'The Secret Circle' review: Bewitched, bothered and Britt Robertson
"The Secret Circle" is this fall season's big otherworldly entry, and in a slightly shocking move, it's also The CW's only new teen soap. And they chose it carefully.
Based on book series of the same name by L. J. Smith, "Secret Circle" also follows the similarly-themed "Vampire Diaries," giving it a built-in fanbase.
Finding a balance between the thrills of young love and newly-acquired superpowers, "Secret Circle" follows Cassie Blake ( Britt Robertson). She loses her mother to an accidental fire in the opening scene (read: secret nefarious plot), which prompts her to move in with her grandmother.
This means a new town, a new school and a new group of peers -- five of whom happen to be part of a historic coven of witches in need of their sixth (Cassie) to find their true powers.
As you might imagine, it's not that easy. Cassie, being a rational teenager, is skeptical of the whole witchcraft thing, and her would-be coven isn't in the best shape. Factions within the group are clear before they even start to use their powers, with docile Diana ( Shelley Hennig) wanting to do good and take things slow and spirited Faye ( Phoebe Tonkin) hellbent on starting fires with her mind and making it rain.
There's also the inconvenient romantic lead in Adam ( Thomas Dekker), who's three years into his LTR with Diana.
And those are just the minor complications. The real foil here is the elderly set of local witches, who also happen to be one of the one of the show's biggest selling points -- "Queer a Folk" vet Gale Harold, in particular. From his first moment on screen, starting the fire that pushes Cassie's mother out of the picture and her into his yet-to-be-revealed plot, he's the perfect villain.
That's not to say "Secret Circle" can't stand on the charm and presence of Robertson. The CW is clearly invested in making the "Life Unexpected" star one of its flagship actresses, and this is likely her vehicle.
"Secret Circle" certainly does some things better than others -- the climactic showdown in which Faye channels an out-of-control thunderstorm, for example, is epically cheesy -- but it presents a pretty compelling pitch in its first outing.
Anxious fans should be pleased, and curious viewers outside the usual demographic might even be surprised.