Alright, so I know that I haven’t always been the biggest supporter of The Secret Circle in recent weeks (see my rant-filled post a few weeks back), but I have to say that there is a lot in ‘Curse’ that works for me. Not only did the show remember that it has a history, but it did something I didn’t think was possible: it surprised me.
Let’s bitch it out…My biggest issue with the show since the introduction of John Blackwell (Joe Lando) in ‘Return’ has been that it feels like a lot of wasted potential. Considering that things had been building to his big reveal for so long, when he showed up powerless and with simplistic intentions, I was frustrated. Fans of the books know that TV-John Blackwell is not Book-John Blackwell and while I don’t want this to become a discussion of “how well did they adapt it this week”, I do think that the show has taken a lot of the action, the mystery and, yes, even the melodrama out because they opted for a less intriguing version of the character.
So how nice is it that the show pulls a twist out of left field at the end of the episode? Now anyone who’s ever watched television knew that Jake (Chris Zylka) was never in any danger. Therefore the majority of the episode feels like another adventure of “the secret circle club” (like the Scooby gang, or maybe the babysitter club)”: they comb through the woods looking for roots to make an elixir that Blackwell just happen to know will save Jake’s life. It’s entertaining enough because the make-up on Zylka and his hallucinations are quite good, and Britt Robertson (Cassie) and Thomas Dekker (Adam) are pukey-cutesy enough, even though they really should be more worried than their horizontal hip thrusting is going to kill their friend. Considering they came out of the house to a lawn full of dead birds, wouldn’t you be a little more concerned? When was the last time you slept with someone and your friend died? (Hopefully not too recently. If so, my apologies for being insensitive).
Blah blah blah…roots, elixir, thwarted love. It’s only at the end when brain-trust Adam runs off into the morning light to chase puppies and buy a lollipop and Cassie breaks down that things really start to gel for me. 1) Because Robertson is a great crier (I’m talking full body shakes and a grossly appropriate runny nose) and 2) Because suddenly it puts Blackwell in the position of having to actually act like a father. There’s no spells or amulets to MAGIQUE the pain away, so he holds his daughter and then she asks him to leave (because, let’s face, they still don’t really know each other). In my notes, it literally says: Blackwell’s first test as a parent. And it works!
And then the show pulls the rug out from under us. Turns out that Blackwell devised the whole thing: the dead murder of crows, MAGICKING Jane to talk about the curse, concocting the elixir and even causing Jake’s illness (that’s cold!). Oh sure, as Katherine Miller of AV Club suggests, that’s an overly elaborate plan to do something as petty as separating his daughter from the Conant boy so that they don’t break up the circle by running away together, but I can honestly say that it feels like the first time that the show hasn’t been afraid of exploring a darker side to the parents. Thus far Dawn (Natasha Henstridge) and Charles (Gale Harold) have schemed, but the majority of the time their actions don’t really impact the kids* . Most of the time it’s like they’re on their own show (‘Parents with Crystals’ perhaps? They could hang out with Dallas from Suburgatory)
*The one exception obviously being when they killed Nick, but that wasn’t actually something they maliciously did so much as a reactionary/protectionary measure.
Adding to the positive viewing experience is the fact that the B storyline is also solid. Even though I’m not a fan of “crazy ex” storylines, this one works principally because of Phoebe Tonkin, who finds a really nice line between sassy bitch and emotionally wounded. As a character, Eva (Alexia Fast) is a bit of a dishrag: she exists only to cause problems and I sincerely hope never to spend time with her again (even if it makes the Grey Damon Lee storyline feel like an odd detour). But it’s refreshing that Lee actually stays dead, especially when you consider that on this show there’s seemingly a spell to counter everything – even for these new witches who, as Faye candidly states, only know how to “unlock a lock, cheat at cards and get hot pizza guys”. So although I enjoyed Lee and felt that he and Faye were a good match, it’s fitting that he’s worm food and she’s realized that her friendship with Diana (a still underused Shelley Hennig) and Melissa (Sarah Parker Kennedy) are really important elements in her life.
- How nice to see Jane (Ashley Crow) back in the mix! Surely even those who don’t care for the parents can see the benefit of having Jane on the show? And it looks as though now that Charles is MAGICKING her with the crystal, she’ll be back in a larger capacity in the coming weeks leading up to the finale.
- I’ve never shied away from my distaste for Melissa as a character, but this week, I actually kinda sorta didn’t mind her. The brief scene when she helps Blackwell brew the elixir and they talk about her and her mother’s skills was a nice character building moment, even if it was only a few seconds long.
- I mentioned at the start that it is nice for the show to remember its history. I’m referring to the reappearance of Calvin Wilson (Hiro Kanagawa) who taunts Jake as a hallucination. This is an interesting way for the truth to come out about Jake’s involvement in Calvin’s murder back in 1×07 ‘Masked’ and it also provides another nice moment between Blackwell and Jake as the elder witch counsels the younger on how to make amends for past sins by becoming a better person. Considering how much the circle already relies on Blackwell, it’s going to be crappy when they discover that he’s been lying to them…
- Speaking of Jake, can we talk about the gratuitous schweaty body shot of him (pictured above)? Ummm, soft-core homoerotic “horror” director David DeCoteau called and he wants credit for this. Side Note: If you clicked the link and thought it was highlarious, be sure to check out his other, similarly atrocious videos…or rather don’t.
- Most amusing scene of the night: Melissa and Faye try to distract the police officer who catches them snooping around Lee’s car by playing “the sexy card” and unbuttoning Diana’s top. Not only is Diana’s unamused face laugh out loud worthy, but their actions promptly lands all three in the back of the cruiser.
- Blackwell (responding to Cassie’s question about what killed the birds): “You and Adam.” Zing! Talk about new levels of disapproval for teenage sex. Maybe the PTC should hop on board and kill birds every time a young couple does it on TV?
- Melissa (upon learning one of them may die due to Cassie & Adam’s sexnanigans): ”I have been feeling kinda tired.”
- Faye (on her willingness to resurrect Lee after initially hesitating): “That was just my lack of confidence, but I…gave myself a quick pep talk and now I feel better.”
- Most gag worthy line: Cassie (lying about her feelings after taking the elixir): “I remember every minute we spent together, like it was a movie, someone else’s amazing memory.” Barf.
And now we’re down to five episodes! What did you think of the twists, Circlers? Did you find it overly manipulative, or was it well done in your opinion? Are you happy that Lee is still dead, or were you hoping Faye would be able to bring him back? And what should we make of Cassie’s final scene when she (unwisely) uses her powers to rearrange the stars on her bedroom ceiling? Considering Adam specifically didn’t want her to use her “black magic” on Jake in the woods, I’m sure this isn’t a good thing…
The Secret Circle airs on Thursdays at 9pm EST on The CW.