Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Secret Circle: Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot

Brand new Urban Fantasy, so of course we had to check it out right?

The protagonist is Cassie – teenaged girl from California

The episode opens with a prologue with Cassie's mother being attacked and killed in her home by a magic user. I have to say I loved this scene, I haven't seen many great depictions of this kind of sympathetic magic often in Urban Fantasy – and definitely not in Urban Fantasy on television but I loved this – pouring the water to break the water pipes, lighting matches to set fires. I love the idea – and I love the sense of a magic system that has rules and structure rather than just being made up as and when the story demands it. Yes I have the geeky love for this. Unfortunately, this theme doesn't seem to be overly maintained for the rest of the episode.

This leads to Cassie moving in with her grandmother in a whole new town and new school... there follows a series of people out competing themselves for the Creepy Crown with little tricks that kinda coulda be magic.. Unfortunately we're instantly introduced to the resident Mean Girl, Faye (do we always have to have a Mean Girl?) and to the soon-to-be-Scooby-Gang, Adam and Diana.

Mean Girl uses magic to set fire to Cassie's car and lock her in, to try and get Cassie to use her own magic to put it out, though she's rescued by Adam. Daian confronts Faye over it later and the plot thickens – with Cassie there the “circle” is complete and Faye claims it was Cassie's magic that boosted the fire. The two have a show down and lines are drawn - Diana and Faye are set up as clear rivals, possibly for leadership since Diana is Chief Scooby.

The next day Cassie goes into town and meets Diana's father Charlie – and shock, (unbeknownst to her) it's the man who killed her mother! Grandma meets the school headmistress (Faye's mother – that's Mean Girl, keep up) because she's afraid that the kids are... practising

Anyway, Cassie expresses to Diana how weird and creepy everything is and Diana decides to explain this by weirdly luring Cassie to a creepy house out in the woods (Chief Scooby doesn't mean Smart Scooby) where they meet up with Faye, Melissa (The Other One), Nick (Hot Scooby who will take off shirt now and then) and Adam (Love Interest) and reveal that Cassie is a full blooded Witch, just like them. Now come join them in the exposition circle! We learn that each family traces back to the 17th century and they've all been witches each with the special book. But there magic is limited unless the Circle is complete – 1 person from each of the 6 families. And Cassie brings them to 6 – Go Scoobies! Except Mean Girl is, well, Mean Girl and Cassie runs away.

Adam catches up with her and exposition time continues – their parents also had a circle and it all went wrong, people died and not witchcraft is verboten! Cassie continues to disbelieve so Adam, who apparently is in possession of the Scooby Clue (I think they only have 1 between them, since the rest clearly don't have a clue at all) decides to show her magic rather than trying to calmly explain to her that fairy tales are real (and that spending time with Mean Girl is somehow a good idea). But, lo' they almost kiss and ruin the lovely magic effect (Alan Ball, note that this may be yet another show that spends more on special effects than True Blood. C'mon man, the CW's outspending you!) promising for more drama later since Adam is Chief Scooby's boyfriend (of 3 years no less... and some floating water makes you move to the new girl? Damn man doesn't take much does it?) and Cassie continues to run off.

We return to the Scooby Gang, Mean Girl is being Mean Girl and Chief Scooby wants to perform a ritual to control their powers since they're all so much stronger with Cassie there. Mean Girl disagrees and Chief Scooby, well, perhaps would have a better job as Chief Scooby if she didn't have that stick rammed so firmly up her posterior.

Cassie, deciding she just hasn't had enough creepy, goes to the Boathouse (generic hang out spot) to meet Ethan, Adam's drunken father who loved Cassie's mother (keep up guys!) and loved Cassie's mother and believes they were fated to be together. As Adam and Cassie are, apparently. Then Charlie shows up (the one who murdered Cassie's mum, Diana's father – are you confused yet?) to add even more creepy. Adam shows and Cassie runs again. Later on, Charles threatens Ethan for being too chatty and half drowns him before going to see Dawn, (the Headmistress at the school and Faye's mother) and revealing they know Cassie has power and they have plans for it.

Diana catches up with Cassie and we have another exposition round up. 16 years ago there was an accident, though probably not, that killed many members of the old Circle, including Cassie's father. All the while Faye is on a power trip and starts the big storm of doom she can't control – at which point Cassie steps forward and reveals her Super Chosen One status and stops it. Then, like every Chosen One before her she decides that she wants no part in these awesome super powers.

She goes home, looks at her starry ceiling (which is kind of awesome actually) and sees a secret compartment in her fireplace – inside is her family's magic book, and a letter from her mother saying she has power and maybe keeping her ignorant was a bad idea (y'think?). Oh and people are gonna come and get her for her power – DUM DUM DUM.

Ok, first impressions:

It's a little confusing with all the relationships and a large cast of characters that we've been introduced to very quickly, but I think it'll quickly become something we get used to and they should all fall into place. I do feel there's going to be a lot of behind the scenes plotting and backbiting and friendship manipulation... which can be done well, but usually isn't. I'd rather have more magical, fantastic drama against the Forces of Evil (dramatic voice) than lots of interpersonal politics, angst and spats. I think that there was a lot to introduce in a very short time

It's intriguing but I can feel a lot of tropes coming on. The lost heroine with the tragic past (dead parents) who is the Chosen One with Uber Super powers but has no idea of her Heritage but is Hunted by the Big Bad. Maybe I'm cynical (hah, I know I'm cynical) but I think a lot of this show is going to walk down some very well trodden paths. I don't think it's going to be bad – but nor do I think it's going to be original either. That's not an automatically bad thing, and I'm glad it hasn't gone down the old highschool drama path – but I'm still not ready to be excited or enthusiastic about it. I'm intrigued enough to keep watching.

Inclusion-wise – well, other than some some POC for the obligatory crowd scenes in school corridors, we're not looking at much inclusion on any level. We'll see how it develops