The Secret Circle may, in fact, be an elaborate commercial for Yaz.
Seriously, we have to talk about this first, because this show’s timeline is jacked up, and the longer you think about it, the more jacked up it gets.
So, Cassie’s mom graduated from high school in 1995, had a baby, blew up a boat, and stole Heather Barnes’s soul or something. A mildly to moderately busy year. Meanwhile, five of her friends were also doing the same thing, because being part of the Secret Circle is joining up into the Teen Mom Collective, and being really on top of their family planning. Was getting knocked up part of the circle binding or there just a lot of errant sex magic in 1995?
Here in the present day circle, the sex magic of the first two episodes was fairly absent (is that how we know Melissa and Nick aren’t enraptured in true love, the lack of light bulbs exploding?), but confused human interaction continues apace.
It’s not so much that the elements were bad tonight, because a stranger who rolls into town and vows to kill one of the witches at precisely the moment they don’t understand how or when their powers work anymore? Those are elements that do not blow. It’s just the assembly that makes it all so terribly dull.
A friend of mine was recently on the receiving end of a punch to the head (accident) and, talking about the concussion that followed, she described lags in her memory where her focus was just shot and her logic decelerated. The Secret Circle is concussed.
Episodes of Scooby Doo have handled “the gang splits up in a dark building and is chased by a man with a knife” better. Things started off all right, where the appearance of Luke forces Diana to send Cassie away. Split one person off from the group, they’ll presumably not know things the others will! But then, off-screen, Nick wandered away. Then, Faye. Then, maybe, Melissa? Then people were just randomly together with information nobody ever saw passed along. The cuts on that sequence made it look like everybody was roaming the same 25 yards of dark hallway, and it didn’t even use the dance that was going on as an obstacle.
And then we have the cracker jack detectives with their Bing. The basic idea that Zachary’s girlfriend, Heather, was killed by the previous circle, and now, having knowledge of such things, Zachary wants to off one of the witches (to…avenge her death? prevent that sort of thing from happening again? just for the hell of it?) is, again, not bad on its own, nor particularly complex. But Diana and Adam finding a random news clip and then deducing motives from it two-thirds of the way through the episode, when nobody even knows he's inside the school, was some concussion action.
These are relatively cosmetic issues of timing, however, built upon an infrastructure with deeper problems.
The power relationship between the Teen Mom Circle and the new circle is a major problem. Dawn and Charles know the central mystery (what happened on the boat ride from hell), and they know about the new circle without any advantage to the new circle, so basically everything the new circle does is over at the kids’ table, without any real consequences. Like, let’s say Sally Matthews was looking down that hallway and instead of thinking, “Goddamnit, I hate being on dance committee,” she realizes that six people at her high school are witches, and assumes the worst (whatever that is with witches). Oh, and then what will Sally do? Develop mutant powers and destroy the witches? Tell the high school principal and town councilman, who’ve taken up casual homicide and are playing silent Gepetto to the new circle?
It’s just not going to be a tense moment covering up magic when, no matter what Cassie or Diana or anybody else says, Dawn is not going to ask questions because she already knows they're practicing magic, and she's pretty jazzed about it. Nobody is watching Secret Circle for the dramatic irony.
What they’re probably watching the Secret Circle for is, well, either they’re holding a candle in the wind for a Vampire Diaries redux, or they’re watching for the love triangles and sex magic.
Here’s who does not have sex magic: Nick and Melissa; Adam and Diana. The former’s interactions are distilled Benadryl, and the latter basically don’t have interactions.
I’m genuinely curious exactly how this Diana-Adam-Cassie triangle plays out, because if ever there were a lost cause relationship, it’s Diana and Adam. Thomas Dekker and Britt Robertson have actually pretty great moody sex magic chemistry (although Dekker’s… at… times… breathy… slow… delivery… cracks… me… up), and I find Robertson and especially Shelley Hennig both likable in their friend dynamic, even if it seems like both Adam and his girlfriend are hitting on Cassie. But,Cassie’s going to win over Diana. Knock out the teeth, go for the gums kind of winning. The show doesn’t even seem to be trying to suggest otherwise; in fact, the early returns for the triangle seem to be “Unyielding Chemistry and Gag-Inducing Fate” vs. “Feeling Guilty Because Everybody Likes Diana,” and hoo boy, there’s just nothing sexier than a guilt-trip triangle!
It’s concussion logic.
- What’s one solution to the love triangle issues? Well, one of them is more male cast members. Originally I had tagged that off in my head as my flavor of the week for this review, but then the saddest school dance happened. Vampire Diaries has about a 3-to-1 male-to-female ratio; here, it’s the opposite (and… the guys leave something to be desired). On Vampire Diaries, I think it does a number of services to the show which include, primarily, upping the danger and making the ladies more distinct, stronger characters. I don’t think Dekker and Louis Hunter (Nick) match up all that great with Hennig and Phoebe Tonkin (Faye). Another guy or two could help out the group dynamic, and with the shaky knowledge of the past, the option of “discovering families” is always on the table.
- Thanks to Zachary, however, there was finally a sexy, sexy man on this show. This is the CW I thought I knew.
- Complaints about all the other pacing issues aside, the final scene was pretty good.
- Hat tip on the Teen Mom tag to the fine crew at Forever Young Adult, who also refer to Dawn Chamberlain as "Principal Lesbian Lover," which is how you will probably now think of her.
- Whenever somebody plans a high school dance on television, I think this: It’s too bad Cassie and Sally didn’t plan their school dance like that time Daria and Jane were Quinn’s dance committee. “What’s this about?” “Being young, carefree, having your whole life ahead of you and dancing the night away to celebrate. Oh, and the untimely death of Jackson Pollock.”
- “Air around me, grant me fire.” “Lock unlock.” The incantations all sound like yoga instructions or lines out of a kindergartner’s Old Testament primer.
- “Why? Really? Because sometimes when we’re together, street lights explode, and I think that might be weird for Diana.”
- “No, we don’t go to dances because we’re not lame.”