The Secret Circle: “Valentine”
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The Secret Circle: “Valentine”

The Secret Circle killed an episode.

I’ve had a crazy week, so it’s possible my brain has been fried up in a cornmeal batter, and through that layer of breading, I cannot see clearly. But I’m pretty sure that was very entertaining. It was even—unlike so many episodes of this show—sensible, logical (but not responsible or practical). Each plot happening informed the next, and thus we arrived at this: A funny, but legitimately suspenseful hour of television, as Cassie got a few steps closer to her father, Faye fell into a trap, and Diana had herself a good time.

I really can’t say enough about that human logic tonight. Take Isaac the Witch Hunter rolling back into town. Outside of the one glaring plot hole of the episode (how he knew what the hell was going on with Cassie and the medallion), Jake’s reaction to him—supreme distrust, gradually and begrudging belief in what he’d said about the medallion, continued anger about what happened to his parents —was just like a real human boy. Just like Cassie chasing down the ghosts in the field after they tried to kill her. It might not exactly be smart, but it made sense, and it was entertaining. Notably, Secret Circle jettisoned the parents (I’m assuming they’re all at the Seattle Mariners’ stadium, watching a Jumbotron shell game involving a crystal), and without their wheel-spinning, the pacing works so much better. But it was more than that.

It was economical work for a show that needs this kind of faster, horror-movie, action-oriented pacing. The fast episode hook is actually an excellent example: Faye revels in her sex-magic power, Melissa is very lonely, Faye offers friendship—and Melissa extends it to Diana. Boom, tension. Even better, Cassie gets invited (more tension), Adam asks her out (whatever), and then a hooded figure is standing in the parking lot (creepy). That’s actually pretty good for no more than five minutes of television, especially when the episode just builds and builds upon those beats.

And, actually, I’d like to move ahead and blow up something that’s kind of minor and could be argued as a plot hole:

Faye: “You’ve got to stop using that stuff. Lee says it’s dangerous.”

I anticipated the “Requiem For A Stoner Boyfriend” plotline here with Melissa to stumble on for a few episodes, culminating in a maudlin dockside intervention and something like, “I just… it hurts, so much” in the passenger’s seat of Diana’s BMW. But no! First off, going back to the small overdose in the episode, the show implies Cassie’s bouncing to Adam’s and the sucker punch of Valentine’s prompted Melissa to double-up on the drugs—but they didn’t even show her taking the drugs, nor did they belabor it. The show didn’t need to, and that deserves credit.

Two, we get the suitably chastised Faye off-handedly remarking, you really ought not. That means no Very Special Moments! No quivering, stiff upper lip! No crying with the arms hugging the knees in a high school stairwell or in one of Chance Harbor’s many decaying establishments! No tags! No packages, boxes, or bags! None at all! 

If my enthusiasm about that seems a touch too much, it shouldn't, because this show has dragged down a lot of its better moments with unwieldy, and at times muddled, outpourings of feelings.

That’s plot discipline, for once—at least to me. Devil’s spirit acted as an economical delivery device for a few things: Introduce Callum, patch up at least one friendship within the circle if not two or even three (Cassie and Faye’s mutual seriousness and chillness was a nice note), loosen up Diana for an entertaining C-plot, and segue into Lee’s attempt to revive his comatose girlfriend with one of the coconut voodoo dolls from Live And Let Die. The latter even is something the show’s been painfully in want of for months: One arc seamlessly opening up into another plot arc.

That’s all zoomed way the hell in on stuff, which skips over this: Cassie running through the woods in the snow after a masked figure, the masked figure suddenly replicating itself, the masked figures turning on Adam in the church, and Adam cutting his own wrist as Jake and Cassie have their standoff over the medallion—all of that was borderline gripping. Not in the context of the situation where it made sense, but for the overall show, I am a little disappointed Cassie destroyed the medallion, because it delivered some entertainment and I’d like to know more about how it works, and see other groups try to use it against them in new and exciting ways. But for once, the show doesn’t feel like its turned down a cul-de-sac and done a few loops only to leave its bike in the middle of the street. John Blackwell’s coming to town, and Lee’s going to mess up Faye. I feel good about this. 

Stray observations:

  • Credit where credit’s due: The location team for this show finds the creepiest-looking places ever. That church looked like the House of Usher family were founding members.
  • Because it needs to be said: Phoebe Tonkin and Chris Zylka are incredibly attractive people.
  • They are also very good at elevating a line that looks okay to decent on paper; favorites tonight: “I wore slinky lingerie because I like feeling slinky,” “Seriously, I can do that by unbuttoning two buttons,” “Sometimes less is more.” Theirs is a good chemistry.
  • Does Jake have an actual front door? Are there, like, Occupiers living downstairs in that house?
  • Diana will kiss all the guys. And she will make kissing random strangers at the front door look less awkward than the people ostensibly dating.
  • The Ouija board scene might have been my favorite scene of the episode. That had two fingers on the pulse of what it is like to be at a high school sleepover/trip. Also, Cassie and Faye are an underused combination of players on this show.
  • “Bitch, hurry.” Britt Robertson really does do a nice sardonic reaction. (She would be the master of what Jacob Clifton termed a “drive-by WTF” in a Gossip Girl recap for Television Without Pity.)
  • I assumed Lee’s comatose girlfriend’s pose when Adam and Cassie spoke to each other on the boat for an interminable eight years before making out. However, they were actually sort of charming before they got on the boat, no?

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