At first glance, The CW’s THE SECRET CIRCLE seems to have some of those elements that one would expect a CW show to have: a story built around high school kids, teen angst, a potential love triangle or two, lots of beautiful young people, and a pop soundtrack to highlight it all. But wait! Viewers who haven not set foot in a high school in more than a decade need not run away just yet. Besides, The CW isn’t just for teen girls anymore either — ok, maybe it is, but some of their shows can reach a wider audience! In searching to find the perfect companion to their bonafide hit, The Vampire Diaries, The CW seems to have found their magic show (um, pardon the pun). Once again they turn to Young Adult novel writer L.J. Smith, who penned The Vampire Diaries as well as The Secret Circle. And once again, the TV series will be based on the characters and events established by the novel, but will employ a certain freedom to take it all in a different direction.
The Pilot episode, teleplay by Andrew Miller, which will be airing this evening following the season premiere of The Vampire Diaries, did a terrific job of introducing the characters, establishing the circumstances and history, and offering multiple layers of story that will unfold in the weeks to come. The relationships of characters were beautifully intertwined to offer a wide range of possibilities, and the mysteries and secrets hinted at will have a chance to develop as the season progresses. This Pilot certainly packed a lot of events and information in a short period of time and did it quite adeptly. The entire cast is well-suited to their roles and so far they have great chemistry together. I’ll be honest and say that The Secret Circle doesn’t have the same frenetic pacing and shocking twists and turns of The Vampire Diaries, but that audience, as well as other casual viewers, should have no problem accepting this latest addition to the genre. And even though I haven’t stepped into a high school in a while, I really enjoyed the Pilot episode. It did its job of winning me over and wanting me to know more to the extent that I will be looking forward to seeing how the story unfolds in the weeks to come. If the ultimate goal of any new show is to keep you coming back for more, then The Secret Circle certainly met that goal!
The story evolves around Cassie Blake who moves to Chance Harbor, Washington to live with her grandmother after losing her mother. Cassie is portrayed by the lovely and endearing Britt Robertson, whom we fell in love with in Life Unexpected. Britt has the ability to capture all the nuances needed to portray a 16-year old, and this immediately draws us to her character.
We start with Cassie driving down the road. The mood is dark, ominous and just a bit chilling, so very reminiscent of a horror film. We worry that something terrible is about to happen to her. After an “accidental” tire blow out, she calls her mom. It does not take long to realize that it is the mom we should be more worried about in this instance as a mysterious figure stands outside her house. We witness a frightening turn of events that leave Cassie an orphan necessitating her move to the home of her grandmother in the quaint town which seems to hold many secrets of its own.
As Cassie settles in to her new home and starts school, we experience mystifying occurrences along with her. Are these just strange chance occurrences or is real magic in play? We know that we will be dealing with witches, so it is very interesting trying to figure out who is and who isn’t. In school, we see the type of characters that we usually expect in a high school setting: Diana [Shelly Henning], the nice girl (at least nice for now); Adam [Thomas Dekker], the handsome young man with whom an instant connection is formed; Faye [Phoebe Tonkin], the bad girl who we quickly love to hate; and Melissa [Jessica Parker Kennedy], the bad girl’s sidekick. Rounding out the group is Nick [Louis Hunter] who we do not get to know just yet. Making an unexpected appearance is Natasha Henstridge as Principal Dawn Chamberlain who is also Faye’s mother, making for a very interesting dynamic. And even though Cassie is not aware of her legacy, it is clear that these other students are aware it and are eager to exploit it. Cassie’s presence completes “the circle” and amplifies all their powers, often to dangerous levels. Of course, we have learned from prior excursions into this genre that the combination of teens and witchcraft can often lead to bad things.
The high schoolers are actually the next generation of witches whose families are tied together through the ages. Mysterious and possibly horrific events occurring to their parents made them put a stop to the witchcraft. Yet, it is clear that there are a few of the older generation who have other menacing plans, despite the promises of the past, and despite the promise to keep an eye out on the young ones to make sure they stay away from the practice. The mystery man standing outside of Cassie’s house as it went up in flames killing her mother makes a surprising and unexpected appearance. His connection to the event and to the others in town only serves to deepen the mystery and draw us into the web even further as it becomes clear that the end game was to get Cassie to return so that the coven would be at full power.
It is too early to tell in what direction The Secret Circle will continue. The CW’s original hit series in this genre Supernatural (now going into its seventh season!), offers a complex mythology with deep emotional character developments and philosophical underpinnings, which are all balanced by the addition of a touch of humor among the serious. The delicious Vampire Diaries offers pure guilty-pleasure fun presented at frenetic speeds with surprising twists and turns in each episode. If The Secret Circle falls somewhere between the two, I would be perfectly happy with that. It will be a nice addition to the genre and a great addition for The CW. The Pilot episode certainly set the bar quite high for the rest of the season.