After 3 episodes that gave us back story and laid the groundwork for the rest of the series, this episode is where Charmed first showed where its lasting power would come from: from the strength of its characters and the actors that played them. This is a Piper-centric episode and Holly Marie Combs, the least known of the 3 main actresses, steals the show and begins to steal the series. A plot that could have easily turned into a corny rip off of Ghost is instead delivered as an emotional and inspiring story mostly thanks to tremendous writing and the great acting of Holly and John Cho. That's right John Cho. The guy who coined the now ubiquitous acronym "Milf" in American Pie. He proves here that hormonal comedy isn't the only thing he is good at. He actually has amazing chemistry with Holly, and their scenes together gain in heartfelt intensity as the end and their final parting nears. The funeral scene and their final parting is one of the more emotional scenes of the entire series. Only one episode after Leo is introduced, this episode sets the stage for what is to come after. It is ironic to those of us who knew ahead of time that ultimately Piper will end up with a man who has died.
Phoebe's subplot is half exploration of her character and half comedy. Phoebe here is all energy and shows the same kind of intrepid desire to save innocents at all costs that will be hijacked even more forcefully by Paige after she becomes the youngest sister. Once again, Phoebe appears to be the only sister actually enjoying her power, and strangely enough, she is sort of the magical driving force behind the sisters early on.
Prue's subplot does little but reinforce the already established overly cautious and protective nature of the eldest sister. Shannon's acting was the rock of the series for the first couple episodes, but we are already seeing Holly and Alyssa begin to settle comfortably into their roles. As they do, Shannon simply holds steady. She is a beautiful actress but the Prue character is nearly too motherly to be liked. I'll take Paige's wackiness and Piper as the too blunt elder sister any day.
Anyway, the first truly great episode of Charmed, carried by a greatly written impossible love story, an important message about life and family, and an actress and actor with the talent and chemistry to pull it off in just one hour.