Nick has died, and in his wake, he left a lot of crying and drinking on tonight's Secret Circle.
We traded horror story action for all that sorrow, and that’s unfortunate, really. The early strengths of Secret Circle have had less to do with destiny and more to do with people trying to kill teenagers. (That still happened, though. The Secret Circle is like a reverse procedural; someone gets killed every week, but nobody ever knows why.)
In an io9 post on last week’s The Vampire Diaries (spoilers therein), Vampire Diaries executive producer Julie Plec said the key to effective horror sequences is storyboarding the scenes out beforehand. Even though we’re obviously not on Vampire Diaries levels, I kind of wonder if the Secret Circle crew’s doing the same thing.
The two little quick snatches of horror looked great: We get Cassie, awakened by a noise outside, and wandering toward the window, watching a stranger stand over a fire in dead Nick’s backyard, only to be caught looking. And then there she is again, nervously walking through the dark house, only to turn the corner (and the camera with her) to reveal the silhouetted witch hunter in the hallway with what looked like a wrench. The pure fight sequences, however, left something to be desired (especially the struggle between Jake and Simone with the dagger).
But alas, it was tears and exposition. If the producers made tonight’s episode a little dull, at least they corrected two problems.
The first, of course, is Chance Harbor’s misery couple. It’s not that I want to bring up Dane Cook, but every time Diana and Adam are onscreen together I think of that old bit, the Nothing Fight: “They hold hands, but it's not loving at all. It's like this rigor mortis, rheumatoid arthritis, Red Rover grip that they got going on.” Well, apparently, Diana feels the same. I’ve found Shelley Hennig very likable and effective as the smart girl who can see she’s being shoved aside, and tonight, she proved herself to be a good television crier (in a variety of settings, too!).
From here, the show has two options: Either play up the tortured love triangle, or evolve beyond this particular one. A lot of the Nothing Fight-ness of Diana and Adam is more a product of the writing than the acting, but Hennig and Dekker’s sex isn’t exactly a Texas drought, especially compared to his chemistry with Britt Robertson. The show has presumably introduced Chris Zylka as Jake, Nick’s sexier older brother, to form some kind of CWian love rhombus, with Cassie, Faye, and Adam. This is a more promising setup, pitting unpredictable Faye up against a few more sensible, but still impulsive characters. Zylka was all right; he can be afforded an episode or two to settle in, but the whole enterprise came off as a little too much effort. Is Jake menacing? Or is he just kind of an asshole? Or maybe this is because Adam was awfully whiny this episode, and his drunk father kind of creepy, thus rendering Jake’s attempted robbery of the Boathouse not much of a crime against humanity? If nothing else, there was a solid moment toward the end of the episode, when Jake and Cassie reconvened after this week’s murder on her front porch. Cassie looks over at Jake, takes in an awfully deep breath, and looks away. There’s a little Sex Magic, guys.
Second, the episode also performed further correction on the adult power relationships. Maybe the smartest thing Secret Circle’s done was last week when they brought Cassie’s grandmother, Jane (I guess we should stop calling her Grandma), into the proceedings but without any idea what the hell happened on that boat in 1995. In this capacity, she can pop in to neatly resolve lingering questions. (Yes, the circle is still bound. No, those crystals aren’t a circle thing. Yes, there are now more things to find and hide.) Ashley Crow really grounds the happenings, and by making her the magic faculty adviser of sorts, it counter-intuitively makes the circle seem more in control. Because she trusts them and has confirmed there is danger, it all seems less pointless.
But does Grandma Jane trust Principal Dawn? It wasn’t clear, and it’s still unclear how exactly anyone will find out about all these murders, without it just being a sudden, irrevocable information dump. Charles’ guilt and instability over Nick’s murder could be the path to that. After all, the two strongest non-horror scenes of the episode were probably Gale Harold’s with his daughter and Dawn, respectively.
- The show sort of hilariously specializes in awkward situations and subsequent reaction shots to them. Robertson and Natasha Henstridge get top billing in that game. The best was Robertson’s awkward, exasperated, “That was bad. I’m sorry,” as she led Jake out of the Boathouse, but Henstridge's eyeroll when Charles was mumbling sad philosophy at the wake was pretty good too.
- Cassie’s really the best at getting awkwardly caught talking to boys while bleeding.
- Just for clarity’s sake: “Think of it as a lens that magnifies your power. Circle magic is complicated. It involves different attitudes, different personalities. The crystal is similar. It’s the most coveted magic there is, but it can bring out the very worst in people.”
- From my notes: "DO NOT GIVE THE CRYSTAL TO HER, NATASHA HENSTRIDGE WILL TAKE IT."
- Adam’s punch missing Jake cracked me up. Also, the idea that Adam thought Adam could take Jake in a fight.
- I’m so used to people getting murdered on The Vampire Diaries that I was like “oh, whatever, Simone got stabbed.”
- Faye mostly got sidelined this week (again), but Tonkin got off two good lines: “I have had an outfit planned for this day, and this is not it,” and “He’ll sleep with you, then dump you, and leave you in a million twisted little pieces... but maybe that’s what you’re into.”