ABC Family's newest mystery series is as funny as it is dark, controversial and, well, twisted. I expected to feel uneasy watching the beautiful, dark-eyed pariah of Twisted
navigate the perilous halls of Green Grove High, surrounded by swirling whispers and taunts; what I wasn't expecting was the wit and weird humor of the network's newest sure-fire hit. It's an uneasy balance of suspense and silliness, with typically-teenage self-deprecation and jokes aimed at Glee
and Twitter woven into a story about murder, deception and mental illness.
Ads for the series repeatedly feature Jo asking a psychology teacher, "How can you tell if someone's a sociopath?" And the answer is, essentially, that you can't -- possibly until it's too late. As the teacher explains in the pilot, a sociopath may not feel empathy for other people, but he can be very skilled at mimicking human emotion. This gives accused sociopath and determined smart-ass Danny the chance to mock the witch-hunt inspired by his return, accusing past friends of trying to determine if he's "mimicking human emotion" based on some crazy high school psych lesson.
Danny's mental health and trustworthiness are the main issues in Twisted
, though, so the question is essential: is he a sociopath? Danny willingly admits that he killed his aunt when he was 11 years old. What we don't know is if he will kill again or if he's basically harmless. And to know that, we need to watch for clues as well as the possible mimicking of human emotions. And watching actors act like bad actors
is always a little bit funny too, even when the subject matter is serious.
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The pilot for Twisted gives all the essential background info on the show's anti-hero and his dark story. Danny Desai was best friends with nice-girls Jo and Lacey until he killed his aunt when he was 11, claiming that he "had to do it" and "had no choice" but giving no concrete reason. Danny spent five years in juvenile detention before being released back into his town's school district, where angry classmates are ready and armed with labels: "lunatic freak," "creep," "psycho" and the catchiest, "socio."
Danny tries to reunite with his former playground pals, but they've moved on from him and each other. Jo's become a bookish outsider, while Lacey's part of a popular trio of funny girls. Lacey's BFF Regina, in particular, is buoyantly winsome with her random one-liners -- "I've been super vicious since I went off gluten" -- and strange love interests, which is why it's especially sad that (spoiler-alert) we won't be seeing her anymore.
Lacey is harder to win over than sensitive Jo, giving Danny the nickname "Socio" and a TV news interview stating that she'd boot him from campus with her designer heels if it were her call. Jo's not easy, but she's at least willing to walk Danny to the class they share (which is conveniently Psychology).
In Psych, we learn that Twitter is a delightful waste of time and sociopaths have no conscience, no ability to feel empathy and no real human emotion (although they can possibly mimic those emotions). I haven't checked that definition with the DSM's, but let's go with it.
Suddenly 11 Again
Jo and Danny share more than Psych class and a history, though. They both have the uncomfortable feeling that, although five years have passed, the day's current events have them feeling like they're both "suddenly 11 again." Jo says as much in the car on her way to school, and when Danny admits the same feeling at the diner later that day, Jo recognizes her old friend and begins to trust him again. Danny connects with Rico too by mirroring his feelings of extraordinary discomfort. Jo warms to Danny, but she still eyes him with suspicion. Danny mocks their Psych class and invites Jo to Regina's party to win her over. (Danny's already been invited to a party, charmer that he is.) Jo gives in and joins Danny at Regina's place.
Regina Has His Number
Supposedly, vicious Regina is actually nothing but sweet around "Socio" (as she continues to call him), flirting aggressively and inviting him for guided tours through her bedroom. Lacey and Sarita think she's nuts, and maybe she is because she texts Danny later that night, begging him to come back to hook up. Danny asks Regina how she got his phone number, but she won't say, only mentioning that they need to talk because she knows why he killed his aunt. Danny looks worried. He'll admit to killing his aunt (author Tara Desai), but he insists that no one can know why. How could Regina know?
We don't know what Danny does after the news because the next scene cuts to morning, where Danny's sleeping peacefully with Lacey at the foot of his bed. (He lured her there with peace-making knock-off Cool Ranch Doritos, which obviously always works.) Over at Regina's, a maid sifts through the party rubble, complaining about the mess, while the camera slowly pans over to Regina's apparently dead body. Guess who's the Number One Suspect?
Ready for Her Close-Up
Back at Green Grove High, a table of jocks mourn Regina and curse the name of Danny "Socio" Desai. One particularly charming student-athlete wishes Regina had avoided the ex-con, saying, "I even offered to bang her if she was itching to get banged. If only she'd listened!" His delivery is priceless. This show is insane.
Everyone in town thinks Danny is the obvious suspect, but Jo thinks that's precisely why the killer probably isn't Danny. Why would he come back to school just to kill someone again and destroy his chance at redemption? And if someone wanted to kill Regina, wouldn't Danny's return offer the perfect scapegoat? It's a convincing enough theory.
Then again, Danny doesn't seem particularly innocent behind closed doors. After promising Jo he'd never lie to her, Danny immediately lies to his mother (Karen, played by the glamorous Denise Richards, who seems to be mimicking human emotion in a few scenes). He accuses her of dragging him back to their hometown so she can reclaim her status as Queen Bee, PTA president and all that jazz. It's true that the other parents think Karen is always "ready for her close-up." She swears she's not trying to be a star this time around, though. After Danny's incarceration, his dad's drinking problem and his eventual death, she couldn't sell their house and doesn't have the money to relocate. But she'll do it, she promises, if Danny feels victimized in town.
He promises to tough it out, but he may have multiple reasons to stick around. Once he's completely alone, Danny takes out a photo album, and the camera zooms in on his deceased aunt wearing a necklace with red jewels -- the same necklace Regina wore at her party and that Danny commented on. To make the moment even more dramatic, Danny then pulls out the red jeweled necklace, and we're left to wonder, is that his aunt's necklace? Is it Regina's? And how did he get it? Did the audience of Twisted
catch Danny red-handed after just one episode? Time will tell.
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(Image courtesy of ABC Family)