I’m not usually a big teen drama viewer. I’ve watched some episodes of The Vampire Diaries, Teen Wolf, and other supernaturally-related shows that have come out lately, but I never really got into The OC or anything like that. But I found the first season of Pretty Little Liars interesting, maybe due to my appreciation for Veronica Mars which combined the humor and situations of high school with a murder mystery. But the first season left us hanging: who was “A?” What did “A” REALLY want from our quartet of young women? How could they stop “A” or finally appease their mysterious stalker?
The second season of PLL answers those questions… sort of. I found myself unsatisfied by the ending, but not as badly put out as I was by the first season finale of The Killing on AMC. The ABC Family show gives us a bit of closure with the revelation of who “A” is (or might be?) but not in a way that wraps up even that mystery, as it unlocks the box and lets out so many more. Unfortunately, it’s become so convoluted with the addition of characters, romantic pairings, and subplots that it’s nearly impossible to give a complete background of the story if you haven’t seen the first season.
The short version is this: Alison was murdered, and her quartet of followers, Aria, Spencer, Hanna, and Emily (Lucy Hale, Troian Bellisario, Ashley Benson, and Shay Mitchell), are left with a secret stalker who leaves them threatening notes in twenty-first century-style, usually by text. The tone of the show allows it to be pretty creepy and haunting, while it’s equally a teenage drama that finds the girls struggling with love in all the wrong places. Mixed up in the drama, often causing it for the girls who then have to deal with it, are their various parental figures who seem to have good motives but often ignore (or at least miss) the effects of their decisions on the girls.
I think we’re supposed to root for these girls (in the minds of the writers and directors) but they have certainly caused enough damage in their Mean Girls-like lives. You’re watching them use people, hurt people, on a regular basis. Some of those characters have compelling backstories as well, like Jenna (Tammin Sursok), a “blind” girl who may have it in for the girls, or might be helping them, or Mona (Janel Parrish), who was once an outcast to the group but has been accepted since Allison’s death. And that’s not running through the laundry list of guys who date the girls, or the various chess pieces involved in their families’ romantic lives.
All said, I think I disliked the second season mostly because it got more soapy and less mystery-invested. Who’s dating who isn’t really my speed, although I know I’m not the demographic this is aimed at. That demographic will appreciate the “Fashion’s Guilty Pleasures” featurette with a look at the quartet’s clothing styles, and the “Men of Mystery” focus on the “heart-melting guys of Rosewood.” (Gag.) I’m definitely interested in how the writers will pull all of this together down the road, but hopefully, it will get back more to exploring the mystery of death of Allison and less about who is sleeping with who.
Still, the premise, that we can’t keep secrets locked up, that what we do has consequences good and bad, is pretty compelling. I think there’s a strong warning here for young people about gossip, bullying, sex, and relationships; I’m just not sure that’s what they see first when they watch the show. The quartet of young women is paying heavily for what they’ve done. They seem to dance around coming clean, but like a Scream movie, they fall back into the same patterns we’ve seen before. If they came clean, it seems like they would be redeemed, and at least understood. But that’s the thing about shame: it keeps you in the dark.