Fall 2011 Review: The Secret Circle

17 Sep

There will be some shows this fall season for which I won’t at all know what to expect; The Secret Circle is the exact opposite.  I came in with a very specific set of expectations and the show met them exactly.  The Secret Circle is based on a series of books by LJ Smith, who also wrote the Vampire Diaries series of books, and who moonlights as an NFL tight end.

The pilot episode begins with a teenage girl getting into a mysterious car accident while her mom is killed at her house by someone using what looks to be witch-like powers to set the house on fire.  Cassie, the teenage girl and our protagonist, moves to her grandmother’s house in the town where her mom grew up.  Things get weird right away as her room starts acting strange and the roof looks like stars.  At her first day of school, we meet our cast of kids, all of whom seem to be awaiting Cassie’s arrival eagerly.  We’ve got Diana, the leader, Faye, the trouble maker, Melissa, Faye’s sidekick who seems to only be allowed to speak after Faye, Adam, Diana’s broody boyfriend, and Nick who attempts to look through the window at Cassie undressing and says just about no other words in the first episode except for introducing himself.  There’s our team, ladies and gentlemen.

They’re particularly excited because they know, but Cassie doesn’t, that they’re all witches and six is some sort of magic number for witches, so when Cassie joins their circle, they’ll all get crazy more powerful.  Over the course of the first day, Cassie also meets the second round of characters, the parents, including Faye’s mom, Dawn who is the principal at the local high school, Adam’s dad, Ethan, whose a bit of a melancholic drunkard, and Diana’s father Charles, who if we really look at him and think for a second, turns out to be the man who we saw at the beginning of the episode who was responsible for killing Cassie’s mom!

Cassie meets everyone, and they finally confront her and tell her that she’s a witch and they need to join the circle; they’re all scions of powerful witch families who have been witching it up for generations.  She does the requisite denials (this is crazy! you’re all insane!) , while they try to convince her by telling her all about their family history and how earlier in the episode one of them set fire to her car with magic and with demonstrations of their power.  Adam shows her what she can do with a flying water droplet spell and almost kisses her.  (sidenote: I’ve often wondered exactly how many times I would deny it if someone told me that there were witches, or vampires, or whatever – it’s so frustrating watching characters in denial when we know it’s real, but the first episode would probably just me denying it for an hour).

Anyway, she kind of accepts it by the end, after she uses her power to stop a violent rain storm started by Faye, and we also see some of the evil machinations of the father Charles and the mother Dawn who are clearly covering up some series of events that led to Cassie’s father’s death a generation ago and are planning something likely equally villainous.

That was a little bit of a long description, but I have to say the show was not bad by any means.  The dialogue was clichéd and the characters were certainly archetypes.  This show isn’t breaking any molds by any stretch of the imagination.  The writing is certainly far from standout.  But for what it’s trying to be, it does well.  By the end I was genuinely interested in knowing what the cover up might be that the parents were hiding for all these years.  That might be one of the advantages about basing a show on a successful book series; you already have a blueprint that you know works.  There’ll be plenty of teenage angst undoubtedly and growing up and likely love triangle between Adam and Diana and Cassie, and they’ll look and sound like other shows but if the pilot is a basis, then in a very respectable way.  Also, I’d like to issue a quick shout out for the nice use of The Joy Formidable.

Will I watch the next episode?  Probably not, admittedly. It doesn’t quite stand out enough in any one facet.  But I’m kind of thinking about it, and just that fact means the show is not a total failure.

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