If, like me, you’ve never watched Pretty Little Liars, here’s what you need to know: It started in 2010 on what used to be ABC Family, and ran for seven seasons. It’s about a group of friends in the fictional town of Rosewood, PA. One of them goes missing. On the year anniversary of her disappearance, the remaining girls start to receive texts about their deeply-hidden secrets from someone who identifies only as “A”.
And that’s about all I knew going in! Somehow over the last nine years I’ve avoided virtually all spoilers. I don’t know who A is. I don’t know what A wants. I don’t know who ends up being trash or who’s going to be my marshmallow baby that I’d die for.
I’m excited to find out.
In future installments I’ll go over multiple episodes at once (it has! 160! episodes!) but I thought the pilot should stand on its own. Let’s dive in.
We meet all five main girls in the very short opening scene:
Alison, who is the blonde ringleader that looks like a Bratz doll.
Aria, who has dark hair and big eyes and an eyebrow that won’t go down.
Spencer, who won’t stop reminding me of Cadet Kelly-era Christy Carlson Romano.
Emily, the only non-white girl, and current candidate for marshmallow baby that I’d die for
Hanna, also blonde, hard to tell apart from Alison.
During a sleepover, the girls wake up in the middle of the night to find Alison and Spencer gone. Spencer returns and tells them, in the Most Suspicious Flat Voice, that Alison is missing and she thinks she heard her scream.
Now it’s a year later!
PLL doesn’t believe in scene transitions so catch up!!
Since Pretty Little Liars doesn’t bother with things like Time and Space and Not Rocketing You From One Scene To The Next, let me try to break down the pilot for you in easy bite-sized pieces.
Let’s start with Aria, who the show wants us to believe is the main character.
- Aria’s mom is played by Piper from Charmed.
- Piper from Charmed is playing the mom of a teenager on a show that started nearly a decade ago and I am old.
- They even live in a house that looks like Halliwell Manor.
- The only conclusion to be drawn is that PLL is a lowkey sequel to Charmed and no one can convince me otherwise.
- One of our first scenes with Aria involves her being hit on by a guy who looks like every English teacher who hits on his students.
- Full disclosure: At this point, I remembered hearing something about a teacher/student romance in PLL so I may have been projecting. But I also wasn’t sure if I was confusing it with Gossip Girl.
- They make out about two minutes after meeting.
- Aria’s dad had an affair and she found out, and because every man on this show is trash, he’s pressured her into hiding it for him.
- That’s good parenting.
- Her eyebrow is still up, always.
- That’s good acting.
- Her family moved away from Rosewood after Alison’s disappearance, and were gone for most of the year that followed. Aria is now a convenient character for exposition, and that’s how we learn that the friend group fell apart after Alison disappeared.
- Because of how narrative works, the new English teacher on the first day of school is the guy Aria made out with.
- His name is Fitz. I want to delete him from the show.
- If he’s going to make out with students – and don’t worry, he is – he should get better at hiding it.
- Saying “holy crap” and staring at the student you made out with so intently for so long that others turn to look at her is not hiding it.
- Aria’s first text from A tells us that A knows she made out with Fitz, and that her dad’s affair was with a student.
- Every Man In Pretty Little Liars Is Trash.
Moving onto Hanna.
- Hanna looks enough like Alison that in her first Present scene, I thought we were in the Past, but we weren’t, or that perhaps Alison was pulling a long con and was alive and shoplifting somewhere, but she wasn’t.
- Hanna steals things because of why teens steal things in shows: her dad left.
- Before Alison went missing, Hanna was a sidekick because she was TV-actress-fat. Now she’s lost the ten sweaters they put on her to make her look fat, and she’s the Queen Bee.
- Her ~ secret ~ that the mysterious A taunts her with in a text is that she eats…sweets? And she might get fat again. Because she used to be fat. Sort of. There’s got to be more here.
- A cop comes to arrest her for stealing things, and her mom takes care of the charges by seducing the cop.
- Of course he’s trash, he’s a man in PLL.
Now there’s Emily, who is the Most Important.
- Emily lives near Alison’s old house, which has recently been sold.
- She goes to greet the new neighbors with a basket of foie gras, as you do, and meets Maya. Maya is a ridiculously pretty girl and oh my god I thought I just imagined that she looked like Kendra from Buffy. She’s Kendra! She played a teenager in 1997 and then again in 2010!
- Bianca Lawson is a witch who doesn’t age.
- Emily and Maya’s chemistry from passing a basket is 100000 times more potent than Aria and Fitz’s when they made out in a back room.
- They almost kiss, right here, in the first episode! Girls being gay at each other right there on the steps in the first episode! [INCOHERENT SCREAMING INTO THE GAY SUN]
- Emily’s message from A is about her finding a new friend to kiss, so we can now assume Emily did some kissing with Alison.
- Oh, also, Maya tells Emily that the gazebo in the backyard of Alison’s old house is being torn down to build a studio and obviously there is going to be a body under there do not even try to pretend otherwise. There isn’t a gazebo in the world without a body under it. Everyone knows that.
- Spencer is a hard-working perfectionist, the rich younger-sister character who has to do every extracurricular and get A++++’s to match up with her older sister.
- Her sister, Melissa, is the worst. Sometimes in a story like this the Older and Better Sister is actually nice deep down, but if Melissa is nice deep down, it is undiscovered cave within the Earth
- Her sister’s fiance is also the worst. Sure, he’s a med student with a charming accent and he seems nice and Spencer likes him, but he also flirts with her.
- He flirts with her, his fiancee’s sister
- His fiancee’s teenage sister
- “SHE’S LIKE SIXTEEN” is my PLL
Now, what about Alison, the missing one?
- Her last name is DiLaurentis because not only is this a Charmed sequel, it’s also a Food Network scandal.
- She is beyond-Regina-George levels of mean. Flashbacks show her doing things like asking Hanna if she’s sure she wants to eat that cookie, and threatening to tell Spencer’s sister about Spencer kissing her boyfriend, just, like, for kicks.
- She was involved in The Jenna Thing. We don’t know what the Jenna thing is yet, just that Alison was heavily involved.
- I’m not wildly sad she’s gone tbh.
- I had to be responsible and Google it and I learned that it’s Alison DiLaurentis and Giada De Laurentiis and my conspiracy theory is ruined. I don’t want to talk about it. It’s still a Charmed thing
- The girls all think she’s A because A knows things only Alison knew,
- but she’s not, because, well, guess what was under the gazebo in Alison’s old backyard?
The pilot ends with Alison’s funeral, where all of these girls gather together to mourn her and also be very confused about who’s sending these texts if not Alison.
Fitz is there, too, because he insists on still existing. He smolders at Aria at her friend’s funeral. A man in PLL, trash, etc. Jenna of The Jenna Thing also shows up at the funeral, which everyone reacts to dramatically, and she’s blind.
It’s 2010 and there are flip phones everywhere. Flip phones, and simultaneous out-loud reading of a text from your dead friend.
Aria’s eyebrow cannot be tamed.
I’m going to love this show.