No one wants to sound like a broken record. No one wants to talk about a show’s narrative that they no longer believe in. No one wants to not like something they once really enjoyed.
But that’s where Twisted has left viewers in its Season 1B finale. Through a series of missteps the show has essentially buried itself. Season 1A wasn’t perfect, but there were foundations of an exciting and titillating teen murder mystery that deserved a time slot behind the network’s golden child Pretty Little Liars.
It had a core set of actors who not only created genuine and compelling characters, but whose chemistry alone could carry the show. While the mystery premise and dark edge made Twisted exciting, storylines that played with social commentary and the moral grey area of the human experience made it intelligent. It was a rather ambitious concept, but an intriguing and certainly executable one.
However, with steady precision this show began to unwind. Season 1A ended in a weird place with high intensity but sloppily executed narrative turns. It was okay though because the actors and the idea of this trio’s friendship could ultimately save it. Flash forward and we are now at the finale of Season 1B. Danny’s a supporting character, Lacey’s a special guest, and the narrative is concentrated on Jo — whose erratic and dramatic personality somehow charms everyone out of addressing her sometimes absurd and inappropriate behavior.
In a show with two female leads we watch as the story dodges building their relationship, preferring to focus on pitting them against each other in an unnecessary and careless love triangle. A love triangle that, even when it first started, actually involved its main trio. But as time went on the love triangle dropped a character it had centralized from the beginning, choosing to shift its focus to Jo, Danny and Charlie. Oddly enough it did this after Season 1A made the concerted effort to draw a platonic line between two members of this new triangle.
In the process of Jo’s centralization we almost lose Lacey entirely. While Jo originally played on the awkward outsider trope, Lacey was the embodiment of the “popular” girl. Torn between the life she had built after being marked as a social outcast and a lingering desire to reclaim her stolen childhood Lacey had the makings of a complicated and relatable character played rather wonderfully by Kylie Bunbury. She was also established as Danny’s love interest from day one making a triangle virtually unnecessary. The hope was that they were going to be a trio though, regardless of who Danny liked or didn’t.
Because this wasn’t about who Danny liked. Twisted was about the toughness of growing up, about being who we are at a time when social pressure is already high… and when you have a serial killer as a best friend. After the bomb of Jo always being the one, it’s safe to assume the show had other plans. Season 1B’s finale left Tess with a bigger plotline than a main trio member while her daughter’s questionable harem grew. It became clear how much Lacey was as an afterthought (with a mishandled lgbt storyline ironically similar to that of her father) when Jo and Danny finally admitted their feelings.
Meanwhile, the Mastersons have been consumed by finding Vikram’s killer and an abandoned baby arc that sprouted up like a weed, eating screen time and leaving nothing for viewers to desire. Yes, there was that “wonderfully” uncomfortable twist of Charlie being Jo’s half brother, but why did we go there again? What does this have to do with three teenagers being friends and shirking off social labels to be who they want to be? What does this have to do with our perceptions of people and how we feed into a nasty culture of limiting and damaging stereotypes?
Karen — who had a complex relationship with her son waiting to be further explored — ended up as a device for Jack’s devious plans. Most disappointingly, a single mother struggling to rebuild and protect her family has ended up a love hungry sucker with a weak spot for douchey men. As Karen is hacked off at the knees, Jack has been elevated by the narrative, but just like Whitney he’s only a reminder of the significant supporting 1A characters that dropped out of existence without a decent explanation. In addition, their presence further solidifies the missed potential storylines for Lacey who perhaps took the biggest punch with Season 1B’s wild narrative deviation.
Now would seem like a rather appropriate time to discuss Lacey’s family and by that I mean the lack of them. From the get they had a smaller screen presence than the other two families. However, the potential to explore varying familial formulas, as well as how that affects growing up, appeared to be solidified with the divorced parents set up. Shortly after their appearance though they were gone. Lacey’s sidelining coffin was nailed shut by their continued nonexistence in Season 1B, coupled with a missing sister at her own birthday party and a father “outed” for the sake of a friendship the show clearly doesn’t care about. So we’re clear, we saw more of Whitney’s mother in 1B than we saw of Judy Porter.
Ultimately the most interesting thing about this season ended up being Charlie and his twists. Jack Falahee did a superb job carrying the dark-sided, stunted and mildly deranged character through the season. Even Charlie presents a problem though. The morally questionable, semi-scary character in this series wasn’t supposed to be him. It was supposed to be Danny. Danny, whose storylines now keep him more busy than Lacey but still manage to be just as uninteresting and unnecessary. Not to mention they all end up centering on or serving as a gateway to Jo’s development. The show made a shoddy choice in tying up the Aunt Tara and Regina mysteries almost straight out of the Season 1B gate, leaving itself very little backbone.
The decision proved to lack any substantial pay off as we watched weird twist after weird twist lead us to a finale moment that frankly fell below flat. It was a “Who Shot JR” where I don’t care who, or if anyone really, was shot. Not only that, but the continuity errors and narrative questions that sprung from Charlie’s big reveal are enough to make your head spin. How did Tara hide a son? Why did Tara agree to adopt Tess’ child? Why if these people are so rich did he end up in foster care? Wasn’t Tess’ baby supposed to be a girl? Why wasn’t Regina, the girl at the center of the mystery with all the secrets, the half-sibling?
The show with “solid performances from nearly the entire cast” and strong themes of “loyalty, standing by what’s right, and the most emotionally provoking: the ripple effect childhood violence can have on a person, a family, and a community” is gone. What we’re left with is a show that barely knows its characters, lacks a sense of narrative priority, and has wasted an astonishingly large amount of talent to be… well, a hack job. It’s sad that a promising narrative shot itself in the foot.