Desperate for cash, Elaina accepts a job from Estelle, the Lavender Witch. Desperate to change the past, Estelle needs Elaina’s magic to help her save her best friend from a terrible fate that began a decade ago. Yet when the two arrive in the past, all is not as it seems.
Man, I need a shower. This episode made me feel deeply uncomfortable, and seriously makes me question what the writers are trying to do with the entire show. If you want to skip the gory details, jump to the summary.
We start off with our protagonist taking a job from another young witch, in which Elaina once again comes across as incredibly passive-aggressive and prideful as she gets into a wand-measuring contest with her employer. Sorry Su, I guess that lesson from episode 1 still hasn’t stuck.
The other witch, Estelle, explains that she needs Elaina’s magic to help her travel back in time. She hopes to prevent the murder of her best friend, Selena’s parents, because their deaths sent her down a path of grief and abuse that led to Selena becoming a killer herself. To add a hefty scoop of bonus tragedy on this bloody sundae, Estelle had to kill Selena to end her rampage.
Now, anyone who has ever seen a one-off time travel episode knows that this plan is doomed to failure, most likely due to dramatic irony. To the show’s credit, it quickly explains that it’s operating off a multiverse concept of time travel, so while saving Selena in the past won’t change the present for our Estelle and Elaina, it will create another reality in which Selena lives happily. I appreciate that they took the time to address that, at the very least.
I won’t bore you with the details of how we get there, but there are no prizes for guessing what happens next. After separating from her friend, Elaina comes across the corpses of Selena’s parents and the nearly-dead Estelle. Selena is standing over them covered in blood and carrying a knife. She was the original murderer THIS WHOLE TIME!
While this was a very predictable twist, that alone could have been salvaged if the emotional impact had been worthwhile. Instead, we get five minutes of Selena describing how her parents abused her and how she’s excited to become the murderer she will one day grow into. Estelle recovers just enough to subdue Selena before pummeling her bloody with a magic barrage and popping her head off. There’s no nuance to any of it; just characters screaming their motivations, slathered in blood and gutting each other like animals for shock value.
It’s just… needlessly gory and grim. The only lesson I can take away is that if you try to change something for the better, even if you know it won’t bring back what you’ve lost, it’s not worth it because the results will be even worse. That, or abuse victims are inherently murderous and should be put down like rabid dogs. I doubt that’s the intended message, but it comes across as deeply insensitive and exploitative.
I get that this show wants to include darker elements, and even if I don’t agree with its approach, it at least tended to keep them just slightly off-camera in the first few episodes. Now that it’s bringing those things front and center, it doesn’t have the subtlety or empathy to make those beats impact as anything other than grotesque spectacle. This is not how the show billed itself from the start, and I feel mislead for ever thinking the series would have focused on less gruesome things.
In stark contrast to the previous episode, where the “Ripper” mystery turned out to be far less dark than the title suggests, episode 9 takes Elaina on her grimmest path so far, and manages to bungle it. It’s predictable, shallow, and straight-up nasty for no good reason. I’m in this show to the end of the season, but if I hadn’t made that commitment earlier, this would be where I turned it off for good.
Damn, Elaina, why do you have to wander is such dark places?