Original Sin’s unapologetic slasher trappings should serve as content warning enough — like, a blanket content warning across the entire season — but just in case you’re the kind of person who likes a head’s up about these things, the inaugural season’s third episode opens on an extreme close-up of Karen Beasley’s bloody dead face, her eyes open and staring emptily at the camera. It’s a lot!
Thankfully, the shot cuts quickly back to Imogen, wearing the Spirit Queen crown, staring down in shocked horror as the pool of blood seeping from her ex-best friend’s body creeps ever closer. Tabitha shakes her from her shock and pulls her off the stage to follow everyone else racing from the gym. At this point, Kelly appears, collapsing at her twin sister’s side, sobbing, with Greg (Elias Kacavas) pacing frantically in the distant background.
Back in the hallway, finally all together again, the Final Girls press Imogen for literally any answers she can give about what the hell just happened, the camera panning in a continuous and nauseating loop around the circle the whole time. Still half in shock, Imogen is eventually able to string out the key details: Karen. Bucket of red paint. Man [sic] in a leather mask. Murder.
“Like a Texas Chainsaw Massacre kind of mask??” Tabitha asks, physically incapable of not squeezing a film reference into every conversation. But yes, exactly! And what’s more, all the girls confirm that they’ve seen the same guy [again, sic] staring eerily at them from a distance at various points over the past week. Which they just, apparently, chose not to mention to another living soul?? (This does not suggest comforting things about what passes for “normal” in Millwood, PA.)
Back at their respective homes, the girls’ parents are also to get more details about what the hell happened at the dance. For the most part, the girls provide what information they can, though Mouse makes the questionable decision to instead tell her moms (Lea Salonga and Kim Berrios Lin) that she and the other girls “left early” and so is “only hearing about” all this just now. This is a very weird and unnecessary lie!! And one that almost certainly is setting the stage for Mouse to get caught up in a much bigger, equally unnecessary lie at some point down the road.
Unsurprisingly, the most important parent-daughter talk happens at the Hayworths’ house — and not just because both Tabitha and Imogen now live there, but because with Davie gone (RIP), it’s apparently Sidney who’s next in line as the Y2K Mom Squad’s narrative anchor. In practice, this means that when the show wants to make sure we don’t miss any of the parallels between what happened on Y2K and what happened at the Spirit Week dance, it’s Sidney’s horrified flashback they use as a hammer. Similarly, when the preliminary investigation Imogen launches later in the episode into what actually happened to Angela Waters twenty-two years ago leads her and Tabby to a decades-old memorial set up in the middle of the now-abandoned warehouse where Angela died, it’s Sidney who surprises them by walking through the rusty old doors to “pay her respects,” and Sidney who comes shockingly clean about not just what happened to Angela that night, but also how the five moms were involved.
Intergenerational transparency! In a Pretty Little Liars project! Limited as it may yet be, given what the first couple confabs of the Y2K Mom Squad seem to indicate elsewhere in the episode (and which Imogen is canny enough to suspect from measuring the gaps in Sidney’s story), it’s nevertheless an enormous breath of fresh air.
Before we can get too high on all that honesty, though, let’s see what’s going on with the grieving Beasleys. Oh, what’s that? It’s all toxic lectures from violent Sheriff Dad (ACAB), weeping recrimination from mousy Church Mom, and self-protective lying from a guilt-ridden Kelly, who suggests that maybe (?) Karen killed herself (??) because the Final Girls played The Video of her for the whole school. (???)
Not cool, Kelly! We know you’re only doing this to distract from the reality that it was your idea to pull a Carrie that put Karen up on the catwalk in the first place, but you’ve met your dad: aiming his firehose of violent misogynist vitriol at five girls you know don’t deserve anything more than to be wracked by the guilt they’re probably all already feeling will not help.
And it doesn’t: Sheriff Beasley convinces Principal Clanton that the only way to pay the Final Girls back for such an immoral, malicious, evil act — which they all immediately and apologetically own up to, is when pulled from class and confronted (sans parents, sans lawyers, in true PLL fashion!) by the two men during school the next week — is to terrify them, expel them, and then make sure they spend the rest of their miserable lives enduring the worst suffering a man with all the violent power of the American carceral state behind him can inflict.
To their credit (and with acres of shade thrown at the Wine Moms and Absent Dads of early season PLL), every Final Girl parent swoops in to support their daughters and present a united front to the school ethics board while doing so. This isn’t just impressive from a franchise perspective — it’s more, even, than Noa and Faran were able to manage just a day earlier, as they let themselves (briefly) be convinced that shifting blame entirely onto Imogen and Tabby’s laps might be a reasonable survival strategy, a scheme they manage to talk Mouse into going along with. Thankfully, this planned betrayal fails to launch, as first Imogen tries to convince the others to let her offer herself up as the sole guilty party. Then Tabitha chimes in with the USB stick containing The Video in hand to say that she’s just as guilty and just as ready to accept expulsion to save everyone else. Why? Because she knew plenty well what she was doing and still chose not to stop. “None of us did,” Mouse firmly agrees. And after a hard stare from her at both Noa and Faran, so do they.
While this is very sweet, it ends up being entirely unnecessary, as Kelly has already gone to Principal Clanton with proof that Karen was only up in the rafters the night of the dance because she was planning to hurt Imogen. Expulsion is off the hook! Suspension? Still a maybe. Detention? Still a probably. But that’s fine! The parents are happy; the girls are free. Mouse even gets a few of her devices back (with a loaded reference to a traumatic past event we don’t get any real details about), and Faran gets her starring role in the school ballet restored (when your mom’s a high-powered Pittsburgh attorney, it comes with a few perks). All in all, a good day.
Except, of course, for Kelly Beasley, who’s spent every minute since setting up the Final Girls for her dad’s wrath, realizing the profundity of her error and trying to figure out how to resolve it. First, she tried inviting Imogen to Karen’s funeral, but that backfired when her weeping mom saw Imogen and started screaming curses at her that God might take Imogen’s child away to Hell the same way Imogen took Karen from her. It’s grim! (Or, in Tabitha speak: “Nevermind Pet Sematary — that’s Hereditary level shit.”) The only thing that really seems to work is intervening on the Final Girls’ behalf with the school, but even that doesn’t make her feel better. Because, as she tells Imogen, when the two sit down for a heart-to-heart on some swings at the end of the episode, it was her idea for Karen to “pull a Carrie,” and so her fault that Karen’s dead. Imogen, of course, is having none of this! But if loss and grief can bond people, that process is starting with these two right here.
And this leads us to the episode’s final scene, which also ends up being its most moving, as all five Final Girls gather in front of Karen’s gravestone to apologize and give personalized goodbyes. Some are warmer than others — like, by a lot, considering Faran’s starts out “I didn’t like you!” — but the warmth of their sentiment and the honesty of their regret is the same. As is their terror when they all turn around and see, staring at them from a beat-up van across the street, Slasher A.
I’m sure it’s fine.
• Imogen has a flashback early in the episode to Karen handing her mom the envelope with the red Y2K rave flier in it, which makes her think maybe Karen had something to do with that death. “I thought it was A??” Tabitha asks when Imogen explains her theory, to which Imogen responds, “Either? Both? I’m not sure.” And if that’s not the perfect distillation of a PLL mystery, I don’t know what is.
• Two important updates in Noa’s arc: First, her extremely nice boyfriend takes her to (reasonable) task for the fact that she was one of the girls behind the screening at the Orpheum, which was pretty fucked up! And even if she didn’t lie to him directly about it, it was a “lie by omission,” which he figures is just as bad. Oh, and also, he’s heard she’s “using again.” This leads, later that day, to the second update, which is Noa telling him her biggest, most devastating secret: when she was arrested, it was because she was covering for her mom. In fact, she’s never even tried drugs! Shawn is gratifyingly on her side about the injustice of it all but agrees to keep it between them.
• I’ve skipped over like 80% of the Tabitha/Wes storyline thus far in these recaps — mostly for space, but also because IT’S GROSS — but it is worth noting/applauding that Original Sin has been unambiguous about the fact that it has been both deeply inappropriate and obviously predatory every single time that Wes has either complimented her or manufactured reasons for the two of them to spend alone time together. And not just to us, but to Tabitha herself! Which we see proof of twice in this third episode, first when she shuts down Imogen trying to frame Wes as “the cute one,” and then again when it seems like maybe Wes had roofied the wine (which, I don’t think he has), and she has a come-to-Aria moment and yeets herself out of there, spying and stealing the USB stick back on her way out the door while Wes has his back turned in the kitchen. May this be the first of many yeets, and may Wes get what any good slasher flick should dictate is coming to him!
• Something else I’ve completely skipped over is whatever the hell it is Tabitha is doing with that hidden GoPro in the boys’ locker room, which has captured footage of a lot of naked minors. Considering she just planted the same camera in Angela’s rave warehouse memorial in the hopes of filming Slasher A, I foresee danger coming down the line…
• SlAsh Count: 0