Aria, Emily, Hanna, and Spencer are out of the Dollhouse but far from free of its lasting effects.
Photo: Eric McCandless/Disney Enterprises
I can’t say I think we’ve made a full return to a true, peak PLL episode. We’re missing too many of the vital ingredients: threatening-but-not-psychotic text messages, a moderate amount of hookupery, and at least a perfunctory stop at that bastion of academic excellence, Rosewood High. But we’re inching in that direction, oh so slowly. At least this week brings the return of a few of my favorite things. But only one favorite thing gets to claim the No. 1 spot in this week’s Pretty Little Power Rankings.
1. Pam Fields (last episode: not ranked)
As I live and breathe: Did I just witness a full 43 minutes of solid, grounded, rational parenting? In an episode of Pretty Little Liars? Is Mercury in retrograde? Is the moon in the seventh house? Who knows; it is not for me to question the fates that allow Pam Fields to lay down the very important gun laws with her daughter in a way that is both respectful and this is not a debate final.
2. Ashley Marin (last week: not ranked)
My cup runneth over, for we have not just one but two Rosewood mothers actively parenting their children in ways that seem fair and generous and not-at-all-absentee! (Sorry, these are the only two. You know what show you signed up for.) Super big of her to tell Hanna she can even get bean-bag chairs in her new room.
3. Hanna (last week: 5)
I respect her need to change everything about her room, ASAP, obviously. And I’m grateful for what crumbs of intel she revealed about the Dollhouse. The gist of it is that Charles or Andrew or whatever man was behind the mask must abide by the philosophy that good leadership is all about delegating; why torture your captives yourself when you can empower captives to do the torturing for you? I am still not at all convinced that this particular route was necessary — I’m not finding the show to be enriched in the slightest by green-tinted, PTSD-induced flashbacks — but I am hoping this is revealed to be the extent of the suffering so the show can just move right along.
4. Emily (last week: 4)
I’m not condoning Emily’s reaching for a gun in a moment of anger and fear — her mom wins the night for a reason — but I was impressed by her shooting skills nonetheless. And really, all these girls could’ve used a self-defense class. Or several.
5. Caleb (last week: 9)
Continues to be a great boyfriend, and of course he’s cool with sleeping on the floor because he used to live in the air ducts at the high school. “Sometimes you end up stronger at the broken places,” he tells Hanna, because even though he loves her, he knows she won’t realize he’s lifting lines from Hemingway.
6. Spencer (last week: 2)
We’re not even five minutes into the episode when Spencer says what may as well be the refrain in this catchy little pop tune of a program: In response to, “When should we tell the police about Charles?” Spencer says, “We don’t.” Oh, withholding information from the Rosewood Police Department, are we? Must be Tuesday!
Oh, and then she swipes a pill from Aria to help her sleep. Why not just ask Aria for one? Who knows, maybe one stupid act will always beget another; stupidity flourishes in close quarters, like gossip and Ebola.
7. Everyone’s ability to use a curling iron so well, even after everything they’ve been through (last week: not ranked)
8. Ali (last week: 3)
As we have previously discussed, I am sometimes concerned that the PLL powers that be think a plot twist is just “random new shit they throw at you that has no significance or resonance because we have no emotional investment in it.” But, lo and behold, just as my faith was being tested, here comes a legitimate, honest-to-Liars twist: Ali doesn’t know about Charles, either! And, miracles upon miracles, this is a twist that makes sense (hold on to your fake-looking Sarah Harvey wigs, people) because baby Ali wouldn’t have remembered Charles if he vanished from the scene while she was just a little bundle of infant joy.
9. Lorenzo (last week: not ranked)
Another day, another vaguely 20-or-30-something-year-old man to flirt — I mean, um, “have a connection” — with one of our teenage heroines! This one is different because he goes to church and calls sliders “little hamburgers.”
At church, Lorenzo is wearing a jacket that is grey with navy blue sleeves (at first I thought it was an ill-fitting vest with a puffy-sleeve shirt underneath, but no, it was this; still not okay) and a maroon tie. What is this, the Pippi Longstocking tights of suit jackets?
10. Toby (last week: 12)
Toby apprehends Andrew in front of another cop. But instead of busting out handcuffs, Toby is all, “Give me five minutes with this guy.” Dude, no. Cool your jets, rookie, you’re no Raylan Givens. Imagine if this whole investigation got botched because the Doogie Howser of the police force didn’t feel like reading Andrew his Miranda rights? (Seriously, Toby is supposed to be a teenager too, right? It’s so hard to keep track.)
Plus, points for being the only kid to consider that Andrew has a too-perfect paper trail connecting him to the crime.
11. Mr. DiLaurentis (last week: not ranked)
Could this man be less chill about Charles? Just pretend he’s some distant cousin! Not all lying is easy, but this one is entry-level.
12. Veronica Hastings (last week: not ranked)
I get the Spencer-drug-problem thing, but I don’t know how to feel about this questionable medical intervention on Veronica’s part. But maybe the idea that Spencer has no autonomy over her health care just seems absurd because Troian Bellisario is 29 years old.
13. Sad Rapunzel (last week: 13)
You didn’t think I was going to call her “Sarah Harvey” if she still looked like that this week, did you? Can’t wait to find out about her mother, who I’m sure will be just a normal, sane delight.
14. Ella Montgomery (last week: not ranked)
Her daughter was just rescued after spending almost a month in an unimaginable torture chamber — this same daughter who thought one of her best friends was kidnapped and murdered, and who has seen other people get murdered, and has been stalked and blackmailed for the vast majority of her postpubescent life — and Ella’s like, “I thought I’d stay for a couple nights.” A couple nights! That’s a good plan. Wouldn’t want to overdo it.
15. Aria (last week: 7)
I do not mean to do right now what I always mock the Liars for doing — which is to say, making the same mistake over and over again and expecting a different result, the sort of bananas behavior that could get a girl a room at Radley — but is Aria seriously going to fall for the most classic A trick in the book: framing a suspect by piling the damning evidence so high you can’t see over it? How many times has A made Aria and everyone Aria loves look like they did something they didn’t do?
Anyway, once more, with feeling: If you’re going to be in a show with “Liars” in the title, and if you are one of the liars to whom that title refers, you should probably learn how to tell a lie. She may as well have hung up a flashing sign that said “THIS IS NOT THE TRUTH” when she blurted out that she, and only she, saw Andrew without his mask. The only redeeming part of this is that she turned to Spencer and admitted that she “screwed up on a global scale.” So, at least she knows!
Lingering concerns: Why is Ali’s hair brown now? Not that she doesn’t look good, but isn’t a main theme in the show subverting the whole iconography of “perfect blonde teenage girl,” and doesn’t this cultural commentary kind of turn to dust when Ali’s got unremarkable locks? Are we going to find out how Andrew funded this pricey prison?
A is for arrogance,