That’s it folks. After twenty-two episodes of teen witchery, our circle finally confronts both John Blackwell (Joe Lando) and the witchhunters as they race to rescue Faye (Phoebe Tonkin).
Let’s bitch it out…As far as season finales go, this more or less does the trick. And, should the inevitable happen and this proves to be the series finale, it also brings the show to a relatively satisfying close. As an experiment in adapting another L.J. Smith property – after The Vampire Diaries - The Secret Circle has been a work-in-progress for the majority of its twenty-two episodes. Some elements, such as Faye’s humour, the elimination of Nick (Louis Armstrong), the flashbacks and the escalation of Cassie’s (Britt Robertson) dark magic, have worked well. Other elements, such as dialogue, gullible characters, poor characterizations for the adults and a failure to introduce meaningful romantic partners outside of the circle (Lee, Callum, Grant, Holden) have varied from “meh” to “burn it with fire!” levels of disaster.
So the show has struggled. Has it been a worthwhile viewing experience? After twenty-two episodes, I would hesitantly say yes. Hesitantly because the show never did figure itself out, as many of its challenges were visible in the finale (Note to writers: Stop making your characters spout inanely obvious dialogue like “There’s smoke” when they see a fire or “They’re burning up” as a character spontaneously combusts). On the flip side, The Secret Circle remains compatibly on-brand for struggling network The CW, the cast (given the right material) is mostly able and the location/set-design is quite good (see: creepy carnival, creepy mineshaft, creepy forest, and creepy ferry carcasses). So it’s a game of checks and minuses.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. What about the finale?
Like all good finales, this was basically an amalgamation of previous episodes. Kidnapped witch kept by witchhunters on a ferry? Check. Witches nearly being burned at the stake by Eben (Sammi Robiti)? Check. Cassie using her dark magic to bust out of a trance and defeat an adversary? Check. We even had a MAGICK’d delivery boys (offscreen this time)! To a certain extent it felt like many elements in the finale had been laid as groundwork in earlier episodes, but it also felt like the show didn’t have anything new to add except to recycle old material. And, as always with visualizing witchcraft, there’s a battle between making it seem cool (such as when Faye or Eben throw people against walls) or silly (the mentally strenuous fight between Cassie and Blackwell, featuring numerous “I’m constipated” facial expressions).
I did like the random reappearance of Grandma Kate (from 1×10 ‘Darkness’) – though I’ll admit she wouldn’t have been my first pick to return. Alas, she doesn’t interact with Cassie, which is probably good considering the last time they met Kate tossed her in a coffin and beat it out of town. Tonight’s Kate’s merely on hand in a supervisory capacity: giving Charles (Gale Harold) and Dawn (Natasha Henstridge) her powers (via towel wiping ceremony) and then taking care of Charles after he ingests Eben’s demons (just like Heather, you know…from 1×04 ‘Heather’?).
Other big reveals:
- Blackwell may be toaster-strudeled by the Balcoin sisters, but as suggested by Grandpa Exposition in 1×19 ‘Crystal’, he spent the in-between years fertilizing the country side with additional spawn. Specifically there’s four of them, who show up in the final moment of the episode, thereby laying the groundwork for a S2 conflict we’ll likely never see.
- One thing I’m happy not to see? Adam (Thomas Dekker) attempting to act his way through a corrupted by the skull storyline. I can only imagine it’d be as successful as Melissa’s (Sarah Parker Kennedy) stint on Witches’ Brew in ‘Medallion’ – ‘Return’. Except that Dekker’s not as good an actor as she is, and that’s scary…
- Individual powers unite! Creating the skull = unbinding the circle (and features a great “Bitch, I told you so” look from Shelley Hennig’s Diana to Cassie since they essentially hand Blackwell a super powerful weapon). The creation of the skull means that the circle can never be bound again.
- That’s fine with Diana who peaces out with Prince Chompers (Tim Phillips)and leaves Chance Harbour in the rearview. This makes no sense, considering that they’ve gone on all of two dates. Way to keep it real, Secret Circle. Also, did anyone else think they were going to reveal that Grant was actually one of the four Balcoin siblings? I was totally getting Return Of The Jedi sibling vibes…and then they kissed and I yelled “INCEST”. In reality, the kiss simply lacked passion and was not breaking a cultural taboo
- On the hook-up front: Jake (Chris Zylka) mashed Faye’s face on no less than two separate occasions. Guess we’d have one confirmed couple for S2. The jury is still out on Cassie/Adam/Melissa. Oh, and this just in: no one cares.
- With her father dead, Cassie’s sole remaining family is Diana. I loved Diana’s rationale that they would always have each other, which she immediately followed with a bitchy take-down suggesting that she could never be free from dark magic around Cassie. Admittedly Diana’s probably right. Plus Cassie did almost kill her to activate the dark magic that allowed them to escape the protective circle. But if we’re being honest, Diana’s been a total wet blanket since she found out about her Balcoin heritage. Remember how she was Captain “Bind The Circle/Everyone Travel in Protective Pairs” just a few episodes ago? I get that she’s not such a chipper person since they heaped all these dark revelations on her, but she’s been a huge debbie downer to watch for the most part.
So let’s go hypothetical, shall we? Let’s assume that the show goes forward with a second season. Here’s what I would like to see:
- Eliminate extraneous storylines: Consider the amount of screentime wasted on pointless detours with Lee, Callum, Witches’ Brew and Eva. And for what? None of it amounted to anything!
- Scrap the witchhunters: The finale proved that Eben was never the bad guy. Sure he was a villain, but the ending should have been all about defeating Blackwell. The climax of the finale suffered because the show was busy repeating the same ferry fire scene with our circle in place of their parents. It felt redundant and tired.
- Give the adults something to do: The finale put a few irons in the fire, but overall the kids and adults were far too removed from each other for the majority of the season. This was clear from the painfully terrible conversation when Charles and Dawn tell each other that they hurt their kids. Way to come clean just how pointless the whole “get our powers back” storyline was! In the end, there was very little payoff for killing Cassie’s mom and grandmother, as well as Faye’s grandfather. So what did Charles and Dawn’s story amount to?
- Either broaden the world or graduate the kids from high school: Unlike The Vampire Diaries, the use of the school in The Secret Circle was absolutely tangential unless they needed a dance for Faye to burn sheot down at or a prom to kill security guards at. Considering how much of the world we’ve seen, why not explore it in more depth? Alternately, if The CW makes it mandatory to keep these late twenty-something actors in high school, then have them go to class, or talk to other people. Melissa literally acknowledged their lack of friends’ in the last episode and there are plenty of stories exploring what it means to have powers in high school.
What about you: if you could do one thing to improve the show in the second season, what would it be? Did the season finale satisfy, or were you hoping for a different resolution? Are you at all surprised that only adult males bought the farm? Do you think Diana is being selfish and/or a tool? Sound off below for the final time!
The Secret Circle has completed its freshman season. It’s fate will be decided next week at The CW upfronts.