Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Secret Circle: “Darkness”

Illustration for article titled The Secret Circle: “Darkness”

This week on The Secret Circle, Cassie Blake is the one for whom we’ve been waiting, the one who can bring balance to the force — but she may be becoming a Sith lord instead!

That’s at least the party line that Grandma Kate is pushing when she rolls into Chance Harbor for some light murder. And let’s talk about Grandma Kate. Stepfanie Kramer hit all the beats just right — warm with Diana, commanding with Dawn and the sort of hilariously dim Charles, sympathetic but also powerful. She was also good for burying the main character alive, and if there’s one thing this show’s good at it, it’s embracing horror elements.

“Bit by bit, the darkness took him over — he allowed it to,” she tells Cassie, and if there’s one thing Secret Circle keeps touching on, it’s this idea of control. The circle was bound to better control the powers, now Cassie’s uncontrollable powers have shifted to the forefront.

You may need to sit down for this revelation, but I am skeptical that this series’ overarching story will narrate a wee blonde girl’s descent into a consuming, dazzling darkness. (It would, however, be awesome if it did.) Circle does, however, seem committed to the pragmatic aspects of power beyond the rote “but it feels good” thing — Cassie, and the rest of them, would be dead if she didn’t have access to her dark magic. Where Circle sometimes gets into trouble is the pursuit of power for vague ends (like, it was never clear for what exactly Dawn and Charles originally wanted their magic back, at least before the Great Cabot Cove Murderin’ of 2011). But so long as demons, hunters, and very young grandmothers keep coming after Cassie, these are acceptable stakes. She needs the power to survive, but can’t control its effects — boom.

That she’s apparently impervious to death, imbued with the powers of being the main character as she is, is only a problem if the show allows it to be. Just like the tiny demon snakes, burying her alive is scary enough all on its own (and Britt Robertson sold terror and subsequent unleashed magic well). You also have to make the power believably dangerous.

Of all the things to do this, it reminds me of something Jonathan Last said last summer about the X-Men. While most mutants have powers not worth much concern:

“The problem is that there's a select few mutants—high-level telepaths like Charles Xavier, Emma Frost, and Jean Gray; speciliasts like Magneto and Iceman; and people like Mystique or Madrox (the Multiple Man) who are so powerful that they might even make the idea of liberal self-governance impossible. In other words, even if Magneto got his wish, and homo superior vanquished all homo sapiens, I doubt homo superior could self-organize as America. Or even Switzerland. They would almost by necessity be a monarchy ruled by the strongest mutant who, with luck, might be benevolent.“


Is that Cassie? It falls to the show to keep reminding us it’s so (which it did tonight with the outbursts). What I always think is interesting about this kind of narrative, is this: We’re often told as children to channel emotions, especially our fears or doubts, and transform them into strengths. While I appreciate the analogue for this kind of fear-to-choking alchemy is more like an assault or addiction, this is basically what Cassie’s doing. Turning negative forces into positive actions. Isn’t that supposed to be a good thing? Besides the Darth Vader choking and subsequent pertussis, that is.

Outside of a grandmother burying a 16-year-old girl alive in the woods, “Darkness” admirably delivered two mild “oh, holy shit” moments with that mind-choking. For one, the blood coughing from Jake was a nice touch. That elevated it from mild “cool it, girl” to a little “oh, holy shit.” And, although the opening scene with Jake had a few dream cues, they actually paid off in the second scene, which had it’s own slightly skewed dynamics (Adam’s immediate jumpiness at being found out, Cassie’s immediate anger). Not skewed so much that the scene felt false, but just enough to be surprising it wasn’t a dream and Cassie was really choking Adam.


Meanwhile, the mean girls go out and try to get Faye’s powers back. I don’t know about you, but midway through the episode I was anticipating a slightly different ending, wherein Faye regained her power at just the point Cassie lost some of hers — the implication being that Faye is the half-sibling with the dark magic. Well, that didn’t happen.

What did happen was kind of dull, excepting the elaborate feeling up of Faye by Grey Damon. Before the break, Circle paired up Faye and Melissa with various cast members for the bulk of those episodes (Faye/Cassie, Faye/Adam, Melissa/Diana) to far more entertaining results. Melissa and Faye bring out of the dour in each other or something, and it drags everything down. Katherine Pierce taught us the mean girls ought not to be anything less than fun, and Secret Circle would be wise to remember it.


Stray Observations:

  • Can’t emphasize enough how awesome Grandma Kate is. “Don’t insult me. I’m not stupid.” Yeaaaah, Grandma Kaaaaate what.
  • However, Stepfanie Kramer is 55, Gale Harold is 42, and Shelley Hennig is 25. They all do look like they could be related in some other configuration, though.
  • Still like Diana. Sorry, y’all. She’s the friend who knows you shouldn’t be alone because you’ve had a rough day.
  • “Evil is evil.” [Lingering shot of petite Britt Robertson in a satin, floral-print jumper.]
  • Cassie’s dark magic is so strong, it elevated Chris Zylka to a series regular. It is Giving Them What They Want Magic.
  • Grey Damon made a good (hot) impression as Lee. This show’s had a lot of success with its guest stars so far.
  • Facial reactions of the week: Tie between Natasha Henstridge’s, like, “wah wahhhh Charlie Brown squiggly line” face when Kate asks her what she’s up to, and Phoebe Tonkin’s face when Lee opens the door.
  • “No, smartass, we are the mean girls.”