The Secret Circle series premiere recap: Toil and Trouble
Does anyone remember the ’90s movie The Craft? A sweet and innocent Robin Tunney moved to Los Angeles and completed a coven of parochial school uniform-clad teenage witches until Fairuza Balk went insane with power and killed Skeet Ulrich. Eliminate the uniforms, make Ulrich a witch too, then mix in some rich family history and a sleepy Pacific Northwest setting, and you get the basic recipe for the CW’s latest drama The Secret Circle. It has the teen angst and supernatural appeal of The Vampire Diaries without Ian Somerhalder’s eyebrows and all of that blood.
Is this the most original show on television this fall? Definitely not. But all genre comparisons aside, last night’s premiere was very good. It was well-paced and intriguing, and set the stage for a wicked overarching plot. Phoebe Tonkin’s delightfully witchy, power-hungry Faye could be my favorite mean girl on TV this year. We’ll see. It all depends on how many thunderstorms she starts with her eyes. Let’s dig in, shall we?
The show opened with our heroine, Cassie (Britt Robertson), getting a flat tire. “My sweet Cassie,” a voice-over said. “I didn’t want you to have this life. But destiny is not easy to run from.” A pretty blonde teenager stuck on a dimly lit road in the dead of night? In a cold open? With a destiny? Something wicked this way comes!
And something wicked did come, but Cassie’s mother was the intended victim this time. A mysterious man showed up to the house while Cassie debated whether or not to call AAA, and brutally murdered her mom. If this were Clue, it would be the mysterious man, in the front yard, with the fire he started in his own mind. Mom screamed “Cassie!” in a panic before the explosion — the first hint that she may have seen this whole thing coming.
A month later, the orphaned Cassie moved to her grandmother’s house in her mother’s hometown of Chance Harbor, Washington. Chance Harbor is beautiful and sleepy — like Forks from the Twilight saga, but with a much better name and fewer supernatural beings. Grandma Jane provided a bit of exposition while Cassie explored her mother’s old (and her new) bedroom — Cassie’s dad died in an accident when she was just a baby, her mother took her far, far away, and they never came back. “It was hard for her here,” Jane said. “I think she wanted to start over.”
That night, seven minutes and 30 seconds in, we had our first look at a bare-chested, impossibly sculpted teenage boy. And so it starts! Cassie looked out the window to find her handsome blonde neighbor gawking at her from the house next door. She closed the curtains, only to find them miraculously re-opened seconds later. Cassie was not nearly as freaked out by this as I would have been. This is a good thing, because things quickly got much weirder.
NEXT: First days and flaming cars!
Really, Cassie should have known something was amiss when the popular kids acknowledged her on the first day of school. Shouldn’t she be sitting at the nerd table, or eating alone in the ladies’ room? If television and movies are to be believed (Yes! They are!), then that is how first days are supposed to go. Instead, Cassie was given the royal welcome by Natasha Henstridge’s Principal Chamberlain, who knew her mother back when. “Your mother was very special to me,” she said.
In the next few minutes, we met the entire secret circle. First there was the formerly bare-chested neighbor, Nick, talking with Adam about Cassie’s arrival. Nick wore a leather jacket and smirked a lot, while Adam chose a hooded blue shirt, a canvas messenger bag, and sincerity. The good cop/bad cop, Eric vs. Bill style dynamic was set up in like, 25 seconds. Good job, Secret Circle! Beautiful Faye and her sidekick Melissa showed up next, and Faye’s mean girl status was also set up in one dirty look and two sentences. “So you’re the new girl,” she said. “You’re very pretty.” Then she magically fixed Cassie’s broken lock. Sweet Diana was next — she told Cassie she knew her grandmother, and invited her to Charm Harbor High’s after school hangout, the Boathouse Bar and Grill. So there’s cocky Nick, sincere Adam, bitchy Faye, bland Melissa, and friendly Diana. Got that?
At the Boathouse, Adam’s dad told Cassie that he was in love with her mother, and that their families “are written in the stars.” Cassie barely had time to sit down and let that sink in before Faye showed up and said some nasty, hilarious things again. She’s going to be my Pam while True Blood is on hiatus. The big reveal was that Faye’s mom was Principal Chamberlain, and that her father died years ago, too.
When Cassie left, Faye made her car catch fire in hopes that Cassie would realize her power and put it out. She didn’t, and star-destiny Adam carried her out and saved her instead. It was all very sweet and romantic and full of meaningful eye-gazing until his girlfriend (of three years!), Diana, showed up. This sets up a good love triangle, because how boring would it be if Adam was dating the mean girl? Diana genuinely wanted to help Cassie and be her friend, so there will be some good drama here down the line.
Diana went to Faye’s house to confront her about almost killing Cassie, and Faye swore that Cassie’s energy had turned her harmless smoke into a full blown inferno. This confirmed that Cassie was the missing link the circle had been waiting for. Diana wanted to play it safe and take it slow, but Faye was ready for some heavy duty magic. Diana insisted that they needed to do it her way, but Faye, of course, was not having it. “Do you want to try that again? Because I didn’t quite buy it. Did you?”
NEXT: Ancient destinies are revealed… sort of. The next day, Jane confronted Principal Chamberlain about the flaming car. Jane was concerned because this whole magic thing happened years ago and apparently didn’t go very well. Chamberlain swore that it wasn’t happening again, because principals know everything that the kids are doing these days. At least it wasn’t drugs, right?
Diana took Cassie to an abandoned house in the woods, where the entire circle was gathered. Diana tried to explain the situation gently, but Faye was all, “you’re a witch, shut up and get over it.” Each of the six families had a destiny that dated back to 1692, and those destinies were detailed in separate family books. Diana was the only one who had found her book. The five had been practicing basic spells in their hideout, but they needed Cassie’s magic, and a group binding spell, to do the really cool stuff.
This was a lot to swallow, so Cassie freaked out and ran back into the woods. Adam followed, and told her that each member of the circle had a dead parent. Some of the remaining parents were probably witches too, but magic was abolished years ago. This is why they had to keep their circle a secret. To convince her, Adam helped Cassie perform this beautiful spell where they made all of the droplets of water in the woods float in the air. They almost kissed!
But Cassie wasn’t in a kissing mood, so she went back to the Boathouse to talk to alcoholic Ethan, who reiterated that their families were bound by fate. He was about to tell her that her daddy was a bad, bad man, but then Diana’s dad, Charles, walked in and told him to shut up and stop drinking. Oh, and Charles was the mysterious stranger who killed Cassie’s mom in the beginning of the episode. I know, right?!
Diana and Cassie strolled down to the docks, where Diana explained that 15 years ago, an accident killed their parents, the members of the first circle. Only Diana wasn’t so sure that it was an accident, and believes that the survivors are trying to keep the whole thing a secret. Excellent powers of deduction, Diana. Why don’t you ask your father?
Then Faye walked by and created a huge lightning storm, which definitely also happened in The Craft. I guess it’s hard to come up with impressive displays of magic that don’t involve fire or lightning. But Faye wasn’t strong enough to end the storm herself, so Cassie had to do it for her. I guess she’s in!
NEXT: Parents with ambiguously malicious motives.
While Faye was conjuring up lightning on the docks, Charles was confronting Ethan about his loose lips and his liquid courage. He said that if Ethan opened his big fat mouth to Cassie again, he’d convince everyone that Ethan drunkenly fell off the docks and drowned. Then he did this crazy waterboarding spell that filled Ethan’s lungs with water. Evil point taken! At this point it is very safe to say that Charles will be the villain this season.
But wait… he’ll have an accomplice! Principal Chamberlain and Charles vaguely discussed the whole plot in front of the Chamberlain house later that evening. “You did the right thing bringing her here,” she said cryptically. Apparently, Cassie is “her father’s daughter,” and the circle will put their plan in motion without even knowing it. So Chamberlain and Charles are the masterminds here… but how much do their kids know? And how will sweet, lovely Diana react if and when she finds out her only remaining parent is a murderer?
The night ended with Cassie finding her family’s book hidden in her mother’s room, with a post-mortem letter from her mother tucked inside. Jane said that Cassie’s mother hadn’t been home since the accident, so are we to assume that she wrote that thing 15 years ago? That is remarkable foresight! Anyway, the letter warned Cassie that evil people would come to take her power, but we had already figured that out at this point.
What did you think of the jam-packed premiere? Was it enough to pique your interest? Will it rain as much in Chance Harbor as it did on The Killing this season?