Here are my first impressions of the winter premiere of “Pretty Little Liars” (7 p.m. Central Mondays on ABC Family).
1. At first, I had forgotten who a lot of the characters were, which doesn’t say much about the writing (although in the show’s defense, it had been four months since the previous episode aired), but I was back on board at the end. Entertainment Weekly ranked “PLL” as one of the worst shows of 2010, which I think is overstating it, but I do often get the impression that I’m watching a show where the actors (notably Lucy Hale from “Privileged,” my No. 1 show of 2009) are superior to the material they are given.
2. After this episode, I’m fairly convinced that “A” is Alison. Hospitalized and loopy Hanna sees various visions. Some are reality, like the nice-guy school photographer who kisses her while she’s asleep; some are presumably dreams, like when Alison pays her a visit. My theory is that it wasn’t a dream: It actually was Alison.
3. Creepiest note from “A” so far: The girls find it scrawled on Hanna’s leg cast.
4. But there have got to be two “A’s,” right? There are too many characters acting too suspicious for it to be mere coincidence. I’ve eliminated the too-suspicious characters from contention, like leather-jacket-wearing Toby and blind Jenna. But I am beginning to suspect that one of the not-obvious characters — maybe even one of the four girls (wouldn’t that be a neat twist?) — is the accomplice.
5. From the soapy side of the show, the biggest character development is that Emily tells her parents she’s gay. Scenes like this are so clichéd on TV (where a third of the characters are gay, it seems) that it’s nice to see it done slightly different here. Rather than disowning their child (like many early examples of gay-teen stories) or of immediately being fine with it (like Kurt’s dad on “Glee”), Emily’s folks seem poised for a transition period. They are both conservatives (read: religious, I suppose), but he is a military man, and he recognizes the value of having a kid who is “alive and healthy — that counts for a lot.”
6. In other plot developments, Spencer’s sister elopes with her boyfriend (who Spencer was briefly involved with), Hanna’s banker mom steals cash from a client to solve her money troubles, and Aria and Ezra (her English teacher and boyfriend) are still worried about their secret getting out. On one hand, these threads seem like diversions from the reason we’re watching the show (to find out who “A” is); on the other hand, the environment of secrecy does fit the mood of the show. I’m certain that the fact that everyone has secrets will dovetail with the revelation of the show’s biggest secret.
Verdict: But when will “Pretty Little Liars” reveal the identity of “A”? I would guess it’ll happen by the season finale at the latest (we’re through episode 11 of a presumably 22-episode season). I’ll stick around awhile longer, but I admit that in a meatier TV season I might’ve already bowed out.