First let me say, dear CW, thank you. For some time I have been begging for a new witch show. Something like The Craft. Something with some mystery. Something with a better production value than Ringer. You have answered my call! Thank you.
The Secret Circle is The CW’s new Thursday night companion to The Vampire Diaries. And rightfully so. Just like Vampire Diaries, The Secret Circle is sexy, dark and filled with supernatural goodness. The characters from both series chill at a local grill, both shows have the same creators, both have a bad guy with a bad haircut (Elijah and Charles) and both shows are filmed in a moody, dreary light. But let’s focus on The Secret Circle.
The Secret Circle is based on the books by L.J. Smith. It follows 16 year-old Cassie Blake, recently orphaned (in a sinister and unfortunate manner in the first five minutes of the show) and now returning to her mother’s hometown to live with her grandmother. The small town, Chance Harbor, has a dark history that dates back to the 1600s and oddly enough, everyone in town seems to know Cassie. I mean, everyone! And this is particularly weird considering that Cassie has never been to Chance Harbor, never heard anything about it from her mother and hasn’t seen her grandmother in years.
As we soon discover — after the drunken patron of the Boathouse Grill tells her their families’ fates are written in the stars — this town’s not just creepy; it’s full of witches! Specifically a coven of five, meeting in secret, due to a law prohibiting witchcraft thanks to a mishap that led to several deaths in the past. And who were the members of this ill-fated coven? Cassie’s mom and dad. (May I also add that you know your town has a serious witchcraft problem when you have to make laws to stop it. I mean, seriously?)
It turns out that Cassie is a powerful witch, but she has no idea. Enter Faye Chamberlain, the coven’s own little Regina George with a hint of Fairuza Balk, who takes it upon herself to unleash Cassie’s power by setting her car on fire and nearly killing her. Luckily, Adam (son of our drunken patron) saves Cassie’s life using a bit of magic and muscle.
The two are clearly drawn to each other, almost eating each other’s faces about six times in the pilot alone, alluding to the fact that their families must really be fated. However, Adam has been in a relationship for three years with Diana, the coven’s somewhat passive leader.
Diana is the only person, aside from Adam, who’s been kind to Cassie. She’s also constantly fighting to control Faye who wants nothing more than to unleash her unbridled power.
However, there’s only one way to unlock all of Faye’s — or anyone for that matter–magic: the coven has to add Cassie as a member. She’s the missing piece — the sixth member — who will make the circle complete and powerful. Despite Diana’s attempt to ease Cassie into this, Faye unceremoniously dumps the information, saying: “You’re a witch…we all are!”
Cassie runs like the wind as would any normal girl lured into an abandoned building in the woods by someone she thought was her friend, only to find a group of five kids in way too much eyeliner claiming they have magic powers. When she tries to find answers from her mother’s former lover and Diana, she gets bits and pieces before being hushed. Something sinister is at play here, hence the reason her mother took her away from it all.
After Faye makes it rain –literally — and nearly kills Diana, Cassie comes to terms with her own magic and stops the storm before saying, “I want no part in this.”
As Cassie heads home we discover that Faye’s mother –the seemingly kind school principal– hated Cassie’s mother and sent Charles to kill her and set in motion a series of evil and supernatural events that spell trouble. Though we’re unsure of what exactly happened or what they want, we know that something terrible is brewing.
Before episode’s end Cassie discovers her mother’s book of shadows and a letter filled with apologies, regrets and lines that read, “You have great power. They will come for it. They will come for you.”
Dramatic and foreboding, no? And I loved every minute of it. A good mystery is always a plus in teen shows, hence the success of Pretty Little Liars, Vampire Diaries and Buffy.
Yes, it’s a tad cheesy at times. And yeah, it’s a bit predictable. We know Cassie and Adam have the hots for each other. We know that’s going to set Diana off and maybe even make her succumb to Faye’s desires to be the head-bitch-in-charge. Yes, Faye is going to cause trouble down the line and Cassie will have to clean it up. And do I smell a love triangle between Cassie, Adam and Nick? But isn’t all teen TV predictable? Isn’t that part of the fun?
The acting was solid for a teen show. I was very happy to see Britt Robertson (formerly of Life Unexpected) showing some real promise as Cassie. Nothing kills a show for me more than a whiny lead, but here, Cassie is strong despite being thrown into a tumultuous situation, which makes her very easy to watch on-screen. She doesn’t fold under Faye’s mean girl antics and it’s greatly appreciated to have a teen girl — who aside from discovering unknown powers — is confident.
The opening credits are short, sweet and have a very creepy little song accompanying them. I haven’t been that unnerved by an old refrain since my seventh grade trip to Williamsburg when we attended a trial for witchcraft and the plaintiff came down the old colonial halls humming an eerie little tune. (P.S. she got off scott-free and then disappeared in a puff of smoke, freaking me out!)
This show is very attractive, meaning, it’s quite aesthetically pleasing. So kudos to the director of photography. The location is very Washington, very dreary yet beautiful. And it all makes you wonder how The CW can premiere The Secret Circle and Ringer in the same week on the same network. Ringer‘s production value was so poor and its plot so unappealingly convoluted in comparison to The Secret Circle that it’s hard to imagine how they could even pick Ringer up after giving The Secret Circle the green light. (It’s especially confusing since CBS passed on Ringer; a wise, wise decision)
Perhaps what makes The Secret Circle so good is what I said at the beginning: it’s about witches. While I love the supernatural, the truth is I’m tired of so much of the same. I’ve got a mean case of vampire fatigue. I’m sick of zombies. I’ve got plenty of werewolves too. But witches haven’t been given some twisted plots and serious attention since Buffy (unless you count Wizards of Waverly Place as particularly gripping or mysterious).
I’m giving this show a big thumbs up. The pilot put other recent shows, like The Lying Game to shame. Honestly, I haven’t enjoyed a new teen show this much since Pretty Little Liars. If you haven’t tuned in to The Secret Circle yet, I suggest you do so.
Have you been watching The Secret Circle? Love it or hate it? Please share your thoughts in the comments!