Thursday, July 28, 2022

REVIEW: 'Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin' - Millwood Mourns the Loss of Another High School Student in 'Chapter Three: Aftermath'

HBO Max's Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin - Episode 1.03 "Chapter Three: Aftermath"

In the wake of Spirit Week, Imogen unearths long-buried truths on her path to unmask the mysterious "A." After Sheriff Beasley closes in, Noa, Faran and Mouse weigh their options, while Tabby works to recover vital evidence.

"Chapter Three: Aftermath" was written by Michael Grassi & Evelyn Yves and directed by Maggie Kiley

Imogen, Tabby, Noa, Faran and Mouse are dealing with the sins of their mothers' past. Imogen has become obsessed with the potential link between Angela and Karen's deaths. She connects the two because of the messages "A" has sent. She fears what they possibly want from her. She needs to understand in order to better relate. Of course, the mothers have to be singled out for failing to help Angela in a much more specific way than the rest of the people at the rave. They weren't the only one she tried to get to help her. That betrayal simply comes across as more personal. That realization is even starting to dawn on Imogen. Davie felt so much guilt about what happened to Angela that she killed herself after being threatened with the flier. Sidney feels guilty enough to visit the memorial in the warehouse from time to time. The mothers have their cover story. That's what Sidney shares with Imogen and Tabby. They wanted answers. They received a story of Angela being a lost soul beyond redemption. No one could have saved her before she ultimately jumped to her death. That's these guilty minds trying to rationalize what happened. They had to find ways to move on with their lives. But now, their daughters are dealing with the consequences. Of course, not all of this can be based around what happened with Angela. It has to remain firmly grounded in the present as well. A fellow classmate of the Liars has been killed. Imogen was apparently the only person who saw "A" in the rafters with Karen. In fact, the official investigation suggests Karen was pushed to suicide after the malicious bullying she endured from the Liars. That's the narrative Sheriff Beasley would like to embrace. It's still improper for him to be leading this investigation. He acts with such viciousness towards the Liars. He wants them to suffer for the rest of their lives. They can never move past what they did to his daughter. He will even alienate his own family if it means making the lives of these teenage girls more miserable. And yes, he has vast resources at his disposal ready to exploit the situation for his benefit. The Liars need their parents in the room with them in order to counter this manipulation. As a litigator, Faran's mom has relative ease in commanding the situation. Of course, Faran doesn't always appreciate that quality. She doesn't want to move away from her father even though Pittsburgh has more dancing opportunities. The Liars risk losing so much because the narrative is pitted against them. They are apologetic for what they did. They shift the blame around to make Imogen and Tabby more guilty. At the end of the day though, they decide to stick together. They believe they are being tested by "A." Their lives aren't completely ruined right now. They are constantly being watched. As such, they have to be even more careful with everything they do.

It's not until the end of the episode that "A" makes their presence known once more. It's not in the form of a cryptic yet terrifying text. It's in physical form. "A" sits in a van watching the Liars as they privately mourn Karen at her grave. They try to honor her in death when they couldn't do so in life. They became bullies. They engaged in that behavior because it felt good. It was their desired outcome. The truth is more complicated. Kelly blames herself because she suggested the scheme to get revenge on Imogen. She believes she's the reason why Karen was up there and vulnerable to begin with. That's not true. All of this was what "A" wanted. They are intent on making the Liars suffer. It's more than just the five people receiving texts though. Their parents worry about their children. They see history repeating. They have to be careful. They want to protect their daughters. They don't want to cut them completely off from what they love though. It's a delicate balance. Of course, the Liars still frequently find themselves in precarious situations. It's also relatively easy for them to escape. Imogen simply has to be quiet once "A" appears at the warehouse. Meanwhile, Tabby has to leave Wes' apartment as soon as possible because all of his overtures towards her are completely inappropriate. That's incredibly blatant. That's the only way to interpret those scenes. Tabby is terrified while Wes is talking about his plans for dinner and a movie. He wants to engage with her in a romantic way. He's preying on a child in the eyes of the law. She doesn't have the maturity he projects onto her. She still makes mistakes. She is still growing as a person. All of the Liars have that potential. Meanwhile, their mothers are adults who have been informed by what happened two decades ago. Events in high school can be incredibly consequential in one's life. It informs how the parents raise their children. It's horrifying when Noa shares that she took the blame for the drugs who mother had. She was sent to juvie in order to keep her mother safe. That flips the script of the dynamic between them. Previously, Noa was the troublemaker trying to make amends while potentially messing up her life for good. Her mother was a constantly working nurse struggling to make ends meet. The truth is much more complicated than anyone previously knew. That's what the season sets out to do. It hopes to play with the expectations of the audience. That comes partly from this property having already been adapted as a television show. It's also just having fun making note of the references it's pulling from while still hoping to create an engaging story. Now, the seams are more apparent here. The show undercuts its message from time to time too. The power of the final moment is dampened by the audience being aware that "A" is there before the Liars are. And yet, the drama still carries so much potential to continue earning its scares and thrills.