Got a Secret? About Tuesday’s “Pretty Little Liars”

Tuesday night’s episode of Pretty Little Liars was called “The Perfect Storm.” This was an apt title for three main reasons:

  1. The episode contained a storm.
  2. The title makes a timely reference to the work of author Sebastian Junger, who recently released a new hardcover, War.
  3. The episode itself was perfect.

How brilliant was Tuesday’s PLL. Let us count the ways.

1. !!!

I thought my notes for those 44 action-packed minutes were already a little exclamation point heavy, and that was before the crazy surprise at the end. For once, PLL’s end pointed toward an answer, instead of opening more questions, by implicating Lucas in the destruction of the memorial (because his shoes were muddy)!

2. But…

As mentioned earlier, there was a storm outside. Anybody’s shoes can get muddy in a storm. And I really like Lucas. It would suck if he were “A.”

3. What, this isn’t how you studied for the SATs?

The opening scene of Spencer, Aria, and Hanna studying the night before the SATs was arguably the single best scene of teenage female banter aired in the history of ABC Family, discounting of course reruns of Gilmore Girls (although, to be fair, do we consider that “teenage female banter”? I suppose it depends on how one views the character of Lorelai and whether to consider her in a stage of arrested development).

You have Spencer nailing the definitions of stringent, meretricious, and besotted (okay, so only the middle one counts as remotely SAT-level) and Hanna undercutting it all with the brilliant observation, “It’s not like you go to college and you start speaking a completely different language.” To fulfill the trifecta, there’s Aria responding to Spencer’s desperate “I’m not scary! Am I scary?” with “A little.” Furthermore, note that all three words Spencer defines are adequate descriptions of her.

4. The opening sequence also creates the major conflict of the episode, namely Why is Emily so dirty? Feel free to interpret “dirty” how you please.

5. Submystery of lesser importance: Who is this “A” character? (We finally find out later what “A” stands for: ANONYMOUS!)

6. The introduction of the storm did wonders for the plot — so many, in fact, that this list just became an outline.

a. Last week, I mentioned the show’s hallmark: Staging indoor scenes in which characters neglected to turn on lights. With a storm raging outside and the power out, this mise-en-scène can be achieved naturally, without begging the question of the characters’ technophobia.

b. Like the great storm that hit Indian Island in Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, it creates senses of isolation and suffocation necessary in all great whodunits.

c. I once studied for an SAT II during a similarly bad storm. This doesn’t have much to do with anything, but it made me feel a deep personal connection with the episode.

d. It allowed for all the great SAT prep to occur without the SATs actually occurring. A brilliant bait and switch.

7. Spencer’s mom is played perfectly by Lesley Fera, or as I consider her, the poor woman’s Mariska Hargitay.

8. Aria asking “Why are we all suddenly trusting A?” was right-on. I was thinking the same thing. If we learned anything from Christopher Nolan’s Memento, it’s to distrust whoever leaves notes for you, even if it’s yourself.

9. Alison loved Great Expectations! Looks like my expectations weren’t, well, great enough for her character’s literacy. And come on, how many other teen dramas allow for gratuitous quoting of Dickens? I’ve seen Shakespeare, but Dickens?

10. Also, Emily looked good in that flashback, am I right?

11. Disappointment: The dream of a potential literary scavenger hunt perished after one clue.

12. Oh man, Sixers-Celtics floor seats??? Competent acoustic guitar-playing??? Is there anything Noel can’t do???

13. I don’t know what to tell you if you didn’t laugh at the fact that Hanna’s mom’s first movie alone was Transformers 2.

14. But again, this works on a deeper level. For what is Pretty Little Liars about other than “Revenge of the Fallen”?

15. I’ll tell you what it’s really about. Pretty Little Liars is about A and Alison’s killer and revenge of the fallen just like Lost was about time travel and an island. PLL, after all, is just the maternal reciprocal of Lost: It’s all about mommy issues.

16. Hanna really stuck it to Mona by flipping her Wizard of Oz insult to Lucas back on her. (After Mona said Lucas would want to see the Wizard “so he could ask for a penis,” Hanna says Mona should “see if the Wizard could find you a heart.” What makes this work so well is that, in both the actual novel and film, no character asks for a penis, but one does ask for a heart. Remember kids, when you inaccurately allude to something in an attempt to be insulting, the person who ends up insulted is you.)

17. Bad job by the school staff clearing out the library into the girls’ locker room. Was Emily really hiding that well in the stacks? With her purse sitting on a table? This isn’t the Library level of Goldeneye.

18. The Hana’s mom-Aria’s dad interaction was great. I’m really enjoying Chad Lowe as Byron Montgomery.

19. Speaking of, I thought the real lesson of that interaction was how difficult it is to send a fax. As someone who routinely struggles to perform this seemingly simple office task, that moral was much appreciated.

20. Kudos to Spencer’s mom for busting up that ridiculous pseudo-investigation in the library. That detective breaks so many rules while investigating homicides, TNT is going to center a summer drama on him next year.

21. Quick quiz: What did Mrs. Hastings do to Alex that is SO unforgivable?

a. Verbally abuse him

b. Send him inappropriate picture messages

c. Sleep with him

d. Vent to him about having a lump removed from her breast during a particularly emotionally vulnerable time in her life

Yeah, I was disappointed by the answer, too. Step it up, PLL writers! That wasn’t nearly sordid enough.

So where does this all leave us for next week? Well, you have to remember the original order was only for 10 episodes, so next Tuesday’s should be a dandy (since it could have served as a series finale).  Why did Lucas wreck the memorial? And why couldn’t he or Emily find a clean pair of sneakers? Will Mr. Fitz get a second new haircut for Aria? Will Alison read aloud from Bleak House in a flashback? Just who is A?*

*My theory: Everything involving A is just an elaborate dream.

And most importantly, will these kids ever get to take the SATs???

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