As of Season 3, Episode 5, Under the Spell is an ongoing mermaid show, and the first I've marathoned all the way through.

The Plot

A girl named Claire gets a mysterious package in the mail, containing a bottle of liquid and a note reading "DRINK THIS NOW!!!" [sic]. She complies, just as her friend Holly discovers a heart- shaped pendant and accompanying note. Although the two girls don't realize it, these are from their guardian angels, and transform them into a mermaid and a shapeshifter respectively.

Claire's parents decide to move in with an aunt in another state who's having some financial difficulties, to Claire's dismay. After several episodes of moping, during which both she and Holly have a "dream" about causing a brush fire and pushing someone into a river, Claire is delighted to discover that her aunt got a job, meaning they won't have to move. On the down side, the two realize their dream was real when they find out about a girl named Stacey who almost drowned recently. Luckily for them, she doesn't remember how it happened.

While digging around in her great-grandmother's stuff, Claire discovers a journal and necklace. According to the journal, her great-grandmother was also a mermaid. Claire lends Holly the necklace, and a little while later, Holly pops a tail.

At school, they actually meet Stacey, who doesn't recognize them. During a Halloween party, a mysterious force attacks the two girls, and then disappears inexplicably.

The Characters

This is a YouTube show created by teenage girls: don't come in expecting magnificent acting or characterization. The two are fairly distinct from each other, though, which makes it easier to understand what's going on. Holly comes off as the more dramatic of the two, sometimes to the point of acting irrational or bipolar. Claire is generally blander, except during her family's potential move, in which she acts sulky. Both girls have a slightly disturbing self-centeredness, treating anyone who so much as annoys them terribly.

The few side characters aren't very developed. Holly's younger brother, Jake, is called annoying, but he barely appears, and like a lot of stereotypical annoying siblings, has no real reason to be a pest. Claire's parents appear only in voiceover. They're more credible actors, but seem oblivious to their daughter. The guardian angels have made no appearance. In fact, they are only even mentioned in video descriptions.


Overall, a "meh." The first few episodes are shot in a weird narrow format, possibly on someone's phone. The camera's blurry, and the sound isn't always very good. There is generally more music in the show itself than usual, though it tends to start and stop abruptly.

On the other hand, the creators are experimental, trying out montages, different opening sequences, and so on, so improvement seems likely. An extra tidbit I like is that the camera almost always goes black and white when they're using their powers.

Best Moment

"Full Moon Visions" (Season 2, Episode 3)

The moonstruck sequence filmed in black and white, backed with a few bits of instrumental music. There is no dialogue and no distracting pop music. We hardly even see anyone's faces.

It's mysterious and eerie, lasting just as long as it needs to. The aftermath fills up several episodes, making one of the more interesting arcs of the show.

Also, big fiery explosion. That is awesome.

Worst Moment

"Jake" (Season 2, Episode 4)

Holly's (allegedly) obnoxious brother Jake steals Holly's necklace. Discovering him, Holly gets into a tug-of-war over it, and the chain snaps.

This is the point where I started suspecting Holly was . . . a little psycho.

Enraged, she blasts Jake onto a couch with her powers. Somehow. It's dramatic and stuff.

Realizing what Holly has just done, the two girls panic, and then realize that somehow, they have the power to wipe memories. They do just that, and Jake passes out. Holly checks his pulse, and nonchalantly declares "he'll be fine."

The reason this is the worst moment is that, unlike the Stacey attack, the two show zero worry or remorse for Jake (although even then their reaction was more "what are we going to do?" than "what have we done?"). Their only concern is keeping themselves from getting in trouble. Once they finish wiping his memory, there are no more consequences. Problem solved. Except for the fact that altering someone's memories is a horrible thing to do to them, the kind that creates supervillains or at least serious angst.

This isn't just evil, it's clumsy. I don't blame the girls' acting: drama is hard.

It took me a rewatch or two to realize what Jake had actually done. They don't show it, just Holly's reaction, and the same for her attacking him. No explanation is ever given for how they figure out they can wipe someone's memories, or how it works, beyond the fact that somehow they combine their powers to do it. I still have a lot of questions. Did breaking the chain destroy Holly's powers? Is that why she was able to turn into a mermaid later? Why would an angel make a necklace so fragile?

I also suspect this led to Holly becoming a mermaid, which was seriously disappointing. Having a non-mermaid fantasy creature as a main character was one element that made this show unique, and now it's gone. I think. Once the necklace is gone, the shapeshifting is never brought up again.

Crazy Fan Theories

Holly is insane, or at least on the way. She's attacked or nearly attacked her family members for minor problems, hallucinated about mermaid ghosts, and she doesn't seem emotionally stable anyway. She's been having to keep this secret under stressful circumstances; developing paranoia isn't too far out of the realm of possibility. She's also been through two life-changing transformations--first into an animal shapeshifter, and then a mermaid. The animal transformation in particular makes me suspicious, since even though Holly could talk and think, it probably altered her brain at least a little.

So, How's It Hold Up?

It's...okay. It does try to have a plot for each episode, develop characters, and attempt a couple of season-long arcs. The sound and vido quality are generally pretty good, and the creators aren't afraid to experiment. Still, it seems like the most original elements are being gradually chipped away, the dialogue tends to be awkward, and the characters sometimes slide into being unlikable.

It's improving as it goes (the creators react positively to constructive criticism, always a plus), and definitely worth a look. I just hope they can use some of the cool ideas they've created to their full potential.

. . . And maybe one more explosion? For the finale?