Pretty Little Liars: Damn the Lies, Full Speed Ahead

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Pretty Little Liars S03E04: "Birds of a Feather"

It’s official: Pretty Little Liars has never moved at a faster pace. How refreshing after two seasons of dragging our feet to see this show really pick up and deliver answers every week. It’s hard to say whether we’re moving forward to a satisfying conclusion—this is still Pretty Little Liars, so that’s hard to imagine—but at this point, it’s clear we’re at least going full speed ahead.

This week’s big reveals: the identity of the Black Swan, and how long Melissa had been hiding her miscarriage. Once again, I found myself surprised we got answers so fast. Pretty Little Liars must be working with an even more intricate mystery this season—otherwise, how could it justify showing its cards so early on? This is definitely a point in the show's favor: It's less frustrating to watch, but we also get the sense that it’s building to something more. And the stakes feel higher than ever; this new “A” nearly ran Caleb’s mom off the road.

We’re still getting character moments, too, from the lighthearted storyline of Aria trying to set her mom up on a date to the heavier plot of Hanna and Caleb calling it quits. (At least for now. I think it’s safe to assume these two won’t be parted for long.) Sometimes it’s hard to remember the day-to-day life the girls experience when there are such overarching conspiracies at hand, but both are important: I like that the show is consistently giving us big mystery reveals and grounded emotional scenes. Despite all of Pretty Little Liars’ rampant absurdity, Rosewood finally feels real.

If I’m allowed one complaint about this week’s episode, it would be the introduction of the character Nate. I’m just not a fan of the hamfisted “relative of a departed character trope” that TV series sometimes throw at us. It’s a cheap way to stir up emotions for the character we lost, and to shove a new character into the series without really having to earn it. So far, Nate’s defining trait is that he’s related to Maya; now that she’s dead, he’s one of the few connections remaining. But nothing he said or did felt attached to the rest of the episode. If he’s going to stick around, the writers need to give us more to work with.

But back to those aforementioned big reveals, because let’s face it, most of us tune in religiously for the gasp-worthy moments. After being confronted with an errant feather from her costume—and again, kudos to the girls (in this case Spencer) for taking way more of an initiative this season—Melissa copped to being the Black Swan at the masquerade ball. When pressed about the miscarriage, Melissa also admitted that she’d been faking her pregnancy since she lost the baby the day after Ian was found dead. I’m not sure I buy this: Just because Pretty Little Liars gives us answers doesn’t mean they have to be the right ones.

That’s actually something worth considering, as it seems like we’re getting more and more loose ends tied up, but how do we know we’re not being led further off track? There’s a lot more power in telling your own version of the truth than in deflecting—we take tearful confessions at face value and assume honesty, but all of this could just be a manipulation. Do we really believe Melissa? And along the same lines, none of these characters (outside of the core group) are all that reliable: We’ve gotten tips and explanations from Jenna, Lucas, and Mona, but if they’re all still working for “A,” that intel means nothing.

Worse than that, it means more dead ends. By the end of this season, I could be kicking myself for praising the show’s free-flowing information. If it’s all leading us in the wrong direction, what is it worth? Of course, Pretty Little Liars has then nearly impossible task of sustaining a mystery indefinitely—and if messing with us is what it takes to do that, I’m in. As long as I don’t feel stalled, and as long as the show consistently entertains, I’m willing to go along for the ride, no matter how unclear the final destination is.


QUESTIONS:

1. Do you believe Melissa’s story about the masquerade ball and the miscarriage?

2. Why is Detective Wilden asking about the Hastings’ lake house?

3. How long until Caleb and Hanna kiss and make up?

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