Originally published June 18, 2011 on Intersections.
It’s back! It’s back! Just as your internship/job/class/daze ceases to be exciting and lapses into the unbearable, here comes Pretty Little Liars to save your summer. As far as television goes, it’s the perfect summer confection of high drama, unintentional hilarity and pretty people to while the hours away.
Recently, in trying to figure out why I love this show so much, I had a conversation with a friend about teen shows like The O.C., Gossip Girl, Skins, Gilmore Girls etc, and why they appeal to teenage minds the way they do. The conclusion we reached was thus: glossy high school dramas aren’t about escapism, they’re about familiarity. As we grow up and start living in the world instead of in the safe confines of our playrooms at home, we look for cues from TV and the media as to how to live, what we should expect, how others will regard us and how we should respond. The O.C. and its brethren enraptured us because we could so easily allow ourselves to step only just outside of the day-to-day droll of our own lives and imagine a better life, a glamorous one with boys and clothes, one in which we were as skinny as we wanted to be and our words flowed easily with scripted wit–essentially, teen shows lull us into the cautiously crafted delusion that a more interesting life is only just beyond our reach.
In the case of Pretty Little Liars, however, I think it goes beyond some hidden hope I must harbor that someday, I too will have eyes as large as Aria’s, hair as great as Emily’s and a shaggy-haired, homeless lover as devoted as Hanna’s. Pretty Little Liars is an exercise in controlled absurdity. You can’t help but imagine in the back of your mind that this must be happening in some small town somewhere in middle America.
The season premiere, which picks up right where last season’s finale left off, was actually one of the more realistic episodes this show has had. Nobody got hit by a car in the parking lot of an outdoor glamping birthday party, nobody hid thousands of dollars in spaghetti boxes in their pantry, nobody was almost drowned by a closeted lesbian who later took her out on a date to a country western bar where they sang Pink. Just four best friends, the disappearance of the dead body of the man who may have been trying to kill them and the perils of unlimited text messaging. Read about all the lunacy after the jump:
Previously, on Pretty Little Liars…Ian has been spying on the Liars since they were kids, climbin’ in their windows, snatchin’ their people up, filmin’ their sleepovers; creepy Jenna, the blind girl who looks like a 45-year-old woman, was sleeping with Toby, who is kind of her brother but I guess not really, and also mackin’ on Garrett, the cute new cop; Aria’s torrid love affair with her English teacher is being threatened by the arrival of his ex-fiance; Hanna swipes her v-card with Werewolf Caleb, who was actually working for blind woman Jenna, but Werewolf Caleb fell in love with Hanna and confessed his feelings in a letter (“u + me = ruv”, signed with his paw print) that he gave to Mona, the most untrustworthy person in all of Rosewood, apparently, because she rips the letter up and throws it away; Emily is moving to Texas; Toby and Spencer are mackin’; Ian and Spencer have a VERY SCARY CONFRONTATION in a church tower in which someone saves Spencer by throwing Ian over the railing where he gets caught in the ropes and DIES DIES DIES except then his body is GONE GONE GONE when the cops get there; “Run while you still can, bitches. -A”; I AM SO EXCITED.
We open on the church where shit went down. The Liars are puzzling over what could’ve happened to Ian’s dead, dead body. Spencer: “He is dead. Not was, is.” Hanna: “He’s probably stuffed in the trunk of someone’s car.” Sweet, scared little Emily who saw Saw IV last night: “Or on his way to a meat grinder!”
Cop Garrett takes the Liars in his police car back to the station, but takes a slight detour into a dark alleyway. Protip: if Psafe ever tries this, take A’s advice and RUN. Turns out Cop Garrett just wants the Liars to do what they do best and Lie to the police. They agree to keep the videos a secret, the videos which they made “a copy” of. As in, singular, as in they only made one copy of the only evidence they have. SMH, Liars. And I am reminded to back up my iTunes library.
As they get back in the car unharmed and Cop Garrett drives them back to the station, Jenna appears with her blind-person cane, conveniently sitting just outside the random alleyway.
- I have been convinced since day 1 that this bitch isn’t actually blind.
The Liars have a sleepover at Spencer’s house in which they continue to puzzle over A. After an entire season, they deduce that Jenna is not A, because “A sees everything” and obvi blind people can’t see. “I feel like I have a hangover and I never went to the party,” snarks Hanna. [Me: What? What does that mean?] They go downstairs, where their parents have been having a conference. Presumably, they, too had a sleepover in the Hastings’ kitchen. Spencer’s mother looks EXACTLY like Detective Benson from Law and Order: SVU.
- L: Det. Olivia Benson, who investigates vicious felonies as a member of an elite squad known as the Special Victims Unit. R: Spencer’s mom, who I think is a lawyer or something.
In my mind I’ve already got this convoluted backstory in which Benson had to go into witness protection, so she relocated to Rosewood, PA under the name Veronica Hastings, somehow magicked herself a lawyering degree and sends unsigned Christmas cards to Elliot’s house every other year, but Benson would’ve figured out that her daughters were being stalked by a creeper with black gloves and a smartphone by now.
The adults want them to go see a grief therapist. “I’m not going to a shrink,” Hanna snarks. “That’s what friends are for.” Prescient words. The adults are worried about how it looks, Spencer’s mother doesn’t believe her, angst angst and then Vampire Toby appears at the door.
- The nose kind of ruins him, IMO.
Spencer’s father body-blocks the vamp from entering his home. Silly Mr. Hastings, vampires have to be invited in, everyone knows that. Spencer huffs upstairs; like good little sheep, the other Liars follow.