Popdose’s Fall 2011 TV Preview: “The Secret Circle”

Written by Television, TV Reviews

Can the CW pull off some magic with witches?

Today Scott Malchus questions, “Can the CW perform the same magic it did with The Vampire Diaries and create a new hit out of The Secret Circle?” Read to find out and be sure to leave your own opinion in the comments section.

The Secret Circle (Thursdays, 9 PM, the CW)

The Secret Circle is a supernatural drama that shouldn’t be as interesting as it is, but the pilot was well executed, nicely acted and provided ample doses of scares and creepy. In other words, it was a lot of fun. Based on the book series by L.J. Smith and executive produced by Kevin Williamson, it looks like the CW has found the perfect companion for their hit series The Vampire Diaries.

Britt Robertson (Life Unexpected) is Cassie Blake, teenage girl whose mother dies eerily within the first ten minutes of the show. While the young heroine is tending to a mysterious flat tire, a sinister man stands outside the Blake house where Cassie’s mom, a widow, suddenly has some serious utility problems. The man (whom we’ll meet later) uses magic to have the house burst into flames and consume Cassie’s mom inside it.  The pacing of this sequence was executed perfectly, providing more tension than most of the crappy horror movies that get released each year.

Jump ahead a month (plus one title sequence) and Cassie has moved to the small, coastal town of Chance Harbor, Washington. Obviously, chance had nothing to do with Cassie arriving to live with her grandmother (Ashley Crowe) in this tiny city, the same place her mother fled from when she was pregnant with Cassie. Even though Chance Harbor is another one of those Mayberry type of places where everyone knows your name, it’s still a little disconcerting to Cassie (and the audience) when everyone comes up to offer condolences and some sort of personal history her mom.

Cassie attends her first day of high school the next day – kind of weird that the girl shows up in a new town and immediately goes to school without getting acquainted with her new surroundings, but it’s a TV show about witches so I’m going to let it slide- and we meet a secret group of high school student who are up and coming witches. There are Adam (Thomas Dekker) and Diana (Shelly Meade), a romantic couple who seem pure at heart, Faye (Phoebe Tonkin), the resident mean girl and her tag-along, Melissa (Jessica Parker Kennedy), plus Nick (Louis Hunter), who doesn’t do much in the pilot except look pretty and show off his killer abs.

The young witches reveal to Cassie that she has a supernatural gift. Cassie in turn thinks they’re all full of it. Robertson wasn’t allotted too much time to process the information before the TV gods had her performing magic. Still, the young actress was quite convincing in her anger and bewilderment. When Cassie uses her power to create a beautiful magic trick, tapping into her gift somehow enhances the others’ abilities. This suits Faye just fine, as she wants to use witchcraft to get whatever she wants. Diana, on the other hand, believes that they all need to control their powers, for fear that something terrible will happen. A conflict between Faye and Diana is brewing, which should make upcoming episodes very interesting.

What’s also interesting is that Adam and Cassie are clearly drawn to each other and almost kiss. That Diana is such a likable character (credit to Meade for not making her come off as bossy and annoying) makes their attraction intriguing because all three characters are definitely heroes and it’s obvious that at some point Diana is going to get her heart broken. How she reacts, being a witch and all, is something I’m sure we’ll see by the end of the season.

As for that sinister man who killed Cassie’s mom, he’s actually Diana’s father, Charles, and he’s about to hatch a nefarious plan. Wow, Diana is really set up to be the tragic hero in this story. The direction by Liz Friedlander was wonderful throughout the episode, in particular the introduction of Charles. She framed the action just right so that the reveal of Charles and Diana in the same scene were nice surprises.

I have no doubt that this show will be a hit with the CW’s target audience. However, even if you’re over the age of seventeen and just enjoy good storytelling, The Secret Circle is worth checking out. Enough groundwork was laid in the pilot that I’m compelled to keep watching until the magic runs out.