The elephant graveyard of failed TV series is littered with shows that attempted last-minute makeovers before ultimate cancellation. Whether through recasting lead roles, changing locations, killing characters, or just simply altering the basic tone, a good show can be made terrible just as often as a decent show can be made amazing. Although I've enjoyed and admired much of The Secret Circle to this point, it certainly hasn't been without some glaring faults, and it's been exciting to watch this baby show find its legs and finally scamper across the room to jump up and attach itself to someone's neck. Thursday's episode, "Wake," attempted some shake-ups that many other new shows would've been too cowardly to even consider, especially if they were performing as reliably in the ratings as this one has. Kill off a main character? Check. Introduce a new one? Check. Dramatically expand the universe via four or five lines of tossed-off dialogue? Check. Introduce an even deadlier villain? Check, check, so many checks!
What I'm trying to say is, "Wake" was more about set-ups and introductions than it was about action-packed storytelling, but it did all those things so well that I'm even more excited about where things are headed than before. Plus: Chris Zylka, am I right, ladies? Ugh, photocapping this show is going to be SUCH a chore.
Two nights after Nick's death Cassie was asleep in her very cozy witch bed (which is like a normal bed except a witch sleeps in it.)
But then SOMETHING roused her from her slumber! It was loud and sounded like burning!
It was just a typical backyard inferno and a strange dude staring into it. No big deal really. Back to sleep, Cassie!
The next morning Jane was baking up a storm in the kitchen. Dang, more people should drown, those looked delicious! I'm super glad Jane's in the know about Cassie's circle now, because now she can impart useful information over the kitchen island every morning. (Much like how most episodes of TVD start off with Damon and Stefan talking on the phone to each other.)
The gist was that the fella next door is Nick's older, trouble-making brother Jake, who'd skipped town after everyone got tired of his 'tude. Oh, and he's technically a part of the circle whether he likes it or not, so the circle was not broken by Nick's death (your promos were LYING, The CW!). Also Jane casually mentioned that Cassie is the born leader of her circle. So, some important info! As Cassie listened, it was all she could do to not run out of the room, but she did her best.
After Cassie showed up at the boat house where Adam and Diana continued to talk about what bad news Jake was, and he suddenly walked in! Faye was mortified because they had "a past."
Meet "guest star" Chris Zylka, everybody! Why so coy, The Secret Circle? This is a new main character, isn't it? Don't spill potion on my shoe and tell me it's raining! Anyway, this legendary "bad boy" Jake was actually just a normal dude of few words who instantly had more charisma than his brother. Now I'm not turning this piece into an anti-Nick thing, but I think it's cool to talk about why Jake is such an improvement. First of all, look at him. Sorry if this sounds weird, but he's one of these people who looks almost bizarre he's so handsome. Also you'd think he'd just continue the grand tradition of handsome blonde douchebag but instead he comes across as sort of soulful? I don't know, I just think he's good okay? And here's another good thing about him: He seems to be the first cast member taller than 5'7"?
Haha just kidding, I know the other actors are taller than that. Faye's like 7'4" right? I don't know, I'm just saying it's nice to have a male presence who's effortlessly imposing. Adam is appealing and interesting in his own way, but would you trust him to change your tire?
So anyway, Adam HATED Jake. It had something to do with Jake having robbed The Boat House? Oh I'm sure that incident had NOTHING to do with Adam's alcoholic dad making a bad decision, but whatever. Adam definitely had it out for the guy, especially whenever he so much as looked at Cassie, which Diana picked up on immediately.
Anyway, later in a truly laugh-out-loud moment, Faye urged Melissa to get over Nick's death and move on, and to stop lying on the floor listening to sad music all the time.
To which Melissa replied, "It's been TWO days" before storming off. So good! Again, I don't want to turn this piece into a compare and contrast against Vampire Diaries, but I will if I'm trying to pay a compliment: Did this feel like a dig at TVD to anyone else? The Secret Circle is basically saying, "Death is real. Our characters actually mourn things." And because it has only a fraction of the characters TVD does, it actually has the time to give us these these smaller emotional moments. For a newborn baby show, I think it's doing emotional inner lives pretty well so far. Credit where credit's due!
Elsewhere Jane was having a rare coffee meeting with fellow BAMF Dawn. Jane just basically came right out and said that Nick was possessed by a demon and his death wasn't accidental.
And Dawn just straight up got a knife out like some kind of Kill Bill-style knife fight was about to happen!
It ended up being more of a friendly conversation in which Jane "informed" Dawn that their kids had bound the circle and would Dawn please keep an eye on them? It was interesting when Dawn nonchalantly asked if Jane intended to "inform the elders" and have their powers stripped, but Jane was basically like, "No, then they'd be vulnerable." Ooooh, I bet Dawn was PISSED.
Back at the clubhouse, Cassie attempted to convince the rest of the circle that they need to recruit Jake in order to make magic. It was interesting how the only person who had Cassie's back was DIANA (have I mentioned how much I like Diana?) because Adam and Faye both despised Jake and Melissa seemed offended that someone could just up and replace Nick. Obviously this was the show's big meta moment because, Duh. Yes someone can be replaced. And yes, it does seem crass, but you do what you need to do, you know? Anyway, that conversation was interrupted when someone set fire to the front yard!
The fire was in the shape of a crescent moon, much like the one Jake had "extinguished" in his own back yard. As Jane informed Cassie, the symbol represents "conquest" and is typically used before a witch is driven from his or her home. So, uh-oh. Enemies had arrived.
In one of the more awkward reunions imaginable, Faye put on a sexy outfit and confronted Jake down at the docks. They flirted, she insulted him and then immediately expressed sorrow for his deceased brother. Just a perfect Faye moment, basically.
I realize I talk about Faye all the dang time, but it's possibly because she's one of the best characters on television. Obviously she's got presence and gets many of the show's funniest lines. But I think what I'm responding to is an inherent cluelessness, as though she's a robot who is struggling to understand the emotional lives of human beings. The girl just whiplashes between insults and earnestness, and her better traits make it so easy to overlook her monstrous ones. She doesn't seem like she's the greatest friend except when she's the GREATEST friend. I feel like I've known a bunch of Fayes in my life, so this character just rings true.
Okay, this is NOT a nice thing to point out but it made me laugh so much. Because Faye and Jake were talking so close to each others' faces, did it look like they were sort of cross-eyed?
I promise you, these actors are not cross-eyed, but it made me laugh to think that this is just a thing that happens when two ridiculously attractive people look at each other for too long. Your eyes just go crossed and there's nothing you can do about it!
Cassie got attacked again:
Luckily Jake was nearby and he saved Cassie from certain slashing! Now don't get me wrong, I love horror and the fact that this show will have a constant revolving slate of villains who will be attacking the kids at any given time. I just hope it doesn't feel like a procedural, you know? Who will be attacking them this week? Maybe switch it up with a slimy monster or something? A hammerhead shark on legs?
Jane didn't seem super comfortable with Cassie hanging out with Jake so much. I should probably mention that you shouldn't let these dreamy screengrabs fool you, this show wants us to think Jake is a possible villain. Keep it in mind, regardless of how heroic he looks in these pictures. And he DOES look so heroic right? "Did you ever know that you're my hero, [Jake]?" - Betsy Midler
The next day Adam screeeeched his Jeep to a sudden halt.
Yeah. Adam was definitely losing it.
In a pretty moving scene (that I nevertheless feel the need to make fun of), Melissa let herself into Nick's house and said goodbye in her own way.
I love me some full-faced sobbing, so props to Jessica Parker Kennedy (who is amazing, have I mentioned that? Ugh, these girls.) for going full-sob on this one. This was a nice way to remember Nick, especially if you DIDN'T remember Nick. He was mostly a jerk to her! Sorry, but she's better off.
In a fairly huge moment, Jane gave her power crystal to Cassie, which will now allow her to use magic outside of the circle. But everyone knows its biggest strength will be as a MacGuffin that villains will attempt to steal. Good luck, Cassie! (Do her jean skirts have pockets?)
Meanwhile at a seedy hotel, shock of all shocks...
Jake KNEW the intruder! Except, no, wait, he still hates her:
He basically broke in and stole back the blood sample the girl had taken from Cassie. They argued about something involving "my people" and "true believers." I don't know, you guys. Cryptic stuff. I think we were SUPPOSED to believe they were in an another, evil circle of witches (which, AWESOME, there are other circles??) but this was looking like something else.
That night at Nick's wake (cool child modeling shots!) everyone did their best to remember Nick by abusing every substance in sight.
How charming was it when Adam picked a fight with Jake completely out of NOWHERE? Also unprovoked? And at his brother's WAKE?
Tht was some OC stuff right there! It should go without saying that only Adam ended up getting punched. Oh, Adam.
Meanwhile, saint that she is, Diana decided to bring some black coffee to Adam's drunken dad.
He thanked her by telling her that Adam is destined to be with Cassie, no big deal.
Acting. Just some straight-up acting, you guys. Diana barely even said anything but you knew exactly what was on her mind. Quick question: Where did Shelley Hennig even come from? Was she born like normal people or did she just appear one day? I kind of miss how her character from the pilot was more Tracy Flick-ish, but I still like Diana a lot. Poor lady!
Faye was out on the porch railing just doing her thing. I probably don't even have to say this, but she said something mean to Melissa, then said something super heartfelt, and then they hugged.
Things were not as happy-go-lucky between Jake and that goth intruder:
Luckily Cassie had followed him and hung back in the shadows using her power crystal to knock the knife from the girl's hand.
Somehow she ended up getting stabbed in the heart. It happens!
In another perfectly pleasant scene for these characters, Cassie and Jake had a heart to heart on his front porch.
They both talked about what loners they were in life, basically.
There was more to it than that, including Cassie having to lie about using the crystal (smart girl!) but more than anything there was an easy chemistry between the two of them.
Cassie is NOT a smiler, but we could tell she was pretty thrilled Jake would be sticking around a little longer. It's actually not always easy to tell what's going on with Cassie... She basically just PUTS UP WITH things that happen around her, so who knows if she likes the dude (or the rest of the circle for that matter). But that's probably why Cassie works, she's just so low-key and cool about everything. Don't we all wish we were that way in high school?
Meanwhile: THIS scared me.
It was Diana and she came over to DUMP Adam!
She actually made some good points about how SHE deserves to have a soul mate written in the stars also. As a viewer though, this was a great way to destabilize the character dynamics. I'm not sold at all on a Cassie-Adam hookup, but everyone's definitely more interesting now that they're all free agents.
I actually found it pretty poignant when Diana turned to Cassie for friendship.
I don't know, Diana's just so sad, and Cassie's just so chill. They seem like they really could become besties, as Cassie had earlier mentioned they were.
Oh, but were you hungry for an excellent cliffhanger reveal? You were in luck!
Not only was Jake a witch, he was also a WITCH HUNTER. So basically he'd killed his co-worker in order to keep this status a secret from Cassie. In the very last moment he basically said his goal is to rid Chance Harbor of witches in order to avenge his dead family. Don't think about the statement too long, it's kind of brain-bending because WHAT? Anyway, witch hunting seems kind of harsh. It's not like they're vampires or werewolves who feast upon humans. These witches just seem like super chill liberal teens who hang out and make water droplets float. What kind of monsters would want to murder them?
ALSO, his BOSSMAN! He plays a WEREWOLF HUNTER on Teen Wolf! I love Teen Wolf, I just try not to say it too often in mixed company, but I do, I like it. It does music and visuals better than most other shows. In fact, for a while my dream show would've been a crossover of the girls from Secret Circle and the fellas from Teen Wolf. Just imagine it! But you know something, this Jake character is shaping up to be just as good as I'd hoped. I'm excited about where things are headed. Are you?
... After how many episodes will Jake be redeemed into a full-on hero? One episode? Two episodes?
... Can Charles get any sadder? Get it together, guy!
... Which characters are you shipping hardest now?
... Chris Zylka, am I right, ladies?