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If I Could Go Back In Time: Ravenswood Pilot Review

By on October 23, 2013
Pictured (L-R): Merritt Patterson, Tyler Blackburn, Nicole Anderson, Brett Dier, Britne Oldford -- Credit: ABC FAMILY/Bob D'Amico

Pictured (L-R): Merritt Patterson, Tyler Blackburn, Nicole Anderson, Brett Dier, Britne Oldford -- Credit: ABC FAMILY/Bob D'Amico

There were relatively few ravens in Ravenswood, but where the town lacked in birds it made up for it in forbidden romance, terrible tragedies, and creepy people.

The highly anticipated spin-off of ABC Family’s hit murder mystery Pretty Little Liars got off to an interesting start with its Halloween special premiere. The series has a solid concept and (perhaps not surprisingly) delivered entertainment-wise in thrills and dark drama.

Ravenswood centers on Caleb Rivers (Tyler Blackburn), known by Liars fans as Hannah’s Rosewood love interest. That love was put on hold though once Caleb stepped on the bus, transporting him from one murderous town to – if you can believe it –  a town steeped in even more death. Caleb’s first and most instant connection in Ravenswood was Miranda Collins (Nicole Anderson), a foster kid who has come to reclaim her life with her estranged uncle.

It’s these two who give us our first weird encounter after they pay a visit to the local cemetery. It might not be too out there to assume cemetery visits will become a bit of a habit for our main cast of characters. Here the duo discover their names etched on two separate headstones, uncomfortably accompanied by photos of their faces. One problem: those are gravestones. For dead people. And they aren’t dead. The creep doesn’t stop there though.

It follows them through their initial meeting with Miranda’s uncle, Raymond (Steven Cabral), who is more than closed off. He’s downright dismissive of a girl who is supposedly his niece. Thank goodness Carla Grunwald (Meg Foster) is there to bring some starchy warmth to the Collins’ house/funeral home. Foster throughout the episode does a wonderful job of setting the tone of pretense for the entire series. Yes, Carla is nicer than Raymond, but she is certainly hiding secrets. Whose remains unclear, but keeping them dead and buried is something Grunwald shares with a lot of the Ravenswood community.

Miranda’s family isn’t the only one with secrets or familial tension. Soon after this meeting we are introduced to the Mathesons, comprised of siblings Luke (Brett Dier), Olivia (Merritt Patterson), and their widowed mother, Rochelle. Rochelle isn’t just any widow. She’s been marked by the town as “Black Widow,” a term commonly used to describe female serial killers whose targets are their husbands. Additional tidbit: in order to be considered a black widow, you must have killed more than one husband. Could this be a clue about Rochelle’s past? As for the teens, Olivia tries to fight the town’s condemnation of their mother and maintain her all-american girl life, while Luke has instead retreated into himself.

Caleb gives us our introduction to the final member of the “fated five,” Remy (Britne Oldford), a character who we may consider the resource gal of the group. Her father, Simon Beaumont (Henry Simmons), works for an obituary company. As a result she’s knowledgeable about everything that comes in and out of town, including what it’s tried to bury beneath the cold ground it rests on. Remy is the one who spills Ravenswood’s biggest secret: a flood that killed hundreds leaving the small community drowning in bodies. She is also the one who teases an odd occurrence of five teens regularly dying around the time soldiers – who shouldn’t have “made it” – return to the town after serving in the army.

Remy isn’t just our book gal, though. In her character we find the show’s first canonically established romance (and what would a teen drama be without one?). She and fallen star Luke were apparently an item, but after his father died and his mother became a prime suspect in the murder case, Remy’s father put space between them. The two radiate Romeo and Juliet vibes and their dismissal of Simon’s request makes their relationship are the more root-worthy. Luke does create small cause for concern after we learn why Remy’s father has condemned their relationship. Apparently the teen lied for his mom when questioned about his father’s murder. However, while talking with Olivia earlier, he admits to not believing in their mother’s innocence. Hmm…

Family drama is a focal point of the show, but can pale in comparison to the weird things happening in town and to characters. Angels are crying blood, puddles appear from nowhere next to windows, people play behind curtains (even use them to try to drown you!), and creepy looking girls hang out in windows and on bridges during storms. This all seems linked to the murderous flood, but instead of getting more answers, we are left on a deliciously disastrous cliffhanger. All five teens conveniently find themselves sharing a car after a less than pleasant evening. When the creepy dead girl suddenly appears on the bridge, Miranda makes Remy swerve to avoid hitting her. As a result, all five end up driving into the river and one of the last things we see is the car sinking into the cold water.

The pilot did a spectacular job of setting Ravenswood‘s tone and creating a real atmosphere of scare. This is quite a step up from Pretty Little Liars in the thrill department and will hopefully be a solid shriek-worthy hour every week. The story’s mythology and town history are also intriguing. One has to wonder with the secretes lying so deeply in that history if we’ll get to spend any time, well, back in time.  One area the pilot did struggle in was dialogue as it felt very contrived and awkward at times – particularly in the beginning. The actors performances were solid, however, and the various personalities should create some interesting dynamics for the show. All in all it was an nice start and hopefully the show can overcome it’s small pilot hiccups. There’s a solid and fun story here. We wouldn’t want Ravenswood to be the one that got away.

What did you think about the pilot? Share your thoughts in the comment section below, then watch Ravenswood at its regular time, Tuesdays at 8:00 – 9:00 PM ET/PT on ABC Family.