My cable has been out for a few weeks. Since I have Comcast, I frequently have problems with cable and internet outages, but my apartment complex doesn’t allow any other company, so when it goes out I have to call it in. Often, using the automatic “hey, yeah, our stuff is totally broken again” menu (which they have because their stuff so often breaks) to send a refresh signal will correct it, but this time my cable box seems totally dead.
There hasn’t been a good day in the past few weeks to wait around for them to come fix the cable, so I started out by watching movies. Then I started thinking that maybe I didn’t need cable after all. Then I started thinking about how much I miss “Gossip Girl” (even if the reveal at the end was a bit of a crock, since there were a number of times throughout the series when that person couldn’t possibly have been Gossip Girl), and somehow I decided I would start watching “Pretty Little Liars”, to determine if it was a suitable replacement.
I’ve now watched the first three seasons of PLL, one episode after another, an average of four or five episodes a night on weeknights and we won’t even talk about how many episodes in a row on the weekends.
For those who are unfamiliar with the show, the basic premise is that four girls, Aria, Hanna, Spencer, and Emily, were all friends with Alison. Alison was the Queen Bee, the Regina George, the Heather Chandler of Rosewood High, and she knew secrets about each of the girls, keeping them bound to her until the night she disappeared. Now, a year later, the girls are receiving texts from a mysterious “A” with a blocked number. They assume it’s Alison, until Alison’s body turns up, and A seems to be leading them to Alison’s killer… or is she framing them instead?
These are the (partly spoiler-filled) things I’ve learned during my 71 hour stay in the town of Rosewood. Come, spiral into madness with me:
1) The cops are staggeringly incompetent. By the end of the third season, we have discovered that the following people were present at the scene of Alison’s murder: Aria, Hanna, Spencer, Emily, Melissa, Jenna, Toby, Ian, Duncan, Jason, Aria’s dad, and Red Coat. It is also implied that Spencer’s dad and Mona may also have been present at some point during the evening’s murder, but the police somehow have no leads. None. The entire town of Rosewood showed up to help kill Alison, but the police can’t find a single witness or shred of trace evidence.
2) We’re supposed to think Aria’s romance with her high school English teacher is a good thing. It took me a few episodes to realize that we’re supposed to be in favor of a secret relationship between a sixteen year old and a guy in his twenties who should know better. We’re supposed to think it’s romantic, not felonious. Sorry, but I agree with Aria’s parents on this one: it’s terrible. On the other hand, this tragic cliché of a relationship is the only thing Aria brings to the show. Why? Because…
3) Aria is the worst. Emily is the athlete. Spencer is the brain. Hanna is the rebel. Aria? She has no skills. She has no special talents. She’s dating her English teacher. The horrible secret that Alison was holding over her wasn’t even about her. Spencer made out with her sister’s fiancée and broke up the wedding, Emily was a closet lesbian who was secretly in love with Alison, but Aria’s secret is that she knew her dad was having an affair. She’s not even interesting enough to have her own secret. Adding insult to injury, she’s a horrible dresser. During the first season, when she once wore a feather earring that seemed made of an entire bird wing, the strategy in the costume department seemed to be, “They sent over ten outfits. We picked out one for each girl. Now put the seven remaining outfits on Aria. All seven. At the same time. We have to do something to make her interesting, for Christ’s sake.” Even when she’s down to only three or four layers, they’re still terrible layers. Nobody should wear a belly shirt with a rib cage printed on it outside of a Halloween episode. If Aria is the worst, though…
4) Hanna is the best. Hanna is the girl you want in your corner, because Hanna gets shit done. You might think you want Spencer, but eventually Spencer will have a breakdown, lock herself in her room, and stop showering. You might feel like you want Emily, but the first time she stabs a murderer in the stomach she gets PTSD. And Aria? Jesus, don’t get me started on the ways in which she can screw up the simplest task, but Hanna is your girl for pushing cop cars into deserted lakes, helping you embezzle $50,000 from the bank, slapping blind girls who totally deserve to get slapped and then handing the blind girl her black glasses and saying, “By the way, that was Hanna,” dressing up like a nurse to sneak into the morgue, or doing whatever else she needs to in order to save herself and her friends. Hanna even gets run over at Mona’s birthday and continues running the show from her hospital bed, cast and all.
5) Abs are for everyday, but pecs are for special occasions. This is, for some odd reason, only true for Jason’s character, and I only noticed it because I watched so many episodes back to back in rapid succession. While the rest of the guys wander around with their shirts off fairly regularly (not all that shocking in a show marketed toward straight teenage girls and, one assumes, gay boys of all ages), Jason spends a lot of time walking around his house, his creepy shed darkroom, and lounging on his porch in an unbuttoned shirt with nothing underneath. It’s an odd look that says, “My abs need air.” It happens often enough that my thought was, “Did he forget to button that?”, which probably wasn’t the effect the producers were going for. He so rarely appears without a shirt that I wonder if the actor has an “abs are fine, but nipples cost extra” clause in his contract, because really, who walks around with their shirt unbuttoned all the time?
6) Alison kept her secrets hidden, except when she didn’t. One of the key plot points of the show is that Alison was holding everyone’s secrets, and she brags in flashbacks about how good she was at it. Your secrets are safe with Alison… unless they’re the ones she hid in her storage locker. Or on her computer. Or in her secret notebook. Or in her wooden box. Or in the bundle of blackmail letters she saved. Or inside of a doll. Or in the pocket of the coat she wore while disguised as Vivian Darkwood. OR TACKED TO THE BULLETIN BOARD AT THE POLICE STATION FOR MONTHS WITH NO ONE NOTICING BECAUSE JESUS, WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THE COPS ON THIS SHOW? No one can find any clues but she left enough of them behind to wallpaper the high school.
7) The show has lost its way. Trying to come up with a new, shocking twist for who A is/was every season and piling three seasons of “everything you thought you knew was wrong!” on top of themselves have left a show where A’s motivations and the willingness of the PLL to continue playing along with them no longer make sense. Sometimes A wants to help them, sometimes A wants to hurt them, sometimes A wants to hurt other people, sometimes there’s more than one A, sometimes A is insane and institutionalized, A is Mona, A is Jenna, A is Mona and Jenna, A is Red Coat, A is a squad of people working for Red Coat for unknown reasons, A is Alison faking her own death (which may explain why the police can’t find any clues), A is Alison texting from beyond the grave, A is Lucas, A is Toby, and in the series finale everyone will march through the streets of Rosewood in a black hoodie together because A was my brother, A was my mother, A was my father, A was my friend, A was me, A was you, A was everybody and A was nobody and just like at the end of “V for Vendetta” everyone will stand before the Rosewood courthouse and pull off their A hoodie while the building explodes to the tune of the “1812 Overture”. Nothing makes sense anymore because the writers can’t decide with any kind of finality who anyone is or what they want.
Despite all of that, it’s still sort of entertaining.
I’ve just given it way, way more thought than it deserves, and hope the cable is back soon.