Well, we were bound to hit a snag at some point. After a great start to the season, Pretty Little Liars stumbled on Tuesday with an episode that spent way too much time on the show’s weak points. I still have faith in the season at a whole, but we could have done without much of “That Girl Is Poison.”
If I’m going to start with the positives, it was great to see Jenna take control of her situation again. I loved the idea of a birthday party where everything came to a head. But that didn’t really happen—and that’s about all that worked for me. Everything else, from the awkward reintroduction of characters to the Katy Perry product placement, was more annoying than entertaining.
I’m not really sure where it all went wrong, but this episode took a whole lot of missteps at once. The character of Paige is a real problem; in “That Girl Is Poison,” she came off as clingy and unpleasant. Yes, she was drugged when she freaked out at Emily, but we don’t know this girl enough to care when she’s being so obnoxious. Paige comes and goes as the plot requires—that’s the downside of having such an expansive cast of characters—but Pretty Little Liars can’t suddenly ask us to give a crap about her, or to believe that Emily does.
Nate isn’t quite as bad, but again, here’s a character we met briefly who is now popping up again because the story needs him to. I get that this is how PLL; we’ve got an ever-shifting roster of suspects and frenemies. Maybe this episode was just particularly overstuffed, and that exposed its faults more. Like, “That Girl Is Poison” was bursting at the seams, and oof, those seams weren’t pretty.
What about Ted, the love interest who was foisted on Ashley? In any other episode, that probably wouldn’t have bothered me. It’s not as though PLL is a subtle show. But when there was already so much going on, and so little of it was working, I couldn’t believe we were getting another stilted introduction. Sure, Ted’s a silver fox, but I think we could have held off on him for a while. We’ve got enough relationship drama to go around.
Speaking of, the romantic side of things this week was a mess, and I’m not just referring to Emily and Paige’s weird renewed courtship. Spencer and Toby had one scene together this week, and all it did was remind everyone how little they have in common. What happened to the chemistry? Plus, if they’re still holding off on sex, Toby’s shirtless physique is no longer as meaningful as it once was. While I understand that Toby is trying to keep his distance from Jenna, it was weird to have him so off to the side. Is he really just going to show up when Spencer needs someone to make out with?
Even my go-to couple, Aria and Ezra, were a waste of time this week. I think the age difference and the fact that they met when Ezra was Aria’s teacher are enough impediments to this relationship: All the conflict that’s being introduced now feels fake. Suddenly Aria is worried about how much money Ezra is spending? Why? This is a real-life adult relationship problem, sure, but it’s not something PLL needs to focus on, especially when there’s so much else going on. Besides, Ezra got another job and suddenly has money again... so that plotline was entirely pointless, instead of just being a little odd.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. After a week on hiatus, “That Girl Is Poison” was just frustrating. The only part of the story that felt relevant was Lucas and his camera bag—did he take the photos of the girls at Alison’s grave, and do those pills mean that he drugged Emily? It sure looks like it, and I’m enjoying watching this once-stable guy go off the deep end. But that was all a footnote to the rest of the episode. Develop Lucas’s negatives, then we’ll talk.
1. Should Paige and Emily get back together, or is Paige dead weight?
2. Why is Jenna trying to seduce Nate?
3. When will Wilden pin the grave tampering on one of the liars?