So I’ve mentioned my abcfamily obsession on this blog before and upon my favs are Melissa & Joey, Baby Daddy, Twisted, The Fosters, and the recently claimed “most tweeted show on television” Pretty Little Liars. Judging by this show list alone, I could be mistaken for a 13 year old girl. But, I’m not. I am 22 and I love teen dramas, and I am damn proud of it. It reminds me of my infatuation with the likes of One Tree Hill and The OC.
Anyway, I digress. The reason I’m talking about Pretty Little Liars is because last night was it’s highly anticipated black and white noir episode. Now I have to admit for a while I’ve been getting pretty frustrated with this show. I just feel like the whole A thing is getting really old, and I hate how their making Ezra creepier by the second, (I’m sorry I just don’t believe it!). And of course Allison’s alive, like what a shocker, blah blah blah…But this Black and White episode renewed my faith.
The description reads as follows:
Pretty Little Liars; “Shadow Play” (S4 E19)
Spencer’s sleepless nights and use of prescription medication transforms her reality to that of a black-and-white, film-noir world.
I had been seeing previews, and promos, behind the scenes fashion and amazing episode stills from as far back as last week and I have to say I was extremely excited to see how they would play out the show’s current storyline in a 1940’s world. I love when shows do time period episodes, I think it makes for a fun alternative.
So I sat down and got my pen and pad ready, because I knew I’d want to take notes, because I felt a blog inspiration coming on.
***If you haven’t watched yet….spoiler alerts coming your way, so stop reading, lol***
The episode starts with the girls sneaking into school to retrieve Allie’s journal, from, get ready for it…Ezra Fitz’s desk draw….(it starts off in color)
And they do, pretty easy right?
Ah so as they set up “spying on A camp” at Spencer’s they realize that as they sift through the pages, they are still missing a few puzzle pieces, and are still unsure of whether or not Ezra is A and if Aria should be clued in.
And as Spencer ends her night home alone with the company of her pills (she’s been taking pills to help stay awake and focus on solving this mystery…and has since become addicted in the viewers eyes, [and also looks like a zombie]). She pops a bill as an old black and white film plays in the background. Spencer turns to watch and upon hearing a gun shot she looks away sheltering her eyes, and when she looks up she’s staring at her reflection and starring in her very own black and white tale.
Even the show’s artful beginning was transformed into Black and White, as “Got a secret, can you keep it…” sang through my living room I uttered a “that’s pretty freakin’ cool,” definitely kept with the theme.
Toby soon comes on screen and is pressing Spencer for information about Allison, as we instantly see that these two have taken the lead in this episode. Keegan Allen (Toby) seems made for the genre. As he serves his 1940’s enhanced phrases like “Trust you? You’re spread so thin, I can see right through you,” with clear understanding of the travel back in time and the delivery of a line with calm conviction.
I instantly was impressed, and saw that he was going to own this episode, with Troian Bellisario (Spencer) as the leading lady. As each character graced the screen, they each got their moment and they all had screen time, tying in this black and white storyline into what has currently been playing out on Pretty Little Liars regularly. The girls still trying to figure out who A is and if it is indeed Ezra (Ian Harding). Mona (Janel Parrish) and Ezra’s creepy connection. Aria (Lucy Hale) and Ezra’s on going romance. Emily (Shay Mitchell) and Paige’s (Lindsey Shaw) on going romance. Hanna (Ashley Benson) well being Hanna with her quirky anecdotes and one liners that make you laugh… even in the 1940’s she can still pull off a line like “Men.” with a huff and frustrating look away, as she watches Ezra and Mona enjoy a mysterious nightcap on his fire escape.
As for the cinematic aspects I have to say this episode was beautifully shot. It can be kind of difficult telling a modern story in an old fashioned styled setting, and it can easily be perceived as corny or a waste of an episode. But if you ask me I think Pretty Little Liars did their thing, stepped out of their comfort zone and did it well.
The lighting was impeccable, the way it frames each characters face lends a helping hand to the mysterious tone set for the episode and for the show alone. As each character appears almost half in light and half in shadow. It’s as if it signifies a battle between two faces, between evil and innocence. The beginning scene mentioned above between Bellisario and Allen was beautifully blocked and the lighting complimented the tone with the help of a flickering fireplace as well. With the presence of the fire light, you can sense that their is a kind of romance between the two. Even though it doesn’t necessarily play out in this episode, we know Spencer and Toby are a couple in real time PLL. However, you see hints in his demeanor towards her throughout the episode. There is an old styled flirtation there, where she says something and he contradicts it, the tension is there. In fact in one scene he pressures her for information during an interrogation, basically accusing her of murdering Allison, but in a later scene he checks in on her and saves her from her hysteria when she drops her last pill down the sink, becoming her source of comfort. It is clear that Toby is set to play the hero, as we notice he is Rosewood’s newest and most determined detective.
Whereas Ezra gets creepier and more suspicious by the second, he is placed as the villain.
Not only did the show up the lighting techniques for this episode, but they also played around with some interesting angles, above shots, delicate pans and silhouette shots, all which keep in the theme of mystery. There’s a crazy awesome silhouette shot of Toby, and one of Ezra, that blew my mind, it’s near the end, but you have to watch to understand, I won’t reveal that!
As Rosewood was transformed into a world of 15 cent coffee, old fashioned cars, and fur coats. It is clear that the last mentioned was possibly the biggest transformation of all. Each character’s wardrobe was changed to fit the times. As the girls strapped on elegant dresses, glamorous jewels, extravagant furs and effortless looking/yet fully in tact curls. While the guys pulled out all the stops fulfilling every girl’s fantasy (ok maybe just mine) and looked old Hollywood mysterious in a suit, tie, suspenders, trench coat and fedora hat. Check out a behind the scenes look HERE at the fashion designed by costume designer Mandi Line.
Some Fashion Pics…
While we’re on the topic of fashion, I just need to say that Aria played by Lucy Hale happens to be my favorite on the show. I loved her from the beginning and I love her style, loved that she’s a writer and I’ve loved her storyline. And quite frankly I was (and still am) rooting for “Ezria”…maybe I’m in denial, but whatever! But seeing her in this light, was so interesting. I felt like even though Keegan Allen stole the show as Toby, and all the others definitely pulled their weight, Lucy Hale shined when it came to the style and the graceful old Hollywood glam of the black and white world. She acted with such grace, and utilized little small eye moments that showed off Aria’s concern and vulnerability. Her actions were just spot on and enhanced in this type of setting. I guess an elaborate sound affect really does enhance a small look, doesn’t it? (yes I’m talking about the scene where Ezra and Aria are drinking champagne on the couch and we get that beautiful close-up of him whispering in her ear and her eyes just struck with fear). Her look in this episode created a sense of timelessness. I loved her description of love and her relationship with Ezra as she says to Spencer “it’s been sexy and dangerous, and wonderful and awful, it’s like a story. It was perfect.” and Spencer says “Was? you said it in past tense.” Aria replies “I think the story’s changing.” Definitely an ode to her and Ezra’s character as they bonded over literature and their love of writing. However seeing as how I felt Toby and Aria stole the spotlight for me in this episode, I say throw Hale and Allen in a black and white movie asap and watch sparks fly!
Another storyline they kept true to the show’s storyline was the whole Emily and Paige lesbian romance. And it was refreshing to see them still play that out, even though the episode was set in the 40’s, and back then it would have been considered “taboo” for people of the same sex to be in a relationship with each other. However, we saw that they had to sneak around, and meet up in secret, in fear of being found out. It kept with the story but also with the time period. A clever script maneuver.
Moving onto another important part of setting the scene for a 1940’s vibe. Music. The music in this episode is also fitting for this kind of film esque setting. It is solely instrumental, and bears resemblance to that of a soothing jazz club. However, their is a definite change and pick up in the score as the little liars clan gets themselves into some trouble. And need to run. Or even if it’s as simple as an eerie laced sentence that reveals more about A’s whereabouts, the music picks up as the action does.
Allison (Sasha Pieterse) is also a big part of the episode, as the liars find out she is alive (yet again) but this time in the black and white world. They hunt her down and let’s just say the claws come out. Is it me or is she even more of a bitch in black and white! Never the less, Pieterse’s portrayal of 1940’s Allie lends a female villain of sorts to this mysteriously clad drama. Which can be kind of refreshing. Women are fierce too!
All in all I thought this episode was pretty cool, it was well done, and I enjoyed it! I think every dramatized show should dip their toes in other time periods. It’s fun to see how each character would fit and be portrayed.
Now I hit up Pretty Little Liars facebook page (also where all the photo credits are given) just to see what others thought, and I noticed this episode is getting quite the bit of hate. Not the performances per say, in fact like myself, many on twitter are digging Toby circa 1940’s (hey guess I’m not alone in my mystery man fantasy, haha). But storyline wise, facebook fans “be hatin’.” Many people seem to think this was a waste of an episode, some think it didn’t tie into the show’s regular storyline, others say why put an already confusing show in a new time period, for only a dream based episode, seeing as none of this was actually real. And some simply didn’t dig the colorless flow.
And what I have to say to all of those people is this…
I understand where you’re coming from. I’m a color lover, I like watching the modern drama based films and tv shows, it’s more relatable for me as a 90’s kid. In fact teen drama is my bread and butter. As an aspiring screenwriter, it’s what I basically write. But at the same time, I love mystery and I’ve noticed that I enjoy stepping into a different way of speech and a different way of life for my characters to live in. [check out my blog’s current “screen play” Mysterious Attraction. (click it in the categories for all it’s posts so far)] It kind of fuses both modern romance/old Hollywood mystery/romance into one. It’s current in time, but sometimes the way the two lead characters Lexie & Carter talk to each other, could be reminiscent of an old black and white film’s tension filled dialogue. So understand that fusing the two genres is possible. Learn to appreciate the cinematic beauty behind it, and behind old style acting and behind black and white film. Sometimes a storyline is better told in black and white.
In fact, I think Pretty Little Liars made a really good transition from current PLL, to 1940’s PLL. They set the stage with showing where all the characters lay now. The girls searching for Allie’s stolen journal and finding it in Ezra’s Desk. Mona later showing up as the girls spot her sneaking some files from Ezra’s classroom. Spencer’s on going battle with stress and how she copes by abusing prescription pills. Aria and Ezra driving back home to Rosewood from their weekend getaway.
All of this puts you in the now. But also uses Spencer’s drug addiction as a segway for the world that your about to experience. The black and white film playing in Spencer’s kitchen as she takes her pill, is emulated in scenes throughout the episode. These were both outlets to throwing the characters back to the 40’s. I don’t see how confusing it could be? (haven’t you guys ever fallen asleep during a movie and had a dream where you’re in the movie, or elements of that movie are now apart of your life… and then you wake up confused, it’s all the power of the mind.) I mean everything that happened in the black and white episode was enforced by real time PLL. There was nothing in this episode that will confuse where the characters will be next week. In fact, if anything it led Spencer to yet another piece of the Allison/Ezra/A puzzle. Think about it, it was basically a [day] dream episode. If you notice the line Spencer quotes from the movie before she’s thrown into black and white, Toby says later on to her in the 1940’s sequence. She was day dreaming, and infused the 1940’s mystery into her own life. She’s been on drugs and is sleep deprived and stressed over this whole situation. It’s only natural she’d have a crazy/almost realistic dream. In fact, as dream Spencer said “I am the smart one.” Even in her dreams she’s still looking for answers (answers that she probably would have gotten to on her own but her dream just helped put them in perspective), and Toby gives them to her…”Don’t look at the book, look at the pages…” Her dream serves as a realization, and upon jolting out of her day dream (and back into color and real time), the girls find new clues in Allie’s diary, clues that can lead them to the ultimate answer. As we see Aria and Ezra discuss literature and her creative writing assignment she mentions he’s going to like her recent story and says “I started off with a hero…but heroes aren’t who they used to be anymore, so I got fascinated with a villain.” Ezra then asks “does the villain win?” She replies “I don’t know, sometimes they do.” Basically paving the way for future heartbreak…and in next week’s promo we see just how heartbreaking that is…
take a look!
Often times a show will take you on an unexpected journey, and will throw it’s characters (and the characters your so used to) into a new time period just to watch them squirm. I’ve seen it done many times, going as far back (for a 90’s kid) as Boy Meets World. Even One Tree Hill did a 1940’s episode, (which was in color, and I have to say it was ok, but I thought PLL did it better). And these episodes usually end with one of the main characters waking up from a dream. So that’s usually the tactic. But what I loved about how PLL did it was that you got a beginning and an end that set you up for what’s currently been happening and what is to come in regular Pretty Little Liars time, and that the dream sequence was just a way for Spencer to get to the answer she’s been so desperately searching for. Hell it’s probably the only one place, A isn’t able to keep tabs on her. Dream what you dream Spencer…it’s the smoking gun that’s gonna blow this “case” wide open!
(if you haven’t watched it, check your tv’s abc family free on demand, or abcfamily.com for full episodes, I definitely think it’s worth the watch! [my only complaint; I miss caleb!])
Until next week little liars…Hope you enjoyed my in-depth review… 😀