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Review #3208: The Secret Circle 1.10: “Darkness”

Posted on the 09 January 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: John Keegan

Given this show’s pedigree, I was expecting it to delve into dark territory sooner rather than later. And it did so in the first part of the season; it just didn’t seem as earned as it could have been. It all led to the revelation that Cassie’s power comes from both dark and light sources, and as she becomes more aware of the dark potential within her soul, she’s tempted to use it.

Review #3208: The Secret Circle 1.10: “Darkness”

It’s almost a shame that the cast of “The Secret Circle” comes across as younger than the cast of “The Vampire Diaries”, because they are playing with some mature ideas that might work better with older characters. Granted, the residents of Mystic Falls are all supposed to be the later years of high school, but they act and look like young adults. When they fall into the physical and sexual allure of their natures, it doesn’t feel quite so unnerving.

The writers are touching on similar ideas in “The Secret Circle”, but it feels like they are being held back by the youth of the characters and the cast (at least, their relative appearance of youth). When Caroline on “The Vampire Diaries” gets carried away by the seething hormones of her vampirism, the sexual charge is palpable. One doesn’t really get hung up on the minor detail that Caroline is technically under the age of consent.

Contrast this to Faye, who as the resident bad girl of Chance Harbor, is also the one who is most inclined to savor the more hedonistic side of life. When she engages in a ritual that involves being gently caressed in visually appealing areas, it’s hard to forget that she’s supposed to be in high school. Instead of being drawn into the sensuality of power, we’re left uncomfortable by the notion that we’re seeing something questionable.

Part of it is the appearance of the actresses in question, which is why it pertains to the main point of the episode: Cassie’s foray into dark magic. Faye’s embrace of power is meant to show us how seductive it can be. In turn, they have positioned Cassie’s use of dark magic as something physically and psychologically addictive. It’s just not all that convincing as yet, and for the writers to sell the idea, they need to show the effects of the power on Cassie. I just don’t know if Britt Robertson can pull it off, without leaving the audience feeling a bit dirty. (Again, contrast 16-year-old Cassie against 16-year-old Elena on “The Vampire Diaries”; one looks and acts drastically younger than the other, despite similar backgrounds.)

This isn’t simply a commentary on whether or not “teen dramas” can or should leave an adult audience with a bit of a thrill, because let’s face it: we know the cast members of both shows are older than the characters they play. Britt Robertson and Phoebe Tonkin are roughly the same age as Nina Dobrev (who just turned 23, which is part of what prompted this line of thought). It’s a combination of how the characters are written and whether or not the cast can convey the same maturity. (Phoebe Tonkin could probably pull it off more if she wasn’t constantly struggling to mask her native Australian accent. Until I realized that was the problem, I really thought she was just new and had to work on her line delivery.)

One might wonder why I’m not simply talking about the events of the episode, but in essence, I am: the whole point was to explore the effect of dark magic on Cassie, and the fallout within the circle. And since Faye is still trying to find a means to restore her own individual source of power, the same concerns apply. It all comes down to why “The Secret Circle”, despite delving into some worthy ideas and plot threads, seems to be struggling to make it work.

Writing: 2/2
Acting: 2/2
Direction: 2/2
Style: 1/4

Final Rating: 7/10


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