I think it’s about time we accepted the truth about Pretty Little Liars: This show is never going to make total sense.
I’m not saying it doesn’t work from week to week—and believe me, I enjoyed tonight's Season 3 premiere, "It Happened That Night." But after all the twists and turns and shocking reveals, I really can’t deal with trying to get a handle on it all. It didn’t entirely make sense that Mona was “A,” and it doesn’t really make sense that she isn’t, and frankly, barring some supernatural explanation, I don’t see how the writers are going to tie up every loose end sensibly when all is said and done.
That’s fine. Honestly. In many ways, this is the same show it always was, whether or not “A” was unmasked. Sure, it was a nice step forward, but we’re going to keep going around in circles until Pretty Little Liars ends for good. And if The Secret Life of the American Teenager is any indication, ABC Family will keep this franchise going as long as it possibly can.
I needed to get all of that out of the way, but duh, I’m thrilled Pretty Little Liars is back, and I thought the season premiere showed a lot of potential. The mystery has deepened, however unbelievably, and the characters have grown. There is still a repetitive quality to Pretty Little Liars’ stalling, but the emotional core is stronger than ever. I'm as interested in the widening conspiracy as I was in Emily’s burgeoning alcoholism, Ella’s begrudging acceptance of Ezra, and Mona’s wacky catatonia.
I’ve always liked the characters: I wouldn’t have stuck with a meandering mystery for this long if that weren’t the case. But they’re suddenly behaving in more complex and interesting ways. Of course Emily would withdraw after Maya’s death, but I expected PLL to gloss over the grieving period. And Aria and Ezra’s relationship, which has always been pretty to look at but rather two-dimensional, feels like a real romance. I’m even willing to believe that Ella would take the couple to dinner, though I don’t envy anyone that awkwardness.
I’m also glad that Mona remains an important presence. Her transition from BFF to villain was a little too fast—the end of last season propelled her into full-on evil, and while that makes sense as far as “A” is concerned, it was still tough to swallow in terms of the Mona we knew. Now we can see that Mona isn’t bad so much as broken. To some extent, we knew that already, but in the season premiere, we got a clearer sense of her mental state. Her blank stare, the way she saw through Hanna—that’s dark, and it’s great TV.
As for the mystery, we know that Mona wasn’t working alone, but we knew that already. We know that Garrett probably didn’t do it, because how easy would that be? And I think it’s telling that he has information on Alison but not on Maya—if he’s telling the truth, that could mean the murders aren’t as related as we thought. We know that Lucas is somehow involved, that an anonymous texter is still trying to set the girls up, and that Spencer and Toby haven’t had sex yet.
(Okay, that last point might not be relevant to Ali’s murder, but it’s certainly worth noting. Also worth noting: Toby’s abs.)
The final scene gave us a hint of a much darker “A,” the perfect cap to an episode that already felt more mature than those of last season. “Mona played with dolls,” “A” wrote. “I play with body parts.” It’s going to be a long time—like, a really, really long time—until we get the answers we want, and even then, as I’ve said, they probably won’t make as much sense as we’d like.
So let’s just hope for a continued mix of believable drama and high-stakes crazy. Oh, and a higher body count. I hate to think that new and improved “A” is bluffing.