The Secret Circle recap – 1×14: ‘Valentine’

Courtesy of The CW

In the spirit (Devil or otherwise) of the holidays, our favourite witch show goes all fluffy bunny love and peace and happiness and stuff.

Nah, I’m just kidding. The boring chick OD’d, the trampy one got some (more) and the protagonist got strangled by ghosts and flipped her car. Feel the love!

Let’s bitch it out…

Traditionally most weeks, The AV Club and I feel the same way about The Secret Circle: it’s a nice distraction, slightly inferior to VD and frequently frustrating due to airplane-sized plot holes and character inconsistencies. This week they felt that the episode was entertaining, and while I would agree in principle, I don’t share their level of enthusiasm.

“Valentine” is in keeping with The Secret Circle tradition: it focuses primarily around a love triangle (the continuing hum-drum interactions between Cassie/Adam/Jake, played by Britt Robertson, Thomas Dekker, and Chris Zylka respectively). In between discussions about whom Cassie can and can’t trust and what she should and shouldn’t do, the other members of the circle have a girls-only slumber party that is anything but (why is every person at the door male?! What is the population breakdown of Chance Harbour?!). This feels like a nice bit of  development for non-Cassie characters because aside from the petite blonde lead, the show hasn’t really done much with the others (Phoebe Tonkin has fared best as the good-bad bitch who’s a bit of a tramp, but isn’t really bad or trampy; Sarah Parker Kennedy’s Melissa is tragically lacking a personality and Shelley Hennig’s Diana is simply ‘the nice one’). They’ve each had things to do, but we haven’t actually explored their relationship outside of the Cassie-context (ie: what was their relationship before she / we came to town?)

Courtesy of The CW

It is nice to have an anti-Valentine’s Day event that allows the three girls to do something that doesn’t invite pyromancy or drugs…Oh wait, we’re still dealing with Devil’s Spirit, the witch cocaine introduced by Lee (Grey Damon) a few episodes back. On the plus side, this offers us some fun and/or interesting tidbits. On the minus side, we did have to put up Melissa sucking the fun out of the party.

First up: Fun! Diana finally cuts loose and kisses a few randoms (the aforementioned boys at the door, including Lee and “hot pizza boy” – who was really only cute, btw). It was nice to see the straitlaced girl do something other than mope or plan a party for her ex-boyfriend, and Hennig did well acting high without being annoying. Melissa, on the other hand, OD’d in record time after seeing everyone getting some luvin’ except for her, though it did serve to unite Diana and Faye in solidarity to hold her hair back as she yakked up the offending substance. When the dust settles, though, she ultimately chooses Diana’s – and not Faye’s  – hand (what a beyotch!). Naturally this drives Faye to Lee’s power-giving creepy stick-doll (almost creepier than the living dolls in The River). The last we see of Lee, he’s sticking an identical doll under the bed of his previously unseen GF, who is in a coma. Ah yes – it’s clear that the trampy girl has fallen for another winner (it’s like Everwood meets voodoo).

The A-storyline (aka triangle CAJ) is significantly more engaging, but also significantly more preposterous. The “powered by a thousand witches’ medallion attracts angry dead witches who want to repossess it (or for the purposes of this episode: four do). Side Note: Are we sure this thing isn’t a magnet?

So what is awesome about this storyline? There’s a palpable sense of creepiness as the hooded figures stalk Cassie at school and at her house before ultimately leading her to an abandoned church in the woods where they were killed. The music cues are over-the-top, but they are effective and make these scenes feel like a scary little horror film. There’s even some nice atmosphere courtesy of the falling snow in the woods, as well as a pulse-pounding car accident when Cassie loses control while driving.

So what is godawful about this storyline? The medallion almost choking Cassie (prompting Robertson’s most embarrassing performance since almost asphyxiating from a vision in ‘Witness’); the fact that the car flipped in the accident and Cassie simply climbs out unscathed, and Thomas Dekker’s acting (joining the hall of shame) as he “Christian Bale-as-Batman” croaks his way through a ghostly possession. An important lesson that The Secret Circle needs to learn: don’t threaten your protagonists with life and death situations unless you’re prepared to occasionally follow through (ala VD). Oh sure, Nick got offed, but let’s face it, they’re probably not going to kill off one of the circle members before the end of the season at the earliest, and if they do off someone, it certainly will not be Adam.

Part of my trouble with this storyline was that it felt inconsequential. There’s a level of obviousness at work; this is a show that is spinning its wheels until Papa Blackwell arrives next week. The medallion was so easily dispatched it was laughable, and the rules of the ghosts were unclear (they were immaterial, but still tried to steal the medallion in Cassie’s house. What would they have done if they had gotten it considering they are still immaterial).

Other observations:

  • Jake and Faye slept together last week and then sleep together again this week. Sure they’re hot and have some chemistry, but what are we supposed to feel about this? Am I just not a Secret Circle shipper because I don’t care that Jake isn’t with Cassie?
  • Ditto for Cassie and Jake. They’re sucking face: yay or nay?
  • No parents this week. I found I didn’t really notice their absence, though in retrospect, didn’t Dawn (Natasha Henstridge) get stabbed last week?! Shouldn’t Faye have at least, you know, mentioned that? Or are we supposed to assume that after Dawn was healed they ran off for a vacation and didn’t bother to tell anyone?
  • Jake’s witch hunter mentor, Isaac (JR Bourne) returns. Guess he got briefed about what went down last week when Cassie activated her inner firestarter on Lucy? Essentially he shows up, tries to get Jake to help him get the medallion and then splits after threatening more violence when he doesn’t get it. Thanks for coming back – and good job, Jake, for letting him tell you that the witchhunters are going to kill the circle, but not bothering to stop him to question him about what that means. Good thing Jake is cute (in an asymmetrical head kinda way) because he is useless!
  • This show has done possession by demon and now possession by dead witch. Is possession by girlfriend in a coma next?

Overall I was entertainment by ‘Valentine’, but in the long run, the episode just felt very meh. I hope that with the introduction of Blackwell next week, we kick it back up a notch to ‘Witness’-levels of awesome. The show has demonstrated what it’s capable of, but it’s just not living up to that potential. Agree? Disagree? Too baked on Devil’s Spirit to care? Sound off below…

About cinephilactic

cinephilactic is a university contract instructor in Film Studies. He is an avid TV watcher, particularly science-fiction, fantasy and drama series. His favourite shows currently airing on TV include The Good Wife, Breaking Bad, Justified, Hannibal, Game Of Thrones and a smattering of shows on The CW. He has a tendency to "hate-watch" particular shows and likes to think that his sarcastic voice comes through in his reviews, though sometimes he's just being bitchy

2 thoughts on “The Secret Circle recap – 1×14: ‘Valentine’

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