Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin Recap: Psycho Killer

Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin

Chapter Five: The Night He Came Home
Season 1 Episode 5
Editor’s Rating 4 stars

Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin

Chapter Five: The Night He Came Home
Season 1 Episode 5
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Photo: HBO Max

I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but I think this episode may be giving us one of Original Sin’s first meaningful meta-textual clues. How else do we explain its confounding title, “Chapter Five: The Night He Came Home,” which not only ignores the fact that this is a show about 13 discrete teenage girls but also gives zero nods that it’s the series’s first big Halloween outing? And what they came up with was The Night He Came Home?? That gives potential viewers no hints about what to expect from this particular hour of television!

Current viewers, though, that’s a different story. Because while “The Night He Came Home” may not conjure up any images of Halloween ragers or hormonal confrontations, it does point to the one central present-day character who thus far hasn’t read as either a teenage girl (like the Final Girls or the Beasley Twins) or a woman (like the Y2K Mom Squad): Slasher A. And if he’s the “he,” and this is the episode where he’s “coming home,” that puts a whole new light on everything.

So to return to the Halloween stories, we open on Halloween night 1999. The Y2K teen Mom Squad, in full zombie Spice Girls regalia, are handing an un-costumed Angela a paper bag of dog shit to throw against “that door” as “part of our … initiation.” Angela is not into it, but between teen Davie giving her a squashed pumpkin-head mask and the rest of the girls promising in suspiciously sing-song voices that if she does this one thing, they can all go to Pinball Pizza for garlic knots, Angela acquiesces. But wouldn’t you know it — the moment she turns around after throwing the bag against the door, the Y2K teen Mom Squad is already in their open-top Jeep, peeling away, laughing, down the street.

In the present day, we open on the exact scene episode four left off; the Final Girls gathered around the lunch table to discuss Imogen’s mom’s damaged diaries and the fact that Slasher A “went full fucking Michael Myers” and chased Noa onto the roof, all to get her to participate in punishing Marjorie for something she did to Angela Waters back in 1999.

Here, Faran states the obvious: “This is getting serious.” Next, Mouse states the other obvious: “Should we … tell someone?” Finally, Imogen states the much less obvious: “We can’t. We’re so close to understanding why this is all happening!” This is obviously flimsy reasoning, but Tabitha says this logic holds water because who knows what else A might do if they try to rock the boat. Sure! Carry on, girls.

So now that they’ve determined that Angela Waters is the key Imogen should have been looking for when reading her mom’s diaries/old things in the first place, they all agree to come over to the house after school to help do an even more thorough search. Oh, and Mouse will bring a bunch of walkie-talkies from her mom’s pawn shop.

Walkie-talkies in hand, the girls scour the Adamses’ home. Tabitha heads down to the basement, all alone, even though the stairwell light is burned out. “I’m a final girl, I’m a final girl, I’m a final girl!” she repeats to herself as a mantra all the way down (and as vindication for me picking that as a collective noun way back in the first recap). There’s no Slasher A lurking behind the stairs this time, which is a relief, but whatever mystery-solving success she might have found by opening the old green trunk she spied on the other side of the room is scuppered by Faran calling everyone back to the living room, where she’s found burned fragments of the torn-out pages from Davie’s 1999 diary in the fireplace.

Alas! Guess Imogen will have to invite every teenager in town over for a Halloween rager/fundraiser to “buy out the mortgage” (per Mouse’s adorably naïve suggestion) and give up on ever finding any more evidence of what her mom’s inner life was actually like.

Before we get to that, though, there is some pre-holiday nonsense to attend to.

On the “Kelly is really Karen” front, there’s good news: Henry pulled off their investigatory foot-rub scheme, and it turns out that Kelly (“Kelly”) does have the same scars that Karen would have had after sticking her toes in a pointe shoe full of razor blades. He cautions Faran to approach this new information with tact, but apparently he’s never watched seven seasons of Hanna Marin forgoing tact at every opportunity and so isn’t prepared to watch Faran do the exact same. Which, in this case, takes the form of Faran bringing her suspicions directly to Madame Giry, who in turn becomes the second (un)trusted adult at Millwood High to completely spurn the principle of medical privacy by telling Faran that Kelly has a history of self-harm. “On … the soles of her feet?” Faran asks dubiously. But yes, Mme. Giry says, exactly. Now NEVER SPEAK OF IT AGAIN.

Naturally, this leads to Faran inviting Kelly out for pizza to make amends and intimate that she knows about the cutting and will always be there for Kelly to talk to if that’s something Kelly might need. Oh, and also, Kelly should totally come to Imogen’s party later!

Meanwhile, over in Tabitha-land, the poor girl has to start her day by exasperatedly explaining to a well-meaning white boy (Chip) that no, stepping in to finish shooting her gender-flipped Psycho scene actually wasn’t helpful and, in fact, completely invalidated the very point she was trying to make about flipping the script in the first place. Then, after school, she has to go to the Orpheum to pick up her last paycheck and exasperatedly explain to a different, less well-meaning white guy that no, using a USB stick as leverage to force your female teenage employee to come over to your apartment for pasta and wine isn’t romantic, but is, in fact, fucking creepy and completely triggering. And then, since Wes manages to turn her justified excoriation around and use an immediate apology to manipulate her into coming back to work at the theater — like, immediately, for the Halloween horror-fest the very next day — Tabitha has to then exasperatedly explain to a third, NOT well-meaning white boy, that no, Tyler, asking her if she’s “still got her cherry” and then laughing about it with his buddies isn’t “just a joke!”

As for Mouse, well, while she gets to start the episode engaging in more flirting with Ash, even inviting him to meet her at Imogen’s party at 9:30 for “…a date?” Ash fills in (yes!), and it quickly moves into a genuinely awkward arc of her making secret plans via video chat with an adult stranger to meet in person, “for the first time,” for a private dinner earlier on Halloween night, after which he will take her out trick-or-treating, in a costume that she promises will be satisfactorily childish. (She ends up in a hooded Wendy the Witch leotard and old-fashioned plastic face mask. She also ends up holding his hand.)

I’ll cut to the chase on this one: From the way this whole arc ends — not just the weirdly emotional hug in Steve the Stranger’s truck, but the way her moms react when she comes home from Imogen’s party late the next morning, and the way she adds her picture with Steve to a pile of similar pictures in a shoebox under her bed — it feels like this is an act of kindness that Mouse is undertaking in secret, pretending to be the lost daughter of a series of grieving parents as some weird, unsanctioned therapy. Why she’s doing it is still a mystery, but while I understand that impulse so many shows have to withhold everything they possibly can, in this case, I think it’s not just lazy but actively harmful to our ability to understand — and thus empathize with — Mouse as a character. I mean, Ash makes a joke when she finally does make it to the party that he assumed she was just out dealing with ~childhood trauma~ but that’s a joke that doesn’t have anywhere to land. We don’t even know the outline of whatever that trauma is — we just know one has to be there, somewhere. So to then take that absolute void of information and add this mini-story? It’s not great.

Anyway, everyone goes to Imogen’s party. Noa, Shawn, and Imogen have a great time; Mouse and Ash get high and kiss; Faran, after seeing Kelly making out with Greg, hits her with the “you’re actually Karen!” thing and suffers severe blowback; and Tabitha spirals so deep at the escalating wave of acute assholery Tyler and his bros keep demonstrating (the language the writers have him use is … bad) that she ends up punching him in the nose. And then Slasher A brutally murders him, all for trespassing in the bathroom Davie died in!

This is very bad, but don’t worry, it’s not the last bad thing we’ll end on, because Tabitha has a secret to share with Imogen, which turns out to be a secret Imogen shares: Last summer, “something bad” happened to both of them.

Detective SquAd

• Okay my theory is that Slasher A is Wes, that Wes is Angela Waters’s little brother, all grown-up and seeking revenge, and that Imogen and Davie’s house was the Waterses’ house first. This is almost certainly all wrong! But they made a really big point of letting us know in the first episode that Wes is 36 (meaning he’d have been 14 twenty-two years ago), and besides, he’s literally the only adult male we’ve met besides the sheriff.

• All these daily chyrons are very reminiscent of SKAM Austin, the most formally innovative teen TV show to come out in the last handful of years. What a trip it would be for these episodes of Original Sin to be released in the same real-time slow drip that SKAM Austin used!

• Of fun (though maybe not important) note: The Spice Girls’ “Say You’ll Be There” was the song playing in the last opening’s 1999 cold open, with Marjorie goading Angela into smoking in between school buildings.

• I can’t believe Mouse just left Ash on stoned-munchie read up there on Imogen’s old bed!! Can’t the guy catch a break?

• SlAsh Count: 1

Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin Recap: Psycho Killer