To start this off, it should be known I have never seen an episode of Pretty Little Liars, so any references or universe-related ideas/themes/characters will completely go over my head. I do not know a single plotline from Pretty Little Liars or a single character. That being said, I was scrolling through Twitter one day and I saw all of these tweets from horror friends, absolutely raving over this new show Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin. Out of morbid curiosity, and only knowing that Pretty Little Liars was as popular as it was, I decided to watch the trailer. I was genuinely shocked with how interested I was in this new show. Add to that the fact I don’t have to watch seven seasons before watching this I decided to jump right in. Original Sin bewildered me with its tongue and cheekiness, with the stark contrast between fan service and gateway horror this show is turning out to be a truly entertaining little slasher series.
Episode 1 “Spirit Week”
The show starts strong with a really interesting opening credits scene that gives really heavy ’80s horror vibes, or mid-aughts remake vibes. Our setting is Millwood, Pennsylvania, set deep in the heart of a struggling steel town. We initially enter at the cusp of Y2K, merely minutes before the countdown timer for the “end of the world,” started ticking. A group of girls party the night away, but are interrupted when their “friend” Angela (Gabriella Pizzolo) stumbles over to them, makeup running, asking for help. Angela’s “friends” completely ignore her, which leads to her climbing up a ladder and jumping from the ceiling, landing flat and killing herself. We’re left lingering on a shot of Davie’s (Ava DeMary) shoes, as a pool of blood extends towards her feet. Cut to 22 years later.
A now 22 years older, Davie sits at the dinner table with her daughter Imogen (Bailee Madison), who we learn is roughly five months pregnant. They have a brief conversation about how Imogen’s former friend Karen (Mallory Bechtel) is coming over to collect a bunch of clothes she left at their house, and we are, unfortunately, introduced to Karen Beasley for the first time. Karen is a backstabbing, smarmy, conniving, terrible human who will do anything to get her desired outcome; speak of the devil, Karen has arrived!
Upon entering the house Karen hands Davie a letter that was taped to the door, a letter that has her name written in black sharpie, but oddly the letter A is in red (a running motif that will pop up everywhere). Davie opens the letter as the two girls go upstairs. Inside the envelope is a pamphlet for the Y2K party she attended 22 years ago, on the back was written, “gone but not forgotten, you can’t ignore the past forever. The countdown is on.” Upstairs Karen goes through the closet while expositing why they are fighting, she blames Imogen for kissing her boyfriend, though Imogen doth protest that he kissed she. Karen eventually storms out with none of the clothes she came over to get when they both notice that there is running water down the hallway. After creeping down the hallway we see what looks like a suicide, Davie is in the bathtub with bloody water spilling over, presumably with deadly self-harm done on her wrists. Imogen also notices, strangely, there is a letter A in blood next to her mom’s body.
A few weeks/a month later we are introduced to the rest of our cast starting with Tabitha Hayworthe (Chandler Kinney) and her mother Sidney Hayworthe (Sharon Leal). Davie and Sidney were best friends in high school, which means Sidney was one of the people ignoring Angela at the party, so she lets Imogen stay with them while recovering from this trauma. Imogen is ready to go back to school, and what a week to go back, strap in because it’s spirit week! At the entrance, set up with a stand promoting the spirit dance, is Karen; Karen is not happy Imogen is back. She feigns being happy that Imogen is back, but also states how she should think about what her appearance means for everyone else, and that she is traumatized just as much as Imogen. This gives us a beautiful red-washed flashback shot of Karen running out of the house screaming. Before Imogen goes on her way Karen makes sure to get one more jab in by whispering to Imogen, “people may be polite to you, but trust me, nobody wants your pregnant, tragic ass here.”
Once Imogen walks away we meet Mouse, Minnie Honrada, (Malia Pyles), who gets on Karen’s shitlist for calling her a, “basic Barbie.” Next up we meet Noa Olivar (Maia Reficco), who walks the halls with an ankle monitor firmly wrapped around her ankle. Noa takes daily drug tests, and it just so happens that Karen’s twin Kelly (Mallory Bechtel) just happens to…assist in someway in the nurse’s office? Noa and her boyfriend Shawn Noble (Alex Aiono) have a conversation about her not being able to do anything fun because of her ankle monitor, he dismisses the idea saying that he loves spending time with her, and that it doesn’t matter what they do.
This all brings us to one of the most overt, but probably unnoticed, references when we get the typical Scream 2 film class movie-talk scene. Tabby sits in Mr. Smithee’s (Jeffrey Bean) film class, where he passes out a list of 20 classics, and the students are tasked with creating short films based on the classic they pick. And yes, his name is a direct reference to Alan Smithee, the names directors take when they do not want to be associated with a production/final product. Tabby shows her deep knowledge of film off in every scene, but tells Mr. Smithee that it’s wrong his list of 20 classics has now people of color on it, and only has two women as well. Mr. Smithee stands firm on his list, and Tabby tells the class about how she is going to do a Jordan Peele double feature at the Orpheum Theatre, where she works. It’s this point where the I Know What You Did Last Summer-remake feeling kicks in when Tabby gets a text from Call ID Unknown asking, “what’s your favorite scary movie?” Tabby replies, “Who’s this?” We’re served with another in-your-face reference when unknown responds, “Peeping Tom.”
Imogen is in a literature class while being lectured on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, where her teacher singles her out asking if she has any thoughts about it. During class she gets a text from unknown saying, “look out the window.” she does and sees a Victory Crowley from Hatcher looking person standing in the field like Michael Myers in Halloween. Mouse gets a text from unknown asking, “Can Minnie Mouse come out to play? XOXO, Mickey.” In the ballet class Kelly gets cast as the white swan, and Faran Bryant (Zaria) gets cast as the black swan, which Karen says was because of well…you know. Faran gets a text from unknown saying, “you’re gonna slay as the black swan.” As Faran reads the text, it is accompanied by a beautiful mid-shot switch to Dutch angle.
After having a panic attack Imogen goes to the nurses office to ask about getting an abortion. The nurse tells her she is too far along, six months, and cannot legally have one. Later in the day Noa must go to her scheduled community service where Karen/Kelly’s father Sheriff Beasley (Eric Johnson) presides over. During the shift Noa goes to talk with the sheriff, and it just so happens he is getting oral sex from one of the boys in community service. Noa has great ammunition against him now. Tabby is at work at the theatre where she broaches to subject to her manager Wes (Derek Klena) about having the Jordan Peele double feature. This Fango reading film student, who is majorly crushing on Tabby (or is many years older and this is super weird, it’s hard to gauge how old he is), so he says yes. Wes asks Tabby if she needs a ride home from work, again, and she says yes. Imogen takes a quick trip back to her former home to get an ultrasound photo from her moms bureau. On bureau she finds a red piece of paper…the party flier from the Y2K dance, and the deadly note on the back of it. Oh, and there’s this weird ass sub-story about Tabby having a camera in a guys locker room…for research?
The next day at Black Swan rehearsal, Faran and Henry (Ben Cook) basically melt over each other, before Faran gets pulled into Madame Giry’s (Kate Jennings Grant) office. Madame Giry basically tells Faran that she will tell her dream school about her scoliosis, which apparently would mean more to the school than her performance. It’s a weird character conflict for Faran when they could have thrown so many more interesting obstacles at her. Mouse starts (possibly) getting hit on by (*sigh) Ash Romero (Jordan Gonzalez). Sometimes the references hit, and sometimes they really miss. Principal Clanton (Robert Stanton) calls Imogen to his office and tells her that the school isn’t equipped to handle her, both in regards to the trauma from her mom, as well as the baby inside of her. The principal then goes on to imply Karen said she was “triggered” by Imogen’s presence. In a burst of flat-out rage, Imogen bursts into the cafeteria and confronts Karen. Imogen tells her that she is going to be the Spirit Queen, like her mother, and that her boyfriend was the one who kissed her.
That evening the Beasleys are having dinner, where we continue to see how sheriff Beasley is a straight-up waste of space. Tabby and Imogen start bonding in a few scenes, but the action really kicks back up when Faran is solo rehearsing after hours when she sees the Victor Crawley from Hatchet-looking person, who from henceforth shall be named A, for reasons. We then cut to the janitor, who was in a blink-and-you-miss-it cliche slo-mo creepy stare scene earlier, who gets his throat slit right open by A.
It’s Wednesday, my dudes! But things won’t be so jovial around the quad today. When Tabby and Imogen arrive at the school they notice all of Karen’s spirit queen posters are defaced. Mouse gets blamed for putting a dead rat in Karen’s bookbag. Noa tests positive for marijuana. Karen gets razor blades put in her pointe shoes, and Faran is blamed. All five girls end up getting detention, Faran gets thrown out of Black Swan, and Noa gets her drug tests that were due to end in just a few weeks, extended throughout the end of the school year. Once in detention, this Midday Snack Club realizes they all have one common enemy, one person that would have the means and the motive to frame these five girls for something they didn’t commit…Karen.
Sure, you could cancel Karen, there are plenty of things that she could be canceled over. But there is one ultimate cancellation proposed by Imogen, “I think we should kill Karen Beasley.” “Crawl on me, sink into me, die for me, living dead girl” lyrics by Rob Zombie blast over the end credits, leaving the viewer ready for whatever these girls have planned next.
For never having seen an episode of the original series, I was so honestly surprised with how well the show was made, and just how interesting a show that was probably made for not my demographic can be. Original Sin has enough references to satiate the deepest genre fan, but also rides the line of drama and slasher, making it a perfect example of what gateway horror can be. It doesn’t frighten too much, though there are some incredibly amazing moments of horror (that Dutch angle moment mentioned earlier). With Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin and American Horror Stories dropping new episodes every Thursday, there’s now something to help get me through the week. Keep your eye out for complete series coverage as each episode drops!