Got a Secret? About PLL’s “The Bad Seed”

With an especially boring slate of Big Monday games—has it ever been worse than this year, for some reason? The Big East and Big XII are good, but man, I can’t remember a good Big Monday game all season*—I had time to watch Pretty Little Liars at its regular hour this week. And even to rewatch some prior episodes during its all-day Presidents’ Day marathon.

*You heard it here first: Neither Syracuse nor Villanova will be playing past the NCAA Tournament’s first weekend.

That’s right: I’m recommitting myself to PLL full-tilt until the season finale in a few weeks. And Monday night’s episode, “The Bad Seed,” has me, well, ambivalent about that commitment.

Let’s explore why:

1. Regrettably, your intrepid documentarian has not read William March’s 1954 novel, The Bad Seed. Fortunately, The Bad Seed is, unlike the authorial career of Leonard Adams, real, and so we can glean the following about it from its Wikipedia page (and retrospectively, I suppose, from inferences from the episode):

a. It’s a classic nature v. nurture story about a murderous eight-year-old girl named Rhoda.

b. Nature wins, with Rhoda being the granddaughter of infamous serial killer, Bessie Denker.

c. Two adults see through Rhoda and figure out the truth. The first, her mother, commits suicide. The second, a maintenance man, is immolated by Rhoda.

d. Rosewood High is putting on this play why???

2. No, seriously, high schools perform this play?

The New Normal
Je Suis Un Ami
If at First You Don’t Succeed, Lie, Lie Again
Careful What U Wish 4
Know Your Frenemies
Salt Meets Wounds
Moments Later
Keep Your Friends Close
The Perfect Storm
Please Do Talk About Me When I’m Gone

3. I suppose my high school did Ten Little Indians, which is fairly morbid but otherwise awesome. Well, the play is flawed, but the novel (And Then There Were None) is not. It is nigh perfect.

4. Was it made clear who’s playing who? Is Mona playing Rhoda? I wasn’t paying close enough attention to this stuff. I know Hanna plays the drunk friend, but other than that, my bad.

5. PLL has kind of straddled that line between fitting literary allusions and overly convenient ones. This one tends toward the latter. Of course, if I had read The Bad Seed, I totally would’ve felt differently about it.

6. It is nice just to see a television show (and a non-sci-fi one at that) embrace allusions, particularly literary ones.

7. Do the Core Four really have time to audition for a play? Hey, instead of pretending to be concerned with the evil of Rhoda Penmark, how about putting all that energy toward finding the real killer?

8. I liked Ian’s classification of Alison as a “psycho-stalker who couldn’t take ‘No’ for an answer.” It’s been a while since the show reinforced possible motivations for Alison’s murder and cast doubt on her role in it. This isn’t to say it hadn’t trashed her morality—it had done that, plenty—but it had cast Toby and Ian as the aggressors in their apparent interactions.

9. Plus, the offense-defense analogy was nice.

10. It is getting to the point through flashbacks, though, where you have to wonder why exactly the Core Four hung out with Alison. I get that she was popular and all, but she doesn’t seem to share any of their values. I wrote at the end of the summer how I liked it when shows explored the constructions of friendships—Hanna and Mona’s, specifically—and it’s becoming increasingly vital to the plot that we understand how and why Alison was friends with these people, and vice versa.

11. Caleb is way cooler than Sean and Lucas in every way.

12. And Mona provides us with the answer to Hanna’s virgin question in the mirror from “Know Your Frenemies.

13. Ezra doesn’t subscribe to a daily newspaper? He’s a monster of an English teacher!

14. It was obvious that Aria’s tenure as stage manager for the play would end badly; her calling him “Ezra” in front of the other cast members in the play was a realistic and simple way to make that happen.

15. Charlie Brown was a better and more in-control director than Ezra Fitz.

16. What was that Native American poncho Spencer was wearing halfway through the episode?

17. Byron suggesting Ezra go after college jobs, and that subsequently leading to a fight with Aria, was again realistic. If I were into that story arc at all, I’d be complimenting it. But I’m not into that story arc at all. Is anyone at this point? I don’t care if they find the killer and/or A. I just hope Aria and Ezra live happily ever after!

18. Liked seeing Pretty Little Liars take the Greek system to task with that frat party flashback. About time.

19. Next on ABC Family: Greek!

20. I bet you that guy in The Secret Life of the American Teenager says “Yes.”

21. Why does Spencer enlist Toby to steal Jenna’s phone instead of just having him steal the bag she got from Ian?

22. Loved Hanna struggling to understand her character because she wouldn’t read the whole play or the stage directions.

23. “How’d you know it was Jenna’s [phone]?”

“Because I’m not blind.”

Way cooler than Sean or Lucas.

24. What kind of stage is this that they’re practicing on? Why set up a rehearsal stage instead of just using the theater stage where the play is actually going to be performed? And if you’re all, Maybe Rosewood doesn’t have a theater where they can practice the play, I’m calling BS. Rosewood has an indoor pool! It definitely has a theater they can be rehearsing in instead of a carpeted conference room.

25. They really thought the potential blood on the trophy completely, 100% solved the case? Really? Even Spencer?

26. All in all, this seemed like a classic set-up episode for a big pay-off next week. I’ve thought that for like six straight weeks, but come on now, it has “seed” in the title! Let’s see what grows out of it.

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by John S on February 22, 2011 at 6:30 PM

    I’ve decided to start commenting in the same numerical style of your posts:

    1. Caleb is WAY cooler than Sean or Lucas. It’s nice to finally see Hanna with a worthy suitor.

    2. I think the first half of the season did a pretty decent job of fleshing out why they were all friends with Alison: She would seize on an insecurity (Hanna’s weight, Emily’s sexuality, Spencer’s sense of inferiority in her family, Aria’s…something) and use that to connect with each of them individually, making them think that they were all understood, and then in a group she would try to get them all to vie for her own affection. The effect of this was that she had a hold on all of them that blinded them to her flaws (at least for a while).

    3. Of course Ezra doesn’t subscribe. He doesn’t care about ink and paper–he’s an online journal man!

    4. As for the Aria/Ezra thing, I can only hope that Aria’s slip-up was the first step towards the end of that relationship (it’s really hard for me to imagine that happening in a high school without rumors starting almost immediately).


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