The Secret Circle and its terrible theme song have been accepted -- and now the show's lining up the players and pieces with the same stakes, but better suspense.
We pick up more or less where we did last week with Cassie not feeling the witch things, and particularly not game for binding herself to the other five to form the eponymous circle. All it takes is Faye realizing the dreams of so many by tossing a student government president off a pier for Cassie to recant. Meanwhile, the adult witches continue their Homicide in America’s Kitchens Tour of 2011.
I slapped around the powers last week in the pilot episode for being kind of half-assed but not only did the powers improve (the ring toss was an casual, cool instance of something you’d totally do if you could do magic), the show firmed up some details. Like, nobody can control any of this, and that’s a mild to moderate problem when lightbulbs explode and you kill people after a few Nattys with your mind.
It’s not clear exactly how far on the allegory spectrum Circle wants to go, though. Big sister show Vampire Diaries tends to eschew broad metaphors for real life demons, favoring plot instead (occasionally, they parallel to addiction, but Vampire Diaries quickly braids anything too familiar into the show’s universe); Buffy would be on the very opposite end of that spectrum. Here there’s a little ambiguity about which direction we’re headed in. Cassie’s mom’s very special friend, Principal Chamberlain, drops a “You’ve forgotten what it feels like,” and Faye says, after admitting that she likes the lack of control, “I don’t want this to go away.” I don’t think this is so but my reaction to hearing stuff like that is, “SO IS IT DRUGS? IT’S DRUGS, ISN’T IT?” like it’s Family Feud.
But if something’s going to push the show away from coming of age lessons, it’s going to be the infrastructure of the circle agreement. With the circle dynamics, Circle starts laying out and lining up some toy soldiers of decent conflict and suspense.
Although the choice becomes obvious for Cassie to join up, Circle seems to suggest there are sacrifices and risks in the agreement. This actually sets up a decent conceit: If they’re bound, they’re more powerful together, more in danger individually, and free from uncontrollable outbursts; if they’re unbound, safer individually, but susceptible to errant flying Mutumbo elbows magic.
The fact that the show’s building in checks and balances into the power structure there gives it a lot to play with down the road -- there will always be a negotiation there between the security and power, individually and as a group.
Granddaddy Henry, meanwhile, tosses this one out there before his own untimely kitchen death: “This circle is different. You know what can be unleashed if they bind together.”
So, there’s that threat in the mix as well. It’s actually not clear if Henry was killed or just passed out and then drove the hell away to the lake house. I think we all learned an important lesson about not approaching witches pouring themselves a big glass of red wine, alone in their dark kitchen, however. It’s also not quite clear what Principal Dawn and Charles are up to, but since they’ve been ostensibly stripped of their powers, and Principal Dawn made her attachment to her powers sound oddly sexual, chances are they’re hustling their children and murdering random family members so they can get them back!
Speaking of the adults, regarding the "Just how will they deal with the powers?" dilemma, we’ve seen four instances of older circle magic: the Deer Park N’ Matches Dollar Store magic that killed Cassie’s mom, the indoor drowning, the heart attack, and the time Principal Dawn pressed a rock to a girl’s head and she came back to life. The best, I’d say, was the heart attack; Natasha Henstridge delivered the lines with a certain relish -- but if the circle’s magic improved, the old masters need to start wielding it to manipulate the youths.
Right now, there’s sort of a feeling that they’re on equal footing with their kids (...Adam actually appears to BE the parent), or at least a little too insular. In the conversation between Faye and her mother after the accident at the party, it's super unclear who knows what about whom. Obviously, Dawn is cultivating the blossoming flower of young, very special magic or whatever, but...does Faye know her mother knows about what caused the accident? The conversation's all about drinking and embarrassment -- the latter of which doesn't generally tomahawk people off piers and onto rocks. That relationship needs to be clarified a little, and the adults need to work their sketchy, sketchy charms a little more on Cassie, Diana, Adam, and Faye. Dawn and Charles just can’t be lurking around like poor date-less Melissa.
- In the realm of coming of age shenanigans, Nick and Melissa open the show having hooked up, and quite possibly, just maybe, perhaps, if this show adds some more male cast members, it may come close to replicating the “hookup culture,” as the media loves to call it. Television does a horrible job with it in general, because it always comes off as desperation (throwing together random pairings), but this had many of the proper hallmarks of the Way We Live Today: awkward conversation assessing the rules without mentioning them, self-loathing, and the viable possibility that another person in the friend group (in this case, Faye) could hook up with the same guy. Too bad Louis Hunter isn’t as believably wild as Phoebe Tonkin is as Faye.
- “Give me light!” If you’re Cassie, and you’re staring at that candle, aren’t you starting with “...Lumos?”
- Chance Harbor: Where a 17 year-old is named Sally.
- We found out if Dekker and Hennig have chemistry! They don’t.
- The old circle got their powers stripped explains how Cassie’s witch mother burned to death in her own house.
- Everyone’s hair and makeup have improved considerably over the pilot -- Diana looks like a completely different, hotter person.
- The CW’s most unrealistic depiction of teenagers is that they constantly want to hear about who their parents used to bang, especially third parties. And then are, like, wistful about its relevance to their own social lives.