Thursday, August 4, 2022

REVIEW: 'Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin' - Tabby and Noa Are Robbed Of Their Agency in 'Chapter Four: The (Fe)male Gaze'

HBO Max's Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin - Episode 1.04 "Chapter Four: The (Fe)male Gaze"

After their punishment comes to an end, the girls cement their friendship when Imogen needs them most. Meanwhile, Noa finds herself in A's crosshairs.

"Chapter Four: The (Fe)male Gaze" was written by Eleanor Jean & Jenina Kibuka and directed by Lisa Soper

Agency is being taken away from the Liars. On one hand, they are asked to examine the mysteries of the past. They can no longer live in the ignorance of their mothers' actions. On the other hand though, they are the ones being terrified and oppressed. Something bad has happened in their lives too. It's not all about the lingering consequences of what happened to Angela two decades ago. Right now, people are in pain. Some of that has only been hinted at so far. It's clear Tabby is haunted by something that happened. She is triggered when Greg betrays the safe set she wants for her film project. He doesn't see the problem with getting naked. He believes that's the whole point of this piece. Tabby chose him because he didn't mind being objectified in such a physical way. Tabby details how the violence and nudity of the scene are all inferred. They don't actually have to be seen in order to get the point across. She is already subverting so much of what Alfred Hitchcock did in Psycho. She flips the genders to showcase how it plays differently when done through the female gaze. The director is Tabby and the killer is Faran. Everyone respects Tabby's leadership until that point in the locker room. Then, it's all disrupted because someone didn't want to abide by the rules. She set the terms for everyone. They weren't difficult to follow. Tabby takes a private moment for herself. She has to psych herself up in order to finish the work. And then, that too has been taken away from her. Chip wants to get the scene done while Faran has seen much worse in the dancing world. That means Tabby is no longer in control. She desperately wants that back. That possibility emerges in the editing process. With that power, she sees all the emotions Greg portrayed both as an actor and as himself. She can dictate the terms of what is seen. She still has that keen eye. Of course, her behavior of filming boys in the locker room can't be tolerated. That too presents as a way for her to strike back and remove the power they walk through life with. It's a way for her to be feel safe and in control because she witnesses what these private moments are like. It's still an invasion of privacy. One she actively seeks out in order to make herself feel better. Again, most of this story is shrouded in secrecy. It doesn't have an immediate connection to what "A" subjects the Liars to. She has yet to share the details with her friends. It's her own private world. She can let others appreciate her talents as a filmmaker. The truth is much more complicated. It's so easy for agency to be taken away. It's also toxic when she seeks out revenge for how others treated her.

In fact, the Liars are starting to become more paranoid and suspicious. Noa can no longer trust her mother when she says she isn't using again. She has to investigate because Marjorie was holding her purse so close during Sheriff Beasley's surprise inspection. Noa has nothing for him to find. She wasn't the one who did anything wrong though. It simply falls into the pattern of Marjorie always making others take the blame. It may not have even started with Angela. That one glimpse of the past is used to inform how little Marjorie has changed throughout the years. That was one way in which the mothers tormented Angela leading up to death. Of course, their entire class is united in being quiet about what happened that fateful night. Imogen wants answers. No one will tell her the truth. Her mom can't communicate with her through a Ouija board or through her diaries. Pages are missing. That connection is gone. Imogen is angry because her mother was only thinking about herself. She was guilty over what happened and took the easy way out. She didn't care how it would alter Imogen's life. It has done so in a profound way. Imogen has become determined to get to the truth. Sidney has answers she refuses to share. Imogen keeps digging. "A" certainly wants the Liars to know what their mothers did. And yet, it's so much easier to serve as a faceless killer creeping over their lives. They loom over Imogen while she looks for items in the basement. And then, they're caught trying to break into Noa's house. The ensuing chase very much plays into the horror conventions Tabby talks so much about. It abides by the formula as well. The show recognizes the history of how the genre has evolved over the years. The inception of these ideas started long ago. People must recognize that and appreciate the perspective involved. In the moment, Noa is still running for her life. And then, she does what "A" asks of her. She turns her own mother in. It's emotionally devastating. Noa doesn't even know Marjorie has also received a threatening note at work. No one can forget what happened. It all serves as a disruption to what's happening now. Noa is the only one who has to contend with "A." Meanwhile, Faran starts to question if Karen and Kelly switched places before one was pushed to their death. It seems like such an extreme theory. Faran only has a few people she can confide in. She doesn't appreciate having to spend time with Kelly as she oversees her dancing. This suspicion also plays into the conventions. It's obvious to the point where it's the only thing Faran could believe. It receives no immediate resolution either. It's something meant to linger in her mind even though she's made a deal with Henry to get to the truth. That's all everyone wants. It remains elusive in a way that also delays satisfaction. That can be tolerated at this point. The narrative still needs a little more momentum to fully understand how the gravity of "A"'s threats lines up with what happened all those years ago and why it still matters to this day.