Pretty Little Liars
With only one episode to go, the Liars have thwarted one of their longtime nemeses: the mostly incompetent Rosewood Police Department. But this victory, alas, is not complete. A.D. is still out there, and also that board game is just sitting there. Are they really not going to chuck it into a bonfire or something? Anyway, our Liars aren’t quite home clear yet. But who is going into the series (!!!) finale from the highest — shall we say clock tower-level — position of power?
1. The clock tower flashback (last week: not ranked)
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this, given how little I care about Charlotte and her demise. But I guess the show wanted to affirm for us that even though the astonishingly gullible Liars, led by brainwashed-slash-lobotomized Ali, were fooled into buying Charlotte’s “full recovery,” it was all a (pretty little) lie. Charlotte/Cece is a delicious villain here, spouting some real truths — “You always were the smart one, Mona. Not Spencer” — and twisting serrated knives in all of Mona’s insecurities. (Also, I am going to take “not only did you lose the game but you lost the story” as a tacit acknowledgement of this bonkers show’s scattershot plotting and inability to keep any of its stories straight as it comes to a close.) Mona, too, is fantastic as the bullied becoming the bully. “That taste in your mouth? That’s what dying tastes like.” Damn, Mona! Even if she did eventually kill Charlotte by accident, she clearly has the killer instinct. Is it really plausible that the police would never have noticed that Charlotte’s injury, both in shape and height, lined up with a protruding section of metal in the clock tower? Not really, but whatever.
2. Detective Tanner (last week: not ranked)
She lays out those arrest warrants like Tarot cards, but instead of nailing the perps of her dreams, she gets a consolation prize in the form of Mary Drake. The Liars are to Tanner what the Road Runner is to Wile E. Coyote. Still, she gets a killer that will make the district attorney happy and she terrifies the Liars by making it inescapably clear that she knows how guilty they are.
3. Spencer (last week: 9)
Summoned to the Lost Woods Resort via message in a wine bottle, Spencer abandons her friends at this obviously crucial juncture for some mother-daughter quality time. Mary Drake somehow managed to purchase this little murder motel. (How would she do this if she’s on the lam? And how would it not be suspicious for the property to be left to both Spencer and Ali? Isn’t this exactly the sort of attention the girls are trying not to attract?) And she is leaving it to her daughter and her niece because Spencer and Ali are going to “need money for lawyers.” YOU DON’T SAY, MARY.
While I have to believe the show is trolling me about that, I appreciate how Spencer manages to keep up her quips in these dire times. (My personal favorite was her line about how Mona ended up “in middle management.”) She uses “who” and “whom” correctly, even under duress, a.k.a. when her ex tells her he got married in secret while they are in the midst of hunting down someone they think can help them find a psycho killer who tortured her for years on end. Her little speech to him — it’s all very “don’t you forget about me” — impressed me. Spencer is a champ.
4. Aria (last week: 13)
Aria, in spite of being a terrifically uncool customer — said it before and I’ll say it again: the only titular Liar who is halfway decent at lying is Alison — emerges from this situation with the police officer unscathed, which I will generously assume is only 70 percent owing to the fact that she is a white girl. (The other 30 percent is cleverness points for reminding the officer that saving kittens from trees is actually a firefighter thing.) Aria proceeds to spend the rest of her drive talking to the corpse in her car. Just as she summons the courage, or idiocy, or both, to turn herself in to the police, Ezra intervenes. Ezra, who is only walking freely because Aria and her friends have all declined to alert the cops to his illegal activities over the years, is so over Aria making sacrifices for the rest of her gang of sort of Socs. I give Aria points this week for her miraculous ability to worm her way back into the good graces of her friends approximately 47 seconds after she got caught selling all of them out to save Ezra Kay Letourneau’s skin. Also, for her excellent delivery of “his body’s in the trunk of my car.” Plus, she’s the one who tells her friends that digging up Rollins’s body is (obviously!) a stupid idea, and “if we want to stop the crazy, we have to stop acting crazy.”
5. Caleb (last week: 1)
He gets in some good lines here — “This is Rosewood, Mona. Not Area 51” — but he’s also impulsive in a way that feels a little like he’s trying to take control of the operation. Plus, he’s very patronizing about his wife-of-24-hours’ ability to make her own decisions. (I still think these two are great together, but honestly, it’s condescending and disgusting when men are like, “My wife couldn’t POSSIBLY put herself in this dangerous situation,” and then just step aside and let another woman do the thing his wife couldn’t do. Rude.) When Caleb barged into the diner to talk to Mona, I hoped slash wondered slash was momentarily thrilled by the prospect that Caleb was A.D. and the meeting was with him. Marrying Hanna would have been the ultimate play! But, nope.
7. Mary Drake (last week: not ranked)
Nothing says, “I love you, and I’m so sorry about how I abandoned you and murdered my sister and conspired with that evil Rollins guy to torture my niece but then it went too far so I got cold feet about it and anyway, now I leave you cryptic messages rolled up in wine bottles by the barnyard door” like purchasing a haunted Hitchcock motel.
This is where I need you all to trust that I would never lie to you in this place, the sacred, hallowed grounds of the Pretty Little Power Rankings, because I swear on Spencer’s impeccable grammar that when Mary Drake said there was nothing else she could do to make this right, I wrote in my notes: “Like she can’t turn herself in to the police and take responsibility for Rollins’s murder?” No one was more pleased than I to discover that Mary wound up doing exactly that, confessing for a hybrid of crimes she actually committed plus ones she knows Spencer was involved in, so that her daughter, her niece, and their hapless sidekicks could go free. I like that she even got in a classic PLL “shh” on her way out.
8. Mona (last week: 3)
I have seen many of you speculate on twin theories in these comments and I wonder if we are supposed to believe that post-psychotic-snap Mona is really Mona’s twin. It’s hard to know where to place her this week because she is SO GOOD at the diner. I mean, she is clearly on the edge and she’s shifting between masterminding everything and knowing that she’s being played. I’m not going to say Janel Parrish needs an Emmy for this, but there should at least be a Teen Choice Award for her delivery of “Somebody stole it from me. Somebody’s always stealing the game from me.” She correctly warns Caleb that somebody is watching and manipulating everything they say and do. I have a feeling Mona believes in a vindictive God.
This is where things get … off. Mona manages to bolt from the diner through a hidden door in the ladies’ room (all ladies’ rooms should have these secret emergency exits) and we are supposed to think she (1) had a nervous breakdown, triggered by her failed meet with A.D., (2) was still capable of navigating this underground labyrinth, (3) stopped at home to dress up like her high school self — this either happened while she was mid-breakdown or after? Unclear — and after that, (4) skedaddled all the way to the top of the clock tower, where Hanna found her. I know that time in Rosewood doesn’t abide by our earthly laws, but even allowing for the fact that we’re dealing with a Philadelphia suburb where it’s never not fall, this seems awfully suspect. I am also bothered by the too on-the-nose comments by Ali and Aria earlier about how they acted like they were “back in high school” and that when “people panic, they go back to old behavior.” There’s a difference between showing a gun in act one and showing the gun while having a bunch of people say, “Hey, did you guys notice there was a gun in this room? I wonder if anyone is going to get shot with it later.”
I do like that she’s wearing a black trench coat, the perfect sartorial union of the red coat and the black hoodie.
9. Ezra (last week: 12)
Ezra makes some intriguing points about the power of forgiveness, although all of this insight reads a little less convincing when you remember that Ezra pulled some of the most messed-up stunts on this crowd out of anyone, including but not limited to stalking and (inadvertently?) terrorizing them when they were all still sophomores in high school (never mind that their sophomore year lasted approximately two and a half seasons) and also statutorily raping a one Miss Aria Montgomery. When Ezra sprinted outside after that little meeting, I wrote in my notes: “WHAT IF EZRA IS A.D.?” But I don’t think the show is going to go there, unfortunately. Ugh, it’s probably Jenna, isn’t it? At least that makes sense and is satisfying in a full-circle kind of way.
All of Ezra’s ideas are bad in this episode, but I am especially unimpressed by his barely sketched-out plan to go on the lam with not just Aria but all of her friends and, one assumes, Caleb. The only redeeming thing about him is his self-aware remark: “I have a masters degree in American literature. There is nothing I can’t handle.”
10. Ali (last week: 7)
Ali spends her second-to-last episode of this fine program wrapped up in a blanket being boring, like she and Emily are cosplaying as the fake family in a Pottery Barn catalogue. Remember when she was the most conniving, fascinating, devious person on this show? The most entertaining Liar by miles? Oh, how the mighty have fallen into beige décor and ill-fitting sweaters. Ali fears that she will be part of some vicious baby-abandoning cycle if she and Emily wind up in prison. What will happen to this baby if Ali gets arrested? Hate to be the one to break this to you, Ali dear, but probably nothing great!
11. Maybe Spencer wouldn’t think justice is a “blindfolded bitch” if she availed herself of the finest things the justice system has to offer, like THE ATTORNEY YOU GET TO HAVE WHEN YOU TALK TO THE POLICE (last week: 10)
Smdh, forever and ever.
12. Emily (last week: 6)
The only noteworthy thing Emily does in this episode is have a nightmare. And as long as we’re talking about that …
13. That teaser from the five-year jump that we were supposedly waiting to catch up to this whole damn time was just A DREAM SEQUENCE?! (last week: not ranked)
Holy anti-climax, Batman. I guess we still have one more episode for them to make this right, but if they don’t, that’s a bullshit bait-and-switch move. Even for this show.
Lingering concerns: It’s kind of weird that none of these girls ever bought a gun, right? Not advocating, just saying. Did we know Dr. Sullivan was still alive? And the biggest lingering concern of all: Who is A.D.? Last call to leave those guesses in the comments!
Let’s get out of here before things get too mushy,