The Secret Circle: “Slither”
B+

The Secret Circle: “Slither”

B+

The Secret Circle

“Slither”

Season 1, Episode 6

Since all the witches on Secret Circle are in that one chemistry class together (and never go to school besides), none of them are sitting through any dull ass physics lectures, and they probably couldn't graph out the acceleration rate of a bus traveling from Miami to Chicago. But that's what the show is doing: accelerating. The pacing, the eeriness, and the stakes keep improving each episode.

It was creepy again. It was kind of frightening again. It was good again. I even watched The Vampire Diaries beforehand and it didn’t utterly pale in comparison. Acceleration!

The episode, fifth, after all, felt like the writers were doing some course correction after standing back and looking at the puzzle pieces a tad. The Teen Mom witches have too much power and too much information? Well, now they’re out of power! And Grandma doesn’t really know what happened! Adam and Diana seem like an arthritic couple staving off divorce? Cassie and Adam won’t share eyeliner tips for once, and Adam will have an extended, half-naked makeout session with his girlfriend! Nick is sort of a charisma black hole? Kill him off!

But once again, where Secret Circle thrives is in basic horror elements. In the first few episodes, the clunky one-note threats with murky motivations really assassinated the pacing. Here, we know the problem straight away (tiny demon snake), and all the action flows from there. Jessica Parker Kennedy, who’s been good as Melissa, was pretty unsettling playing possessed and genuinely unpredictable, from that very first meth-y walk down the school hallway.

And just like good horror stories, the reactions are really now resembling logical, non-concussed ones. (Ever since Heather Barnes, Teen Demon, entered our lives, everyone’s been responding to strange behavior like normal humans. That’s her power!)

The one exception to that is Nick completely ignoring Melissa’s epilectic seizure against the lockers and immediately agreeing to go over the river and through the woods, but this is forgivable because Nick never seemed very bright. Sex Magic is a great motivator for the circle.

It’s also forgivable because from there on out, Melissa continued to act mildly-to-moderately like a coked-out starlet, and her friends realized the problem. It could have happened a little more quickly, sure, but the show didn’t drag out the reactions too long. Melissa sketched on Faye, and Faye and Nick immediately responded with the appropriate WTF suspicions (Phoebe Tonkin’s expression at Kennedy close-talking her was pretty great). The shift from Cassie’s delighted “A Book of Shadows? Let’s pop this mother open!” reaction, for instance, to the growing unease and then outright horror as Melissa slowly approached her, and the snake slithered across her forehead is a good example. Those tiny demon snakes will never stop being creepy.

Here’s where the acceleration comes in: Last week, we had Heather Barnes, Teen Demon, and while she was awesome jumping up stairs, she took up a Melissa chunk of story here. Tonight we have that part above, and then we shift to the very tight work the show did with Melissa, the scissors, the arrival of Grandmother, and beyond to Nick's death.

I liked that short, effective tracking shot that follows from sofa to Faye, to Adam and Diana as the suitcase hisses... and then Melissa’s free. Then Melissa’s got Nick up against the wall with some shears, and hilariously, Faye, Diana, and Adam are all huddled up together like Velma, Scooby, and Shaggy. That’s just increased command of the players and the possibilities in the room (like Faye wanting to risk it with some magic), with the stony arrival of Grandma putting some control and clarity into the proceedings for once.

Oh, but wait: “It’s in someone else.” That small turn where it wasn’t Melissa anymore who was possessed wasn’t a stunning blow, used to maximum effect or anything, but it was a good horror turn. When you stack up enough horror turns in one episode and chase that gnawing feeling of the unavoidable and the inescapable like the show is, it's fun to watch. So, does Secret Circle know what it’s good at?

It’s certainly about Dawn and Charles killing people. The show has now solved one problem (Dawn and Charles holding too much power and too many answers), but it’s still no closer to instilling any kind of suspicion in the new circle, and there’s ever more information to be distributed. If Adam and Diana really believe Nick DROWNED HIMSELF, then that’s a problem. Of stupidity.

The timing of the Nick death is interesting, though. I actually thought Louis Hunter was considerably more interesting onscreen tonight, and if Vampire Diaries taught me anything, I should have known that as soon as you bear witness to boring-interesting alchemy, death is nigh. But Hunter was definitely the weak link in the first few episodes. Was this a move to resolve that problem, or planned from the beginning? You’d think the writers would draw it out a little longer if it was the latter, but Nick’s death can certainly drive the plot for a long while. I mean, what happens to the circle with just five witches? And who will be the ultimate sixth witch? And just how will the circle find out what really happened to Nick, and to Heather Barnes, Teen Demon, and to Faye’s grandfather, and to Cassie’s mom?

So many murders to solve. But in the meantime, Secret Circle is managing to pull off that final shot, the one you know is coming as soon as Cassie opens her bedroom door: looking over at Nick’s window and finding him gone.

Stray observations:

  • Pretty sure Cassie was dressed like Mark Wahlberg in Rock Star for most of this episode.
  • Chance Harbor’s taking on a sort of Cabot Cove atmosphere at this point.
  • Did anyone even try CPR on Nick? Also, the police didn’t think anything of one of the witnesses to the death of Heather Barnes, Teen Demon, dying like two nights later? And how the hell is Dawn Chamberlain, demon whisperer, a high school principal?
  • I really just like Shelley Hennig. She sold the earnestness in the dinner scene, and then just seemed like a lot of fun everywhere else (especially with that huge-ass grin about Dawn and Charles dating).
  • The half-hearted mumbled chanting that Faye, Diana, and Adam did with Melissa was pretty funny.
  • “Or he’ll burn down the boathouse. My dad’s in there.” Um, and so are about 50 people.
  • “It’s not your fault.” Are we sure it’s not Cassie’s fault? Really? We’re positive?
  • Next week, the hot guy with the strong jawline shows up!

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