Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin Dials Up the Horror, Tones the Romance

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The long-awaited return to the Pretty Little Liars universe is nearly upon us.

Although Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin admits a connection to Rosewood, Millwood’s story stands on its own.

Executive produced and written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Riverdale, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) and co-executive produced and written by Lindsay Calhoon Bring (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), the pedigree is a dark take on A’s torment across two generations.

Twenty years ago, the blue-collar town of Millwood was torn apart by a series of tragic events, and the women at the core of that nightmare have daughters the same age now.

If they thought they had shed their mistakes and taken a brighter path into the future, Original Sin reveals that there is still a bill to pay, and it’s coming due with new blood.

The former TV liars were not angels, but they weren’t eager to get their hands dirty either. Our new liars lead out of the gate with some fairly tragic decisions, setting the stage for the horror to come.

Bailee Madison (Good Witch) is Imogen Adams, the leader of the pack. The pregnant teen is the first to feel A’s wrath, and she’s also the first to round up the posse to take down Karen Beasley (Mallory Bechtel), whom the liars pin as their tormenter.

That doesn’t score them any points with A or the audience, and you won’t be feeling any warm fuzzies as Karen and her twin sister Kelly are left to battle for their lives while relatively in the dark.

But it also introduces another antagonist in Karen and Kelly’s father, Sheriff Beasley (Eric Johnson). He’s always where the liars need him the least, which is about right in the Pretty Little Liars universe.

These liars aren’t good girls. They’re not even pretending to be. Like everyone else in high school, they’re making mistakes and paying for them along the way.

Imogen’s pregnancy aside, there’s also Noa Olivar (Maia Reficco), who’s on probation after spending some time in juvie, and talented dancer, Faran Bryant (Zaria), who seems willing to do anything to land the lead.

Less dramatic are liars Minnie “Mouse Honrada (Malia Pyles) and Tabitha “Tabby” Hayworth (Chandler Kinney), but they stand tall against opposition when the group is called to task by A.

Through the first five episodes, Original Sin isn’t interested in pushing the girls’ love lives. They’ve got more important things claiming their attention.

That means that the male talent doesn’t have a chance to make an impression, and there’s no indication about whether that will change as the first season of ten episodes continues.

The liars’ mothers, though, have a larger role, with the most notable names cast being Sharon Leal and Carly Pope.

Whatever they did as teens is raising its ugly head again, leaving the women to battle their demons alongside their daughters.

Most of what we learn about the earlier incidents in Millwood comes courtesy of the episodes’ opening scenes, which flash back to 1992. Let’s just say that the liars didn’t fall far from the tree their mothers planted decades earlier.

A strikes fast and strikes hard in Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin. We don’t know who’s behind the menacing behavior, but we know who is carrying it out — a man who is a cross between Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees.

His looming and disturbing presence doesn’t allow the liars or viewers much respite from A’s terror tactics. Nobody gets much time to recover once he’s struck before he’s striking again.

Billed as a dark, coming-of-age, horror-tinged drama, Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin lives up to the dark and horror-tinged description more than the coming-of-age adjective. There’s not a lot of time for growth when they’re at A’s mercy.

School dances don’t come with dates but are attended as a pack. There’s safety in numbers. Still, even with that mentality, liars make individual moves that leave you scratching your head.

When they’re all looking over their shoulders, friends having your back seems the best option in their less-than-safe conditions.

It’s unclear where Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin will be taking us, but perhaps we can pull some clues from Riverdale and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

They manage to find new ways to upend their characters’ safety every season, with long-term big bads, and unexpected minions carrying out new, fiendish plots.

Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin premieres on Thursday, July 27, with three episodes, drops another two episodes for two weeks, and then a final three-episode drop for its conclusion only on HBO Max.

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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