Twisted Series Premiere Review: You Can't Go Home Again

By Andy Daglas

Jun 12, 2013

Twisted S01E01 "Pilot"

If they can be counted on for little else in this day and age, TV networks remain reliable in at least one way: Give them a hit show and they’ll fall all over themselves trying to remake it as many times as they can. So when something like Pretty Little Liars comes along and carves out a niche on ABC Family, the powers-that-be set their sights on soapy mysteries chock-full of secrets and deception and telegenic murder-teens.

Twisted is the network's latest attempt to fill out a full-fledged Murder-teen Mystery Theater lineup. Avan Jogia plays Danny Desai, who at the tender age of ten throttled his aunt with a jump rope for reasons he won’t divulge. The series picks up with now-15-year-old Danny leaving juvenile detention and returning to his hometown—against basically everyone’s wishes, including his own. Everybody in both the town and his high school is convinced that Danny’s a cold-blooded killer, including estranged childhood friends Jo (Madelaine Hasson), a buttoned-down outsider, and Lacey (Kylie Bunbury), queen bee of a quasi-mean-girl clique. The brutal murder of a popular classmate on the day of Danny’s return to town only intensifies suspicions and reopens old wounds.

The most effective aspect at the outset was the dynamic among the central trio of Jo, Lacey, and Danny. The script by creator Adam Milch (late of the Greek writers room) showed the most confidence when handling their shifting balances of trust, camaraderie, and repulsion. That a source of tension among the three is their faith in the sanity or lethality of one of them, one who poisoned all their childhoods and now may have murdered another friend, is a doozy of a wrinkle. And of course they’re roiled by typical teen drama fare, like sexual tension and disparities in the social pecking order, as well. The three leads are sincere enough to make it work, selling the awkwardness of a shared but distant history without tipping into melodrama.

The rest of the pilot parceled out backstory and set the primary mysteries into motion with a tone more ominous and broody than pulpy and unhinged. Despite its premise and explicit invocation of sociopathy, nothing’s immediately present in Twisted’s DNA to suggest it shares PLL’s penchant for gleeful absurdity.

Still, seeds of more distinctly soapy machinations were planted. Danny’s mom (Denise Richards) exhibited shades of a social-climbing schemer who may not be shy about using her feminine wiles. His dad had accrued gambling debts before “dying” in a yachting accident where no body was found, so the over-under on his inevitable shocking return is Episode 6. Dead Aunt Tara was a prominent author, a tidbit that’s only worth including if Danny’s secret motive tied into her celebrity or some adjacent scandal.

With both implicit and explicit nods to Hitchcock, Twisted seems to have ambitions of becoming more of a cerebral thriller than a YA spin on Dexter. I’m not sure it’s got the chops to match those convictions, but it’s intriguing so far, if only for the sheer curiosity of how dark the writers are willing to take things. The reveal at the end of the premiere certainly paints the show into a corner that will require some narrative gymnastics to get out of. If Twisted can preserve the promising relationship at its core while ramping up the plot momentum—rather than jumping through hoops to string out the mysteries for too long—it could grow into an entertaining summer watch.


– How close are we to Netflix establishing “TV Series With Plots Set Into Motion by the Murder of a Teenage Girl” as a category? There have to be enough of them by now, right?

– Speaking of the poor late Regina, it’s a little troubling that the only character to exhibit confident sexual agency was the girl who was sacrificed on the altar of inciting incident. Something about that rang a bit too ‘80s-slasher-flick for me.

 The pilot did a nice job of creating ambiguity about Danny’s nature, most effectively in the scene where he nipped a fistfight in the bud by whispering a (presumably) bone-chilling threat into the aggressor’s ear. Signaling genuine danger, or turning his rep to his advantage in order to avoid violence?

– One key element of primetime soapery still missing: a clear shit-stirring antagonist. The sheriff is too sympathetic, the background lunkheads too nondescript. That may be the role the writers have in mind for Lacey’s BMOC boyfriend Grey Damon, who will be playing a teenager well into his 30s at this rate.

– “They let you watch Glee in prison?” “It’s part of our punishment.”

– “Gotta tell my grandkids I did something stupid in high school, right?”

– “Didn’t you hear? I’m a bitch now.”

What'd you think of Twisted's premiere? Will you be back for Episode 2?

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  • LeahLefler Jun 18, 2013

    I really liked it.. when's it coming back?

  • bleumystique Jun 15, 2013

    You win, for the most polite, verbose, intellectual way of calling out a character's promiscuity. I love it. Kudos! ;)

    I don't watch PLL. The name alone made me cringe when I first heard of it, and it pretty much went downhill from there. It never struck me as something that would hold my interest. Still doesn't. I do watch The Lying Games, however. All that being said, I thoroughly enjoyed this pilot. I really did. I can tell already that this will be one of my new summer guilty pleasures, as in no way in hell I'll confess to actually watching it face to face with someone, but I'll watch faithfully.
    - I thought this was a surprisingly strong pilot, given the nature of the show, the general audience it's directed at, etc. I think the strength of this show will definitely lie in the three main characters. I find them all fascinating in their own right, and they have an unmistakable chemistry that cannot be forged or faked. It simmers in every scene. I love that, and that is the type of thing that can sell me on a show. You can feel that all the leads have a nice rapport and that they are invested in their characters and their characters' history and background. So every scene with two or three of them together was captivating in it's own special way.
    -Danny Desai, well Avan Jogia is easy on the eyes. That goes without saying, but obviously I couldn't not address the obvious. He's so prettiful. Thankfully I'm not reduced to watching this show just because I want to stare at him and his gorgeous flowing raven locks and bedroom eyes.
    - Mrs.Desai really did rub me the wrong way. She's the kind of parent that makes you wonder what her motives are because they are never pure. You can tell she uses her son's situation to garner all the attention, any attention she wants. She uses her sexuality to get what she wants. She clearly wants to social climb, and is willing to allow her son to be uncomfortable in order to do that. Plus, I know not one single mother of a young teenage boy who doesn't freak out a little bit if some girl comes tiptoeing down the stairs from her son's roo with wrinkled clothes, and shoes in hand like she's doing the classic walk of shame. Not one.
    -I didn't care for the Regina being killed so soon thing either.It was predictable on so many levels, but it is what it is. I know teenage girls being victims of murder. I guess it's because killing children can easily go too far, and no one sympathizes for teen boys like they do teen girls. Anyone older than that and it never carries the same impact that writers need. And thus we have teen girl victims all the time.
    -Grey Damon is most likely the antagonist. Or one of them. I wasn't a huge fan of that casting. Be it The Secret Circle or 9 Lives of Chloe King, there is something irritating about him being cast as teenagers. He just really doesn't look the part enough for me, because he's well into he's well into his thirties. It's annoying thing in general, that we have to accept, but some people can pull it off better than others. But yeah, antagonist. I think someone more antagonistic will sprout up soon enough.
    -I too, love the ambiguous nature of Danny's character. Just when you feel confident in your belief that he isn't in fact a heartless killer, he does just enough of something that gives you a bit of pause. Not everyone captures the whole sociopathic thing just right, so it'll be interesting to see how they choose to explore it on here. His connections with both Jo and Lacey are what easily sways me into believing that he isn't sociopathic. He appears to care too much for them both, and it really seems genuine, rather than mimicking. But I also know that, that doesn't necessarily rule anything out.
    -I doubt that Danny's father is really dead. I look forward to seeing if anything more comes from that. Also, I love Jo's friend. Classic lovable sidekick. I hated that the sheriff came to take him into custody in front of the whole school...seriously, hate it when they show stuff like that. I also was a bit annoyed that not enough of the kids seem genuinely threatened by Danny. I mean they were teasing and making fun of him to such a degree that it was almost unrealistic that they would be so relentless with it and not fear him.
    -I think Danny's aunt maybe was abusing him or others. Maybe he felt he was protecting people. I think, maybe Regina was a victim of his Aunt, which is how she ended up with the necklace.

  • ktfahel Jun 14, 2013

    "exhibit confident sexual agency"...what a nice way to say "slut".

    Although not exactly in the demographic, I thoroughly enjoyed the show. I'm definitely filing this under "guilty pleasure".

  • bkyle2429 Jun 13, 2013

    the Pilot was very good, until they killed Regina, IMO a bad move for many many reasons !!!

  • sage1000 Jun 13, 2013

    First episode was really meh, nothing special about but since its summer and there is a decidedly lack of good series I'll give it a couple of more episodes to see if it picks up.

  • stanking Jun 13, 2013

    Wow. Saw Avan Jogia and could swear it's a younger Jesse Bradford. As for the big bad antagonist, I vote for Denise Richards. Her eyes and smile just ain't right.

  • MissRight Jun 13, 2013

    Loved that quote from Jo. The dumbest things I have done were strictly for the story or to act more like a "normal" young person. I've been intrigued by this show since it aired months ago, hopefully it can deliver.

  • Anonymous_A Jun 13, 2013

    Didn't they air this pilot a few months ago after PLL's season 3 finale? Anyways, this was an interesting ep and I'm definitely gonna keep continuing to watch this.

  • starinthem Jun 13, 2013

    Yes, it did air after the PLL finale

  • bkyle2429 Jun 13, 2013

    not in my area!!!

  • sasou82 Jun 12, 2013

    If for no other reason I will continue to watch this show just to spend an hour look at Avan Jogia... that boy is sexy!

  • Veronikamdov Jun 12, 2013

    Wow..I had no idea what to expect but damn I did enjoy it.. I really like to know who Danny is and if he´s just playing with people around or not (it would be interesting if he is)

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