“Return” S1 / E15
- C+ Community Grade
I generally find The Secret Circle difficult to write about. It’s like a dinner comprised of 85 percent bland food (wheat toast without jam, broiled chicken without seasoning, and so forth), then a quiche, fresh salsa, and some red velvet cake. And all you can say afterward is, “Well. We ate that.”
And we watched this. After last week’s entertaining outing where all the plots threaded together, The Secret Circle kept its plot rhythm as Cassie’s father, John Blackwell, and the witch hunters returned to Chance Harbor, but the show lapsed into that bland dinner for most of the hour. Pops of color surfaced like they do—Jake and Cassie’s spat with the umbrella, Cassie yelling at her absentee father on the dock, and the witch hunter’s creepiness—and they elevate the show over the threshold of tolerability, but we’re not long removed from the conclusion of the hour and I’m already having trouble remembering what happened.
Maybe this is because of John Blackwell, and his lukewarm entry in the proceedings.
Like some of the commenters, I thought Isaac would be revealed as John Blackwell. Although that move would require some masseuse work to retcon the early episodes back in line, I figured it would tie up the recent threads well (Isaac knowing a member of the circle is Cassie’s half-sibling and that the medallion was functional, as well as wanting the medallion, etc.), and be a twist to sufficiently explain how no one had found Blackwell (he’d been hiding amongst the hunters). Instead, it’s Joe Lando, who apparently was the boyfriend of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.
Lando is fine, really, an attractive mix of serious, sincere, and handsome, like a good fictional widower who, like, builds well-crafted furniture and gently grasps the sterling silver frame of a photograph of his wife with something on ice and on vinyl. But… that’s not really what John Blackwell’s been billed as. John Blackwell’s been billed as something more like that time Jake threatened the Asian shop-owner he later killed. This is supposed to be something like one of the devil’s retinue in The Master And Margarita—cruel and alluring and evil at the same time. Blackwell wants the medallion, he wants to protect Cassie, but does it really matter what he says he wants? The guy radiates solid intentions, and like Jake before him, the stage seems set for his heroic defense, if maybe a shade pragmatic at some point, of his daughter.
Here’s the episode quiche, though: Cassie. Despite the general “zzz”s this show throws around like Gambit in X-Men, the character continues to develop into something unique to teen drama. She’s both oh so very chill—just getting out of Diana’s house to avoid stomping on her hospitality, just throwing Jake out of her house—and not afraid to get angry. She yelled at Blackwell, and she can be mean, but not in an empty, surface sort of way. This is the tiny blond girl who ran through the woods in the snow because she was pissed at some ghosts. And truly: Credit to Britt Robertson who’s really done a nice job balancing the relatable and more intense parts of Cassie’s personalities.
What should have been a salsa-like weird addendum to the menu, though, Diana and Faye working together—a plot pairing I’ve been arguing the merits of on Twitter for weeks—amounted to two ships passing in the night instead the booze cruise pontoon I was anticipating. Now, Valentine’s Day coughed up some of the dynamics between all the girls, but I expected the show to wring more out of the natural way they might get on each other’s nerves, instead of showing up at a party, looking for Melissa offscreen separately, and having that be that.
The red velvet cake, of course, is the usual stellar creepiness this show can bring to the table. Lunging ahead of the others was the black eyedrops of spellin’—that would have been weird anyway, but the way the witch hunters grabbed Robertson’s face really made it especially creepy. The car choking and the compulsion spell also qualify, naturally, and these little slices of cake are what makes this tough to write about—they’re not really complimented by anything else, and they always leave me wanting more.
- The spells still sound like they’re being read out of “Baby’s First Yoga Class.” This is why Cassie’s magic is so much better, because she doesn’t have to say lame-ass things to do it.
- Joe Lando is 50, which makes him of the same generation as Grandma Jane, who is still at Promises. Joe Lando is also kind of hot.
- John Blackwell, like the rest of America, picks Jake too.
- Why the introduction of the coffee house? This was the biggest question I really have walking away from the episode, apparently, but I’m genuinely curious. The sex magic week, Faye bumped into Jake heading out of a coffee shop (I’m thinking it was this one) but still. Are we just establishing multiple hangout locations in the town? I can only pray the entire thing wasn’t a ruse to conspire Adam and Cassie to flirt over proper serving technique.
- Tangentially: Why is it television parties always a) look so lame, but more especially jarring, b) look so spaced-out? I never went to house parties in high school, but I’ve been to frat parties in houses and house parties since and I’ve never been to one that wasn’t very close-quarters. I understand from a shooting perspective why you wouldn’t do this, but credit to the olden days of Gossip Girl on this front: When that show threw a party, people were jammed in there.
- Melissa’s power surging via the coconut voodoo dolls from Live And Let Die was well done, and especially well done was Jessica Parker Kennedy awkwardly trying to be firm that she wasn’t there for drugs but not entirely tip her cards that she was there for Callum. Melissa was obviously unsuccessful in that.
- John Blackwell is a pretty great name, isn’t it? If you have a great last name, a name like John can be really striking, à la John Wall.
- “Oh waitress!” Give Faye more to do.
- I’m unclear, by the way: Are we supposed to think Lee’s playing Faye at the end of the episode? Or is it that Callum’s pissed him off by messing with Faye and now he’s blowing off his comatose girlfriend, who’s… who’s in his house? Chance Harbor’s hospice care needs some work. Either way, Damon and Tonkin didn’t quite have the chemistry I last remembered. I guess I'm in the tank for Jake and Faye, now. What's become of me?