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Pretty Little Liars - Episode 1.01 - Pilot - Recap/Review

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Pretty Little Liars - 1.01 "Pilot" - Recap/Review

June 8, 2010, was the day ABC Family welcomed a new television show to their network of what everyone would think would be filled of teen fluff shows like High School Musical or The Cheetah Girls. But, despite misguided preconceptions, Pretty Little Liars is a show that shouldn't exactly be for the younger generation. After all, it has murder, scandal, and even the exploration of one's sexuality. Does it really belong on ABC Family? Desperate Housewives for teens, huh? Wait a minute, isn't Desperate Housewives mainly for teens anyway?

After watching the pilot episode, and though I myself was looking forward to the premiere, I couldn't help but notice the pretty little errors that the show didn't do its best to cover up. I have not read the books the show is based on, but I am sure the show stands on its own two feet. After all, I had never read a single Southern Vampire Mysteries novel before I began watching True Blood, and I love that show. I'm reading the books now though, as I am sure I will for Pretty Little Liars.

The title is good enough, it's a great title. Quite captivating and intriguing really. It made me want to watch it just based on the title. The plot is good enough too. A clique have a sleepover, one of their own goes missing and a year later she is found dead but the four surviving girls start recieving messages from a mysterious "A" who knows all their secrets (whoops, sudden The Simpsons flashback), and only secrets Alison, the girl who died, knew.

Now comes the recap, with slight reviews, so spoilers ahead.

The show starts pretty suddenly at the slumber party, where only four of the girls - Aria, Spencer, Hanna and Emily - are, listening to music and drinking something. Within ten seconds the lights go off and the girls are left wondering who the hell turned them off, and also thunder cracks outside, icing on the cake. They hear noises and somehow the door opens. Huddling together, the girls anticipate whats lurking behind that door. Oh, is that Alison? Just playing a mean trick on the poor girls. She should know better.

Yep, she's only there a few seconds and she already seems like a bitch. Someone I wouldn't invite over for a slumber party. In fact, I would have locked that door tight and she wouldn't have gotten in. Jokes on you, hun. But, a quick scene change later, only three of the girls are lying sleeping. Well, not exactly, Aria wakes, though she looks perfectly content for just waking up, like she only closed her eyes two seconds before, and wakes the others, noticing Spencer and Alison aren't there. They too wake up eerily fast. Whenever I wake up, I usually look like hell- hair all over the place, my eyes twitching uncontrollably- but these girls really are sleeping beauties. Hanna only had her eyes open a second before asking where Spencer and Alison were. Wow, talk about a gift. Spencer returns and tells them Alison is gone, and she heard a scream.

A year later - wow in two minutes - Alison is still missing. Aria has returned home from a year in Europe with her family, and in walks her mother, played by the fabulous Holly Marie Combs (and if you know exactly what I am talking about, ala Charmed, then you should know why I love her), and Aria suddenly brings up Alison's disappearance. I know the show is sort of about that, but it's kind of like the overused subject. I already feel this way, and it's only three minutes in. Aria's younger brother needs to be taken to school, so Aria offers, and while her mum and brother are away, the father makes sure his daughter is alright. Yet she replies "Dad, still keeping your secret." Okay, out the blue much, I know this show is about secrets but seriously, they had to push that into our faces? Of course he didn't mean the obvious affair he had, but Aria soon leaves with her brother for practice.

So Aria has dropped her brother off at school, wants her to pick him back up at 6:00, it's now 4:15, what is a 16-year-old girl to do? Oh I know, go to a bar, and ask for a cheeseburger. Before I go any further I must admit I do like the pilot, just so you all don't think I'm just slamming the show, I just like to point out the downers a lot. Don't worry, the good will come. Anyway, she's sitting close to a good-looking guy, both sitting alone. Aria also spots a MISSING poster for Alison. Aria and the mystery man get talking, and he is going to start his first teaching job, and Aria is interested in him, and he is interested in her. Surely that gave her a hint that he was, in fact, a teacher, and how many schools could there be in Rosewood, a small town. What were the odds that he'd turn out to be her English teacher. They wanna know more about each other, and woop they're... somewhere... kissing and touching all over the place.

Now comes the opening credits, with the theme song "Secret" by The Pierces, and it's a good opening sequence I admit, with the pretty little liars sort of dressing Alison up and then her coffin closes and they're standing by it all secretive and then the very nice title of the show comes up on the screen. Nice font too. Very swirly.

Hanna's turn. She's at a mall. Trying on some sunglasses. Typical popular girl. She's trying on a few glasses actually, while her friend tries on scarves. And Spencer, who isn't with her, is looking at clothes at the other side of the mall. Hanna leaves the store, with the glasses still on her head, to talk to Spencer. Hanna points out, very well, that Spencer is a very smart girl, while she is all glitz and glamour. Spencer then brings up Alison, and I don't mean to sound rude but they're really pushing Alison's disappearance in our face, the writers could have been a little more discreet. Morbid topic. But Hanna helps Spencer get a nice top for the meeting of Spencer's sister's fiance. Hanna then leaves, passes a security guy, who looks like he's about to catch her stealing them glasses, but instead hands her the bag she left, and Hanna leaves with her shoplifter friend.

Now I'm assuming it's the next day, because Aria's father has dropped Aria and her brother off at school. Once the brother leaves, oh, another mention of the secret the dad is keeping. Seriously. Once Aria leaves, she has a flashback, one of her and Alison walking home with Mona keenly following them, then Aria soon finds her dad's car parked hidden, with a woman who isn't his wife in the front seat, kissing. Poor Aria, but once snapped out of her flashback, Emily greets her. They lost touch during the past year, with all four main characters. And there we have it, Alison. Alison this, Alison that. Emily pronounces her dead, shocking Aria. They make it in the classroom, and Emily tells Aria that Hanna is the "It" girl when she walks in. Spencer walks in, they're friendly, not friends.

The teacher is now inside. Wait, I recognize that hair. It's Aria's guy from the bar, he's... the English teacher! He says "oh crap" when he looks at Aria, so everyone naturally looks at her. Aria's phone rings (naughty) and she sees that she has a text message, from "A" - 'Maybe he fools around with students all of the time. A lot of teachers do. Just ask your dad', it reads. It does sound like Alison.

Emily is home, talking about some new family moving into Alison's old house. Emily's mum makes her take a welcome basket to them, where Emily meets a girl her age named Maya. Emily rummaged around Alison's old things, which I'm surprised her parents didn't take with them, and Maya asks Emily for help with her boxes. Maya asks a few questions, though Emily changes it so she asks her a question. She notices a photo of her boyfriend on her drawers, but their relationship is now too distant. Emily also enlightens her that she has a boyfriend. Emily also tells her she's a swimmer, and Maya bets she's good, and compliments her body, bless her. Weird enough, Maya wants to smoke some weed, with a girl she just met about two minutes twenty seven seconds ago, and Emily is more than keen to try some - her first time.

We're now onto Spencer, who seems to be the most real of the mains at this point, while the other three seem forced. She's in her garden, her sister just coming out of a loft Spencer spent so much time and effort into renovating. Spencer's sister compliments it, and it makes Spencer happy, until she breaks the news that she is moving into it with her fiance. Major blow for Spencer there - she put in the grades, gave up her summer, just so she could move into it herself. But her sister keeps that smile on her face, even when her fiance walks out, and Spencer walks away furious and upset.

Night time. Wren, Spencer's sister's fiance, puts out a cigararette in a plant pot (littering is a crime), and Spencer is in the middle of reading. They talk, and Wren feels sorry for taking her loft away from her, and Spencer tells him she likes him, which is unusual. Now it's day time, and Aria is walking down a corridor of school to get to her teacher's, or lover's, room. The teacher is confused about his feelings for Aria, but he can't be with her, he's her teacher! But Aria seems determined to make it work, though the teacher leaves. Now we're onto Emily and Maya, walking along, their hands extremely close. Emily was walking her home, and when they get there, two men throw Alison's old things into the van. I know she's dead and all, but they suck at getting rid of things, I mean, have a little respect. Are they really doing their jobs right? Emily tells Maya what happened to Alison, and they, sorta, kiss goodbye. After a day of knowing each other, they're already on first base.

At practice, Emily walks into the changing rooms, fresh out the shower I assume, and walks to her locker. Spencer is also there, and Emily quickly finds a note - 'Hey Em! I've been replaced, you've found another friend to kiss! - A'. That "A"! Such a sneaky one. Alison? Has to be! Spencer is now in her kitchen, and Wren has walked in on her in her bikini. He's also half-naked. And he mentions he was at medical school, and helps Spencer with a slight back problem. She seems to like his technique a little too much, but the sound of the door and her sister's voice pulls them away, and Spencer quickly leaves. Next up, Aria's mum and dad, sort of happy to be back at Rosewood. Talk, talk, talk, quick hint at a secret, talk. And there you have it, another mention of Alison. Spencer is now lying in bed reading, then hearing a noise outside, she looks out her window to see her sister and Wren about to enter her loft, kissing. A message on her computer draws her away, and it's from "A" - 'Poor Spencer. Always wants Melissa's boyfriends. But remember, if you kiss I tell.' A flashback with Spencer, Alison and Hanna shows that Spencer once kissed Melissa's boyfriend before, and Alison threatens Spencer to tell her, but Spencer threatens her back about "the Jenna thing".

Emily meets Aria at Aria's house, and they both tell each other that they got notes from an "A", though too personal to share. They can't show anyone, or their secrets will be out. Dinner time at Hanna's house now, and Hanna's mum is making food for Hanna. They discuss how Hanna's father left them not long ago, and Hanna also picks at her food. The doorbell rings, it's the police, and they arrest Hanna for shoplifting, to Hanna's mother's surprise. Down at the police station, Hanna is extremely anxious while her mother tries to settle with the officer. Hanna's phone rings, a message from "A" - Be careful, Hanna. I hear prison food makes you fat.' Low one, even for you, A! Soon, her mum leaves with Hanna, and in the car, they discuss her problem, how she shoplifts because of the abandonment from her father. Hanna's mum also tells her she's taking care of the problem.

Emily is walking through the cold street when an ambulance passes, and like any respectful pedestrian, she follows it to a crowd outside a house. Maya tells Emily that they have found her friend, Alison, dead. Hanna shows up, and Aria pulls up in her car, and Spencer is standing across the street. How they all knew Alison was dead is beyond me and to come to that place is beyond me. Spencer, Aria and Hanna bring up the Jenna Thing, revealing that they promised never to talk about it. Hanna is now home, watching a news report about the discovery of Alison's body, and reveals a killer is at large in Rosewood - pretty freaky stuff. The front door opens and in comes Hanna's mum and the police officer she said she would take care of, and now we all know how she will accomplish this as she takes him up the stairs. After snogging his face off in front of her daughter, of course.

Now we're at the church, Alison's funeral. Aria is upstairs, and the teacher she likes comes up and apologizes for being a jerk. She gives him a sweet kiss and walks away, but he pulls her back for a more passionate kiss. Soon following, Aria walks away, leaving a confused teacher. Now she's at the funeral, meeting Alison's mother, who looks perfectly content after her daughter being killed and is being buried that very day. The other girls are sitting at the front, and Aria sits with them. Alison would love the attention, they say. And there goes Aria's phone again, she needs to learn how to put that thing on silent. They soon start revealing that they all got messages from "A", and the infamous Jenna also arrives, causing quite a stir among the girls. And bless Jenna, she's blind.

The funeral is quickly over, and the girls walk out closer than ever. A detective pulls them over and wants to talk to them to talk about their statements of Alison's disappearance, since it's now a murder. He scares them by telling them he will find out the truth. All of their phones go off, with a message from "A" - 'I'm still here bitches. And I know everything.' The ending reminds me of the ending of the pilot episode of Desperate Housewives, where the four housewives gather following the suicide of Mary Alice and find a letter that was sent to her the day she killed herself. The camera even moves backwards and upwards just like it.

Now I criticized a lot, and the recap was pretty lengthy, I tend to overdo it sometimes and give too much detail, I suppose. The good things about the pilot was that it was intriguing enough to watch the next episode, because I know better than to judge a show by its pilot. The characters seem to have a lot more potential and several storylines are pretty exciting. Bad things? The writing was really weak at times, and I felt like the show forced us to know about every secret and shoving it in our faces. Lackluster writing, occasionally good acting. Don't take my word for it though, as I am sure people will have different opinions. I still enjoyed it. I just hope Pretty Little Liars doesn't turn into a Pretty Big Mistake.

About the Author - Gavin Hetherington
Award-winning author of 'Abyssal Sanctuary: Remnants of the Damned'. Gavin joined SpoilerTV on August 9, 2014 and will be reviewing 2 Broke Girls, Mistresses, Orange is the New Black and Salem in the 2014-15 season. Gavin's favourite shows include Charmed, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, The Walking Dead, Once Upon a Time, Revenge, Scandal and much more. You can contact Gavin at
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