At some point during the past two seasons, Pretty Little Liars transformed into something beyond a standard teen genre show. I’m not sure if it was after Spencer battled Ian in the bell tower, or when the girls were framed for Dr Sullivan’s disappearance, or when Emily brazenly confronted A, but it’s happened, and during It Happened “That Night” it felt like the show had embraced that side of itself full on. Everything felt more mature, darker and sinister; a more cohesive from of its original first season self.
Pretty Little Liars still has that “make up as we go” feeling about it, and I’m sure re-watching the series over wouldn’t herald many clues towards a lot of what we know now, but there’s a strong appeal amidst all this, and this season premiere had all that I love about this show in spades.
Re-vitalising the premise of an anonymous attacker was always going to be a challenge, and the idea of using the show’s seemingly resolved murder case successfully tied this new assailant to a new, fresh story. The episode wasted no time in getting this season’s story going, by bringing Emily to the scene of the crime and making their unwitting involvement in the case more unavoidable. Tying them into a big secret like this will prove the catalyst for keeping these girls on their toes for what will probably be the rest of the year.
Mona’s inclusion was a bold move on the writer’s part. So many villains in the same role have taken a back seat after they’ve been ousted and stopped in their tracks, but witnessing this downfall and what I’m hoping will be a subsequent recovery, could prove interesting. Mona’s already a character that’s earned screen-time, and that was before we knew she was A. Hannah’s visits showed that softer side to her that she doesn’t let show often enough. After everything Mona did to her, it’s great to see her come back, but not for her old friend, for herself. Her insatiable desire to find out what fuelled Mona’s anger is so honest and exposed.
After Maya’s death, it’s clear that Emily would be irrevocably changed, and that new attitude was obvious in every scene during this premiere. There’s a harshness and an edge to the sweet, innocent girl we met two seasons ago, replaced by this angry, self-hating woman who’s lost something she valued more than anything. It’s not clear yet what road Emily will take this season, but I’d be surprised if they reverse this change inexplicably, and I’d like to see her sudden feeling of isolation from the other girls being given further exploration.
Pretty Little Liars started out its third season in a new and fresh way, but it retained that teen-show edge it’s always had. It seems to operate best when it puts that stuff on the back-burner though and focus on what we really want to see. It Happened “That Night” did just that; giving us a renewed excitement for some ridiculous twists and strange mysteries over the coming weeks.