The Secret Circle is such a weird patchwork of a show.
"Sacrifice" drags the audience through this and that thing—a third-grade Little League pizza party for the hockey team, Cassie making lattes, some witch hunter shenanigans of middling interest—only to sweep up all the disparate elements in time for a chase through some long grass in the dead of night, to an old ritual ground where the family Blackwell lights a demonic witch hunter on fire and makes his head explode.
Secret Circle finally has momentum heading into the last three episodes of the season, though. As John Blackwell outlines in his Rudy witch pep talk, the witch hunters now have the power of tiny, tiny snake demons, and the circle must find the crystals to defeat Eben, because when their powers combine, Cassie is a tiny captain who can destroy tiny snakes.
Long before the family Blackwell kills another teenager in Chance Harbor Cabot Cove, though, Diana and Grant forge into seemingly uncharted terrain: the normal progression of a genuine romance. And there, a single question popped into my head that I can’t shake: When was the last time a teen drama, especially a CW drama, featured the logical progression of a stable, romantic relationship without cynicism or life-threatening circumstances? Flirtation as an institution weeps for the CW drama.
Even with Grant and Diana here, their ice-skating second date works in tonal dissonance with the rest of the show, and as such, feels suspicious. The expectation that Grant cannot be trusted—like, he’ll be immediately revealed as a witch hunter or in a demon’s possession, or else killed by some errant witch sex—hangs over the entire proceedings. And the show never undercuts that expectation. Grant lies that he owns his yacht to impress Diana, but the show doesn’t differentiate that from the other small platoon of liars that have breezed through Chance Harbor. He retains a whiff of the sinister.
I’ve discussed before how The Secret Circle fancies itself a plot show, when really, it’s a hang-out show in need of a few tweaks. One of the tweaks involves grounding the show a little more in the monotony of high school, or at least a small town life in which you live at home and every adult in town knows your name. Faye and Melissa battling for the hockey player’s attention with magic, because what-the-hell, works, but it might work even better if that sense of pure distilled boredom you get in high school really permeated the show. For overachiever Diana, even if she’s hot, she spends many a lone night with a TI-83 and some graph paper or in a student council meeting. Grant doesn’t have to be sinister.
But I don’t really mean to trash this Diana and Grant thing, because Secret Circle has a habit of overstating various characters’ connections (Jake and Cassie) or accelerating the various phases of a romantic entanglement so as to bewilder with supposed, sudden intensity (Adam and Cassie). Not only that, the ethos of the teen romance right now lacks… well, romance. If you harassed people on the street and forced them to tell you examples of teen romance, they’d say Twilight and The Hunger Games, and while those two franchises feature very different circumstances, neither features much approaching the normal, fun progression of a relationship here in reality, or places much value in it.
I don’t really think this is the Way In Which The Youth Lives Today, of course. A handsome Australian sailor lying to impress a nerd who looks like Shelley Hennig is like some Taylor Swift fanfiction. In fact, a date itself is sort of foreign to the Millennial ethos. The kids and their hooking up today probably look more something like this in a group of friends such as these, right?
- Two of the girls will have hooked up with one guy.
- Another two of the girls will have hooked up with the second guy.
- One, third girl will have hooked up with the third guy. This is most likely the one long-term relationship produced by this group.
- Some girl who’s mutual friends with the other girls in the group, but not in that original group, will have dated one of the above three guys. He will now leave the group in general.
The friend-cest model. Season with careful parsing of words and game-theory-analysis of texting, and that model isn’t so different from a teen drama over the course of a couple seasons, actually. It's actually quite accurate to this show's dynamics, though this show is oddly chaste at times.
And, sure, it’s entirely stupid that I’ve devoted this many words to two episodes of two characters flirting in situations devoid of chicanery or the supernatural, but there’s a little bit of the giddiness in those Diana and Grant scenes that’s just straight up missing from the harsh contemporary teen drama. The last time someone went on a date on The Vampire Diaries, it was Stefan dragging Elena up a mountain so she could admit she wasn’t excited about her imminent death. Somewhere around Grant tripping into Diana and Hennig’s charming, exhaled delivery of “Let’s pretend that didn’t happen,” the Secret Circle allows itself to briefly be a good hang-out show.
This show depends, at least in part, on the believability of, if not Diana’s relationships, the central relationships involving Cassie. When people suffer gruesome supernatural deaths, you want them to matter, damn it.
- Those sorts of endearing character moments do not extend to Adam, who, rather than becoming more bearable after his breakup with Cassie, somehow became worse. It was… kind of sketchy when he was flirting with the hockey captain for Melissa (and Adam’s a Canucks fan? Ha ha ha.), then veered into dickish territory when he announced to the guy’s girlfriend that he’d been flirting with Faye and Melissa. If ever a character called for some off-season retooling, it’s Adam Conant.
- As for the other half of that spectacularly unappealing couple, it’s a bit of a hypocrisy that Cassie has no problem lighting a guy on fire Twilight-Zone-style, so much so that she still chews Jake out for mentioning his friend has just died an hour before.
- Said lighting on fire and head explosion was kind of cheap looking but awesome.
- Jessica Parker Kennedy’s delivery of “You hit a hockey player,” as though she was yelling, “You punched a toddler” cracked me up.
- And special praise for Kennedy’s work elevating the scene with Adam: “I know this is going to sound crazy, but: In some ways you’re lucky. If you remembered, you’d miss it, and missing it is the worst part.” On the page, that’s an all right line, but she really did something nice with it, though Adam deserves no such assistance.
- In Price Peterson’s TV.com recaps of this show, he crosses out all the parents’ dialogue and replaces it with CRYSTALS CRYSTALS CRYSTALS. Now everyone gets that privilege.
- Earlier this week while running, I happened upon a dead bird, and immediately thought, “Y’all some witches been bangin’.” I was going to tweet a joke about this, but then realized only the 16 of us watch this show.