It’s not difficult to understand that the brains behind ABC Family’s new love child, The Lying Game, is none other than the novelist, Sara Shepard, who brought us another series filled with secrets, Pretty Little Liars. As the title suggests, the show is filled with sweet little lies and, as the pilot demonstrates, funny identity mishaps. Emma Becker and Sutton Mercer (both played by the likeable Alexandra Chando) have just discovered that they are identical twins who were separated from each other when they were born. Both teenagers have grown up in completely contrasting circumstances with Sutton’s adoptive parents giving her a healthy (and wealthy) upbringing in Arizona, her friends glorify the ground she walks on and her parents approve of her popular boyfriend. Although, we discover in the first episode that her life may be less than perfect. On the other hand, Emma has had a very stressful and gritty start in life with a perverted brother never giving her a moment’s peace and the only thing to keep her company is her tennis racket.
While the twins talk, via webcam, it seems as though Emma is more excited about meeting her sister than Sutton is about meeting her because she feels trapped living with a disadvantaged lifestyle and not the best of upbringings. Sutton rages about how her adoptive parents kept her from the fact that she had a sister (it’s suggested that this conversation has been going on for a long time) and for the past few months the privileged teen has been trying to locate their biological parents because she believes that this will help them to discover the truth. Although, it is unclear what the revelation will be as it is not unusual for parents to not be able to look after their kids and to give them up, but maybe she just wants to know why they were given up in the first place. Emma’s foster brother finally pushes her over the edge when he frames her for stealing their foster mother’s money and when the police come to ask questions she darts out of the house (revengefully thrashing him with her tennis racket on the way) and flees onto an overnight bus that will take her to paradise, i.e. Arizona.
On the other side of town Sutton has just arrived back from her holiday in Paris. Her boyfriend, Luke, appears at the door to welcome her home, but there’s clearly trouble in paradise when she acts strangely quiet and uninterested, finally even blowing him off admitting she would rather spend time with her two best friends. It’s clear that Sutton feels more relaxed when she’s with Char and Mads, although when Mads brings out a picture of her brother and Sutton together she asks if they ever dated, but Sutton reassures her, saying that they had never went out together. However, as we divulge into more of Sutton’s life later on in the episode, it’s highly likely that this is one of her many lies.
Later on when her friends want Sutton to dish the dirt on why things are not going too well with Luke, Sutton is saved by the bell when she receives a call from Emma about her surprise visit. Although this turn of events might have caused an unwanted problem to begin with, it instead ends up being the perfect solution for Sutton when she asks Emma, at the bus station where they meet in person for the first time, to pretend to be her for two days. This gives Sutton time to track down their parents while her twin can hide from the police so Emma reluctantly agrees and the two girls switch clothes. Sutton tells Emma to use her laptop to fill in the gaps of her life, since this is Emma’s survival tool she does, although as she finds out, Emma hasn’t wrote down everything about her world.
Arriving in Sutton’s home, Emma tries her best to act more like her sister, which at first proves to be quite challenging with her adoptive mum and sister noticing that something has changed about their family member, when Emma acts nice instead of horrible and selfish, but nevertheless she is successful in fooling them both. Emma is first introduced to Sutton’s boyfriend and her friends at a pool party. However, Sutton’s rival, Nisha, gate-crashes the party and even invites them all to her party the following evening. Nisha is Sutton’s greatest opposition on the tennis team and after intense ego exchanges Emma ends up agreeing participating in a head-to-head tennis competition at school the next day. This is another problem for Emma to deal with, but a greater fear that Emma discovers about Sutton’s life is that she appears to have a stalker. It’s not until the first day back at school when Emma finds out that Sutton’s stalker is bad boy, Ethan Whitehorse, who’s brother is ironically a cop. Emma also finds out that her twins adoptive mum and dad and Sutton’s best friends parents used to be friends. Could it be something to do with the twins that broke their friendship?
During lunch Emma feels as though she is helping Sutton’s scandalous life by patching up her relationship with Luke. Emma’s years of slamming a tennis ball against the garage door come in handy when she prevails in beating Nisha. After the match, she sees Ethan alone casually resting against a wall, as though he is waiting for her appearance, frustration overwhelms Emma and she can’t help but vent at Ethan, comparing him to Humpty Dumpty and calling him a stalker, but his response is not one which would be expected of a stalker, to say the least. When Emma meets up with her twins adoptive sister, Laurel Mercer, she realises that she has forgot her bag and goes back to collect it at the tennis court, only to stumble on on Luke and Nisha kissing.
That night Emma attends Nisha’s party while trying her best to avoid Luke, but when he confronts her she has no choice but to confess to how she knows that he is cheating her. Nisha tries to get a piece of the action and tells Emma that Luke has never cared about Sutton and after some harsh remarks, grabbing the attention of everyone else in the room, Nisha dramatically stabs the worst burn imaginable by saying that she was an abandoned child, Emma snaps and hits her. She then storms out and decides to go to a cabin where she and the real Sutton were meant to secretly meet up at 10 o’clock for the swap. However, when Emma is about to drive off she is graced by the presence of Ethan who kisses her and afterwards smugly says how he knew Emma wasn’t Sutton. Emma denies it, but Ethan stubbornly tells her to name who Sutton’s boyfriend is, and she makes it a whole lot worse by saying Luke, to which Ethan replies that it is actually him(not really that much of a surprise). He also adds that all it took was a kiss for him to know that this was not the real Sutton. Emma shuns him off though and drives away to meet her sister in the flesh for the second time.
Sutton doesn’t seem to be in the eerie cabin when Emma arrives, although she does find her sisters necklace lying in one of the rooms just before she senses another human in the house and when she goes to investigate, it turns out to be Ethan. Emma has nowhere to run so she confesses all too her sisters boyfriend, finding it pleasurable admitting to someone that she is not Sutton, instead her twin sister. Ethan seems to be the only person who knows Sutton more than anyone else as Sutton had told him that she was in search of her biological parents, although she had not confessed to him that she was going to run off to LA whilst her sister took her place.
It’s clear that Sutton’s life is one consumed with lies and troubles that Emma can’t even bare surviving in for two days. Emma would have done anything to have been adopted by such a lovely couple, but it was obvious that Sutton wasn’t as grateful, she also didn’t get on with her sister who was jealous of her because they chose Sutton whereas she was accidental, her boyfriend was being deceitful and she in turn was cheating on Luke. Understandably, Emma feels like throwing in the towel and leaving, although Ethan is able to persuade her to stay, just until Sutton arrives back in Arizona.
When Sutton fails to show, Emma goes home to find cops patrolling around in the house asking Sutton’s adopted family questions. Apparently the house has been burgled and Emma is forced to look around Sutton’s room to see if anything has gone missing. She discovers that Sutton’s laptop, which was “supposed” to hold all her lives secrets, has been taken…
We finally see the real Sutton sitting in the driving seat of a car beside a carnival in LA. It seems as though she is waiting for someone and soon enough a mysterious figure drops into the passenger seat and Sutton is left screaming.
It’s clear that this series does have promise, although it has not made as much impact on me compared to the pilot of Pretty Little Liars. It’s good that most of the actors are not extreme A-listers, so we don’t end up picking at their faults compared to other roles. The protagonist of the series is deemed to be Emma, with her gaining the most screening time, although I would highly like to see Sutton’s side of the story as the series develops as investigating their parents seems much more exciting and interactive compared to Emma’s dilemma.
What did you thing of the pilot? Will you continue watching The Lying Game?