It’s hard to believe that it’s been a month since our last fresh episode of The Secret Circle. And yet less than a week has passed in the show’s timeline as everyone is still reeling from the witch hunter attack in the woods that almost compelled Cassie (Britt Robertson) to kill her recently returned father, John Blackwell (Joe Lando). So what’s happening in Chance Harbour tonight?
Well if I was a betting man, I’d wager you’ll click through to find out…
It’s Casino Night! Also known as some random fundraiser that has never been mentioned before and appears to be getting organized in the space of around twenty minutes. If you’re a regular viewer of the show (or it’s stronger, more assured sister show, The Vampire Diaries), then you know that these sorts of things happen all the time. It’s a carry-over from the L.J. Smith books, where all the juicy stuff goes down at parties, balls and holidays.
Alas there’s very little that’s juicy, as ‘Lucky’ continues the recent streak of woh-woh episodes the show has produced. Perhaps I’m still working through my haterade for the show’s treatment of Blackwell’s return, but it’s frustrating how simultaneously slow the show is (exhibit: Any conversation between Cassie and Thomas Dekker’s Adam), while still simultaneously ripping through plot at such a break neck speed that it feels barely addressed (exhibit: Grey Damon’s Lee and his formerly comatose girlfriend, Eva [Alexia Fast], who wakes up, ruins Lee’s relationship with Phoebe Tonkin’s Faye, then catches them eating each other’s tonsils at the fundraiser, then fossilizes Lee with her mind…all in a combined seven minutes or so of airtime). It’s kind of amazing just how much difficulty the show has balancing its storylines and its pacing, which makes for the “whiplash” equivalent of a viewing experience.
Take the developing John Blackwell narrative. We spend the majority of ‘Lucky’ wondering whether or not he can be trusted. Initially I anticipated Cassie completely caving when she confronts Blackwell about using the oh-so-imaginatively-titled sway to steal the powers of a witch . I mean, she’s survived half a dozen attempts on her life by people who told her to trust them, but she always trusts the next stranger without a few minutes of being introduced. So really, why should this be any different? But apparently it is because the petite blonde refuses to hand over the sway.
Of course she changes her mind a few minutes later and decides that she can trust Blackwell when she learns that Adam’s father, Ethan (Adam Harrington) was the one who tipped off the witch hunters. So Ethan is the traitor and Blackwell’s good? Well, only until she apologizes to Adam to calling his dad an accomplice to murder, when she suggests that maybe Ethan isn’t bad, while Adam – who has spent the episode arguing Blackwell can’t be trusted – does his own 180 and suggests that Blackwell is fine. So everyone’s fine now? The cherry on top is Cassie’s decision (in the span of less than 24 hours) that her dark magic – which has saved her life multiple times – is dangerous and she needs to stop using it.
Ummm…what? So not only are characters changing their minds from scene to scene (arbitraily), but in the span of a single episode Cassie goes from bad-ass witch to scared of her own powers…because she almost beat Ethan with a piece of broken bleacher after he tried to stab her dad? So the time you exploded a coffin from the inside out or almost lit a woman on fire were okay, but this is too much? This is bad plotting: it’s inconsistent, and sloppy, and far too quick a turnaround. This is a decision she should spend a ton of time weighing, but instead she makes it in a few seconds.
In my lengthy rant before this hiatus, I took the show to task for many, many things. And one of them is this narrative of convenience, where people do things because it enables them to be moved from place A to place B. That’s what it feels like we’re watching now: a show in which things happen without proper motivation or explanation – there’s no anticipation, no build-up, no savoury pay off for viewers. If a comatose girlfriend appears in one episode, she’ll wake up the next and be on a murder spree by the third. Who’s writing this stuff? The Count from Sesame Street? It’s not plotting – it’s storytelling by arithmetic.
As we hurtle towards the finale, there are still several interesting balls in the air, but for me The Secret Circle is suffering from many of the issues I have with Once Upon A Time. They’re both shows with a lot of potential, but they consistently throw themselves under the bus for ill-conceived, poorly constructed characters or events that don’t add (or worst – subtract) from the show. I only hope that The Secret Circle can pull itself together before it ends its freshman season.
- One of the balls I’m interested in? That nifty little climax sequence in which Cassie and Adam finally get horizontal, but their “written in the stars” romance hides a dark underbelly as a murder of crows circle the house above them. It’s a striking image that would have really popped had this idea not been introduced literally moments before. Sure we’ve heard Ethan and Diana (Shelley Hennig) refer to this pairing as “made for each other”, but the ‘dark twist’ literally came out of nowhere. If Blackwell really felt this way, wouldn’t he have said something when he saw Cassie macking on Adam when he first showed up?
- This week we see a fair amount of Ethan and Blackwell. Dawn (Natasha Henstridge) pops by to ruminate about red dresses at funerals and casually mention getting her powers back to Blackwell…within thirty seconds of seeing him for the first time in over a decade. Well, I guess there is one character who is consistent. Still no sign of Jane, Cassie’s grandma, and Charles is also absent, though both get a quick shout-out.
- “Cassie awesome power display of the week” award = Taking out Ethan after his attempt on Blackwell’s life. It’s pretty awesome, especially when the bleacher sends Ethan catapulting through the air like he stepped on a landmine.
- What should we make of large toothed, dapper Aussie, Grant (Tim Philips)? My spidey sense immediately went off because every. single. time. we meet a stranger they’re a witch hunter, working for the witch hunters, or a demon that tries to kill the circle. Grant’s subsequent “romance-only” scenes with Diana are pleasant (the nice girl may get some!), but also feel strangely pointless. If he’s only human, I don’t really care. If he’s a villain, that’s predictable. This mostly feels like a no-win situation.
- Finally, how is it that suddenly the sanest, most rational person on the show is freaking Melissa (Sarah Parker Kennedy)?! If there was ever a sign of the apocalypse, then surely this must be it! Someone hold me!
So that’s ‘Lucky.’ Do you find the show’s inconsistency aggravating, or are you comfortable with the pacing and the characters? Do you give a fig about either Grant or Eva? Are you happy that Blackwell is sticking around, even if he is asking our protagonist to stop practicing magic (aka a sort of foundational element of the show)? Let me know below!