Pretty Little Liars season 5 episode 2 review: Whirly Girlie

Review Caroline Preece 18 Jun 2014 - 13:15

This week's episode delivers on much of what the season 5 opener promised. Here's Caroline's review...

This review contains spoilers.

5.2 Whirly Girlie

The events of last week’s Pretty Little Liars’ fifth season premiere promised us so much – a clean(ish) slate, the return of Alison, Mona’s army of misfits and a fresh take on the girls’ friendship now that they’re a five-piece again. This second episode delivered on much of that promise, even if long-time fans are still having a hard time dealing with both last year’s events and the prospect of three more seasons, and thus actually managed to be interesting again after years of empty promises and endless teasing.

When the show first started, it felt like it was about more than the surface mystery. It was about the paranoia of modern tech-ridden high school life, first and foremost, and had an edge to it that we hadn’t really seen elsewhere – especially on ABC Family. That edge is probably why it’s been so successful, but recent seasons have seen the mystery take over at the expense of the characters, relationships and larger thematic clarity. We complain about the lack of answers, but the show is arguably at its best when it isn’t trying to resolve its mystery at all.

A has always worked better than a concept than a person, and it was the presence of that seemingly omnipotent force that gave the series scope to explore other things. The death of A last week, at least for now, is probably the best decision the show has ever made bar making Ezra the villain of the story, and that almost definitely means that we’re in store for yet another retread. I have hope, however, that this is indeed a new era for the show – one that gets back to its roots and makes Rosewood genuinely scary again.

The biggest threat to the girls is once again just an unbalanced high school outcast angry at the mean girls for excluding her and, as Mona mentions in that final scene with Alison, she doesn’t have to hide anymore. The nerds won, essentially, and now it’s the bully’s turn to live in fear. This sort of biting commentary on teen girl relationships is something I didn’t even realise was missing until now but, the inherent stupidity of Pretty Little Liars aside, the idea of Alison coming back home after being subjected to the same torment she gleefully enacted on others is pretty fascinating stuff.

Of course, Rosewood will never be safe even without A around, and it was Jason who became suspect #1 this week. Like Toby and Ezra before him, Jason has always just been around, slightly sketchy but given a pass just because others were above him on the threat list. The fingers currently pointed at him pretty much take him off of the list completely, but my hope is for the show to finally delve into the N.A.T. club stuff again. Melissa’s back in town and Wren got a mention this week, so why not? It’s the last un-exhausted thread, and one that there’s currently lots of room to explore. 

The aforementioned stupidity of the show is largely down to the reactions of the Liars to all of the lunacy around them – still doing their hair and keeping their grades up despite crazy murderers sneaking into their bedrooms and threatening family members – and that’s another thing that appears to be getting addressed. Aria is obviously traumatised by the fact that she’s now a murderer, but it’s actually all five of the girls who are having trouble dealing with the long-awaited end to their two-year ordeal.

We might never really know exactly what happened to Alison while she was away but for Aria, Emily, Spencer and Hannah, the prospect of a life without A is something none of them can come to terms with. That’s why I hope we don’t see another ‘Big A’ crop up, at least for a while, and we instead get to experience the very human reactions of these girls. There’s still plenty of danger – Mona, Melissa and apparently Jason are all threats – so there’s really no need to return to the status quo just yet. As said in this episode, going through hell is easy, it’s coming back that’s the hard part.

Read Caroline's review of the previous episode, EscApe From New York, here. 

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