First Look: ‘The Secret Circle’ Pilot Review
The Secret Circle means business. Premiering this Thursday on the CW the show has already garnered a legion of fans, familiar with both the young and attractive cast and the L.J. Smith books upon which the series is based. If you’re hoping to like this one, then chances are you probably will.
The pilot episode serves up a sleek and fast-paced introduction to Cassie Blake (Britt Robertson) and the inhabitants of Chance Harbor, from its literally explosive opening scene to its intriguing finale. Although key questions remain after the credits roll that will no doubt keep audiences guessing for several episodes to come, the pilot successfully negotiates a large cast of characters and their tangled relationships and histories with aplomb.
There is a lot here to explore as far as the characters are concerned too. Cassie’s love triangle with Adam (Thomas Dekker) and his girlfriend Diana (Shelley Hennig), the burgeoning power struggle between Diana and ‘resident bad girl’ Faye (Phoebe Tonkin) and the younger generation’s attempts to keep their magic-making secret from their parents and grandparents all serve to add depth to the story.
One would expect a large dollop of teen angst with a show like The Secret Circle, and I won’t deny that the pilot has its moments. However, given the slick pacing, these moments are kept relatively short to to the point. I will say however that the pilot contains its fair share of magic sex metaphors. The question is, are they intentional or not?
“Are the kids practicing?” Cassie’s Grandmother asks Principal Dawn Chamberlain discreetly at one point.
“Look, I’m around these kids every day. I would know,” Dawn reports confidently.
“You did magic together?” an incredulous Diana demands of Adam at another point, while Faye archly comments “They made magic together,” a moment later.
Teen angst and magic-making aside, it must be said that the ‘older’ cast members give the pilot episode some much needed gravitas and include Natasha Henstridge as Dawn Chamberlain, Ashley Crowe as Jane Blake, Adam Harrington as Ethan Conant and Gale Harold as Diana’s father, Charles Meade.
The scenes involving Harold and Harrington sparking off each other were among the most entertaining of the pilot episode. Harold manages to be both creepy and disarming by turns, often shifting seamlessly from one to the other within the same scene. Circle E.P. Kevin Williamson said recently that he wanted Meade to be both ‘devilish and delicious’ and it seems Harold has tapped the essence of the character perfectly.
Harrington’s Ethan Conant, perhaps a little too young and a little too handsome to be quite believable as a washed up drunk, displays a surprisingly fearless core, taunting Meade by calling him ‘Charlie’ and appearing willing in one scene to physically take him on. Even when Meade almost kills him, we get the impression that Ethan won’t take it lying down for long.
Henstridge’s Dawn Chamberlain is perhaps the most oblique character of the lot. Outwardly, she is a a mother and the school principal to boot, but once the surface is scratched, we begin to see hidden layers beneath. What is her agenda? What is the nature of her relationship with Charles Meade? And why did she orchestrate Cassie’s return to Chance Harbor? It’s clear Dawn will play a large role in events to come on the show.
Overall, the pilot delivers a potent mix of drama, romance and the occult with enough intrigue to make audiences want to know more.
The Secret Circle premieres on the CW at 9/8c on Thursday 15th September.