Middleton’s enchanting ‘Good Witch’ Cassie Nightingale (Catherine Bell) is back, just in time for Halloween! As the whole town prepares for Middleton’s annual Halloween Fall Festival, trouble brews at Grey House when a mysterious new guest threatens to thwart the spirit of the season. After their close encounter in her shop, a flirtation is still brewing between Cassie and her neighbor, Dr. Sam Radford (James Denton), when he volunteers to set up a hay maze for the festival, looking for a way to bond with his son, Nick (Rhys Matthew Bond). While Cassie uses her magical touch to bring them closer together, she struggles to get her own family – including daughter Grace (Bailee Madison), step-children Brandon (Dan Jeannotte) and Lori (Hannah Endicott-Douglas) and cousin Abigail (Sarah Power) – on the same page to transform the Grey House into the town’s most popular haunted attraction, under the watchful eye of overbearing Mayor Martha (Catherine Disher). While Abigail is too busy campaigning against Stephanie (Kylee Evans) in a heated competition for Festival Queen, Grace is being bullied at school as rumors swirl that she is a witch, prompting her to beg Cassie to put an end to their annual tradition. And then, as Cassie welcomes handsome yet secretive stranger Joseph (Jeff Pangman) to the Grey House, she soon finds her signature special intuition is no match for a mysterious spell – or curse – that is suddenly causing double the trouble for Cassie’s family. While Brandon and Lori rush to investigate Joseph’s past, Cassie discovers a deeper connection that could put the whole community in danger just before the biggest and spookiest night of the year!
POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT: Although I take great care in these reviews not to reveal anything that Hallmark has not released, I cannot guarantee I will not disclose something that may spoil the story for you. So proceed with caution–you have been warned.
Let me begin by mentioning that I was not a tremendous fan of this show last season. I had never seen a single movie in this series, and although I gave glowing reviews to the premiere , I struggled to make a connection with the rest of the season. Although I absolutely adore this trio of actors, I figured my time invested with the series was done. For me, it is imperative that I consider discontinuing reviews of a series that just wasn’t my cup of tea.
Well, as the premiere for season two grew closer, I found myself strangely drawn to the series again. After all, could you really beat Bailee, Catherine, and James? Perhaps my detachment last year was merely due to the fact that I was still a relatively new “critic”, and my mind was still fairly closed to the vast world of amazing entertainment out there. So, dear reader, I gratefully have chosen to give this series one more try.
And I am oh so glad I did! Sometimes season one of a television show can be a little unrefined, and in the case of a successful movie series that underwent changes to become a television show, this is even more troublesome. After all, they had to replace one of the most popular actors in the series, and the dynamics of a television series are much different from a movie series. Now that one season is under their belts, so to speak, there is no doubt that each actor and actress involved in the show has completely found their rhythm and fully embraced their character. Additionally, the story lines of this premiere are current, well-written, and fully engaging. While one could watch this premiere without the benefit of season one, I do highly recommend watching the first season in order to prepare for this episode only because the story and characters will be more familiar.
As the most unusual characters in this episode, these two play their respective roles to a tee. Jeff plays the secretive Joseph, and he is impeccable in his role. From the beginning, I didn’t trust his character, but the way in which his story unfolds serves as a reminder that appearances can be deceiving. Moreover, at times, we have to do something that appears underhanded to uncover the truth. Does this mean that we can expect nefarious activity from Joseph? You’ll have to watch to find out as I refuse to divulge the details. But I can assure you that no matter his ultimate fate, it is evident that Jeff plays this role effortlessly with just the right amount of credibility.
As to Sarah’s role of Abigail, I admit I wanted to smack her character last season. I know she turned out better than I thought she would by the end of last season, but my suspicions were mounting again as she walked onto the screen. I wondered if Abigail’s true colors had been fully unveiled. And not far into this episode, I was convinced that my conjectures were grounded in the truth. After all, she was up to her old tricks again. Or was she?
Sarah has mastered the art of portraying Abigail with shadowy intentions and offbeat kindness. As I opened my mind to the possibility that I had misjudged Abigail, I found myself beginning to soften towards her. After this episode, I can declare categorically that Sarah has the knack that so few actors have. She understands how to play a character that makes you question whether appearances can be misleading or not. And in her case, first impressions are overrated. As I tend to make up my mind very quickly about people, Abigail is a veritable reminder that everyone deserves at least a second chance. Additionally, it is quite important to examine the motives of everyone you meet. There is no doubt that Sarah is magnificent as the misunderstood Abigail as she is able to convey these complex thoughts concerning her character thus ultimately leading to the audience’s assurance that Abigail is an integral part of this series.
Yet another face of a returning character–Stephanie as played by Kylee Evans. And another character I disliked last year. After all, Stephanie was out to steal Sam from Cassie before they even had a chance together. Ah, but in fairness, Cassie was caught in a love triangle last season, and I wasn’t crazy about that story either. In this premiere, however, I was completely captivated with Kylee’s portrayal of this blonde bombshell. It is through this character that another incredibly valuable lesson is taught. All too often, when there is no competition, we become complacent. We might adopt the mistaken assumption that the world owes us something for which we no longer need to work. Nothing could be further from the truth. No matter how many people are competing against us or not, we need to strive to be better every day of our lives. And it is Abigail who reminds the misled Stephanie of just this truth through a lesson that could be painful if Abigail chooses to be vindictive. Is she? I’m not telling–you’ll have to watch for yourself. But I was impressed with the way Kylee had her character rise to the occasion and become better than she even might have thought she could be. And as one who is in constant competition with herself, I so appreciate the story the writers gave to Stephanie. I am no longer opposed to this character. In fact, Kylee has increased the charm level, and I do believe we are in for a treat this season from her delightful character.
Although both characters are not seen much during this episode, I am convinced that we will see more of them as the show progresses. After all, who couldn’t love Peter as George and Hannah as Cassie’s stepdaughter, Lori? Both actors make the most of the small roles (as only actors of true caliber can), and I greatly anticipate seeing them in future episodes this season.
Again, though we don’t see Brandon much in this episode (he had the absolute best scene with Mayor Martha last season–I will never forget that as it was the funniest scene all season in my opinion), it is nice to see Dan reprise his role. It is a sincere testament to the writers and Hallmark that they celebrate our men who wear blue, especially in this day and age. Dan plays this role in such a way as to communicate both the compulsory seriousness that is required for a job in this field and the complete fulfillment that comes in doing that about which you feel passionate (even if the rest of your family struggles to accept this career choice in light of the death of their police officer father).
This is a character that definitely took me by surprise. I remember Sam’s ex, Linda, as she appeared towards the end of last season. I knew there was bad blood between her and Sam, but I never dreamed she would figure into season two. As you might be able to guess from this picture, she is none too pleased, but it may not be for the reasons you think. Watch Gabrielle’s characterization of this woman who has not yet faced all the unresolved issues within her own heart and mind, and I believe you just may get a hint of where the writers are headed this season. I have never seen Gabrielle in other movies or shows, but this gal can match wits with both James and Catherine, so there is no doubt in my mind that she will continue to be a driving force behind the action and power struggles that are sure to come during season two. Unfortunately, she is unable to be honest at this point, and I can only hope that she will share lest she becomes bitter and attempts something foolish to placate herself. Gabrielle performs her character as a perfect foil for Catherine’s character in this show, and I can only hope the writers have included more drama between these two as they are the ideal on-screen sparring partners.
For one so young, this actor has been blessed to land two tremendous roles in shows on two different networks. The nice thing about this is that fans are so fiercely devoted to exceptional entertainment and talent that they follow Rhys wherever he goes. And as this was the show last season that introduced his abilities to me, he is certainly one of my favorite characters in the series. Sometimes young men cannot be very plausible in roles like this as they appear to be trying too hard or seem to be inauthentic. Thankfully, Rhys is able to give an effortless performance that is laced with plenty of credibility to which parents of teenagers can relate. It’s satisfying to see him out of trouble this season so far. Maybe he really is growing up, but no matter what this season brings, there is no doubt Rhys will thoroughly embrace every part of this boy who is attempting to find his way in this complicated world.
The first time Catherine Disher paraded across the screen as Mayor Martha last season, I was absolutely enthralled. I am one who continuously appreciates those characters who provide well-timed and expert situational humor, and Catherine infuses both of these into her character with flawless ease. You can’t help but love Martha as she has enough “Type A” qualities for an army of Mayor Marthas–no wonder she is invariably fretting about something. And in this episode, we are treated to everything we adore about Mayor Martha and then some.
As delightful as her antics are, there is one thing I appreciate about Martha more than anything else–she has possibly the biggest heart of anyone else in the series. Oh, sure, she majors on the minors and easily gets worked up, but at the end of the day, no one can question her motivation. Okay, maybe she is secretly (or not so secretly) hoping for some well-deserved recognition of her own, but her heart is with Middleton, and she only longs for everything to appear smoother than clockwork for this town she relishes probably more than her own soul. Catherine’s portrayal is about as reliable as they come, and I greatly expect to see more of her antics in season two.
I believe that James Denton had the most arduous task last year, and sometimes he received much grief because he was the “new guy” in town. However, the fact that James has created a role with depth, warmth, and true connection with his co-star is a testament to his sensitive and effortless prowess. I had never seen James in anything prior to his role of Sam on this show, and I was instantly enchanted with his character. To be quite forthright, he was one of the reasons I kept watching every week. I know I was unencumbered with thoughts of Cassie’s deceased husband so that made my task easier. But over and over again, I have heard that I am not alone in my view of James in this role. Although a bit subdued, Sam is the perfect and worthy “opponent” for Cassie. She completely turned his world upside down last season, but she was also there to pick up the pieces, so to speak. Unbeknownst to both of them, it would appear that a deep, abiding respect and acquaintanceship has finally begun to change into something neither of them expected from the other. And you will see exactly what I mean when you witness Catherine and James on-screen together.
These two have always had an unusual chemistry, but that is what was anticipated. After all, both characters are recovering from past relationships, and both are not seeking new relationships. In fact, last season, it was unclear whether either one was ready to move on. As season two has come about, I do believe you will sense a deepening in the friendship of these two, and be sure to watch for Sam’s cues and words to Cassie as I believe both may be at that point where they are healed and essentially ready to consider a relationship with each other. As both are older and a bit old-fashioned in the realm of dating (I so love seeing a couple go slowly for a change), it is nice to see that it is Sam who begins to move towards their relationship being something more, and it seems like Cassie is not opposed to the idea. While we are cognizant of the fact this relationship is necessary, with Hallmark, it’s all about the journey to love. I want to personally thank Hallmark for removing the other male distraction in Cassie’s life. However, it does appear that another love triangle may be in the works. But since this is Hallmark, I have no doubt that we will be treated to many more romantic scenes between these two sweet characters.
As Sam’s relationship with Nick has been tenuous throughout last season, don’t expect a massive change this season. It looks like their struggles will persist, but that’s reality after all. The teenage years are often fraught with disturbing self-exploration and compulsory growing pains. But as Sam discovers during this episode, sometimes the parents have their own reality checks as their children grow before their own eyes. James and Rhys surely connect as father and son would, and I think by the end of the episode, some maturation for both has occurred. Having Nick’s mother nearby seems to cause a whole new set of concerns, but I have no doubt these two will continue to mend the fences between them.
Since seeing Catherine Bell last year as Cassie, I have begun to take an active interest in her older show Jag, and I feel like I am more familiar with her as an actress this season. Although Catherine has been portraying Cassie for numerous years, I do think it was a challenge even for her last year to develop her character into a weekly series where a beloved character has been killed off, and she had to “break in” some new characters. Notwithstanding, Catherine is the perfect caliber of actress to accomplish such a lofty feat, and in season two, she is even more radiant, relaxed, and resplendent than ever. I found myself fascinated by the sedate way her character attacks every problem that heads her way. As a matter of fact, it is Cassie who teaches us the valuable lesson that first impressions can be incorrect. In addition to this, Cassie reminds us to look for the root of the problem and not what it appears to be on the surface. Although she would seem to have some kind of bewitching knowledge, she never uses it for evil, and she always downplays it.
No matter whom they place opposite Catherine, she has no trouble giving the kind of convincing performance that only a seasoned professional can. From the way she stands to the way she smiles, she has captured the very essence of Cassie and infused it in the most diverting way.
Her character’s only fault is that she often doesn’t perceive what is wrong in her own life. She can analyze everyone’s problems and bring a swift conclusion in a heartbeat, her own life sometimes falls apart unless she becomes circumspect about the source of the unrest. She is able to project her sunny attitude to all she meets, and very few leave her presence without feeling at least somewhat better. Catherine is so at ease with this character that sometimes I find myself considering the possibility that maybe it’s Catherine who is the witch (okay not really but I believe you understand my meaning).
Although there may be those who disagree, I cannot help but speak aloud what I know to be the truth. Bailee Madison is the bright spark on this show who easily outshines all the other characters. Now I don’t mean that her portrayal of Grace upstages anyone, but it is just who Bailee is. Bailee has the fiery charisma that commands attention without being demanding and beautiful without being over-the-top gorgeous. Bailee is no stranger to film and the movies, and for Hallmark to place her in this series has ensured that the younger demographics will be hooked.
The main story that Bailee’s character faces during this episode is that of bullying. As one who works with teenagers every day, I know full well that bullying is one of the top things that young people have to face today. It used to be that when young people left school, they were through with the bullies and other school issues at least until the next day. However, in today’s culture, students have access to their digital world 24/7. Because of that, bullying–especially cyberbullying–has become something that is not simple to grapple with unless nipped in the bud. And even then, there is no telling when and if it will return some time in the future.
The most significant lesson that Grace points out in this premiere is that young people (and everyone else) don’t deserve to be emotionally and/or physically abused. Sitting in silence is never the right thing to do , and no matter what a bully threatens, you cannot give up on who you are lest you spend the rest of your life hating the person you see in the mirror each day.
As Bailee has grown into such a lovely young lady whose massive talent continues to grow by leaps and bounds, this premiere is a torrential treat because she is in it. I realize she doesn’t get top billing, but in my book, she will always be at the top. Rarely have I seen a young lady with such joi de vivre, confidence, wit, beauty, grace, and talent. In addition to this, she is sweet, humble, and unpretentious. How she can continue to hone her skill is beyond me as she is even more immersed in her role this season than last season. It would appear that her character is not going to be afraid to deal with real issues during this season, and I can only hope that as she seeks her mother’s advice and attempts to remain true to who she is, she will grow to be an actress whose depth of talent is legendary.
Thank you Bailee and Hallmark for dealing with such a sober and profligate topic in a realistic and emotionally involving way. It’s worth checking out this episode for just this story line if you’re unsure.
So I invite all of you to watch on Saturday night as I know you won’t be disappointed! Be sure to check local listings for more information: