Pretty Little Liars Explodes... in a Good Way; The Lying Game Fizzles

Pretty Little Liars S02E23: "Eye of the Beholder"
The Lying Game S1E20: "Unholy Matrimony"

On Monday, Pretty Little Liars was explosive while The Lying Game fizzled out. Disappointing, given that the latter actually wrapped up its season. I’m pleased with the way Pretty Little Liars has upped the stakes and made Mondays enjoyable again, but I don’t think I’m alone in wishing The Lying Game had stepped it up. Aside from that final moment, it left me a little cold.

But first, let’s talk about Pretty Little Liars, which I mostly quite enjoyed. Like I said last week, it still feels like we’re saving up for the big finale, but we did get a literal fiery explosion, so I guess I can’t complain about the show taking things slowly. We also saw another side of the characters, which is always something I’m looking for in a series. I like it when submissive people develop backbones, or villains start to show compassion. In real life, people are far more complicated than too many teen shows make them out to be, and I appreciate PLL working on its character development.

In this episode, I was especially pleased with Ezra standing up to Ella and Byron—not because I necessarily think he’s right, but because he needs to take a more assertive role in his relationship with Aria. If he wants her parents to believe that she is grown-up enough for an adult relationship with a man, then he needs to defend that position. I’m enjoying the relationship between Ezra and Ella, which is cold but gently thawing. It makes sense to me that Ella would try to do what’s best for her daughter without forgiving Ezra for what she sees as taking Aria’s innocence. It also follows that Byron would not even be a little bit interested in negotiation.

And I loved seeing more of Jenna’s vulnerable side. I mean, she’s never really been a villain through and through—there is always the sense that she’s also a victim here, and not just because Ali and the girls accidentally blinded her. But she seemed genuinely touched (albeit confused) by Hanna rescuing her from the fire. I’m hoping by the end of this season she becomes an ally, as I still don’t think she’s directly involved with “A.” If someone wants her dead, too, it makes sense that she would try to pool her resources with former enemies. And God knows the liars could use a little help.

I will say the continuation of the “A” mystery is probably what worked for me least in this episode. PLL keeps adding more characters and more possibilities, and I guess I’m just feeling worn out. I’m ready to arrive at a conclusion, or perhaps move on to something else. The scene with Duncan and Aria in the airplane was just silly—I accept that Ali felt threatened by someone, so I could have done without the reminder. And we didn’t really learn anything. I’m sure all of this “Vivian” stuff will become important, but right now we’re just being strung along.

I guess I should touch on the romance a bit. At this point, I have little invested in Spencer and Toby, because let’s face it, that way lies badness. But I don’t really get the appeal of Wren either, aside from the fact that he’s really attractive. Would Melissa ever be okay with Spencer dating her ex-fiancee? The Hastings family has suffered enough: Maybe Spencer should date someone, you know, new. I did appreciate Spencer saying, “Don’t confuse fate with really bad luck.” I think that covers a lot of what these liars have been through.

I didn’t realize Monday’s episode of The Lying Game was the season finale, and I’m actually glad. Too much build-up would have made it even more disappointing. Look, it wasn’t terrible—we didn’t get a single performance from Laurel’s band!—but the whole thing felt very inconclusive. That might be okay for a subtler drama, but The Lying Game (like Pretty Little Liars) rests on the big reveals and shocking moments. We got some in this episode, but we already kind of called it, right?

The episode dragged out two major revelations: that Rebecca is the twins’ biological mother, and that she and Ted had an affair. (I’m sure he’s the biological father, and that’s the other half of the secret. I don’t understand why they didn’t confirm this as well, unless I’m totally off track.) The problem is that we basically knew both of these things already, especially that Ted and Rebecca were somehow involved. Seeing Kristin slowly find out was upsetting, but it wasn’t a shock. Frankly, I thought she’d catch on a lot sooner.

The big surprise was, of course, learning that Sutton and Rebecca are working together. I will give The Lying Game props—that’s not something I saw coming. And while it gets me excited about the show’s second season, it’s really a tease of a cliffhanger. I understand that the series needs to leave us wanting more, but there’s something particularly frustrating about this exciting of a plot development being dropped so haphazardly. (Full disclosure: I didn’t even see this when I first watched, because my DVR clipped the end of the show. Damn you, ABC Family.) The most exciting part of the episode shouldn’t happen over the credits.

Otherwise, there was a lot I felt “meh” about. Honestly, I think Emma is overreacting to Ethan’s brief moment with Sutton: It just feels like manufactured tension. We know these two are going to end up together, and I hate the fact that the show is dragging it out for the sake of drama. I also hate that we’ll probably need to see Emma and Thayer hook up, then break up, before we see her back with Ethan. I’m not an insane shipper—I accept that characters break up, and I like what switching up the dynamic can do for a show. I just don’t buy this particular break-up, not after what Emma and Ethan have been through.

Finally, I’m glad Alec was arrested for Derek’s murder, even though I’m sure he didn’t do it. I think taking him to court could reveal some of the secrets he’s still hiding, but again, it felt underwhelming. So much of this episode struck me as inevitable: I like when my teen mysteries catch me off-guard, and aside from Rebecca and Sutton’s evil plan, The Lying Game didn’t do that for me. Either way, I’m looking forward to next season, and I hope the writers are working on a more cohesive arc. I need to know what other lies these people are hiding, and why they’re worth killing over.

Questions: Pretty Little Liars

– Is Jenna going to join forces with our core four?

– Should Spencer hook up with Toby, Wren, or someone entirely different?

– Is Maya gone for good?

Questions: The Lying Game

– What’s the end game for Rebecca and Sutton?

– Can Kristin forgive Ted, or are they headed for divorce?

– When will Sutton stop throwing herself at Ethan?

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