Pretty Little Liars Moves Forward, The Lying Game Steps Back

ABC Family’s fib-heavy lineup returned last night with two much-hyped winter premieres. But while Pretty Little Liars took some important steps forward, The Lying Game just got a lot more muddled. And both series continued to frustrate with some unbelievable stalling—at some point you want to throttle these characters: “Get on with it already!”

To its credit, Pretty Little Liars did make some notable strides. We began the episode with the girls doing community service for tampering with evidence—seems like they should be in a lot more trouble, but hey, wearing those orange jumpsuits even once is probably punishment enough. I loved the discord between the liars, both because it brought back the estrangement that was on display in the pilot, and because it’s just not believable that these girls are going to stay BFF.

So, okay, I was a little disappointed that the in-fighting was just a ploy to trick “A.” Here’s hoping Spencer and Emily butt heads for real in upcoming episodes, because watching them fight was way too fun to be a one-time deal. However, it’s always nice to see the girls taking a more proactive role: I was worried that their legal issues at the end of the midseason finale would force them to step back. The last thing Pretty Little Liars needs is more of its characters being passive. And come on, it’s not like “A” is ever going to stop—why wouldn’t the girls fight back?

But that’s also what was so frustrating about the episode’s conclusion, which had the liars trapping “A” and… letting him or her get away. Look, I know this person is dangerous and very capable of murder, but there was no reason the girls couldn’t have snuck a peek. I was really hoping Emily’s mystery box was full of flashlights or cameras, anything to expose the true identity of “A.” Realistically, it’s too soon for us to know who’s behind it all, but I’m having a hard time suspending my disbelief. There were four of them and one of “A”: please.

In non-“A” news, Aria and Ezra finally came clean to her parents about their illicit relationship. Even though the main mystery continues to drag its heels, Pretty Little Liars isn’t afraid to take some big chances, and it was exciting to see one secret revealed. The reactions felt natural, too: Byron’s rage, Mike’s physicality, Ella’s suggestion that Aria may have picked up the student-teacher thing from her dad’s indiscretions. For a show that can be all kinds of silly and soapy, I felt like they really nailed the emotional moments here.

As far as the other relationships go, Spencer was on the outs with Toby, and Hanna was very much on with Caleb. (Poor Lucas got to look on and pout.) Maybe my priorities are mixed-up, but I’m still more interested in the mystery. Well, okay, I’m about as interested in finding out who “A” is as I am in Aria and Ezra’s relationship. What can I say? Ezra’s kind of my thing. Also, I’m psyched to see Hanna’s sadistic stepsister Kate return. We need more villains on this show who aren’t Jenna. Or, you know, shadowy figures in hoodies.

Monday's night o' premieres continued with the return of Pretty Little Liars’ sister show, The Lying Game. The first season has been hit or miss for me, but the midseason finale ended on a high note: Sutton, who'd gone full-on sociopath, was left for dead in a sinking car. And it looked like we were poised for a visit from Annie, Sutton and Emma’s biological mom.

Except, wait a minute, it turns out this Annie isn’t the mental patient we’ve come to know and love. This Annie is Annie Sewell, Char’s aunt, who is conveniently going by “Rebecca” now because having two characters named “Annie” is more confusing than it needs to be. I’m inclined to agree, but I’m annoyed by the fake-out cliffhanger. The Lying Game obviously bears a resemblance to The CW’s Ringer, another twin-swapping thriller, but I’ve actually found the ABC Family version to be a smarter, more engaging story overall.

And now it looks as though The Lying Game has borrowed a page from Ringer, promising a big reveal that turned out to be—well, nothing. Okay, there’s an implication that Rebecca has major dirt on Ted and Alec, but that’s all it is: more vague hints at a dark past and secrets that would be better left buried. Despite my joy at seeing Charisma Carpenter (of Buffy and Angel nerd fame) added to the cast, I’m annoyed at the bait-and-switch. I think Carpenter is a perfect fit for this show (plus she's no stranger to twin-swapping plots!), and I’m all for more familial conflict, but now I can’t stop thinking of her as not-Annie.

In general, The Lying Game frustrates me, because I want to like it more than I actually do. Like Pretty Little Liars, there is a central mystery that can’t be solved too soon. Both shows stretch out their material as far as they can, and that’s something we’ve come to expect as an audience. But Pretty Little Liars gives us more to work with along the way. The Lying Game's winter premiere was a reminder that the show lacks focus. There were moments that genuinely grabbed me, but they were quickly abandoned.

Case in point: the rift between Emma and Ethan. I loved the idea of Thayer and Dan playing these two against each other. There is way too much bonding on this show, and not enough suspicion. Plus, things are always more interesting when you force the allies to question one another. But that lasted, what, all of one act? And then they were back to being too in love to be anything but honest. Boring!

The episode ended with another cliffhanger, this one far less interesting than the last. It looks like The Lying Game has an “A” of its own, as Emma, Ethan, and Thayer received an anonymous threat: “Keep on being Sutton… or you’re next.” At this point, all I can do is shrug. I’d like to think this series is going somewhere good, but I don’t have a lot of faith at this point. And The Lying Game seems overstuffed with nefarious figures as it is—do we really need a faceless villain, when Alec and Sutton are so overtly manipulative? I hope Sutton returns soon: There’s no way she’ll put up with this crap.


What did you think of Pretty Little Liars' and The Lying Game's midseason premieres?

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In agreement about The Lying Game. At best the show just gives me a headache. You cannot have a show along those lines succeed with little to no payoff and that's where they fall short. I spent most of the hour yelling at the screen to "Get on with it!" I'm just invested enough to be curious about the mysteries but not enough to keep watching it forever if I don't get anything back in return. Bringing in another Annie was just stupid, plain and simple. Everyone eluding and talking around secrets rather than coming right out with it is uterly ridiculous. Justin and his mysterious past and his attachment to trinkets and inexplicable connection to the entire A-mysterious storyline with Sutton,Emma, and Anna is driving me insane and not in the I can't wait for more way. They haven't successfully managed to pull off enticing the viewer with mysteries and unanswered questions w/o annoying the crap out of them.
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I stopped watching PLL after 10 episodes ,got tired of waiting to find out who A is ,and since there wasn't anything else i liked about this show i gave up on it.After Monday night's 'The Lying Game " premiere ,i 'm not watching it any more.TLG is a big waste of time-"the mystery" part of the series has become so tiresome ,boring and uninteresting and the characters ,romantic relationships and other story lines were annoying and stupid from the very start (it's still better than Ringer though) that it's beyond any saving.
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I also love both shows,

but as for pretty little liars its good that A is still a mystery as frustrating as it is because you want to know, but also if they revealed A in season 1 like everyone probably would have wanted the show would be over soon, but keeping A a mystery for a couple seasons revealing who it is and then continue on the series for however long you get more out of it.

this episode was by far the best in my opinion, even though i was hoping they would just rip off the hoodie and see who it is but it will happen just be patient everyone.



and for the lying game,

i kept hoping sutton would just show up, and i knew something odd was up with the present and i have to admit when emma opened it and you seen what it said i was like what oh really can tell its going to drag out, i really want it to come out that emma isnt sutton,

but i guess it would be the same sort of thing i said about pretty little liars, that if the mystery is revealed now how long could they keep the series running, so im not expecting the lying game to reveal anything in this season.
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The Lying Game did not go backwards, good episode, I just love CC has Annie / Rebecca can't wait to see where her arc leads
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I love both shows and as bad as I want to know who A is, at the same time I don't. I know that may take away some of the mystery of the show. For example, when the girls were having their staged arguement in the hallway, there was 4 creepy guys observing and it was like anyone of them could be A. I think that Jenna and the cop are too obvious. A strange and unexpected twist would be to make one of the girls A.
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PLL is just plain awesome
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PLL is so boring! I only watch for the eye candy, but honestly, there is noooooooo substance to this show!

And who are the LIARS in this??? I rememeber in the beginning I was disappointed that they were just normal girls, thought they would be catty and lying bitches, but they aren't.

I only watch cos Spencer is so hot, but thats it!!!
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I agree with the review of PLL. Already during the first part of the season I became frustrated with how helpless the girls are. Yes, I get it. It's a show mostly meant for teenagers, so one can't expect a solid plot. And the girls in the show are still teenagers, which makes them a little timid. But still, how can they mess up every time? They have had so many options to try to figure out who A is, and still most of the time they settle for being sitting ducks. I sometimes feel like yelling to the screen: "Do something, anything!"



OK, so in this episode they became a little bit more proactive, which is a good thing. But I hope they don't stop now and fall back to the role of helpless victims. I want these girls to be stronger female characters than they are now. I'm very concerned that they will mess up this too, and let A steal the phone back from them. I hope the writers won't let this happen. I hope that the girls will soon regain the upper hand. They can't keep A under wraps for long, viewers are slowly getting frustrated.
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I was soooo frustrated after watching the newest episode of PLL episode last night! ABCfam was all about "A getting revealed" in the commercials and I was so hyped! I love this show but I am getting a little tired of getting jerked around! But all in all I liked the episode and I still love the show. I am hoping that they show Mike more... he's so adorable esp when he's angry! I can't wait for Kate to show up & hopefully Jenna will get her sight back soon... She's already a force to be reckoned with & I want to see what she can do with all 5 senses! As for The Lying Game: I gave up on that show midway thru the 2nd episode...I didn't see the point of it!
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A is getting revealed at the end of season 2, well so i have read.
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The commercials did not give me that impression that "A" would be revealed just a little closer which happen the cell phone, another great episode IMO now for the the Lying, it's just awesome about to squeeze in last nite episode before the Sugar
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i agree i want sutton back! as far as the whole Emma getting a piece of sutton`s dress with a note seemed way to PLL for me. if the lying game wants to survive, i think it has to be okay with taking more risks and being more original. i did love seeing charisma, and thought she was the highlight of the episode. as for PLL, i was happy that they made some progress. and moving the show slowly is annoying but understandable. overall, i belive the battle for best monday night on abc family goes to pretty little liars.
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I disagree with what you said about them letting A go. While it's frustrating as a viewer, we still got to see [SPOILER ALERT!] them get at least a step ahead of him/her for a change, when the cellphone was found. It was the best episode so far for me. You can tell that there's a fire under the writers' butts to get a move on.
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I tend to go the opposite way and think The Lying Game overall is the better series and more engaging than PLL. The premiere of PLL is more of the same, with these chicks running around with their heads cut off. It's getting tiring and I am no longer really invested in any part of the mystery, but I am invested in TLG. I think the character work well and I always find myself rooting for Emma. Yes, the premiere wasn't OMFG worthy, but it had a nice pace.
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