Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin review: YA thriller by numbers for the Gen Z audience

Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin. Photo:Barbara Nitke/HBO Max.
Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin. Photo:Barbara Nitke/HBO Max. /

Spoilers ahead of Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin

Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin premieres its first three episodes on Thursday, July 28. The new HBO Max show which is a spin-off of the Pretty Little Liars series that took the teen world by storm, has a simple premise. A group of girls primarily connected by the friendship their mothers had as teens are being targeted by a mysterious serial killer named A.

This isn’t random by any stretch of the imagination. A has a vendetta and the particular bone this killer is picking has to do with the death of teen girl at the stroke of midnight in 2000. She committed suicide by jumping from the rafters at a Y2K warehouse party.

She made the split second decision after being ignored by partygoers and her former friends when she was clearly in distress. While viewers won’t get clear answers on what happened leading up to that event in the first three episodes of Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin, the ground will be set for Imogene, Tabby, Noa, Faran, and Mouse to start wanting to ask questions. But first, they’ll have to contend with their own harrowing encounters with A.

To put it mildly, what this series has going for it is a world that speaks to the inclusive environment being fostered for the Gen Z audience on television…and that’s pretty much it.

Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin doesn’t add anything to the YA conversation

Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin is a serviceable teen series. It hits all the beats. Our five leads embody different archetypes.

There’s Imogene (Bailee Madison), the good girl who tries to see the best in people and is mindful of the feelings of others. Her being pregnant doesn’t change that. Tabby (Chandler Kinney), the cinephile who has an encyclopedic knowledge of movies that she puts into nearly every sentence she says.

Noa (Maia Reficco), our “bad girl” who actually isn’t bad at all and really just wants to have a good time and hang out with her boyfriend, Shawn. Faran (Zaria), the snooty prima ballerina who feels out of place but adds a sense of sophistication and bite to the group. She’s got a mean girl edge but saves her fire for people who deserve it.

And Mouse (Malia Pyles), the shy, socially awkward tech nerd whose kindness brings a much needed bright quality to this diverse group of teens brought together due to bullying.

Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin
Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin. Photograph by Karolina Wojtasik/HBO Max . /

Besides the plot involving A’s murders, this quintet are bonded by a shared dislike for Karen Beasley. If you pictured her as being a walking stereotype as in white, blonde, popular, from a family with an authoritative hold on the town of Millwood as well as racist and homophobic, you’d be right on the nose. And I mean incredibly on the nose.

Karen embodies the slang definition of her name to a T even down to the entitlement and the excuses made to explain why someone she deems inferior (read: a minority) excels at something better than her. She’s exhausting to watch so kudos to Mallory Bechtel for her performance.

At its heart, Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin is definitely a story about bullying and the fatal consequences that can come with terrorizing your peers. Whether that’s someone doing harm to themselves or harm being done to a bully in revenge. That’s a worthwhile story to tell and one the show does well when it concentrates on that narrative.

However, this series has so many side plots that it starts getting lost in the weeds. Everyone has a secret. Everyone. And the show spends its time working to plant seeds for those slow reveals whilst also trying to deliver on a thrilling plot and it just doesn’t work. It’s not focused enough.

The most interesting storyline is what happened to the teen girl and how the girls’ mothers were involved and Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin spends those three pivotal premiere episodes on practically everything but that with exception to the necessary groundwork that needed to be done to keep the audience on the hook.

I have to say, I’m here, but it feels like work. Not fun, not a spine tingling thriller, not a juicy mystery that I want to sink my teeth into but a show I’m tethered to with the hope that it’s not just another entry into the teen line-up that becomes forgettable and a story that can be missed.

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Stay tuned Hidden Remote for more Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin news and coverage! New episodes of the series premiere Wednesdays on HBO Max .