Remember lo the many months ago when this show had a mild to moderate concussion and nothing made sense? That cleared for a little while in the fall. The further we get away from the blunt trauma force, though, it feels more and more like The Secret Circle is Sidney Crosby, sitting on the Penguins’ bench for a season with a concussion and a reedy mustache.
This week was objectively, technically better than last week’s. The show interspersed some nice character work from Phoebe Tonkin especially, but Shelley Hennig as well, with a plot far, far away from the muddled ass motivations of the adult characters, more magic than there usually is, and a little excitement. There were still plot holes you could drive Diana’s BMW through, and I’ll ruin those for you in a minute, but: better.
Let’s be real, though: We’re months into this thing and it may as well be Heather Barnes, Teen Demon, sitting comatose in the same creepy room for 15 years. There’s no momentum, no lift, just nearly serialized starts and stops of disjointed dark magic moments. And for whatever reason, this week’s pass around that same room they’ve been walking around in since September is a bit of a breaking point for me.
After last week’s outing, Price Peterson at TV.com (he of the hilarious photo recaps) outlined seven problems this show has, and all of them are true, including this: We’re now eleven episodes into the season and there’s no suspense. I am struggling to think of an ongoing, unanswered plot question that didn’t originate fifteen years ago. Like…one. I can think of just one: Who's Cassie's half-sibling? (I'm pretty sure it's Faye, though, and it hasn't been mentioned in the two hours since.) We know Cassie won’t turn evil. We know Jake won’t really be either. I’ll be real surprised if the circle retaliates and kills Charles or Dawn. Each time Circle strikes up a storyline, they immediately drop it or else remove the mystery at hand; at one point, the show said magic attracted evil (tiny demon snakes) and I envisioned some kind of dark magic Jumanji would follow, with different bumps in the night popping up (possession, houses suddenly haunted, elements acting of their own accord), and the defense against them self-perpetuating the use of magic. Then the witch hunters! But they had a mocktail of motivation at best (it seemed faith-based, which is a little lazy), and disappeared on the slow moving boat of teen romance. Now, this dark magic, which has deep logical problems. So: Will sex magic improve Adam and Cassie’s onscreen kissing? Will Melissa learn her lesson about going to the ladies’ room by herself? Those are the lingering questions the plot’s given me to work with.
And a lot of it is in the details. So, Faye has it in her head to get her magic back and, even if just like her mother that motivation lacks shading, that generally works. Now, here’s a minor editing issue: Last week, we ostensibly left on a “cliffhanger” with Faye in Lee’s garage, and them striking up a deal. This week, we’re back in the garage, on a different day, with no deal. That’s not suspense! That’s not how it works! Here’s the big issue: We have spent a lot of time the last two weeks looking at that page in Cassie’s Anthropologie Book of Shadows, talking about how the spell would work, watching the spell happen, watching the effects of the spell — I still don’t understand what happened with Faye and her transition into the life sucking machine from The Princesss Bride. Did Cassie's magic repel it? Did she misunderstand the spell? Does it have something to do with her own magic? I don’t know about you, but I don’t think we’re going to find out in a satisfying way. That’s the real problem.
And here’s why all that’s unfortunate: Phoebe Tonkin and Shelley Hennig are pretty good at their jobs, and many of the people who surround them are at least adequate at theirs. Tonkin sold all that she was asked to do, the hint of unease about taking Cassie’s power (“What about Cassie?” was delivered begrudgingly), invigoration after doing it, desperation to fix it, and even did good work with, “How’s this bitch get a free pass and I get burned at the stake?” which is, you know, a lot there on the page. And although it’s patently ludicrous that Diana would be the put upon best-friend-type who agrees to help set-up her ex-boyfriend and her friend, Hennig brought the appropriate bright pain to it. Diana’s thoroughly decent, and it’s refreshing on a teen drama.
So, please, Secret Circle: Pick two or three storylines and start threading these things together. Give somebody a clue about what happened to Nick or Henry or Jane, make the circle work together solving the mystery, and let’s roll.
- OF COURSE LEE DRIVES A MUSTANG.
- “It’s not what your mother would have wanted.” “Probably not. But she doesn’t have a say anymore.” That was a good scene for Britt Robertson, who handles that sort of emotional pain and the quippier stuff very well, but doesn’t quite have the hang of these romantic triangle scenes the role requires. Also, as a fine example of how this show starts up a plot line only to interrupt it, rather than bring Adam and Cassie together in Jake's absence, we're now more or less back to where we started with the whole somewhat pointless triangle.
- I believe Diana was wearing a child’s hotel bathrobe in the opening scene.
- Faye and Lee are also the first people on this show I actually believe want to have sex with each other. “When we have sex, it’s not going to be because of a deal,” was a good one.
- Melissa is having such a bad year. First a demon crawled in her ear, then her boyfriend died, then she almost died in a high school bathroom.
- But Jessica Kennedy Parker is selling her minimal lines: “I think it’s kind of fun.”
- “Cassie, this is not a road you want to go down.” [dubstep cranks up]
- The Fire & Ice party looked like it was filmed on the set of Batman & Robin.