I fell in love with The Secret Circle basically at first sight. It happened right at the beginning of the pilot but it's probably not the part you're thinking of. Minutes before Charles Meade burned Amelia Blake to death in one of television's best and most brutal cold opens, there was one moment—one shot, really—when I realized, "Oh, this show is for me." It was Cassie driving alone on a dark highway singing along to "Young Blood" by The Naked and Famous, her "undersized head" bobbing along to the infectiously obnoxious hook. It was a simple introductory moment that my mind has drifted back to pretty regularly throughout the season. For me that moment has functioned as a sort of thesis statement for the show: Youth traversing dark pathways without ever losing the spirit. Cassie spent 22 episodes traversing dark pathways without ever losing the spirit and The Secret Circle did the same.
We now know that there won't be a Season 2, but let's not turn this thing into a funeral just yet. There will be time for eulogies later, so instead let's talk about what a GREAT finale we just got. Because "Family" really was terrific! In classic Secret Circle fashion, some events were resolved so easily as to be comical, while some things were weirdly under-brainstormed. But that's just how this show rolled! The most exciting things that happened were things many of us had been hoping for all along (Solo magic! Parental heroism! Destruction of the crystals! Evil Adam!), so those particular events felt incredibly satisfying. But even more delightful were the parts none of us even saw coming! FOUR more Balcoin children? Even the backs of their heads looked sexy! Almost every one of the characters ended Season 2 in a better state, narratively speaking. In light of the overall high quality of "Family" and the Season 2 teases it revealed, one MIGHT be tempted to slip back into a sadness coma, but don't do that. Let's just celebrate how good this episode was instead.
Okay I am so full of cake and regret right now, so bear with me and LET'S DO THIS!
We started outside a parked car in which some dude was chillin' and his ladyfriend's head was out of sight. But NO Diana was not doing what you were thinking (looking for dimes underneath the seat?), she was sleepin'! Diana was resting her head on Grant's shoulder and it was adorable. Then she woke up looking much happier than the last time we'd seen her.
Grant had spent most of the evening staring into the middle-distance and also reading Diana's text messages. None of the "OMG CALL US NOW EMERGENCY FAYE'S BEEN KIDNAPPED" messages were enough to get him to wake up Diana, but he DID suspect she was probably in over her head in life.
Though it seemed like Diana was indeed over it ("it" being a life full of frustrated witchcraft, near-death experiences, and a pair of murderous daddies), she wasn't quite ready to run off with Grant. Who might also be bad news himself because WHOSE CAR WAS THAT? He sailed into town right? Pretty sure Grant stole that car, you guys.
Meanwhile Faye was NOT having a good time. For one thing she was still dressed in uncomfortable prom clothes.
But for another she was being roughed-up by witch hunters and they were using her cell phone without permission!
Eben needed Faye's phone to crank call Cassie and she was NOT happy to hear from him.
It turned out Eben's main desire was just ONE of the crystals, for the sole reason of preventing John Blackwell from completing the crystal skull. Ordinarily this would've been a red flag to Cassie that Blackwell probably shouldn't be allowed to assemble that skull, but then again Eben is FILLED TO THE BRIM WITH DEMONS. So there was definitely a credibility issue there.
The next morning Blackwell called his two daughters to a truly unsightly area.
Just kidding, wasn't that location GORGEOUS? (R.I.P. Chance Harbor, oh no here come the water works again... Get it together, Price.)
After a brief squabble during which Cassie overruled Diana's concerns and allowed Blackwell to proceed with the crystal skull assembly, he knelt down and did something I darn near cheered about: He set the crystals ON FIRE.
Then he had each of the ladies pick up two flaming crystals (relax, they weren't meth) and told them to toss them into the lake.
I loved this whole part, honestly. Part of me was laughing at how random and half-assed the ceremony was. "Light 'em on fire and throw 'em in a lake." It was definitely on par with "cut your finger and rub the ground" as far as lazy witchcraft is concerned. One more reason why dark magic is THE BEST. Now THAT is magic I could get into.
Meanwhile the remaining three witches went over to that awful decrepit ship where Faye was being kept. I cannot stop praising this show for finding the best locations. In my recap for The Vampire Diaries' finale I specifically complained about the fact that that show had set much of its climax at a MINI-STORAGE FACILITY. Meanwhile this show had at least TWO stunning locations. Credit where credit's due: The Secret Circle is one of the best-looking television shows ever produced.
Anyway, yeah. This ship was the best:
Also I loved this image of the three of them staking it out. Notice how, although there are three of them, the use of magic doesn't seem to factor into their plan. Anyway, seemingly out of nowhere, Jake got that intense/angry face and decided he was gonna storm the joint.
And Adam did NOT approve:
Because OH YEAH: The circle was unbound! I can't believe I didn't already mention that and then run around the room giving everybody high fives! THE CIRCLE WAS UNBOUND! At the risk of this being an I-told-you-so situation, wasn't this show immediately one million times more fun once everyone had individual powers back? Yes, the answer is yes. It's not my problem that the writers didn't seem to think they could sustain storytelling arcs without handcuffing our poor teen witches. The unbinding of the circle was the first of many exciting developments that happened in this episode that SHOULD HAVE happened from the get-go. Sorry, I should be more respectful, I know and I'm sad still. But I am definitely glad the circle was unbound by the end. Truly a thrilling turn of events.
This lady knows what I'm talking about:
Watching Faye bust out of her chains and go to town on the nearest witch hunter was pretty incredible!
Even Phoebe Tonkin's HAIR looked badass during that scene. Oh man, I'm getting chills all over again just thinking about this.
Oh and look who came back!
Charles' mom came back and she did NOT seem thrilled about being there. Even though she was apparently just five minutes away at the time Charles called her? I know she had left town, but maybe she was just chillin' in her car right outside the city limits? Who knows.
Anyway, Dawn was also hanging out with Charles at the time, and that's when she received a pretty great phone call from her daughter:
I loved that Faye "came out" to Dawn about being a witch before admitting that she was being held captive at the boat. When Dawn was like, "no duh," Faye accused her of having read her diary but COME ON, show. It's one thing to spend the season carefully segregating the kids from their parents, but are you telling me that anybody in Chance Harbor be surprised that anybody else was a witch? Faye knew that her mother and grandfather had been witches... Shouldn't the knowledge that Faye would continue the tradition be pretty much close to common knowledge within that family? Oh well, it's fine. I'm just glad we got a metaphorical coming-out scene since the show never saw fit to include a gay character. (That's not an actual complaint, just an observation that sometimes the gayest shows don't actually have gay characters. #TVD)
OH BUT OKAY. This scene. THIS SCENE. This was the weirdest sh*t I have seen in a LONG time and I loved every second of it. This business with the crystal skull was basically Lynchian in its imagery. Cronenbergian even. What ON EARTH:
Holy moly! This was the best. Just the best. So disgusting and random and hilarious and THE BEST. It's moments like this that make it REALLY painful that the show has sailed into the sunset because this was an example of brainstorming gone right. We knew a crystal skull was "arriving" any second now, but who could've guessed it would've gone down LIKE THIS? A pulsating, translucent BLOB that Cassie fished out of a lake and massaged to completion?!
Seriously. If I'm being honest here (might as well be, right?) the magic on this show hasn't ever really lit my world on fire. It's been fine. It's been about what I expected. Streamlined (not many chants) but still kind of understandable and basic. Harnessing the earth's power, lighting things on fire, etc. But this sequence suggested that the makers of The Secret Circle could have turned the idea of magic on its head: Made it weird, disgusting, alien. This blob scene was one thousand percent more interesting to me than floating dew drops. Because I just DIDN'T understand it one bit and that unsettled me. It truly did. I have so many questions about this blob incident and I mean that as a compliment. What a fearless, bizarre choice the writers made here. Ugh, so good.
Anyway. So yeah. R.I.P. the crystals. LONG LIVE CRYSTAL SKULL.
Only seconds after the crystal skull hardened from its blob state, drama broke out between father and daughters:
Whoops! Blackwell finally crossed over into official villainy. 'Bout time!
Meanwhile Jake and Melissa were looking for Faye inside the boat:
And then Jake found her!
And then Jake's mouth found Faye's mouth!
And then Eben captured all three of them!
Meanwhile the Blackwell ladies woke up on the floor of the witch house. Did Blackwell carry them there? Probably. Him strong!
Awesomely enough, they were trapped in some kind of force-field:
At this point Blackwell began to come clean with them about his true intentions. It turned out he didn't give a dang about Eben or the witch hunters. He just used the THREAT of the witch hunters to mobilize the circle, just as he'd done with their parents' circle. And now that he had the crystal skull, he was going to use it for some particularly dastardly purposes: Specifically, murdering ALL non-Balcoin witches!
I don't know, you guys. That seemed like a pretty harsh thing to do, right? Oh, but this was the kicker, and arguably the biggest twist of the episode: Blackwell informed them there were FOUR more Balcoin children out there just waiting to form a circle with Cassie and Diana. So once the world was rid of non-Balcoin witches, these six would bind together and, I guess, take over the world? Who knows. But still. Four more Balcoins!
Meanwhile on the boat, the witch hunters had dressed our three heroes on black cloaks and kindly found a crate for Melissa to stand on.
I liked that Faye brought up the fact that Eben had sided with DEMONS in order to defeat witches. Eben got 'moded!
Anyway, he wasn't overcome with sudden and paralyzing regret or introspection. Instead he LIT THEM ON FIRE.
Fortunately Dawn and Charles were on the scene (because OH YEAH they'd been given their powers back by Charles' mom and it was a total NBD moment which was weird because of how much it had been built up that Dawn wanted her powers back and then when she actually DID get them back she was like, "Cool" and LOL, this show!). Still though, I got chills when Dawn took care of BIDNESS:
Not to be outdone, Charles did something amazing:
He overpowered Eben and stole his demons! It was a true redemption story: Charles saved the day AND possibly turned into an unstoppable force for evil. But mostly he saved the day, so credit where credit's due.
This made me laugh:
Aw, poor Charles! I THINK he was trying to drown himself, but who knows. Clearly that didn't work on Nick.
Meanwhile back at the witch house Blackwell was hookin' the skull up to the symbol he'd carved into the floor and the witch-pocalypse was under way!
It was a fairly disturbing scenario which only got more intense when Adam crawled into the room and Blackwell started kicking the ever-loving sh*t out of him. Cassie, meanwhile, had to THINK FAST:
And this THIS happened:
Haha AGAIN with this show's incredible stunt-work. Seriously, how nuts was this part? Anyway, it was clever: Diana's dark magic had been ACTIVATED.
Because she is a natural-born gangsta, Cassie immediately took charge:
But there wasn't quite enough juice, so it was lucky when another sister suddenly jumped into the fray:
And just liked that, Blackwell DIED! A great and exciting turn of events. SLIGHTLY hilarious since it involved three people staring at each other intensely while two of them held a crystal skull. I mean come on, imagine walking into the room and seeing that. "Whoops, I'll come back," you'd say.
So then the gang met up at Cassie's (good luck with that mortgage, girl!) and talked about (A) what to do with the crystal skull and (B) whether they should re-bind the circle or not. I loved how quickly the second issue was resolved: NOPE. Thank goodness. The binding of the circle was arguably Season 1's most fatal flaw, so this scene felt like a long overdue acknowledgment of such. As for who'd "dispose" of the skull (because they COULDN'T have a group hammer party?), the group nominated Adam to do the honors. Which was excellent.
Even though they felt it best not to re-bind the circle, obviously they'd all remain witch friends. All of them, of course, except for one of them:
Diana was more dead-set than ever that this town was not for her. Cassie made a fairly heartfelt plea that Diana was all Cassie had left, family-wise. Diana was not swayed and before we knew it she was packed and waiting for Grant at the coffee house. Because haha why the coffee house? Nevermind.
Oh and there was a charming lil' scene between Jake and Faye, who over the past two episodes had evolved into the best and most important romantic relationship. Admirably enough, there were no huge romantic gestures. Just a well-timed kiss on the boat and the two of them acknowledging that they like-liked each other.
Even more impressively, Faye begged off hanging out with Jake in order to spend some quality time with her original bestie.
I loved this moment. Faye used magic for fun. She and Melissa re-established their friendship. They danced to a Silversun Pickups song. It just felt right.
Unfortunately there was the matter of setting up Season 2. It began with an unsolicited package left for Jake by a certain crazy grandfather.
Oh and guess who didn't drown!
And this was as obvious as it was exciting:
Adam seemed to be developing a pretty serious crush on that crystal skull!
Meanwhile Diana and Cassie discovered that they'd received parting gifts from their dead daddy:
Cassie made that fireplace GO!
And then, the final shot:
BOOM. The other four Balcoins! This moment was so Battlestar I squealed.
I loved this finale. It certainly wrapped up Season 1 nicely (save for the fact that Cassie never found out about Amelia's death), but as a series finale it also delivered. More than anything I'm elated to be able to remember these characters this way. Cassie and Adam's eyes ablaze with exhilarating darkness. Diana and Jake wary of the fight ahead. And especially Faye and Melissa dancing on into the night. Perfect. I'm really going to miss these kids.
On a personal note, The Secret Circle has been a pretty important part of my life these last nine months. Photo recaps can take a lot out of me (particularly when they're back-to-back with another show), but these have never once felt like a chore. From the way this show's soundtrack has infiltrated my playlists, to the truly delightful interviews I've done with the cast, to the incredible parade of awesome commenters, to the sheer amount of daydreams this show has inspired in me, I'm absolutely grateful to have had The Secret Circle in my life. Phoebe Tonkin, Chris Zylka, Jessica Parker Kennedy, Shelley Hennig, Britt Robertson, Gale Harold, Natasha Henstridge, Thomas Dekker, and especially Executive Producer Andrew Miller: Thanks so much for this weird, fun, special show.
MAKE MORE THINGS!
... What's hottest: Evil Adam, HBIC Dawn, or literal fire?
... Judging from the backs of their heads, which new Balcoin would've been the sexiest?
... When was the first time you realized you loved this show?
... Clip clop.