Pretty Little Liars Recap: Unplanned Parenthood

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Ashley Benson as Hanna. Photo: Eric McCandless/Freeform
Pretty Little Liars

Pretty Little Liars

Power Play Season 7 Episode 14
Editor's Rating 2 stars

I see this is PLL’s idea of a Mother’s Day episode. That’s … interesting. About 8 gazillion plot threads need to be tied up in little bows and/or choker necklaces by the end of this season, and somehow we wind up with an hour like this one, where half of the time there’s so much plot and (attempts at meaningful) character development you can barely tell your Mary Drakes from your Jessica DiLaurentises. The other half of the time, it feels like nothing is happening because … nothing is happening, except that Paige is angsting over her professional future. Ah, yes, exactly how the most devoted PLL fans want to spend what precious screen time we have left: observing Paige’s existential crisis about whether to be an assistant swim coach at her old high school in a Philadelphia suburb or a college in Iowa.

1. Officer Marco Elevator (last week: 6)
I want you all to know how seriously I take my divine power-ranking duties and that I would never just give the top spot to Officer Marco Elevator because he looks that good in his underwear. But he earned it — yes, largely because most of the Liars and their dopey girlfriends and fiancées were so useless — even though he doesn’t have a ton to do in this episode. After starting strong with a Spencer sleepover, he obeys most of the boundaries of his job by not telling Spencer what that call is about, gets accurate information from Rollins’s severed finger (ew), zeroes in on Ali as a suspect right away, and generally continues to be the only cop in Rosewood who wouldn’t serve as grand marshal in the incompetence parade.

2. Spencer (last week: 2)
After kicking off her day with the breakfast of champions (a.k.a. Marco), Spencer gets in some quality snooping, refuses to allow her dad to distract her from her mission with his bullshit non-excuses for lying to her for her entire life, and really does look great with those straight-across bangs. She, like Marco, benefits from the weak choices of her comrades.

3. Hanna (last week: 7)
Hanna is, by far, the most juvenile of all the Liars in this episode. Even after she knows that Spencer’s got her whole “my mom isn’t my mom” thing going on, and Ali and Emily are dealing with a scrambled-eggs-in-utero situation, she still refers to missing out on that one opportunity with that one batch of Japanese investors as A.D. ruining her “entire life.” Not even three episodes ago, Hanna wasn’t doing any design work at all. The opportunity she messed up isn’t even one she earned on her own. Where is Ashley to talk some sense into this pouty, whiny brat, and also to tell her to get her roots done? All I can say for Hanna is that she supports Spencer on her hunt for Mary Drake and, through no effort of her own, gets some juicy intel from Pastor Ted.

4. Emily (last week: 3)
First of all, Emily’s aggressively flirty behavior with Paige comes out of absolutely nowhere. She’s spent most of the past few episodes with Ali, and when she is with Paige, all they’ve done is fight — and not in a sexy, this-fight-is-really-foreplay kind of way, but in an annoying, we-have-nothing-in-common-and-don’t-trust-each-other way. Emily was hoping that Paige being back in Rosewood meant their relationship had a chance? What? Why? I guess PLL thinks we are all invested in Paige and Emily as a couple and that we want to watch them reminisce about a bunch of stuff we never saw because it happened during the time jump. I feel like the writers have such a thorough knowledge of what went down during that in-between time that they forget none of us ever saw it and therefore bring no emotional weight to those scenes.

4. Pastor Ted (last week: not ranked)
I don’t really know where to put this guy because he is both utterly powerless — Mary Drake was crashing on his couch for two nights and he didn’t alert anyone who knew the DiLaurentis family, for instance, Queen Ashley Marin — and among the more useful characters this week, what with actually providing Hanna with real information about Mary’s past, revealing himself to be Cece/Charles’s father, and giving Hanna a clue to Lucas’s history. He loses points just for being Pastor Ted and taking up valuable episode real estate. Why does someone so dull and irrelevant have to be Charles’s dad? It feels so tacked-on at the last minute (“Oh-uh, Mary and I fooled around in college, then one day she told me we had a son together whom I could never know”) that it’s clear this role, such as it is, could have been filled by any of the dad-age men in the PLL universe. Why not Byron, noted adulterer and one of A’s earliest sources of blackmail? Why not Spencer’s dad? He’s already basically everyone else’s father, so what’s one more secret kid on the block?

5. Aria (last week: 4)
Oh, this is a tricky one. One week goes by without a single one of this chick’s signature motorcycle jackets and she loses track of her entire identity. Coincidence? I think not. She’s still a bizarrely passive observer of Ezra and Nicole’s ordeal, but at least she has enough self-respect to not sleep on her own sofa when Nicole passes out in her and Ezra’s bed.

As for her potential conversion to team A.D.: Look, if the show had built to Aria breaking bad this whole time — if, instead of giving her sweet nothings to do with Ezra and other assorted forgettable brunette gentleman callers, she had distanced herself from her high-school friends, started to see them and their endless devotion to Ali as the root of all her problems, and finally snapped — then I would maybe buy this little limo ride to the dark side. But what has the game done to her, really? This Ezra-Nicole absurdity (oh, don’t worry, I’ll get to that at the bottom of the rankings, where all Nicole-related items belong) is easily the biggest disaster in her life, and it is something that has exactly nothing to do with A.D. Spencer is the one with a bullet wound who just found out her entire family tree is a fraud, but we’re supposed to think Aria is the closest to selling out? And even after seeing how violent and dire the game can get, she doesn’t tell her friends about these video chats with the faceless Grim Reaper? I don’t buy it.

6. Sydney (last week: 10)
As long as we’re on the subject of Aria’s flirtation with evil … really, Sydney? She is the one who shot Spencer and is one of the top A.D. surrogates? Should I have volunteered my services as a power ranker to the PLL writing team to give them an official, scientific ranking of exactly how much we care about every single character that has ever appeared on this program? Here is an incomplete list of people whom I would have been WAY more excited to see in the backseat of that limo: Mona, Veronica Hastings, Melissa Hastings, Ezra (if he had really been evil this whole time, it would be so satisfying and would make it so much more plausible that Aria crossed over to the A team), and Ali (!!!). I could go on, but the point is, if you had asked me three weeks ago who Sydney from PLL was, I would have been like, “… I think you mean Sad Robyn?” As Aria says, “I barely know you, Sydney, why are you doing this?”

7. Ali (last week: not ranked)
Smh, Ali. When a police officer asks you if anyone held a grudge against a man whom the police now know was murdered, you don’t say, “Oh, yeah, me, I hated that dirt bag, definitely had a motive, I, for sure, am happy he kicked it.” In other news, at least she told Emily the truth as soon as she knew it and didn’t hide this piece of information from the gang? That’s pretty much all I’ve got here. I have to say this twist is disturbing even by PLL standards, and I’m not really sure what is accomplished by such gross and upsetting violations of two of our main characters. It’s not like we didn’t already know A.D. was a bad guy — all these girls have been kidnapped and tortured, so I think we get the picture — and this seems, for lack of a better term, emotionally gratuitous.

8. After all these years, the Liars are STILL talking to the police without a lawyer present (last week: not ranked)
You’d think by now they would all know that you shouldn’t have casual chats about open murder investigations with police officers, not even the cute ones, without an attorney on hand.

9. Paige (last week: not ranked)
She makes an objectively bad professional decision based on a non-relationship with an ex, and this bad decision is extra-offensive because it directly affects me, as now I have to keep seeing her on this show. Given the opportunity to do the healthy thing and get distance from a place that makes her into a viciously insecure punching bag, Paige decides to stick around because of one nostalgia-fueled bike race. Her hair continues to be an atrocity.

10. Mr. Hastings (last week: not ranked)
I know it’s a real race to the bottom re: Rosewood parents, but can you believe how abysmal this guy is? I had to pause the show multiple times just to remind myself of how many women he has children with — it’s three, because none of his kids have the same mother, because he is such a tramp and never used a condom, apparently — and then he has the audacity to refer to Mary Drake as “that woman” even though (a) she was obviously super-troubled and in a mental institution and he wasn’t, and (b) it’s been a while since anybody gave me the talk but if I remember correctly, “that woman” didn’t up and get herself pregnant.

When he tells Spencer that he knew about Charlotte before the Dollhouse and then says, “I’ll be damned if I ever let something like that happen to you again,” I laughed so hard I almost fell off my couch, onto the floor, and all the way down into some hellscape that looked just like my bedroom but was darker somehow and full of mysterious torture devices. Somebody get this guy a Best Dad Ever mug: He’ll never let Spencer get kidnapped and tortured again! No siree, he’s the kind of father who will only let that sort of thing happen once — no three-strikes system here — and after that, it’s definitely over, no more of that nonsense in the Hastings house.

11. Damn it, all of you who predicted Emily’s eggs would come back to haunt us were right (last week: not ranked)
I was so excited when Ali announced her carefully thought-out decision to get an abortion and when she explained, clearly and calmly, how that medical abortion would work: One pill at the clinic, one later on in the comfort of her own home. (Though things are improving thanks to CW MVPs Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, it’s still rare to find an accurate depiction of abortion on our TV screens, especially on a show with lots of teenagers in the audience.) But this joy was short-lived because way back when, Emily froze her eggs, A stole them, and in a particularly graphic and horrifying turn of events, Ali is now pregnant with Emily’s fertilized egg baby. The identity of the dad is still a mystery, but knowing what we know about Rosewood, it’s probably a Hastings.

12. Ezra (last week: not ranked)
Every single thing Ezra said in this episode was the dumbest thing I had ever heard at the moment when I heard it, only to be out-dumbed by whatever dumber thing he said next. But he and Aria will end up together because the show wants us to think they’re soulmates and everyone is required by Rosewood law to have a soulmate, like in The Good Place. We couldn’t possibly let one of these ladies end the series without a romantic partner!

13. Everything involving Nicole (last week: not ranked)
Remember the old snotty expression about how children should be seen and not heard? Nicole is the opposite: She’s a character we never see — so, a character about whom we do not care at all — but whom we hear about all the damn time. Nicole can’t know about the engagement because of her trauma; Nicole flew over the cuckoo’s nest; Nicole thinks rehab is captivity just like that time she was kidnapped in the jungle; Nicole found Aria’s wedding dress in the closet; Nicole read Ezra’s manuscript and had a breakdown (okay, that one I believe); Nicole’s therapist this; Nicole’s parents that; Nicole needs time. I need to never, ever hear about Nicole again. Why even is she a character on this show? What is the purpose of her existence? There are so many other more plausible and compelling reasons why Ezra and Aria’s relationship could hit the rocks! One option: Aria, upon reaching the tender age of 23, realizes just how disgusting and unethical it was for Ezra to have started an intimate relationship with a high-school sophomore when he was 23, and breaks up with him because he was a sexual predator.

Lingering concerns: I know we’re just supposed to roll with this stuff, but how exactly are we to believe the board game got out of Spencer’s house and into Ali’s without anyone noticing? What do we think Lucas knows and when did he know it? Is PLL seriously going to take the side of “Ali shouldn’t have an abortion” in the wake of all this nonsense?

Try not to freak out over something you can’t control,

-J

Pretty Little Liars Recap: Unplanned Parenthood