Both Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game offered up some shockers last night—well, depending on how good you are at predicting things. While The Lying Game ended with a bigger “gamechanger,” it dragged a bit on its way to the big moment. (Incidentally, I wish ABC Family hadn’t ruined it in their promos.) Pretty Little Liars was more solid throughout: There were several compelling storylines to latch onto.
I’ll break Pretty Little Liars down into its separate plots, because there really was a lot happening on Truth Up Day. (Terrible name, but I thought some of the scenes in which students talked about the school being an unwelcoming environment were quite effective.) First, we had Hanna, Kate, and the topless photo: I’ll be honest, I never suspected Kate sent that herself. What a twisted conclusion to an already creepy plot. I’m glad Hanna was vindicated, but I hope Kate sticks around. Couldn’t “A” use another helper in her war against the girls? Also, I just love that Kate was exposed by Photoshopping her birthmark. Her fatal flaw was vanity!
Then we had the unlikely team-up of Emily and Mona working to get Em reinstated on the swim team. I thought the characterization of Vice Principal Tamberelli as a vindictive, bribe-taking authority figure was a little absurd, but hey, this is Rosewood. And of course that made his takedown all the more satisfying—I didn’t care about Emily getting back on the team so much as I wanted to see Tamberelli foiled. Mona’s involvement seemed strange: Is she really helping a friend out of the kindness of her heart? Either Noel dumping her had a lasting positive effect, or she’s got her own agenda.
What I liked about both storylines was the way they forced Hanna and Emily to confront their “mean girl” reputations. These girls have never really been bad—yeah, they’re “liars,” but what have they actually done? I loved Hanna confronting Ella with, “Am I a bully?” I even appreciated Tamberelli telling Emily, “You’re no saint. ... Maybe it’s time you take a look at what got you to this point.” Again, I don’t really feel as though these girls are culpable, but we need to get a sense of how Rosewood as a whole views them. Is it all that surprising that no one is really on their side?
There's not much to say about Aria and Holden, but I feel like my “fight club” prediction is right on the money. Anyone have doubts about this? What else could he be hiding?
Spencer’s storyline gave us the biggest revelation—though it’s something many of you had called already. Spencer’s dad is Jason’s dad, too. I loved Ali’s “subtle” hint in the flashback, re: a Melissa/Jason romance: “It would be a match frowned upon by the gods.” And Spencer’s outrage was great, particularly in the face of her mom’s weirdly calm explanation. We’ve needed more information on Mr. Hastings’ dark past for a while, and an illegitimate child is a step in the right direction.
It’s a credit to Pretty Little Liars that I haven’t even touched on Ali’s secret identity as Vivian Darkbloom. There’s obviously a lot more to that story, and I’m sure we’ll learn more in the coming weeks, but I was too captivated by the girls’ separate plotlines to worry too much about the central mystery. Then again, “A” usually finds a way to get him- or herself involved in everyone’s drama. Until next week, I’ve got plenty of questions to mull over:
– How does Jason’s paternity factor into Ali’s murder?
– When is Mona’s blackmail of the vice principal going to bite someone in the ass?
– Are the parents of Rosewood finally catching on? My only answer to that one is, "it’s about damn time."
While we’re on the subject of questionable paternity, let’s talk about The Lying Game. The series has been working for me in past weeks, and I’m still into it, but the first half of the season did not endear itself to me the way Pretty Little Liars did from the get-go. The Lying Game still has to earn my devotion, and Monday's episode wasn’t exactly what I needed it to be. (I wasn’t the only one bored to death by Ethan’s family drama, right? Fewer horses, please.)
Don’t get me wrong, there were parts of the episode that did work. I hope I don’t sound too cold when I say the repercussions of Derek’s murder are great for the series. Emma has had an easy time being Sutton for a while now, but as I said last week, the real Sutton’s return undermined her credibility. And now we have something as serious as a homicide to put her life under the microscope. How long can “Sutton” pretend to have been at the scene of the crime? It seems as though she’s only making things worse for Ethan with her very inconsistent version of events.
And while I’ve never had much fondness for Dan as a character, I’m glad he’s being forced to make some real choices and not just act as Alec’s lackey. Sending Ethan off was a bold move, which could have severe consequences for his career. Placing Alec and Dan at odds—or at least making Alec suspicious of Dan’s motivation—could also force Alec to reveal more of his dark side. Maybe he does believe Ethan is innocent, but the real reason for Derek’s murder must have something to do with the Emma/Sutton situation, and that’s not anything Alec wants uncovered.
But here's what's not working for me: Everything involving Laurel. I want to like her. I think her relationship with Sutton (well, Emma-as-Sutton) is actually pretty sweet. But this whole band subplot is a useless distraction. It doesn’t feel necessary to the show, and worse, it reeks of a cheap marketing gimmick. Wouldn’t you know it? You can buy an album with the music you heard on the show! That would be okay if this were Glee or Smash or, you know, any series where the music was key. But there is enough happening on The Lying Game without Laurel’s burgeoning music career.
See also: Justin. Unless he’s going to continue his revenge plot against Ted, I don’t see what he’s doing here. And I’m thinking he’s starting to realize that, too. If we can integrate Laurel and her boo into the main story more, I wouldn’t mind keeping both of them around. Right now, though, they kind of feel like dead weight.
Obviously The Lying Game’s final scene was a doozy: It didn’t make up for a hit-or-miss episode, but it was definitely a great moment. So, Mads now knows that “Sutton” is really Emma—where do we go from here? What really intrigues me is that this wasn’t a calculated move on Emma’s part. She blurted out her confession in a panic because she couldn’t handle being held accountable for Sutton’s crappy behavior. Even if Mads is cool with it (and personally I’d be pretty pissed), there will be consequences. How long can Alec stay in the dark when both of his kids know the truth about the twin swap?
One final thought: Alec telling Ted, “The closer I get to [Rebecca], the safer your secret is.” Rebecca and Ted are totally the biological parents of Sutton and Emma, right? That’s the secret that makes the most sense to me, but feel free to throw in your own speculation in the comments. And let’s find Laurel a better storyline, yeah?