“We should kill Karen Beasley.”
That’s the line the first episode of Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin ended on and the one the second one opens on.
Well … sort of.
Where the second episode actually opens is the front yard of a high-school house party, after which a long continuous shot brings us to a very drunk Imogen, doing shots in the Beasley twins’ kitchen. Freeze-frame, and we get the episode’s first chyron: ABOUT SIX MONTHS AGO. And then what do you know, there are the (also very drunk) Beasley twins, laughing and hugging Imogen and generally just being a cool drunk-girl squad.
That’s right, it’s a flashback! Specifically, a flashback that Imogen is using to give context to the (very) messy video of a (very) drunk Karen she’s about to suggest the wrongly accused Final Girls use in some public-but-not-internet-permanent way to, well, destroy her. Which, I guess, is kind of the same thing as killing her??
“I’m just gonna ask what we’re all thinking,” Faran says with a self-aware eye roll. “Is it a sex video?”
That Imogen isn’t just horrified but genuinely shocked Faran’s mind would even have gone there is a testament to the core goodness of her character. That she nevertheless keeps brainstorming how to screen this mysteriously damaging video before the Jordan Peele double feature Tabitha convinced her predatory creep of a manager to let her screen at the Orpheum later that night? That’s a testament to the fact that Imogen is also a wounded teenager, and teenagers have a clinically demonstrable weakness in robust critical forethought.
Cut to the house where Davie died, where the rest of the Final Girls are huddled in the entryway, peering nervously up the vertiginous stairs as they wait for Imogen to find the phone she stole from the “douchebag” who took the video in the first place.
Once they sit down to watch the video in what might be Millwood’s only pizza parlor (which also doubles as Millwood’s favorite pinball joint), Imogen gets cold feet. Sure, Karen may be a world-class jerk, but does she really deserve to have this played for the whole school?
Unfortunately, now that the other girls have seen the video and had time to marinate in their resentment, there’s no turning back. And considering Karen’s perceived wrongs include literal animal murder, a semi-public screening of one measly video, they reason, is a more than fair trade. Still, Imogen says they should sleep on it.
Hilariously, what comes next isn’t the girls getting down to the very serious business of meditating on the morality of counter-bullying but rather a montage of them all returning home to a parent who’s just waiting to pounce about the shocking (alleged) behavior that sent them each to detention. I don’t mean that it’s funny to see them get in trouble, obviously. But the fact that they’re absolutely shocked at being confronted at all?? These goofs just went out for pizza and completely forgot that they have “parents” who might be “worried” about them. Incredible! (Although, for anyone who’s on the lookout for any parallels to the OG Pretty Little Liars, this is a pretty good one. Those liars never met a parent whose concern they didn’t immediately discount and/or forget about, either! The more things change …)
Unfortunately, that brief shock of parental care is all the time Slasher A needs to scupper Imogen’s “let’s sleep on it” plans. No sooner have the Final Girls all shut themselves in their respective rooms than Slasher A is on their phones, texting them videos they assume are from Karen, taunting them over “her” Machiavellian victory. The girls convene on video chat and agree: The video plan is a go.
And so Tabby sets to work making her recordingproof edit of the video to sneak into the projection booth (a plan that includes convincing Chip to do said sneaking). The rest of the girls set to work, making sure that there will be a full house and that Karen will be “dead center.”
If it wasn’t obvious from the moment Imogen told the rest of the girls the video even existed that this was going to be an awful idea, the inevitable appearance of Slasher A skulking behind the theater screen would be enough of a red flag. Danger zone, girls! Bad! Plan! Alas, they go through with it. The video, which starts as a tricksy “Vote for Karen for Spirit Queen!” campaign ad, turns into a short reel of a drunk Karen trying to make some unseen boy laugh by talking shit about her boyfriend then making it as though she’s going to take her top off for the phone owner’s personal-viewing pleasure.
Tabitha’s edit ends there; Karen runs out of the theater in tears. Wes goes to investigate, but by then, the first Peele movie is starting, and the students are just clapping in anticipation.
Frustratingly, none of the Final Girls are as remorseful of their actions as one would want them to be in this situation — and not just because it would be better if they were collectively kinder people. What I mean is this is a Pretty Little Liars joint! This means that every failure in moral rectitude, no matter how minuscule, is ripe to be exploited as torture fodder by the A of the month. And because this particular PLL joint is a slasher, that’s the kind of thing that can get a girl dead.
That said, there is one spark of regret among the five. In fact, Imogen actually ends up so wracked with guilt over the possibility that she’s turning into the teen bully her mom (RIP) always warned her against becoming that she agrees to meet Karen in the cemetery in the middle of the night to hash things out. (“It was kind of our thing,” she explains to a confused Tabitha on the next morning’s walk to school.) What this gets us is the missing piece of the flashback story that started the episode and the video, both of which were apparently a lot of buildup for nothing: Karen didn’t take her clothes off; Imogen didn’t kiss Greg. Better yet, Imogen was the one who saved Karen, having walked in on the pair after doubling back to get her sweater, which then allowed her to stop Karen and steal the phone before she could undo a single button.
What it also gets us, with the combination of a video of a blonde teen in a yellow top flirting with a gross jock’s camera and a creepy midnight conversation in a cemetery possibly orchestrated by (Slasher) A, is Original Sin’s next winking homage to PLL Classic™ — fun! But more importantly, a useful red herring, as the skulking presence of ol’ leatherface a couple hundred feet from where Imogen eventually leaves Karen, upset and alone, is meant to make us believe that Karen’s about to meet her demise at the hands of Slasher A. Ali disappeared (and was, briefly, murdered) the night she was wearing that storied yellow top, remember! And to hear co-creator Lindsay Calhoon Bring tell it, Original Sin is all about the question: “Will history always repeat itself?”
In this case, the answer is no. There’s Karen in Principal Clanton’s office the next day, ready to own up to having defaced her own posters to get Imogen and Tabitha in trouble and to ask to drop out of the race for Spirit Queen, leaving Imogen to run unopposed. But also, in this case, the answer is yes! Because as it turns out (a) that was actually Kelly in Karen’s clothes, covering for her twin so Karen could stay home and spiral, and (b) Karen really is about to meet her demise at the hands of Slasher A. Just not until everyone’s gathered at the Spirit Week dance later that night.
Of course, planning to kill Karen at the Spirit Week dance and actually getting everyone there to see it happen are two entirely different propositions. But in this, Slasher A actually ends up getting some unwitting help, as eventually, Kelly gets Karen fired up enough about pulling a Carrie on Imogen as retribution that she agrees to go, and Tabitha gets the other Final Girls fired up enough about supporting Imogen in her bid to honor her mom’s Spirit Queen legacy that they agree to go — and the awful Sheriff gets fired up enough about the prospect of Noa ratting on his sexual predation of minors that he agrees to makes a deal regarding her ankle monitor so she can also go — and before you know it, the Spirit Week dance is on!
And so it is that we get the first of what are sure to be many more big group entrances to arcane school events to come — i.e., one of the most iconic of Pretty Little Liars staples. Faran’s in a flowing cream chiffon number. Noa’s found a flared, bright-red mini-number that’s both adorable and sexy all at once. Mouse is wearing a white baby tee under a breezy gown that’s literally a bright-blue summer sky dotted with puffy clouds. Tabby’s wearing the first shorts-suit in history to not look like a joke. Imogen’s in a gold-and-black velvet princess-waist gown that brings her ’80s granny aesthetic forward a whole decade. No notes! Great scene! And given how they’ve even arrived with a mission — to find Karen, apologize, and give her Imogen’s crown — if the episode ended there, everything would be perfect.
Of course, the episode doesn’t end there. Where it ends instead is Imogen staring on in horror as, from up onstage where only she can see the hulking figure of Slasher A coming up behind Karen and her Carrie bucket up on the catwalk, her ex-BFF is pushed to her awful, bloody death.
Then, in the only move more iconic to the Pretty Little Liars world than the big dance entrance, five phones buzz, and five texts are read aloud simultaneously:
“To thine own self be true. One bully down. Five more to go. Keep quiet about me or you’ll be next. - A”
See you in mere moments for episode three.
• Someone at the twins’ house party wrote “PARTY/GET DRUNK” in lipstick on the glass door of their parents’ curio cabinet. Normal teen behavior!
• Look, I am sure that Tabitha has it in her to become a formidable director eventually. But if not one single teen in that theater managed to flip to their phone’s video app in time to capture at least 90 percent of Tabby’s “unrecordable” edit, I’ll eat an entire bucket of popcorn swept up from the Orpheum’s floor.
• It should be noted, I guess, that before Karen’s untimely demise, the Spirit Week dance does feature several other very sweet moments, including Noa and Shawn hooking up, Mouse and Ash flirting over a joint, and all five Final Girls and their respective dates dancing to David Bowie’s “Modern Love” in a big, joyful circle.
• Final slAsh count: 1