‘Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin’ (Season 1) Review: A Terrifying Murder Mystery with New Liars

HBO Max’s Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin is a spin-off series that introduces a new generation of Liars. Based on the Pretty Little Liars franchise, which had two failed spin-off series: Ravenswood and Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists, this new Max Original series is different in terms of the characters and darker compared to the original iteration of the series. None of the characters in Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin has any connection to the old characters. This show is a slasher series that original and new fans will enjoy. The familiar theme song “Secrets” by The Pierces that plays at the beginning of the show is a remix, which hits the nostalgia train almost immediately. Everything about the new show is different, and the murders, secrets, and mysteries are quite intriguing.

Welcome to Millwood, a small town in Pennsylvania. After the brutal murder of Imogen’s (Bailee Madison) mother, she moves into her best friend’s home. Tabby (Chandler Kinney), a film nerd, helps her best friend cope with the murder of her mother and the pregnancy. After the Queen Bee Karen Beasley (Mallory Bechtel) accuses Imogen, Tabby and ballerina-to-be Faran (Zaria), troublesome jock Noa (Maia Reficco) and tech-nerd Mouse (Malia Pyles) of destroying her prom campaign posters, they all get detention and discover that no one tried to sabotage Karen’s campaign. The Liars uncover the long-forgotten murder of Angela Waters (Gabriella Pizollo) that happened in Millwood in 1999, and they trace it back to their mothers, who were best friends in high school. On top of solving the murder, the friends and their mothers are being tormented and stalked by an infamous assailant called “A,” who is determined to reveal the secrets close to the new generation of Liars.

Unlike their mothers, who were the original sinners, Imogen, Tabby, Faran, Noa and Mouse aren’t “mean girls.” They are not like their mothers, which is why the show is called “Original Sin.” Their mothers were responsible for bullying Angela throughout their high school years and the aftermath of their behaviour finally reached their doorsteps. The assailant, A, slowly hunts down each of the original sinners, while also threatening the Liars with secrets of their own which are close to themselves. None of the girls are close to what their mothers were in the past, but that doesn’t matter because A is only here for revenge.

As stated previously, Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin is a different show, in terms of tone and genre. While the original show was less focused on the slasher, the spin-off show is filled with references to old horror movies. While A has a 20-year-old vendetta against the Liars and their mothers, they are constantly met with murder and death in almost every episode. Every death is bloodier and scarier than the last and the screams are louder, and A stalks the friends and lurks in the shadows. Every bit of these elements heightens the stakes and it becomes incredibly exciting (and scary) to watch A and the new generation of Liars embrace the slasher genre.

Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin has learnt from the sins of the past. In the original show, Ezra (Ian Harding) is Aria’s (Lucy Hale) love interest and English teacher. While this is something that had constant commentary during the run of the series, the new show learns not to trust older, straight white men. The dynamic between Ezra and Aria is predatory, and while the new show introduces an older character interested in one of the Liars, she stands up for herself and sets boundaries between them.

One of the greatest parts about the new show is that it constantly references old movies. From shooting a school film project of Psycho and wearing a Halloween costume of Rosemary’s Baby, there is never a shortage of film references in Pretty Little Liars: Original Sins. It uses other references such as naming a law firm, “Strode, Ripley, Prescott & Associates” and these small nods to iconic slasher movies allow the show to become a meta-horror entry, just like Scream 5.

Many horror movie fans would enjoy this series, just like Tabby, who spends half of her time making movie references. However, the references could be used a lot less, since the timings of these dialogues are inappropriate. In many scenes when the Liars are having an emotional moment, Tabby uses the time to make movie references instead of comforting her friends. What is supposed to be an emotional moment where the girls show empathy and respect, turns into an inappropriate movie nod.

It takes a while for Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin to find its footing, but once the story is established and the murders begin, that’s when the fun starts. The murder mysteries, horror movie references, and interesting characters make the show an exciting new story in the franchise. By no means is the show perfect but it takes on the challenge of bringing new commentary and teen drama that is worth watching. Don’t worry about catching up on the original and failed spin-off shows, Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin is an entirely different story that tackles a murder mystery with many twists.

The first three episodes will debut on Thursday, July 28 on HBO Max.

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