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

This whole time that I’ve been watching Pretty Little Liars–roughly four transcendent weeks by now*–I’ve been thinking, of course, a lot about Twin Peaks. The series, after all, are very similar. Both center on murdered girls from a small town with secrets. Both feature, for their time, attractive casts. Both involve the woods frequently. Both often hone in on marital problems. Both contain a character who rides a motorcycle and who was at least rumored to be romantically linked to the deceased while later becoming romantically linked to one of her friends. Both dead girls are very similar in personality, particularly their fondness for secrets.**

*In case you were wondering, I did find the time to finally go back and see the first three episodes.

**This is the time to overlook their very large differences, the main one I think being that Twin Peaks was a show essentially about small-town life with the mystery serving as an entrypoint whereas Pretty Little Liars doesn’t really care about developing Rosewood. And oh yeah, there are no owls in PLL.

But I was thinking in particular about Twin Peaks before last night’s mid-season finale of PLL,* because Twin Peaks’ Season One finale, in its eighth episode, was positively spectacular. I remember watching it this spring and immediately thinking it was one of the best single episodes of television I had seen in some time. I even tweeted about it.

*I’m taking the phrasing here from the tweets of Shay Mitchell and Lucy Hale; Ashley Benson calls it the season finale.**

**Is it weird that I follow them on Twitter?***

***It’s weird.

Please Do Talk About Me When I’m Gone
The Perfect Storm

My hope was that PLL could follow suit with a similarly suspenseful episode that, at its conclusion, only increased the number of questions without providing any long-term answers. Remember, this isn’t the finale of six seasons of Lost; it’s the end of 10 episodes, and I didn’t want to see it cave into the “We might not make it beyond this” thinking that would spark more resolution than required.

The show did it right. If not as well as Twin Peaks.

Let me cite the ways:

1. Whereas past episodes of the PLL have seemed to nod in Twin Peaks direction–I’m thinking here of the found “Alison” bracelet (like the Laura Palmer necklace) and the investigating detective’s fondness for breakfast–the finale (it’s called “Keep Your Friends Close,” by the way) was a bit more explicit. Namely, they named the FBI detective Agent Cooper! This would be like Family Guy bringing in a bartender and naming him Moe. It can’t possibly be construed as anything but major homage. Furthermore, the discovery of the Alison video is just like that of the Laura Palmer video that serves as a large piece of evidence in Dale Cooper’s investigation in Twin Peaks (and possibly the reason the FBI was first called in there, as well. I don’t remember for sure).

2. Mona. For the first time (and maybe this is because between last week and this week I saw the first three episodes), I understood the friendship between Hanna and Mona. And this came despite Mona being as insufferable as she’s been all season–what with the “glamping,” the pressure on Hanna and her mom’s finances, her quoting Sarah Palin on “going rogue,” her “I look enough like Kristin Kreuk to make you realize how much more attractive I’d be if I were Kristin Kreuk” attitude–all because of Hanna’s great  line later in the episode, when she tells Em, Aria, and Spencer that “she was my friend when you guys weren’t.” I like television shows that attempt to explain the friendships they focus on; PLL should do it more with the main ones.

3. The Spencer-Melissa Feud. This was clearly better explained with the first three eps, since I knew that Spencer went after not one, but two of Melissa’s boyfriends, including her fiancée. For the record, I refuse to believe that BOTH Ian and Wren would make a move on Spencer when they’re going out with Melissa (it’s Spencer, not Hanna, if you know what I mean). At least with Wren, though, it was sort of introduced. And if Ian is going to be THIS BIG a character (spoiler alert…for later in this post of spoilers!), he should have a more detailed backstory. It’s not like Spencer looks as good in her field hockey uniform as Alison did in the locker room with Emily, am I right? Later in the episode, Spencer declares, “I don’t know when this war between us started.” Umm, I do. And that’s kind of ironic phrasing there, the “I do,” because that’s what you prevented your sister from saying when you stole her fiancée!

4. Is it just me, or has Mr. Fitz looked particularly homicidal (almost Bateman-ish) whenever he sees Aria with Noel?
I estimate that I would like Mr. Fitz roughly 35% more if his last name were “Fitzgerald” or “Fitzpatrick” or something like that and he occasionally went by “Fitzy.” But this isn’t The Wire.

5. Why does the school PA even bother to call all four of them down by name anymore? It should just be, “Pardon the interruption, would the Core Four please come down to the office?”

6. Another “I’m not reading too much into this, am I?” thing I liked: The woman stashing all the money in her safe deposit box with Ashley Marin was named Mrs. Potter. And all Ashley had to yell when she forget her key was “Hey, Mrs. Potter!

7. Oh, and a guy named Ezra wrote a poem!

8. That Vampires Suck movie looks promising, no?

9. I loved it when the Core Four turns the volume on the “Warrant issued for Toby Cavanaugh” news story a little late, and the anchor came back with “If you just tuned in…”. I thought this was pretty unrealistic at first, but then I remembered all the times I’ve just tuned in when I heard that line.

10. Interesting throwaway line from Emily about how her father deployed right before Alison disappeared. And now he’s coming home right after her killer is supposedly found. Hmmm….

11. This is to say nothing of Twin Peaks.

12. OMG! TOBY’S IN THE BACK SEAT!!!!!!!!

13. I thought that Aria’s poor cell phone service at Camp Mona was going to be a setup for the Core Four to have difficulty communicating on the crucial evening. I’m kind of upset the writers didn’t follow through with that, even if it’s blatant suspense-building manipulation. Same with everyone in the Camp Mona hoodies. Definitely expected the girls to have to find someone dressed in a hoodie amongst the horde of them.

14. I’m also kind of surprised ABC Family didn’t take issue with Mona’s “Blow Me Bar.” I mean, I’m not the only one who hears that and thinks something else, right?

15. That Melissa and Joey show on ABC Family looks promising, no?

16. Where is Ashley driving with her purse full of poorly hidden money? The Bates Motel?

17. The church behind which Toby is arrested looked a lot like the Lost church, didn’t it? And man, he was so close to sanctuary!

18. Wright’s Playground is by the Snake River? Does Rosewood border Boise, Idaho?

Now, to the ending. While I liked it in a macro “Amping up the questions” sense, there were pieces of its execution that I thought were flawed. First off, Hanna’s the one texting that she knows who A is even though it appears she only sees a shadow whereas Emily and Spencer see the “Alison + Ian” heart. Don’t they seem to be the ones who “know too much”?

Second, Aria was much closer to Hanna than she was to Em and Spencer, and yet she’s back with the latter group when they run to the parking lot? Weird geography at Camp Mona.

Third, I’ve always taken issue with people getting hit by cars in fiction.* This is because it seems to happen with drastically disproportionate frequency. Now, I know of four people in my life who have been hit by cars (these people are a preschool friend and three friends of friends; the point is, the pool of people I’m choosing from is pretty wide), and this strikes me as a lot. Like, I don’t know of anyone else who knows even this many people who have been hit by cars. And yet, I can name at least a dozen instances of characters being hit by cars in fiction — several of them in Lost.** And so whenever I see someone in a TV show or movie or book get hit by a car, all I think is, “Not ANOTHER one.”

*This makes it sound as if the main point I want to get across here is that I prefer people to get hit by cars in real life. This is not the case. I am staunchly anti-running over in both reality and in fiction.

**Seriously: Michael, Locke, Juliette’s husband, Locke’s mom, Nadia, those bad guys Hurley ran over in the Volkswagen, and Locke again. Thanks, Lostpedia.

My biggest issue, of course, is that everything points to Ian being A–the pointers being, in no particular order, his appearance at Alison’s memorial, his reemergence into the plot line (maybe that should be “emergence”), his link to Alison on the tree, and finally, his appearance in the aforementioned video opposite Alison as the older boyfriend. The problem with this is, before tonight’s episode, I hadn’t thought about Ian at all. If you had asked me who Ian on Pretty Little Liars was, I would have said “the guy who plays Mr. Fitz.” There’s two ways this can go: Either Ian is A or Ian is not A, and both seem unsatisfactory. In the former, a relatively minor and at this point completely uninteresting character is thrust into the spotlight as the villain without warning or foreshadowing. In the latter, the show relied on the worst kind of resolution: a trap-door one that it’ll pull from under you in the next episode (see: Lucas’ muddy shoes. Lucas didn’t even appear in this episode! That’s a TRAVESTY, on the same level as Journey not playing “Open Arms” when I saw them in concert).

Pretty Little Liars has clearly studied Twin Peaks. Well, learn the lessons from its disastrous second season. Don’t go about introducing new, villainous characters we don’t care about. Don’t go killing off characters that don’t need to be killed off, in the process lessening the stakes of the original conflict. Don’t spend too much time on the side plots; what Twin Peaks did at times in Season Two would be like PLL doing an episode that focused entirely on Lucas selling Hanna’s clothes online. And, obviously, don’t solve the case too early and in an inappropriately rushed manner.

So what happens when the show returns? (Date: disappointingly TBA) Well, I prefer Ian being a trap-door answer than the right one. He’s not half as interesting as Wren, and Wren hasn’t appeared in an episode in six weeks. I hope Hanna’s okay (obvs, she’s the character I’d least like to lose). And I definitely hope it doesn’t begin with Hanna dreaming of a giant.

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15 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by John S on August 11, 2010 at 1:09 PM

    “In the former, a relatively minor and at this point completely uninteresting character is thrust into the spotlight as the villain without warning or foreshadowing.”

    I would say that the biggest problem with this show’s first season was that it didn’t foreshadow or give clues nearly enough. I mean, who could be A that WOULDN’T satisfy your description of “relatively minor and at this point completely uninteresting”? The only answers, as I see it, are Fitz, Lucas, and the four girls themselves, and all of them would have seemed ridiculous and contradicted what we know about those characters. The only characters that were seriously hinted at as possibilities for A were Toby and Jenna, and that was introduced so early and made so obvious that it was obviously a red herring. Unfortunately, there were no other viable candidates, so any answer the finale hinted at was bound to be unsatisfactory.

    Also, the show is coming back in January, so five long months….

    Reply

  2. Does toby come back into the show after he gets arrested? and what happens to him!!?? im dying

    Reply

    • Posted by Aria on January 13, 2011 at 6:14 PM

      Hey Rema, Toby does come back he has got a tracker anklet on him though, but he tries to break it off. You should watch the show.

      Reply

  3. […] more excited than most people by the start of a new television season. While Louie, Mad Men, and Pretty Little Liars have done a decent job of satisfying my TV-fix over the summer, I’m ready for a full slate of new […]

    Reply

  4. […] excitement for the return of Pretty Little Liars in January was officially ratcheted up with the release of this […]

    Reply

  5. Posted by DES on January 3, 2011 at 11:07 PM

    I too clearly thought PLL was influenced by Twin Peaks and it was absolutely confirmed when I the Detective introduced herself as Agent Cooper. I think you’ve got some good brought up some good parallels. In this new episode, Hanna has a dream. I think she and maybe some of the Core Four will have apparitions and dreams to point them toward the identity of A. Not to mention, the dream Hanna had was pretty vague and open ended but not as cleverly and mysteriously executed as Twin Peaks.

    Reply

  6. There is an owl now… {flashdrive}
    And what if A is Mr. Hastings? Very Twin Peaks!!!!

    Reply

  7. Posted by lau on July 23, 2012 at 3:09 PM

    i love episode!!!!

    Reply

  8. Hannah gets an Owl as a gift from Caleb…

    Reply

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