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

You weren’t kidding when you approvingly linked to a review of Pretty Little Liars a few Monday Medleys ago, were you? Trust me. We never use Monday Medley to kid.

Seriously, though, why Pretty Little Liars? Because it’s summer, because Degrassi just isn’t fun anymore, because it’s accurately billed as Gossip Girl meets I Know What You Did Last Summer

Sans Jennifer Love Hewitt: Sigh…

If it’s so great, what took so long? Well, we didn’t want another FlashForward on our hands, am I right? Also, I didn’t see the first three episodes.

Then how are you qualified to do this? I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s pretty gratuitous use of flashback in PLL.

This was also the third straight week we saw Mr. Fitz’s “I can’t hate you” line to Aria.

So what happened last night? It was the long-awaited memorial service to Alison, highlighted by the dedication of a bench (according to Aria, people will remember Alison: “She’ll be the girl they dedicated the bench to,” which I imagine to be the fictional town of Rosewood, Pennsylvania’s equivalent of having a rest stop named after you in Jersey*).

*Seriously Susan Sarandon? You know who’s earned rest stops in Jersey? Walt Whitman. James Fenimore Cooper. Grover Cleveland. Clara Barton. Vince Lombardi.Tell me one thing you’ve done better than “Found the Red Cross” or “Write Leaves of Grass” or “Be President Twice.” Bull Durham ain’t THAT good.

Alison’s once-goth, now-not older brother, Jason is back in Rosewood to help organize, which grinds the gears of Spencer, who, you know, usually organizes these things. Jason’s “fine tuning” of the program Spencer had written earned a pretty harsh stare, and, I thought, for a second, would be the dominant conflict of the episode.

How many scenes in this show take place indoors at night with absolutely no artificial lights on in the house? An astonishing number. Characters in the show seem unaware that lights can be turned on. At this point, I would feel comfortable calling it the show’s hallmark. Soon, any scene that takes place indoors at night with no artificial lights on in the house will be viewed as paying homage to the cinematography of Pretty Little Liars.

Jason DiLaurentis doesn’t strike me as once-goth at all: He does strike me as trying very hard to pull off an unironic Brendan Fraser impression. Heady stuff.

If the Program Drama wasn’t the main conflict, what was? That, in fact, turned out to be whether Jenna would speak at the memorial, and what exactly she would say.

If you had to sum up said conflict with one quote spoken by one of the main characters in last night’s episode, it would be…? “How are we gonna stop her without looking like bitches?” That’s Aria, on Jenna.

So…how did they? They didn’t even try. And it worked!

Kind of anticlimactic, don’t you think? Well, unlike one of its other girl-killed-in-mysterious-circumstances predecessors, PLL decided not to make a spectacle of its memorial service. Jenna just told people how strong Alison was. Which is debatable, since the actress who plays Alison is 14 years old.

That’s a young girl: Yeah, especially considering she’s supposed to be the Queen Bee of a group of other girls played by actresses 7-10 years older than her. It’s odd.

That looked like a pretty cool memorial service to attend: Seriously, FIVE speakers. I totally wouldn’t have lasted through that.

How about a listing of the secondary plots? Emily asks Maya on a date and they totally make out in the back of the movie theater. Emily’s dad is coming back from Afghanistan. Hanna’s family has some money problems, so she sells some handbags with the help of Lucas in order to buy artisanal cheeses. Sean asks Hanna to go to a Band of Horses concert and to get Aria to come with his friend, Noel, who she had a huge crush on and is like the hottest guy in school. Aria relents, but she doesn’t have a good time until she’s allowed to use her rumored boyfriend in Iceland as a cipher to discuss how she feels about Mr. Fitz, who is absent for a second straight week.

No Mr. Fitz againOr Alex! I suppose the introduction of Noel served as the eye candy for the occasional female viewer of the show.

What were some lines of dialogue that were unwittingly loaded with innuendo? Well, I don’t want to read into what’s on purpose and what’s done unwittingly, but there was Jason’s “I’m here to get some action, and this memorial’s gonna help me get it” line about provoking the police investigation that sounded like a Chazz Reinhold mantra, and then there was Lucas leadingly asking Hanna “Are you interested…in selling some stuff online?”

The best line of the episode, though, was? Hanna totally referencing Monty Python by saying Aria looked like she was “pining for the fjords.”

Better or worse than A’s Tom Sawyer reference? I didn’t get that one! My English major has failed me!

What’s the biggest problem with last night’s episode? Clearly, it was the fact that it heavily used flashbacks, but always to the same day, with Alison and the Core Four lounging outside in some party setting. It made it seem like that was the only memorable day any of them ever had with her. Furthermore, it just happens to be a ludicrously prescient flashback that includes Alison saying, to each one of the four mind you, something eminently quotable that only makes sense, if say, she were to die rather soon.

Second biggest issue? By this point, wouldn’t Spencer know not to text everyone else “S.O.S.” when the whole “Alison told Jason I was to blame for the Jenna Incident” came up? I mean, a lot of crap has happened to these girls; S.O.S. should be saved for the big stuff, like “There’s all this lipstick on my mirror!” or “Toby’s attacking me upstairs in the school’s chem lab!”

Overall, good episode or bad one? To be honest, a bit subpar. Obviously, the Homecoming episode two weeks ago was great, and last week’s was a necessary cool down episode that also happened to include what I thought was a well-done final act.* I mean, have I raised my expectations too high? Of course. It’s Gossip Girl meets I Know What You Did Last Summer! That’s like telling me a basketball player is some sort of hybrid of Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson; I expect GREATNESS.

*There’s two reasons I love this end: 1. The Missy Higgins song sounds good in the background. 2. Mr. Fitz gives Aria a copy of Winesburg, Ohio for when she needs to leave Rosewood. The second story in Winesburg, Ohio is called “Hands,” and deals with a teacher who crosses certain boundaries with his students. This can’t be accidental; it is a deliciously ironic gift. I feel better about my English major now.

And the biggest unanswered question? When is Noel’s crazy bread gonna show up?

Oh, and umm, who smashed up the whole bench and fountain memorial to Alison. That, too.

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9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by John S on July 28, 2010 at 1:42 PM

    “It just happens to be a ludicrously prescient flashback that includes Alison saying, to each one of the four mind you, something eminently quotable that only makes sense, if say, she were to die rather soon.” What I read into this was a heavy implication that Alison either faked or, if the show wanted to get really dark, orchestrated her own death, knowing the impact it would have on the town and her friends.

    Also, are we to believe that Mr. Fitz is gone for good? I certainly hope so….

    Reply

  2. Posted by Jess on July 30, 2010 at 12:20 AM

    It was referencing Tom Sawyer attending his own funeral.9

    Reply

  3. […] Last week, I mentioned the show’s hallmark: Staging indoor scenes in which characters neglected to turn on lights. With a storm raging outside […]

    Reply

  4. […] Please Do Talk About Me When I’m Gone […]

    Reply

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