Pretty Little Liars: Little White Lies

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Pretty Little Liars S03E03: "Kingdom of the Blind"

One of the ironies of Pretty Little Liars—and it's been this way from the beginning—is that the only characters we can really trust are the titular girls. Sure, they lie all the time, but they lie to protect themselves, mostly. And as the series has progressed, we've come to accept them as the only characters we can truly count on. If there’s anything "Kingdom of the Blind" reminded us of, it’s that no one else can be trusted.

That’s not exactly new information, but one of the things that fascinated me about the lies everyone else is telling is that they mostly were lies for the right reasons. That is, this isn’t “A” trying to screw with the girls or make their lives more difficult—these are people lying because they also want to protect themselves, or because they want to protect someone they care about.

I mean, that’s assuming we believe they’re being honest about their motivations. But one thing at a time.

First, we have Ella, who cheated on Emily’s behalf. Kind of a big deal for a teacher, especially one who prides herself on doing the right thing—look how strongly she reacted to the idea of a teacher sleeping with a student. (Which, admittedly, is a far more heinous offense.) But this storyline did make me rethink the character of Ella: Is her role as Aria’s mom a conflict with her role as teacher? She wants to protect her daughter, and she knows on some level that there are larger, malevolent forces at play. Why wouldn’t she want to make an exception for one of Aria’s best friends?

The problem is that it sets a troubling precedent: If Ella is willing to cheat on behalf of Emily, why wouldn’t she do the same for Aria or another member of our core four? More disconcerting for Em, however, is what this says about people’s opinion of her. Everyone else sees her as weak, so they’re coddling her accordingly, but she’s more angry than scared. If you treat someone as fragile, they start to feel that way. So while Ella’s lie—and Ezra’s follow-up lie—came with the best intentions. They undermined Emily’s independence and her desire to move forward from the tragedy of Maya’s death.

In a similar mama-bear-protecting-the-young vein, we also saw Mrs. Hastings lie on behalf of Melissa. It’s still not clear exactly what she’s covering up, or if she even knows the whole story, but Veronica’s version of events was designed to help Melissa maintain her miscarriage story. In her mind, Melissa has been a victim in all this; she lost her husband, her baby, and Garrett, the one man she trusted. But as viewers, we have our doubts about Melissa’s complicity in Ali’s murder and the larger “A” conspiracy. While Veronica thinks she’s just helping her daughter in need, she could be obfuscating an already cloudy mystery.

Then there are those who are lying to protect themselves. The girls confronted Jenna about her fake blindness, and her response was actually pretty rational: Someone wants her dead, and pretending she’s blind makes her look like a more vulnerable target and thus easier to underestimate. It’s not quite as noble as lying to protect someone else, but you can’t exactly fault Jenna for her choice. If someone tried to burn down my house with me in it, I’d probably do anything in my power to, you know, keep that from happening.

Finally, we have Mona, the original “A.” Now more than ever, it looks as though she’s faking her catatonic state. There are plenty of interpretations here, all of which only raise more questions. I was puzzled by Lucas’s cryptic, “It’s better for a lot of people if Mona stays crazy.” We see Mona as the villain now, so it’s easy to assume she’s lying to manipulate the girls—but how do we know there’s not more to it than that? Mona herself is likely still facing manipulation from whomever put her up to this in the first place. And if she has had a change of heart, maybe she’s actually faking crazy to keep her former friends alive. Just a thought.

Everything is trickier this season, because the stakes feel higher. I’m still shuddering at that last shot of Ali’s bagged corpse—it would appear that the new “A” wants to continue leaving the girls party favors from their dead friend’s body. As frustrating as it is to sort through all the lies, we’re getting a sense that many of these characters really are just trying to do what’s best. Unfortunately, that keeps everyone else—and the audience even farther away from the truth.

QUESTIONS:

1. When did Melissa lose her baby, and why is she lying about it?

2. Will Ella and Ezra bond over their shared interest in Emily?

3. Is Mona faking crazy to protect the new “A,” or for reasons of her own?

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