This is Julian McMahon's tour de force. His performance alone makes this one of the best episodes of Charmed. If Shannen blazed a mark above all others in her final performance, Julian tried to set his star even higher. The scene at The Bay Mirror where he pleads with Phoebe to stick with her decision is perhaps the best acted and finest written scene thus far in the series. Of course, no one is more familiar with the contest of good versus evil within than Cole, and Julian's intensity in this scene conveys the pain of that battle completely.
Alyssa, of course, is fabulous as the evil Queen, and Phoebe takes no time in acting like a powerful demon by torching other demons at a blazing pace. Unfortunately, this breeds mistrust among her minions since, as a Charmed One, not everyone is convinced she has completely turned from her demon vanquishing days. In fact, even Paige immediately thinks it is a good sign. Regardless, the scene where Phoebe has all the demons on edge, much to Cole's displeasure, is great fun.
It was a surprising and dark turn when Cole brilliantly fools the sisters into bringing their innocent to him to be vanquished. This act, of course, brings the entire situation to a head, and once the choice is between Cole or her sisters, Phoebe makes the only choice she can. The writers got the maximum drama and emotional pull out of the vanquish by having it all come down to Phoebe making the final move. This is certainly one of Charmed's most emotionally powerful moments and toughest vanquish. The entire thing was masterfully handled.
As well-reviewed as this episode is, I am not going to place it among the absolute top tier of Charmed episodes, meaning it is a Top 10 episode but probably not a Top 5. In fact, Cole's final vanquish in Centennial Charmed is a more entertaining episode, I believe, in its entirety. The stakes are even higher there, and we say a REAL final farewell. Whereas again, like in Charmed and Dangerous, this is almost more of a faux climax to the story. The Source is gone and Phoebe will never embrace evil like this again, but the whisper of Cole comes back as soon as the very next episode. I also don't like how the Underworld is so quick to rise against the Source. The Source can destroy them all with a wave of his hand. He has to kill an innocent himself to prove himself? Nonsense. It is also a small detraction that Piper and Leo are basically lost in space here. They have so little to do that the writers actually get Piper drunk and Leo frozen to keep them out of the action for a bit. And yes, Phoebe's actions don't make any sense. She can't rule over demons and save innocents at the same time; they are contrary occupations. I also feel that as quick as Charmed is with its storylines, it actually would have helped to take more time with this one. Phoebe is too quick in bouncing from one side to another.
Still, small complaints with an otherwise near perfect episode, featuring a perhaps perfect performance by Julian McMahon.