neurosurgeon who is good at her job. She knows how to save lives. She's willing to extend that grace to the most vulnerable patients. She reassures these kids when every adult in their lives is freaking out. She radiates that security. Of course, she doesn't have any in her own life. Instead, she simply interacts with people who have cynical views of the world. They are callous about the decisions that have to be made. Rowan wants to save her mother's life. Elena was charged with protecting her even if it meant never returning to her home. But now, all of that changes because she can't protect Rowan forever.

Elena knows the truth about Rowan's lineage. She has gaslit her into believing a closed adoption prevents any clarity from ever being known. Rowan knows something more is happening inside of her. Elena fears something has shifted as well. She is given the reassurance that their family remains safe and protected on the other side of the country. All it takes is her death for these threats to awaken once more. Rowan isn't allowed the time to grieve before these influences invade her world. One stormy night on her boat, she sees Lasher amongst the turbulent weather. It's a terrifying image because it seems completely impossible. His presence has been noted in the other stories. He haunts these women and seemingly pushes them to such dangerous acts. He reveals himself to Deirdre as a shapeshifter. He yearns to gain power through a bond. He's essentially preying on Deirdre's confusion. She doesn't know what's happening to her. Her aunts pray to protect her. They also decided to keep her in the dark about what these threats actually mean. Of course, that means the audience is largely in the dark too. That creates a closed-off sensation over the course of this premiere. It's meant to be accepted when Ciprien uses magic to peak into the threats that exist. None of it is especially done with vivid detail that sucks the audience into the seduction of this moment. It's all about the confusion and mystery. Rowan and Deirdre are victims of other people making crucial decisions on their behalf. They hope to break from those constraints and operate with agency once more. They still rely on others for support and answers. They are deserving of that dignity. But again, that may not happen any time soon. They are still in danger regardless of how much they know about Lasher and their family lineage. And so, none of them are truly protected from whatever is going on. It's simply behavior conditioned into all involved because they have long been told it's an effective strategy. It's only allowed more manipulation to take place that fosters resentment later on when challenged and revealed. No one knows what another person can handle. It's simply compelling when one person finally reveals the truth after it has been repressed for so long. That makes them vulnerable and willing to accept so much even though it endangers more lives. That's the complexity of this story. It simply needs to lead with more conviction and certainty instead of lingering in a false sense of the true power that could be unlocked.