When I heard about The Secret Circle and found out it was yet another L.J. Smith work, I was immediately cautious. I'm not a fan of Smith's writing, but The Vampire Diaries TV adaptation blew me away, so I decided to give this one a chance too.
And truthfully, it was a lot like I expected to be. The tone is a bit more juvenile. The characters don't appear or act nearly as old as the VD characters, and the show (thus far) seems a bit lighter in terms of hardcore violence (specifically bloody/gore) than its predecessor.
Like usual, before I begin the review, let's recap on the premiere episode.
Cassie Blake, our protagonist, is driving home one night, when a mysterious car passes her. Suddenly, her tire mysteriously pops, and she nearly crashes. Then, the mysterious car stops for a minute before quickly driving off. Cassie then calls her mother and tells her what happened.
Meanwhile, the mysterious car pulls up in front--who could've guessed?--Cassie's home, where her mother is talking to her. An equally mysterious man gets out of the mysterious car and starts lighting matches. Cassie's mother, oblivious as she gets off the phone with her daughter, is suddenly startled when a fire (mysteriously) appears out of nowhere. Then more fires start. Then it's a raging inferno, and all the while we keep getting shots of mysterious man lighting more and matches. Then Cassie's mother slips, falls, and by the time she comes to again, it's too late, and the kitchen explodes.
And that's the end of Cassie's mom.
Cue Cassie moving to her grandmother's house, in, where else, "Chance Harbor." Shortly after arriving there, she meets a motley crew of people, most notably, Adam, the standard pretty boy type, Diana, who seems a bit too nice, Faye, whose actor tries too hard to portray her as the "bad girl," and Nick, who seems like a stereotypical player.
There's some rousing scenes where Cassie's car catches on fire and Faye starts a storm, but it all boils down to Cassie finding out she's a witch. Meanwhile, Diana's father and Faye's mother (the high school principal) are up to something evil involving the "circle" of witches that consist of their children and friends.
Now, onto episode 2.
This one pretty much picks up where the first one left off. At the end of the previous episode, Cassie found her family's "book of shadows" that's been passed down through the generations, along with a letter from her mother. In it, her mother explains that her death may not have been an accident (big surprise there), and that Cassie needs to learn to use her powers so she can protect herself. Cassie's first experiment with doing so is to attempt to light a candle with her mind. Instead, she opens the curtains, only to reveal that Nick guy cleaning up from a hook-up and staring into her window again, shirtless. Cassie's reaction is to order the curtains to close. Instead, she slams his window shut, shattering the glass.
Apparently these powers are a bit hard to control (as usual).
Then, it's another school day. VD has recently gotten away from an overwhelming number of school scenes, so I'm interested to see where this show takes it. Anyway, Cassie ends up in chemistry (apparently), where her teacher's instructions amount to "Toxic means dangerous. Now go pour toxic chemicals!" Ah, implausible school scenes, how I've missed thee on VD.
And, as usual in high school, practically everyone that Cassie has met in her one day or so in Chance Harbor ends up in the same class as her. So you have Diana, Faye and her sidekick and, of course, Adam. Faye, playing her "bad girl" role a bit too straight again, starts using magic in the middle of class to heat up the chemicals in her beaker. Cue the "only the non-normal people notice the magic" scene.
While there, Adam explains how they founded their new circle and what "binding the circle" entails. Cassie sums up her feelings up with an obligatory "I feel like I'm in a Harry Potter movie." Really, Cassie, what happened to books?
After we leave the magic duo at the abandoned house base, we arrive at the obligatory harbor town restaurant with an harbor inspired name, where Henry, Faye's grandfather who's come to investigate, and Adam's dad, who almost got killed by Diana's dad via drowning spell the previous day, are having a little chat. Adam's father assures do-good Grandfather Henry that he didn't say anything stupid to Cassie and that somehow, Diana's father has managed to get his hands on some illegal magical abilities (the source of which is later revealed).
Then we're back to the abandoned house base, where not-so-subtle Adam teaches Cassie how to light a light bulb. Included in this scene is the obligatory unresolved sexual tension and a set of cliche magic-using instructions. For some reason, glass things tend to explode around Cassie, and so the light bulb goes bye and bye, and then Cassie does, leaving not-so-subtle Adam to lament his inability to be subtle.
Fast-forwarding a little, we get back to Faye's mother. Do-good Grandfather explains that he saw the children using magic and that according to Ethan (Adam's dad), Charles (Diana's dad) used magic on him. Gasp! Ms. Principal is obviously freaked out that do-good Grandpa is starting to catch on, but she attempts to play it as her being "surprised" and pulls the "my husband died!" line out of her book.
She immediately goes to Charles to take his magic source so he won't use it irresponsibly anymore, since it's all the magic they have left. As it turns out, the magic source is a crystal. Never would've guessed that one.
Anyway, Faye, now guilty, decides to go ahead with this binding of the circle thing she's been avoiding. Meanwhile, Faye's mom, after being confronted by do-good Grandpa, decides it's time to get rid of him and magically induces a heart attack.
The episode ends with the binding of the circle around a big 'ol fire, signaling what I suppose is the beginning of the "next" sub-arc of the show.
In the end, I have the same problems with this episode as I had in the premiere. There are a few too cliche aspects, namely the circle's members. They're the perfect embodiments of five far too common stereotypes (bad girl, girl girl, totally normal girl, dependent sidekick friend, jerk guy, pretty boy...). Beyond that, the acting is a bit rough around the edges, and the dialogue struggles to seem legitimate in places.
But I have faith that this show may get better in time, depending on where the writers take it. For now, I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt and let it attempt to iron out some of its problems.
Overall grade: B-