Pretty Little Liars Mid-Season Premiere Recap: Don’t Hate the Players

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Sasha Pieterse as Alison, Shay Mitchell as Emily, Troian Bellisario as Spencer, Ashley Benson as Hanna, Lucy Hale as Aria. Photo: Eric McCandless/Freeform
Pretty Little Liars

Pretty Little Liars

Playtime Season 7 Episode 11
Editor's Rating 3 stars

We’re back! Well, I should say, some of us are back. But it looks like an awful lot of Rosewood’s worst are nowhere to be found. Jenna’s on the lam, as is Mary Drake, who, when last we saw her, was outing herself as Spencer’s biological mother. It turns out all that promotional material promising us an endgame was super literal: The Liars got some kind of customized Jumanji in the mail that could maybe murder them! Let the games begin with the first of our last ten Pretty Little Power Rankings.

1. Mona (last episode: 1)

Literally wrote “Thank Jesus” in my notes when Mona showed up, even though she was wearing a Dynasty blazer the color of a pylon. The savviest girl in the bunch is giving off some very serious Kris Kardashian vibes, masterminding Hanna’s entry into some Philadelphia design contest and hooking her up with Katherine Daly, the red-carpet-walking daughter of a senator (and a Bunheads alum! R.I.P., Bunheads, you were too unusual and lovely for this Freeform world). The minute she walks onscreen, she dares to speak ill of the dead, which I guess is hard not to do in Rosewood, what with the high body count: “It’s too bad about Noel. Well, not really.” She has the confidence and self-awareness to refer to her plot as “a scathingly brilliant idea” and to correct Hanna by informing her, “I do not know Katherine Daly; Katherine Daly knows me.” I don’t know if Mona was really trying to scam Hanna but for now I’m just going to believe she had mostly good intentions.

2. Hanna (last episode: 7)

As you all surely now, I am way underwhelmed by many of the supposedly romantic pairings PLL tries to push on us. But Hanna and Caleb! I am here for this. I am even here for her pinching him to wake him up because “I’m just making sure that you’re real.”

While I am proud of her for being the only person who reacts to this board game in a rational way — by suggesting they torch it and, later, almost gutting it with a knife — and for her professional hustle, minus points abound. For one thing, she kills the mood when Caleb suggests they just bang all day by basically saying he can use his sexual energy to solve a mystery. She also gives Aria possibly the worst advice re: her impending nuptials, saying she should “plan this wedding and it’ll be waiting for him when he says good-bye to Nicole.” Um, what? Also, is Hanna — a woman who could not be bothered to feign interest in her own wedding and then, post-breakup, pretended to still be engaged to Kangaroo Bob — the best person to give advice on the matter? What’s Hanna’s next brilliant move here? Asking United flight attendants to be her ushers?

3. Caleb (last episode: 8)

I am very into the fact that Caleb is so supportive of Hanna’s professional ambitions and pushes her to pursue her fashion career. I’m not sure why he believes she has potential in that department, considering some of the sartorial choices she makes in this episode — a shapeless sparkly cardigan over a patterned top that looks very last-call-clearance-rack at an Ann Taylor Loft Outlet; that deep-V that is more like two seat-belt-wide straps connected via shoelaces — but what does Caleb, who used to dwell in a sukkah made of air ducts he tore out of the guts of Rosewood High, know about the finer points of couture?

4. Spencer (last episode: 9)

I was whining about Spencer’s mousy hair for almost all of my notes before I remembered that her arm is in a splint and that it is so difficult to get any volume when you’re trying to blow-dry one-handed. My apologies, Spencer. I was very impressed by the way she breezed through everything Veronica missed while out of town, which I will accept both as a wink to the audience acknowledging how much crucial stuff these girls’ parents miss and as a helpful catch-up tool. From one professional to another, that was a solid recap.

Considering Spencer just found out she’s only really related to her objectively awful parent instead of the one she actually likes and that she’s still recovering from that bullet wound, she keeps it together really well. If I were alone with a haunted board game that spit out a handwritten letter from my mom — whom I just found out about, and who was institutionalized — like some kind of ghost ATM, and that letter included the line, “I’m sorry that you will be a baby born in a madhouse,” I would do way worse than a glass of red and a couch nap.

5. Aria (last episode: 5)

Yeah, not a great sign that she’s planning that wedding alone while Ezra broods in the quiet car all the way to New York. Also, Aria wears two motorcycle jackets in this episode, and I’d add points for the pink one but I think it’s a shade too Bazooka to qualify as true millennial pink.

6. Toby (last episode: 13)

Toby spends most of his screen time moping over his boring, soon-to-be-dead betrothed. At least Toby’s teeny head scratch — along with Spencer’s arm — abide by the Inviolable Rules of Television Health and Medicine: Injuries to stars will never make them less attractive and facial injuries will be so small as to be virtually nonexistent. So good to know there are at least a few laws of physics you can’t defy in Rosewood.

7. Emily (last episode: 10)

It’s hard to know where to put these girls because so many of them had real weak weeks, but Emily is back in Rosewood High for all of 20 minutes — actually, I think she spent more time at school in this one episode than she did the entire time she was supposed to be a student there — when she allows herself to get sucked back into the vortex of all her teenage clique drama. Emily, you’re — wait, how old is she supposed to be, 27? Start calling your teacher by her first name and stop getting mixed up with the ghosts of girlfriends past.

8. Hot mystery EMT (last episode: not ranked)

Pros: Keeps Spencer alive. Cons: Asks her emotionally daunting questions about her maternal lineage. (Was anyone else thinking of Clueless, when Cher is telling Elton to quiz Tai after she bonked her head at that party in the valley? “Ask her questions.” “What’s seven times seven?” “Stuff she knows.”) Also, not a fan of the whole “I’m not your mother, but I’m gonna take care of you like I was” concept. Pretty sure the only person who is going to be turned on by that particular turn of phrase is Mike Pence.

11. Veronica Hastings (last episode: not ranked)

Considering the speed and frequency with which everyone’s family secrets get outed in this town, feels like maybe Veronica should have told Spencer the whole “you’re only your father’s daughter” thing a while ago, am I wrong? Also, how on Earth did nobody dig up that brutal bit of family history when Veronica was running for office?

12. Ezra (last episode: not ranked)

What’s the statute of limitations on getting to run to your ex-girlfriend’s side whenever she or anyone related to her sends you a fraught text? That’s a question Ezra can mull over between here and Penn Station. I would put him lower down but I actually loled when his reaction to the fact that Toby was hospitalized and Yvonne was still in a coma from which she will likely, obviously die was, “All the things that have happened in this town and those two get taken out by a deer.” SUCH a douchey thing to say, and I really appreciated it.

13. The wedding industrial complex (last episode: not ranked)

I know time is a non-circle in Rosewood, but these kids are all supposed to be in their mid-to-late-20s. Ali’s already gotten married, and now Hanna, Toby, and Aria have been engaged. What’s everybody sprinting to the altar for? Calm down and date a while! All these girls need about 8 billion years of therapy before they’re ready for healthy relationships anyway.

14. Spencer’s dad (last episode: not ranked)

Is there anybody on the block he hasn’t gotten pregnant? Related: Besides Emily, do any of these girls have not-dirt-bag dads?

15. Holden (last episode: not ranked)

Given the opportunity to highlight so many of the show’s best baddies — hello, we are in the home stretch, people — why, exactly, are we dwelling on some of the most meh characters to ever populate Rosewood? I mean, Holden? Holden, whose idea of a deep, dark secret was that he was using Aria as a front to do, I don’t know, mixed-martial-arts-y Tyler Durden parkour or whatever? He was deeply forgettable, by which I mean, I personally had forgotten he existed, and I suspect the show knew I had forgotten him or they wouldn’t have had Aria be like: “HOLDEN?!” by way of introduction. That said, I like that he snarked, “And they say high school romances don’t last” when Aria told him about her engagement to Ezra. Plus points, too, for asking if Aria wanted to be a “half-price November-through-March bride.” Stay bitter, Holden.

16. These girls are still making fun of Jenna for being blind even though they are the ones who blinded her (last episode: 17)

Aria, blowing off a question about Jenna’s whereabouts: “Jenna is wandering around in the dark.” Spencer, dismissing the notion that Jenna could be A.D. and therefore responsible for the board game: “Jenna wouldn’t have been able to build it.” Said it before and I cannot believe I have to say it again, but: You cannot mock Jenna for being blind when you are responsible for her blindness.

17. Ali (last episode: 4)

Is it just me, or is Ali a different flavor of mean girl than she was when this series premiered? I remember old-school Ali as being a viciously entertaining kind of mean. Sure, she was drawing her insults from a bottomless well of insecurity, but she still had this snap about her, like landing the just-right diss brought her a real sense of purpose in a brutal, pointless world. Now, her cruelty is just annoying — too juvenile for her age, too misplaced for plot coherence. Far be it for me to defend Paige (more on that no-personality placeholder in a bit), but where exactly does Ali get off being mad at Emily for having an ex as a colleague? Ali and Emily were never even really a thing! Also, ALI FAKED HER OWN KIDNAPPING. I’m sorry you’re pregnant with your sociopathic ex’s baby whom you and your friends murdered but (a) that worked out mostly fine for Shailene Woodley on Big Little Lies, (b) get over yourself.

18. Paige (last episode: not ranked)

I am stunned at how annoying Paige continues to be, still not clear on why it was necessary to bring her out of the archives and into these precious final episodes, and baffled by her hairstyling choices.

19. Yvonne (last episode: not ranked)

You know your character is lame when being in a coma is one of the most interesting things you’ve ever done on this show.

Lingering concerns: Where’s Melissa again? Does the fact that Spencer is technically not Melissa’s sister and obviously knew, on some level, that she wasn’t her mother’s biological daughter, kiiiind of explain slash justify the fact that Spencer was always macking on her sister’s significant others? Do we think Ali’s doctor really told her that she was going to have the baby of a perfect stranger? I know people can be dicks, it just seems super unlikely that a medical professional would talk to her that way.

I keep trying to tell myself that this is just a town,

—J

Pretty Little Liars Recap: Don’t Hate the Players