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

“I couldn’t forgive him or like him but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made….”

Pretty Little Liars had been a bit light on the intertextuality over the last few episodes, but it came back big-time in “Salt Meets Wounds,” or as I will forever know it as, The Gatsby Episode.

PLL, of course, executed its Gatsby theme with subtlety and class. Its thesis statement—Nick Carraway’s concluding analysis of the Buchanans reproduced on Mr. Fitz’s chalkboard and in the epigraph—wasn’t revealed until a quarter of the episode was through, and it was largely obscured by Ezra’s head:

But “Salt Meets Wounds” was about all the same things as Gatsby: forbidden romances, class differences and the resulting jealousies, searing ambition, megalomania, and, of course, questions about who hit who with a car. There’s a veritable smorgasbord of potential Gatsbys, Toms, Daisys, Jordans, and Nicks residing in Rosewood.*

*Plus one pretty clear Meyer Wolfsheim.

Moments Later
Keep Your Friends Close
Please Do Talk About Me When I’m Gone
The Perfect Storm

Let’s dive in:

1. The “Humpty Dumpty Was Pushed” sticker that covers A’s signature on Hanna’s cast speaks to the episode’s—and the series’—fascination with conspiracy theories. The show is built on digging beneath the surface events and figuring out their prime movers.

2. A lot of the focus was really placed on Hanna’s broken leg, over her bruised ribs and injured spleen. I get that the broken leg is the most visceral of the injuries, but they couldn’t throw in an “Ow, my spleen” groan from Hanna at some point in the episode.

3. I did like Mona’s “We love you with or without your spleen!” line. Not too many friends I can say that about.

4. How could Aria, Spencer, and Emily walk away and not get the pop tart for Hanna? What kind of friend does that? At least give her a Gopher.

5. It’s no coincidence that Ashley hid the money in a lasagna box; after all, Marin is just short for marinara, which goes great with lasagna.

6. They really tried to sex up Spencer with those long socks and that, I don’t know, Cloche hat? And I said tried to for a reason.

7. Best part of that scene: The return of Mrs. Mariska Hargitay Hastings!

8. Intermediate part of that scene: Mrs. Hastings’ reliance on both a Bluetooth and Blackberry. Like 50 Cent, these characters gotta get tired of using technology.

9. “You were a big part of your sister’s rough year,” Mrs. Hastings says in the understatement of the Hastings’ family Christmas letter.

10. The Hastings family would have a family Christmas letter, am I right?

11. Back to Gatsby: Mr. Fitz’s narrowing it down to “themes of change and loss” is even more incompetent than I expected from him. And what else is he referring to when he talks about those themes being “central to both novels”? This Side of Paradise? Tender Is the Night? Gatsby 2: Lazarus in West Egg?* I can’t tell; you want to know why? Because change and loss are like the themes of 80% of literature! That’s why!

*I was going to say that The Great Gatsby leaves less room for a sequel than most great literature, but really, I can’t think of much great lit that leaves any room for a sequel. Moby Dick 2: Ishmael’s Revenge? Anna Karenina II: Levin Drones On?** If I were the enterprising type, I’d try to make this one of those memes on Twitter, with the hashtag and all. But those things are lame.

**Totally unfair to Levin, who is a great character. But dude, lighten up.

12. Some more rigorous scholars might call it a weakness, but I’d say a real strength of this episode is how many of the storylines can be molded into a kind of Gatsby-Daisy-Tom triangle.* There’s the most explicit one, of course, with Lucas-Hanna-Sean. Hanna is this ideal girl to Lucas that he was able to kiss once, and Sean is the apparent brute that stands in his way of having her again. Lucas is disillusioned by Hanna’s allegiance to Sean, but he can never really turn away from her: “Don’t make me like you,” he says in a succinct double entendre. At this point in time, he doesn’t want to like Hanna, and he doesn’t want to be like Hanna. Although of course** this also contains the paradox of Hanna, who was hit by a car, playing the role of Daisy, who hits people with cars.

*Please note the “kind” there. I mean, they don’t fit very neatly, of course, especially after the first one.

**You end up becoming yourself.

There’s also the Alex-Spencer-Class Differences triangle, with the dissidence between what the two of them want from life conspiring to keep them apart. This one takes a lot of manipulation to elaborate any more on, so… “Don’t apologize for what you are and what you want.” Moving on…

Emily-Maya-The Fields’ Conservative Morality. At one point, Nick describes Tom as having a “wholesome bulkiness,” and I think that applies most directly to Mrs. Fields, and those tautly veined arms of hers.

Aria-Mr. Fitz-Rosewood High School—and really, any high school—Policy. This is more of a Romeo and Juliet/Humbert and Lolita thing, but you know, I wasn’t going to stop at three examples.

13. Any of the Core Four can play Jordan in these analogies, although Spencer seems to make the best one with her lithe, athletic build.

14. I am the Nick Carraway here.

15. Mr. Hastings is Meyer Wolfsheim. If you don’t understand now, you never will.

16. Mr. Fields is going to Fort Hood? Poor timing. And too soon. On both the reference and the storyline.

17. We got some sense of PLL’s geography when Spencer talked to Alex about escaping to Bucks County. Rosewood is more Philly than Pittsburgh, which we could have pretty much guessed going in.

18. I liked how Aria and Spencer noticed how strange A had been acting lately. A’s texts were going out like super fast, he/she took the time to fill out that tennis application for Alex…. It’s almost like A is multiple people, like Melissa AND Ian.

19. Although, ominous piece of dialogue:

Speak of the devil…

Ian?

No, Melissa.

20. Of course, one of the things PLL has done well thus far in the second quasi-season is enrich its characters’ histories and deepen their previous interactions. We learn in a flashback that Alison was largely responsible for Noel Kahn’s last girlfriend breaking up with him (obvs; no girl would break up with that dude without some serious coercion). Noel’s skills as a manipulator also come through here, both by his deception of Aria (pre- and post-threatening of Mr. Fitz) and his blackmail scheme of Ezra (even ominously writing an “A” on his paper). So Noel makes a better A this week than he did last week.*

Who else wants to punch Noel Kahn in the face? I can’t wait for the inevitable fight between him and Mr. Fitz, which we can only hope lives up to this.**

**You can argue that that fight wasn’t over a girl (Kelly), and I’ll rebut that it wasn’t explicitly over Kelly.

The same can be said for Lucas, who dropped one of those patented melodramatically vague “after what she did to me” clauses in his argument with Hanna. Alison was mean enough to Lucas to justify, in his mind, the destruction of the memorial, which gives some retrospective credibility to the conclusion of that episode in the first quasi-season. I thought his disdain for such a memorial was a real and pertinent feeling. To see the eulogizing of someone you considered despicable is, I imagine, a very difficult thing to deal with, and it’s no surprise to see it push someone like Lucas—the limits of whose patience were defined over these last two episodes—over the edge.

Even Ian got a little more depth this week, as we’ll see later.

21. And then those friends made Hanna clean up after the party she didn’t want to have!!! What is wrong with these people???

22. And when Hanna sees a shadow lurking in the house, what does she do? She turns off the lights! Of course she does! How can this show operate with artificial lights on?

23. Can we be honest? Neither Jenna nor Toby is really stepsibling hot. And if you don’t know what I mean by that, you never will.

24. So A stole Ashley’s ill-gotten money and is using it to blackmail Hanna, Noel Kahn-style! And then there was the revelation that Alison spent a weekend at Hilton Head Island with Ian instead of with her sick grandmother in Georgia! It really does seem like Melissa and Ian are making a lot of sense as a dual A—so much sense, in fact, that I suspect it to be soon undercut.

Just like Myrtle Wilson.

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6 responses to this post.

  1. […] Aught Lang Syne « Got a Secret? About Monday Night’s “Pretty Little Liars” […]

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