“Pretty Little Liars” The Complete Second Season is a great and compelling show. It’s not high art and has more than a smattering of soap opera drama but the four leads are great and the storyline never feels too drawn out. Unfortunately the DVD has much to be desired with throwaway features.
Genre(s): Drama, Mystery, Suspense
Warner Bros. | NR – 1093 min. – $59.98 | June 5, 2012
Directed by: Various
Writer(s): Sara Shepard (novel); I. Marlene King (developed by)
Cast: Troian Bellisario, Ashley Benson, Lucy Hale, Shay Mitchell, Holly Marie Combs, Ian Harding, Bianca Lawson, Laura Leighton, Chad Lowe, Sasha Pieterse
Features: Featurettes, Deleted Scenes
Number of Discs: 6
Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78
THE MOVIE – 4.5/5
Let me first say that I am writing this on behalf and to those who might come into a series after the first year. I was a bit hesitant diving into the ABC Family mystery-drama “Pretty Little Liars” missing the previous 24-episodes which mean all the back-stories, character introductions and just the world they inhabit. Yes, it takes a couple episodes to get acquainted not only with the main players but, even harder, the supporting cast as well. It does take some getting used and special attention needs to be paid to attach names with faces which can meld with one another, but once you get your bearings, it’s a wonderful ride; I don’t regret going into the show in its second season.
Please note, this review does contain major spoilers.
“Pretty Little Liars” season two where the first season concluded: with Spencer (TROIAN BELLISARIO) confronting Ian Thomas (RYAN MERRIMAN) in a bell tower as he’s believed to have killed Alison, but instead the mysterious “A” pushes him over the edge inside supposedly killing him. However, when Spencer and best friends Hanna (ASHLEY BENSON), Aria (LUCY HALE) and Emily (SHAY MITCHELL), return with the police, there’s no body inside! The first 4 episodes deals with this storyline before getting into second gear as the police, and the town of Rosewood, PA, believe Ian killed Alison but the evidence shows that might not be the case…
The next few episodes finds the girls being tormented via text messages by the mysterious “A”, sometimes leading them to the true killer of Alison while others attempting to split them apart and make their lives a living hell. During all of this, the girls have personal issues to deal with: Aria’s mother, Ella Montgomery (HOLLY MARIE COMBS), has moved back in with her father (CHAD LOWE) and brother, Mike (CODY CHRISTIAN) and her relationship with high school literature teacher Ezra Fitz (IAN HARDING) is only heating up; Hanna lives with her mother, Ashley (LAURA LEIGHTON), but soon enough her estranged father (ROARK CRITCHLOW) comes back into their lives as he’s about to marry another woman; Emily’s home life has gotten better as her mother (NIA PEEPLES) has come to accept her daughter’s life style – and has a couple suitors come in and out of the season, including old flame Maya (BIANACA LAWSON) – but her mother is missing Emily’s father who is in Texas for military duties; and Spencer has a whole lot of drama her sister is set to have Ian’s baby but she’s not the only one with a family secret which involves the mysterious and dark man next door, Alison’s brother, Jason (DREW VAN ACKER).
The main cast is one of the reasons for the success of “Pretty Little Liars”. The four girls seem to have some genuine on-screen friendship chemistry that sometimes doesn’t always gel, but when it does, it makes for a dynamic series (not unlike “Friends”). The acting from the gals also isn’t bad and their characters are finely written and, from what I can tell, are consistent, something that doesn’t always happen since a series can have several writers over the course of a season.
Another reason for the show’s success is the mystery element. Other networks have tried the same thing but for whatever reason never caught on. For a show to go through the course of 24-episodes and keep any sort of momentum and spread the suspense from one episode to the next is impressive. Take for instance “The Killing”. This show started off wonderfully but some episodes felt like filler and it seemed to run out of steam by the time the season finale came along. However, with “PLL”, which had more episodes, there was just enough to keep the season-long storyline going making the audience feel like the story is progressing, even when it might only be at a snail’s pace.
In regards to the supporting cast, it was a bit of a shock to see Holly Marie Combs, whom I last saw on the his series “Charmed”, as a mother of not one but TWO teenagers. I realize for a television series that caters to the 13-24 demographic it’s forbidden to have anybody under the age of 40 (outside of Hanna’s grandmother, I can’t recall anyone over 40), it seemed a bit of a stretch but it could be the case of me getting older and seeing somebody you watched in your own youth now playing a mother. Even so, Combs is pretty good opposite Lucy Hale, so any issues were negligible. The others are also fine, some serving as fun red herrings to maybe being the elusive “A”.
Most of the episodes this year are highly entertaining but I’ve marked with an asterisk (*) my personal favorites:
01. It’s Alive*
02. The Goodbye Look
03. My Name is Trouble
04. Blind Dates*
05. The Devil You Know*
06. Never Letting Go
07. Surface Tension
08. Save the Date
09. Picture This
10. Touched by an “A”-ngel*
11. I Must Confess*
12. Over My Dead Body*
13. The First Secret*
14. Through Many Dangers, Toils and Snares*
15. A Hot Piece of “A”
16. Let the Water Hold Me Down*
17. The Blonde Leading the Blind*
18. A Kiss Before Lying
19. The Naked Truth*
20. CTRL: A*
21. Breaking the Code*
22. Father Knows Best*
23. Eye of the Beholder*
24. If These Dolls Could Talk
As you can see, there are many great, even fantastic episodes but if there’s one flaw it’s that some storylines are resolved within a couple of episodes and even dropped altogether (though they tend not to be unimportant).
Still, I have to admit, even as a primetime soap opera aimed primarily at the ‘tween crowd, “Pretty Little Liars” is an addictive show with decent performances and compelling storylines. As I stated in my opening, even if you missed the first season, I highly recommend getting into this series now because it’s well worth the time, something I rarely say about a TV series…
SPECIAL FEATURES – 1.25/5
This six-disc set is contained inside a double-wide DVD keep case and a matted cardboard slip cover with both the front and back covers matching the interior. Inside there is a booklet with episode summaries. Unfortunately the set doesn’t include a whole lot…
Pretty Little Liars: Fashion’s Guilty Pleasure (12:29) chronicles the styles featured throughout the season for each character (and the actress) and the importance the wardrobe plays. OMG, GTFO.
Pretty Little Liars: Men of Mystery (10:19) takes a look at the various guys featuring in the second season. Like the other featurette, along with some behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the cast, this features footage from a promotional photo shoot.
Deleted Scenes (TRT 15:30) – There’s some additional footage that for one reason or another, most likely either for pacing or redundancy, were removed from the episode.
The set also includes an UltraViolet Download Code.
VIDEO – 4.0/5
“Pretty Little Liars” The Complete Second Season is presented with an anamorphic widescreen transfer that features bright colors and despite some minor artifacting it’s a fine looking picture. It’s nothing earth-shattering but probably on par with other TV on DVD releases.
AUDIO – 3.75/5
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is suitable for the source material. The dialogue is a tad heavy coming from the front channel while other elements that involve any sort of suspense make use of the other speakers.
OVERALL – 3.5/5
Overall, “Pretty Little Liars” The Complete Second Season is a great and compelling show. It’s not high art and has more than a smattering of soap opera drama but the four leads are great and the storyline never feels too drawn out. Unfortunately the DVD has much to be desired with throwaway features.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman