Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists review: Welcome to Beacon Heights


Beacon Heights has officially seen its first murder, and odds are, it won’t be the last. So begins Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists.

It’s been awhile since Kristen Bell graced our televisions with her salacious voiceover in Gossip Girl. But with Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists, we may have the perfect successor in Sofia Carson.

She plays Ava Jalali in the PLL spinoff, a fashionista focused on building and honing her brand to perfection, and she opens the premiere with a foreboding narration:

"“At BHU, we’ll do whatever it takes to stay on top. We thrive under pressure and strive for perfection. But no one’s perfect, and the pressure is building to a breaking point. And someone is about to snap. And kill.”"

But let’s not jump right to the murder. In true PLL fashion, that reveal comes at the end. We have  to start at the beginning.

As a pleasant surprise, the spinoff premiere sticks with the original show’s theme song, albeit a different version. This rendition of “Secrets” comes from Denmark + Winter. This version of the song is much creepier though, and it’s fitting for this series.

The Perfectionists is much darker than its predecessor, and that’s clear from the start. The episode literally opens in the dark, with Alison on her way to her new life in Beacon Heights.

Plenty of questions come with that, but there’s one at the top: Where. Is. Emily.

Well, as Ali explains to Mona, they are still together. But Emily still struggles with accepting Alison’s past deceptions, so they’re taking some time apart.

The good news is, Ali isn’t giving up on them. The bad news is that it means we probably won’t see Shay Mitchell in this spinoff for awhile. That’s okay though, because we do have Mona as a familiar face.

It seems she’s not quite so set as Alison on leaving her past self behind. As soon as Mona starts talking to a mirror, we know she’s back to her conniving and deceitful habits. Then again, I wouldn’t have Mona any other way.

By the end of the episode, she seems to be the key to whatever is going on at Beacon Heights University and its nefarious surveillance system. Well, her and Nolan Hotchkiss.

He’s the son of Claire Hotchkiss – a sneaky voiceover narration isn’t the only similarity The Perfectionists bears to Gossip Girl, hi Kelly Rutherford! – whose family built the university. There’s even a garden named for her daughter Taylor, who killed herself a year prior to the events of the premiere.

Nolan’s entitlement and manipulation makes him really easy to hate. But so was Ali the first time we met her. And, by the end of the episode, it’s a bit harder to fault him for his actions. He clearly cared about protecting at least Ava. But Nolan is very firmly under his mother’s  thumb.

He’s pretending to date Caitlin, another new character, instead of Ava, to uphold the family’s reputation. Mama Hotchkiss clearly likes a woman with her eye on a senate seat, rather than one whose father embezzled millions of dollars and ran, for her potential daughter-in-law.

Then again, maybe Claire should be bracing for a son-in-law. Thanks to a quick flashback, we know that Nolan has a sexual past with our final newcomer, Dylan. Whether Nolan actually had feelings for him is a different question. Seducing Dylan after he announced that he and his boyfriend were exclusive seems like pure desire for blackmail material.

Nolan has something on each one of the Perfectionists, giving each of them a reason to fantasize about killing him. And yet, when someone finally does, all three seem truly shaken. Is there a killer among them? It was awfully similar to Caitlin’s fantasy. Or could it have been Nolan’s sister Taylor? Oh yeah, she’s definitely still alive.

It’s episode one, and the stakes are already at a high, even by Pretty Little Liars standards. And that’s exactly why this spinoff is going to work.

Now we just have to start spinning our theories.

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Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists airs on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Freeform.