Thursday, August 4, 2022

REVIEW: 'Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin' - A Halloween Party Ends with Another Murder in 'Chapter Five: The Night He Came Home'

HBO Max's Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin - Episode 1.05 "Chapter Five: The Night He Came Home"

Desperate to keep her mother's house, Imogen throws a Halloween party to raise cash - but the presence of an unwanted guest casts a shadow over the celebrations.

"Chapter Five: The Night He Came Home" was written by Katie Avery & Alexis Scheer and directed by Lisa Soper

Trauma bonds generations of women together. People are afraid to talk about these experiences though. As a result, they feel alienated even from their closest friends. Instead, they lash out in unexpected ways. They take things more seriously than they should and react in even more reckless ways. Part of that has to be seen as the central Liars simply being teenagers. They deserve to make mistakes. They are still learning and growing. And yet, every action they take has the potential to create dire ramifications for the rest of their lives. Their mothers are defined entirely by what they did to Angela. They have each lived fulfilling lives since that day. That's something Angela never got to have. "A" refuses to let anyone forget that. They take it a step further. They have to ensure others suffer too. They must inflict their own trauma as a form of payback and accountability. That kind of revenge fantasy can be entertaining and appealing. However, "A" continues to be an enigma. They have a presence in this narrative. They lurk around the Liars. They stand out at these events meant for teenagers. They inflict even more danger. This time it plays more as an extension of what one of the Liars wants to happen. "A" knows the history of Imogen's home as well. In fact, they utilize the box of keepsakes to great effect during the party. It's also a way to connect the past and present. In 1999, Angela was being hazed by a group of friends. They subjected her to pain in order to laugh at her expense. They wanted to see it as harmless fun. It can never be perceived as such. They've had time to rewrite the story. The narrative has shifted to Angela being someone beyond help. The flashbacks show her as someone who just wanted to fit in with this tight-knit group of friends. They tortured her. As such, they casually ignored her when she cried out in pain. She needed attention. She grabbed ahold of it only to showcase how brutal the trauma was. She was forced to endure it no matter what. She had to stand completely isolated and alone. Of course, someone recognizes the pain she was in. That person has taken up the mantle of "A" to ensure the families that were allowed to prosper couldn't do so comfortably anymore. That doesn't seem to be enough for the creative team though. The Liars have to carry their own traumas that have absolutely nothing to do with what their mothers did. They have lived lives as well. They live in a society that inflicts so much harm onto women's bodies. The show hopes to be empowering by presenting these five characters in complex ways as they try to gain power in their lives. So much of the context is missing though. The show would rather talk around the trauma that they've faced instead of inviting the audience in. When that context is provided, then everything lines up in a way that rewards close attention to detail. Only then can the character journeys actually evolve and be understood.

Mouse's actions make no sense whatsoever. She previously teased that something happened to her when she was younger. She doesn't feel like sharing that with her friends. She doesn't want to burden them with some sad story. She's meant to figure her way through what happened. It resulted in her moms being even more protective of her. Elodie barely wants Mouse out of her sight. Mouse strives for more freedom. She believes she's entitled to that as a teenager who wants to feel normal for once. The audience has only really seen her as "normal" though. As such, this rebellion comes across as false. The viewer doesn't know why anyone would feel otherwise about Mouse's behavior. That leads to everyone's actions coming across as more extreme than necessary. Of course, extreme behavior can be justified in some instances. A killer is still on the loose after all. The Liars believe they must keep the threats from "A" a secret to avoid any unwanted consequences. That can certainly be accepted as typical teenage misguidance. The parents may not even know how to handle the situation differently. They too have been subjected to torment from the person who seemingly knows their secret. It's still too much talking about something that happened instead of letting it be known to all involved. Plus, everyone is meant to suffer equally. No one can be spared from the trauma. And so, something happened to Mouse that results in her pretending to be young girls to strangers online and in real life. Something also happened to Tabby during a party in the woods with a bonfire. She wants to identify anyone who was there. She's cautious about any drink offered to her or her friends. Tabby and Imogen may ultimately share a story in common. When Tabby opens up, Imogen offers immediate compassion because something happened to her too. It's dramatic. It's all meant to be cathartic. It's still so withholding for the audience. Nothing is done with any clarity or purpose. It's simply meant to be fun to see everyone dressed up for Halloween. That doesn't prevent them from having serious conversations. The Liars push back against a world that wishes to oppress them in a specific way. They refuse to be powerless when others are dictating how much stronger and wiser they are. And then, Faran is off on her journey of believing Kelly is actually Karen. Plenty of clues point in that direction. Imogen was chastised for confusing the twins at the dance. She may not have been wrong after all. Meanwhile, Kelly's mother refers to her as Karen. It could be a mistake brought on by grief. It's still just one massive accusation. Faran is certain she is right. She is told to drop it because it would be too insane to be true. The amount of time spent on it clashes with the tone elsewhere in the narrative. The rest of the show wants to keep things in a rather grounded reality. And then, campy elements occur when it comes to potential twin-swapping and gaslighting to land the lead in Swan Lake