PRETTY LITTLE LIARS SEASON 2, EPISODE 13 (“The First Secret”)
Season 2’s Halloween episode is a prequel episode and thus takes place outside of the timeline of the rest of the season. For that reason I decided to cover it separately instead of trying to combine it with other episodes.
This episode is fascinating. Not because we really learn any new information or get new mysteries. But because it is seen almost entirely from Ali’s perspective as we get to know her world. The most important thing we learn from the episode is that Alison actually received the first A text about 10 months before she disappeared. The entire episode takes place during Halloween of the year before Alison went missing which would make all of the Liars freshmen. There is also a lot of foreshadow and juicy tidbits in this episode.
The episode begins with Ali telling the story of two young twin girls. One of stabs the other with a knife and smiles creepily. Her parents send her to a place for the “criminally insane”. She is telling this story to a young boy that Hanna is babysitting. Ali tells him that the girl escaped the day before and will haunt anyone that tries to trick-or-treat. Later when the girls are standing outside of a creepy old abandoned house we see an old car parked outside that says Radley Sanitarium on the side. Is this ghost story a local legend that may actually be true? Or is Ali just making things up?
Before this episode we had only ever really seen Ali through the other girls’ memories. This is the first time we see her on her own. We are reminded how much Ali manipulated the Liars into needing her, seeing her as a friend. Also her need to control everyone. The four Liars are ecstatic to be invited to Noel Kahn’s Halloween party, a party that they would never have been invited to if it weren’t for Alison. It is weird to see all of the Liars so innocent.
Spencer and Melissa actually got along. Spencer really idolized Melissa and Melissa enjoyed mentoring Spencer. Ali tries to convince her that Melissa is playing her and that Ali is the one that can really help her. She tells Spencer that she is going to lose the election for class president but she can make it happen. Was Spencer really losing? Or did Ali just tell her that to make her feel grateful and indebted? Melissa was dating Ian at the time but this is before he and Spencer kissed. She definitely admires their relationship and looks on it as something she wants someday.
Aria finds out about her dad and Meredith, which seems to contradict earlier statements about when Aria found out. In early Season 1 she says she has known for a year but if she found out during Halloween of her freshman year that would put it closer to two years. It may be inconsistent but it fits the narrative of how Ali manipulates her. Aria is no longer interested in going to Noel’s party after she finds out but Ali threatens to tell Aria’s mom about Byron’s affair if Aria doesn’t come.
Another piece that doesn’t fit with previously established timeline is when Hanna’s dad left. In this episode he has already left, though it seems recent. But again in early Season 1 it is implied he left during the year since Ali had disappeared. When Aria comes back Ashley says that Aria didn’t know her dad left which means he would have left while she was in Iceland. Unless he left earlier than anyone knew and Hanna just didn’t tell anyone until later. We also see the first time Ashley meets Detective Wilden, who was only a cop at the time. He drives her home after she has had too many glasses of wine, drinking away her sorrows about Tom leaving. He returns the next day to hit on Ashley and she sets him straight. Was he playing a long game with her? Looking for a reason to get her to sleep with him and when Hanna was arrested he saw it as his opportunity?
Emily is dating Ben and letting people believe that they had sex because she figures it will be true sooner or later. She is also trying to hide her sexuality which Alison knew and taunted her with.
Beyond the Liars we also see Alison interact with some of Rosewood High’s shadiest characters. She and Noel had a flirtation going on. The kind of flirtation where they verbally spar but are probably secretly into each other. She and Noel even plan a prank on the other Liars.
We see the first time Ali met Jenna which is probably my favorite thread of this episode. Jenna moves to town when her mom marries Toby’s dad and she immediately challenge’s Ali. She and Ali meet in a costume shop where they are both looking at Lady Gaga costumes. Ali tells Jenna that she is going as Lady Gaga therefore Jenna needs to pick a different costume. When Jenna shows up at Noel’s party as Lady Gaga, Ali senses that Jenna is going to be trouble for her. She offers to let Jenna into the group, which will give her an automatic way to fit in in Rosewood. Ali tells her that all she needs is Ali’s acceptance to be accepted by everyone. Jenna however isn’t interested. This begs the question of whether Ali always meant to target Jenna when she set off that stink bomb in the garage. She told the girls she was going after Toby, but was she trying to get back at Jenna for not taking her up on her offer?
Throughout the episode Ali is getting messages from an unknown source. When she is in the costume shop she gets a text that just says “I’m watching you”. Later someone sends her a package with a burlap voodoo doll in it and the note “it’s my turn to torture you”. Ali hides this note in the box that Jason finds later and gives to Aria. The note is hidden in the head of the doll though, which Aria hasn’t figured out. Finally Ali gets the first official A text at the end that says “Dying to know who I am? You’ll find out – A”. The revelation that Ali too was getting messages from A is probably the biggest takeaway from this episode. There have been clues that maybe Ali is still alive, but this tells us that even if she is, she isn’t A. It may also be connected to why she was killed.
At multiple points in the episode there is someone in a creepy doll mask watching Ali and the Liars. First at the costume shop, then from Spencer’s yard, and then again at the party. Ali and Noel play a prank on the girls leading them to the creepy abandoned house from earlier in the episode. Ali makes them think that the person in the mask is trying to kill her but it turns out to just be Ali messing with them. Later back at the party, Ali congratulates Noel on his performance but he says it wasn’t him. His brother took the car and he has been stuck at the party. So who actually attacked her? It turns out that there are a lot of people at this party wearing this particular mask.
This episodes gives so many clues as to who A is and I am refraining from pointing them out because it makes it so obvious. When I was first watching the show I never really tried to figure out who A was because I figured it would be revealed so far down the road and the show loves to throw out red herrings. I also binged through the first like 4 or 5 seasons quickly so I wasn’t sitting with it week to week. But if you are actually trying to figure it out it isn’t that hard.
- We see Ian return! He and Ali seemed to either already be hooking up or at least flirting with each other.
- Aria runs through Hollis to find her dad and accidentally bumps into Ezra. They don’t know each other yet and barely look at each other but it is a fun tidbit.
- Jason tells Ali that he and his stoner buds are making a movie…
- Ali goes as Lady Gaga in her “Paparrazi” video. Jenna is “Just Dance” Gaga.
- Hanna goes as Britney Spears from her “…Baby One More Time” era. There is a discussion about whether she should go as cute Britney or dark Britney, because it was 2008, but of course Hanna chooses cute Britney. Probably because Hanna wants to be cute and popular so that would make more sense for her. But I also like to think that Hanna wouldn’t want to make fun of someone’s mental breakdown.
- Emily goes as an “Indian girl” which didn’t age well…
- Aria is just like a witch or something. Which is very fitting.
- Spencer is Mary Queen of Scots, a costume no one else gets.
- Wilden also shows up at this party when the older crowd sets in. Always the creep.
Everyone’s freshman looks are terrible. Aria is in full on goth mode with lots of layers, Ali even wears a dress with a giant belt (it is very 2008), Hanna wears a lot of peasant skirts because she’s “fat”, and Spencer wears nerd glasses. Emily is at least dressed as high school girls in 2008 dressed.