“Pretty Little Liars” is a never-ending game of Clue. Hints from opponents mean nothing, the culprit changes with each toss of the dice and Professor Plum is a hot-for-student ex-teacher who aspires to Fitzgerald-esque greatness. And yet, no one can bear to quit the game — or stop watching.
Pretty Little Liars
Tuesday at 8 p.m.
Two years after the death of Alison DiLaurentis (Sasha Pieterse), the mystery of her murder continues to unravel. But the truth has been tangled in a web of vengeful best friends and boyfriends, masked — often literally — as the omniscient troublemaker dubbed ‘A.’ As Aria (Lucy Hale), Emily (Shay Mitchell), Hanna (Ashley Benson) and Spencer (Troian Bellisario) dig into their friends’, parents’ and neighbors’ pasts (and backyards), the girls are forced to confront their own skeletons. That is, unless ‘A’ gets to them first.
But who is ‘A’? Rather, who are ‘A’? This question is both the nail-biting highlight of “PLL” ’s third season and its most frustrating failure. Was it Garrett Reynolds (Yani Gellman) in the hall with the candlestick? What about Mona (Janel Parrish) in the kitchen with the revolver? Toby (relative newcomer Keegan Allen) in the hot tub with the six-pack?
There is no one answer. ‘A’ is like ‘Gossip Girl’ ’s little sister: equally as well-dressed, and as senseless and inconsistent as the show’s plot.
Though crowded casts are a common issue in television (refer to any season of “Glee”), the “PLL” writers seem to have recruited the entire population of Rosewood for their pretty little game. The ‘A-Team’ more accurately resembles a small village — albeit a mentally unstable and violent village with perfect hair — than a “team.” While pin-the-tail-on-the-murderer does make for a fun weeknight, this undeniable clutter of characters threatens the storyline’s consistency and the audience’s patience.
However, Mona’s evolution throughout “PLL” revives the sense of mystery dulled by the show’s pace. As the jealous best-friend-turned-stalker, mental patient, free woman and now sympathetic role model, Mona is complex in comparison with her fellow A-teamers. Polished and smug, yet desperate for acceptance, her character teeters between a fallen-from-grace Blair Waldorf and a powerless Carrie White (cue: pig’s blood). Mona may exhibit sociopathic behavior, but at least her motives seem well-intentioned — er, sometimes. What’s your excuse, Toby?
Revealed to be one of the many faces of ‘A,’ Rosewood’s resident bad-boy-gone-good appears to have contracted rabies since the last episode. OK, maybe not rabies. But Toby Cavanaugh, Spencer’s protective, dark prince, suffers a bout of overacting since his abrupt transition to the A-team. He’s the snarling, flexing psycho-boyfriend whose evil abs have received their own character description since escaping the (probably also evil) black hoodie. If not even Mona can compete with a classic Toby glare, how can viewers expect “PLL” ’s quartet of high-fashion heroines to drag themselves out of Rosewood alive?
But it’s this dwindling bit of hope for answers — yes, this week we’ll know! OK, maybe next week! — that lures viewers in. After all, mustn’t every game declare a winner?