Welcome to my Top 5 List, a series where I will be discussing my favorite episodes from the various television shows. Today, we will be taking a look at what is arguably the best teen drama of all time, Little Liars. The series premiered in 2010 and was immediately hailed as a masterpiece upon its release. It followed the trials and tribulations of a group of wealthy young women who attend the prestigious Rosewood high school in Atlanta.
Set against the gorgeous backdrop of the city’s famous Rosewood district, Little Liars explores the issue of cyberbullying and the devastating effects it can have on the victims’ self-image. The story focuses on a group of four friends, who become the targets of a cruel social media campaign when their beloved favorite television series, Little Liars, is featured on one of the message boards.
5. ‘The Princess and the Pig’ (Episode 4)
There are a lot of reasons why this episode is number five on my list, but let’s break it down. First off, the entire series is impeccably cast. Troian Bellisario, who plays the genius, brilliant and headstrong Victoria “Vi” Abbott, won an Emmy for her performance as the strong-willed and headstrong character. The supporting cast is also filled with award-winning actors, including Shailene Woodley, who plays the role of aspiring photographer, Hanna Marin, and the late Anna Gunn, who plays the part of the alcoholic, grumpy and hilarious Mrs. Munro. The episode also features a stellar guest star turn from Carrie Fisher. She plays the role of Princess Dashiki, an African-American maid working for the Abbotts in their penthouse apartment.
However, despite all of this, without a doubt my personal favorite episode is Episode 4, “The Princess and the Pig”. This episode explores the notion that nothing can be more distressing to a teenage girl than to be compared to livestock. It begins with a seemingly innocuous conversation between Emily (Shailene Woodley) and her best friend, Hanna (Hannah Marin). The two have recently watched an episode of Little Liars in which the main character, Victoria “Vi” Abbott, dresses up as a swine (pig) for Halloween, which inspired them to ask her about her costume. The conversation ends up being much more revealing than they intended as Victoria begins to compare herself to farm animals and tells them that she feels like a “pig”. This leads to Emily and Hanna comparing their own overweight bodies to pigs and ridiculing the idea that they could be considered beautiful.
The series then cuts away to a sequence where we see Emily and her friends in a variety of comedic and dramatic poses, which are meant to be a commentary on the stereotypes associated with being a pig. For example, one of the girls puts on lipstick and does a pig nose-to-tail-with-a-boar transformation. It is quite a caricature and it is funny because it is so over-the-top, but it is also a commentary on the ridiculous nature of comparing oneself to animals.
4. ‘The Night of the Mask’ (Episode 2)
Another gem of an episode that deserves a spot on this list is Episode 2, “The Night of the Mask”. This episode begins with a haunting image of Emily, who is seen wearing a pig mask at a Halloween party. The image is shown over a dark background and the effect is quite spooky. It then cuts away to reveal that Emily’s mother is a renowned plastic surgeon who has designed a surgical mask inspired by creatures from Greek mythology. The surgery went well and Emily’s mother begins to dress her in elaborate outfits as a celebration.
This episode is noteworthy for a scene where Emily’s (Shailene Woodley) grandmother makes an appearance. Grandma Millie (Carrie Fisher) has recently had a stroke and is no longer able to speak, but that does not stop her from continuing to contribute to the proceedings. In the scene, we see Grandma Millie trying to say “hello” to Emily’s Aunt Liz (Laurie Metcalf), who does not hear her. This culminates in a funny yet somewhat emotional exchange between the two, where Grandma Millie finally manages to say hello to Aunt Liz.
3. ‘Hanna’s Party’ (Episode 6)
I could put all of the previous episodes on this list, but I think it is only fair to say that none of them compare to the splendor that is Episode 6, “Hanna’s Party”. This installment was considered to be so special that it was given its own title, which is fitting because it is an elaborate affair that culminates in a grand party. The previous five episodes had focused on the notion that the group of Liars are best friends, but in this episode, they are finally given a chance to explore the nuances of friendship in more detail.
Prior to this episode, we had mainly seen the girls hanging out at each other’s houses or going to school. Much to the dismay of their parents, who do not want them to socialize with teenagers their own age, the girls have become inseparable. In fact, Mrs. Hodes (Sherilyn Fenn) cannot even bear to look at them, which is why she had Hanna’s (Shailene Woodley) party cake frosted with yellow icing instead of blue.
The episode opens with a glorious party scene, where the quartet of friends celebrate Hanna’s (Shailene Woodley) 16th birthday. The guests at the party, which is hosted by Emily’s (Shailene Woodley) Aunt Liz (Laurie Metcalf) and Uncle Scott (George Clooney), are mostly the girl’s own age and there is lots of laughing and dancing. It is a very lighthearted episode, which manages to perfectly capture the essence of a high school party.
2. ‘Secrets and Lies’ (Episode 1)
As mentioned, a lot of great things originated from the mind of executive producer (and co-creator) Sara Huddy, who also made My Friend Ava. This is exemplified in the premiere episode, “Secrets and Lies”, where we learn of an incident that occurred between Emily (Shailene Woodley) and her best friend, Hanna (Hannah Marin), which led to the latter’s conception of the infamous “A” team. A lot of the story line in this premiere episode revolves around this incident, which involved Emily lying about a boy (Jake Gyllenhaal) she had a crush on. She pretended to be his girlfriend on Instagram and he eventually found out about it, which led to their breakup. This episode is filled with twists and turns, which make it a thrill to watch and definitely worth your time.
1. ‘Is There Any Gossip?’ (Episode 13)
Finally, we come to the ultimate episode of Little Liars, which is arguably one of the greatest of all time. It is Episode 13 and it is called, “Is There Any Gossip?”. This episode is a masterpiece in terms of its writing and the overall ambiance of the production, which I cannot put into words. So let’s take a look, shall we?
The series opens with a bang as a car alarm goes off, signaling the start of a chase sequence. The camera circles around as we see Emily (Shailene Woodley), Hanna (Hannah Marin) and their other friends fleeing from the scene of a crime. It then cuts to black as Emily’s phone rings, signifying the arrival of a text message and inviting the viewer into the world of the Little Liars. Within this world, the story picks up immediately after the previous episode, where Emily and Hanna’s (Shailene Woodley) plan to attend the homecoming dance together backfires when Hanna lies to Emily about being assaulted by Justin (Patrick Duff).
The remaining characters have their own little arcs and storylines they pursue over the course of the episode. There is also a scene towards the end of the episode, which is filled with tension as we see the four friends arguing about whether or not to trust Justin. This scene is followed by a shot of Emily’s (Shailene Woodlee) back, as she walks away from her friends in disgust. It is a powerful scene and demonstrates the immense damage that gossip can cause. This is a pivotal scene, which helps drive home the importance of loyalty and honesty in friends.
At the end of the day, Little Liars is a series filled with heartbreak, intrigue and excitement, which is why it still resonates with viewers decades later. It tackles real-life issues such as cyberbullying and the damaging effects that technology can have on children, but it does so through a uniquely entertaining and immersive lens.