Pretty Little Liars Finale Recap: The Beginning of the End

Ashley Benson as Hanna, Shay Mitchell as Emily. Photo: Tom Ron/Freeform
Pretty Little Liars
Episode Title
The DArkest Night
Editor’s Rating

I leave for one week and suddenly our fair Liars decide to close up shop! Pretty Little Liars showrunner I. Marlene King announced that the final ten episodes — which could take place at any point in the space-time continuum, knowing what we do about Rosewood — will air next April. Since this is our last get-together for a while, and you all waited so patiently for its belated publication, I will waste no more time getting to the ~summer finale edition~ of the Pretty Little Power Rankings.

1. Mona (last week: not ranked)
The problem with featuring Mona in this finale? Her presence makes it all the more glaring how dumb it was to exclude her from all the other episodes. She is the only person in this pack who consistently brings common sense, guts, sass, and just the right amount of sociopathy to the table.

"The DArkest Night" has barely dawned when Mona says it's time to call the cops. It takes all of two commercial breaks for Hanna to realize her grave error in attempting some rogue Noel mission without Mona at her side. Mona responds to this appalling lapse in judgment with a cool, "Next time, call me before you abduct someone and go on the run? It just makes my life easier." It is Mona who says, in a perfect sing-song-y tone of voice, "Not if you want us to say you had nothing to do with it." It is Mona who knows to pat Noel down and find the thumb drive stashed in his sock, Mona who coaches Hanna on the lie while biding time until the blood results get back, Mona who I will miss the most when, just ten episodes from now, this show says its final shhh.

Mona's biggest mistake is telling Jenna to take the first Greyhound out of town; Jenna would take the Acela. Also, Mona should have made sure Noel was secured more … securely … but that seems like something Hanna could have handled.

2. Jenna (last week: not ranked)
The girl doesn't get everything she wants — I assume she wanted Noel's head to stay attached to his body, though in this town, you never know — but in her short screen time, she's made far more gripping television than the lion's share of our leads. (I'm thinking especially of the scene with Mona in the elevator. Finally, worthy opponents isolated from their junior-varsity sidekicks!) She also gets the killer line: "I didn't lose my sight. You took it from me." And she knows the identity of "A.D.," not to be confused with "A," not to be confused with "Archer," etc. etc.

3. Officer Marco Elevator (last week: 3)
I don't want to get ahead of myself here, but I think we may have found the first and only competent police officer in Rosewood! He looked up Spencer the night they met, but stayed discreet about how he knew her entire backstory; he personally oversees the police detail at her house; he is professional but adorable about Spencer's impulsive cheek-kiss; he brings her a cherry soda just the way she likes it.

4. Ali (last week: not ranked)
I'm torn about this one. Before the whole Emily/Ali hook-up session, I thought we were just seeing the return of the Regina George–style Ali that reigned Rosewood High way back when. Her "Ugh, I'm going to be sick" at the sight of Paige's desperation was perfection when it was just judgmental and snarky. But since Ali later finds comfort in Emily's face, what I had originally celebrated as a queen bee reclaiming her throne appears to be basic jealousy and pettiness.

Ali is pregnant with her dead, sadist husband's baby. This is all a little strange because of how time works (or fails to work) in Rosewood. How long was Ali sick and being drugged by Rollins? When was the last time they could have feasibly had consensual sex? She's so scandalized by the idea that the baby might be someone else's — girl, zero people would judge you for having an affair, considering the circumstances — but it DOES seem like it's been a few forevers since she and Rollins could have conceived a kid. Also, I was surprised by the real feeling when Ali said, "I thought my mom would be here when this happened."

5. Aria (last week: 5)
I don't really know where to put Aria this week because she hardly does anything. But her dress is cute! And maybe, just maybe, watching Ezra's emotional hug with Nicole on the news will make Aria call off the wedding and get back together with Jason. A power ranker can hope!

6. Mary Drake (last week: not ranked)
I want to get behind this character because she's got this Luna Lovegood loopiness about her, but the show is not helping. There is a difference between "manageable mystery" and "straight-up not making any sense," and with the overwhelming majority of all things, Mary Drake has landed in the latter category. Why is she even at this Elm Street house? Who invited her? Where has she been staying? Who does she care about? Who is she fighting? And why did she wait so long to say she's Spencer's mom?

7. Hanna (last week: 7)
I'm not going to look up exactly how many episodes the Liars spent in the Dollhouse versus how much time Hanna spent in the wet T-shirt torture shack, but I'm pretty certain we were made to believe the Dollhouse was the ultimate abusive prison, no? If that's the case, it's obnoxiously inconsistent for Hanna to be more hung up on catching the perp who cattle-prodded her for three days than getting the guy who — let me make sure I'm not leaving anything out here — designed a to-scale replica of each of the Liars' bedrooms and put these doppelganger-dungeons inside a massive (yet somehow off-the-grid) Rosewood Rikers, where "A" or whoever lured and trapped the Liars, plus Sad Robyn and Mona, and subjected them to around-the-clock psychological and physical abuse for weeks on end.

Hanna is crushed when the blood test isn't a match, which means Noel isn't Mary Drake's kid, which … I'm sorry, why is that relevant? I'm really asking. If he's the guy who stalked/threatened/captured/[I've run out of synonyms for "tortured" so I'm just going to say tortured, again] all these girls for years, what difference does it make?

Anyway, Hanna gets back together with Caleb and they have reunion sex in front of a fire — I'm aware this is a futile question but, seriously what season is it supposed to be? Also, did they take a break before escalating to build an entire fire just to set the mood? — and it all works out because Ashley is at a "conference" (lol okay), and Lucas made a just-long-enough cameo to give Hanna the keys to his apartment.  

8. Caleb (last week: not ranked)
Caleb is apparently pissed that the girls ran "Archer" — no, can't even get into how absurd and confusing it is that all the characters refer to Rollins by his "real" name in death, even though they never used it in his life — over with a car and then "buried him like a dog." Is Caleb conveniently forgetting how this bro lied about his name, his past, and his accent, and then spent a stretch of several episodes medically torturing his wife for a crime she didn't even commit that involved a character I refuse to believe anyone in Rosewood still cares about?

I know the real headline with Caleb is that he is one half of what Freeform would like us to refer to as "#HalebForever," and he professes his love to Hanna in one of those romantic-comedy listicles no one ever says in real life, wherein one genuine thing is slipped into a litany of intimate, cute but trivial details. (See also: the 10 Things I Hate About You poem, the big speech at the end of When Harry Met Sally … and so on. Leave your favorite examples in the comments!) Good for these two, the only high-school couple on this show who should probably give things a shot in adulthood.

9. Spencer (last week: 4)
When Mona says the Liars should call the police, Spencer calls 9-1-1. I repeat: Given the opportunity to go to the police, the Liars … go to the police! Of course, the real reason Spencer does this is to get some more quality time with Officer Marco Elevator. When she kissed him on the cheek, I nearly fainted from second-hand embarrassment. Can you die from a cringe? If so, R.I.P. me.

The big news for our Spencer is that Mary Drake claims Spencer is her daughter. At press time, my commitment to Veronica Hastings is too strong to accept this. The other big news is that Spencer gets shot, but since she's clearly not going to die, it's a pointless cliffhanger. Still, when you are unconscious and bleeding profusely, you definitely lose your claim to the top half of the PLPR.

10. Emily (last week: 6)
I can't focus on anything with this one except the fact that she was dumb enough to leave her phone upstairs in the murder-trap house. What was Emily even doing with her phone out? Needed to check on those Instagram likes in that crucial moment? They didn't even have cell reception!

11. Paige (last week:9)
The clingiest clinger who ever clinged refers to Emily as her "girlfriend" after being reunited with this person in a mostly platonic way for all of two episodes. I wish her assessment of Ali was an accurate one, because it would be much more entertaining if Ali really was a brutal manipulator who hadn't changed since high school.

12. That dick at the blood-testing place (last week: not ranked)
"What's your rush? Trying to prove someone's your baby daddy?" Ew.

13. Toby (last week: not ranked)
On the one hand, it's very cool of Toby to give Marco all the details on Spencer's favorite things so Marco has the opportunity to charm and court Ms. Hastings. On the other hand, "good-bye kisses" are not a thing, especially if one of the parties is engaged and the kiss is less of a light peck and more of an emotional, tongues-are-involved, ends-with-a-yearning-gaze sort of deal.

14. Overuse of the word "bitch" (last week: not ranked)
PLL writers lean on "bitch" like they're in the fourth grade and just learned their first curse word. How many threats and wannabe catchphrases were punctuated with "bitch" this week — five? I feel like that's four too many.

15. Going to go ahead and assume the Liars were not smart enough to make a copy of that thumb drive (last week: 8)


16. Noel Kahn (last week: 2)
Literally laughed out loud at the ridiculousness of Jenna "teaching" Noel (and Charlotte) how to "smell fear." Just imagine what those lessons would entail!

Oh, also he got his head chopped off, sort of by the Liars but also sort of by himself — an own goal, if you will — and then his head bounced down the stairs like a slinky and rolled onto the floor. This was disgusting, obviously, but I like the symmetry with that girl he shoved down the staircase at a fraternity party all those years ago.

17. General insensitivity re: blindness (last week: not ranked)
I know we've talked about this before, but clearly it merits mentioning again because no one in Rosewood seems to understand that literally blinding one of your classmates is a horrific, borderline-psychotic thing to do, even though Ali is the only one (I think?) who inflicted that cruelty on purpose. When Aria was all "grudge much, Jenna?" I wanted to throw something at the screen. I have held grudges over way less for way longer! Believe it or not, I have never been blinded in a freak firecracker prank, but I have clung to near-Jenna-level grudges just the same.

Even Marco, high on the list, makes a little "I'm not sure how much of a threat a blind girl can be" comment, which is rude and not accurate.

Lingering concerns: How much of this can we really wrap up in ten episodes? Why do we care who Sidney is again? Why do these girls not have backpacks at the ready with everything they could need in a dangerous situation — flashlights, radios, guns even — so they can stop finding themselves in scenarios with no way to defend themselves or see in the dark? Is Yvonne going to die and free up Toby, ruining my dreams of Spencer and Marco's happy ending? Why is PLL so obsessed with everybody shacking up forever with people they dated in high school?

I don't snitch on my informants,