Pretty Little Liars
Well, my devoted, beloved power-ranking readers, it all came down to this: Our biggest, baddest big bad of them all was … a character we didn’t even meet until the final half-hour of this entire series. Amazing! But after seven seasons of not reporting crimes to the cops, failing to bring lawyers to police interrogations, wearing impractical footwear for running away from a murderer and/or burying a body, ill-advised and sometimes illegal relationships, absentee parenting, and being terrible at lying, it’s time to leave Rosewood for good. (That is, it’s time for us to leave Rosewood. The Liars are just going to linger there, indefinitely, for reasons unclear.) So for the very last time, here is this week’s Pretty Little Power Ranking.
1. Mona (last week: 8)
From her St. Elsewhere–style opener in which Mona wills the Rosewood of her imagination to experience both extreme heat and snow at the same time — summer and winter, two seasons our forever-autumnal Rosewood has never seen! — to her turn-the-dollhouse-tables triumph over the supposed masterminds who made her their little minion (more on that mother-daughter dream team in a minute), Mona is, as ever, the only person on this entire show who knows what’s going on, never loses sight of what she wants, holds grudges for longer than 15 seconds, and cannot be outplayed. All hail this sneaky, savvy manipulator who actually understands what a long game is. She also managed to talk Wren out of killing her. I’ll give her bonus points for being the only one of the pack to make it out of Rosewood and not stay trapped in some extended adolescence at the site of all her living nightmares like the rest of these dummies. Mona winds up on some little French street in a very creepy toy shop, but you know, that’s her brand, with some dashing-looking French guy to kiss and meet for dinner.
2. The moms drinking wine and talking about — but not revealing — how they got out of the basement (last week: not ranked)
“You know Pam didn’t drink for a year after that?” This is fan service I can get behind! Just leave that bottle of Pinot Grigio right there, thank you.
3. Spencer (last week: 3)
This season, Spencer found out that her mom isn’t her real mom, that her parents have been lying to her for her entire life, that her real mom is Ali’s mom’s twin sister who was sent away to a mental hospital, and that said real mom was still alive. This is not a woman who needed yet another branch of her family tree set on fire, but there is no justice in Rosewood! Considering the identity-shattering revelation here, Spencer keeps a very cool head and masterminds her escape from yet another fancy underground dungeon. Not sure why this chick is a paralegal when she’s got the chops to be a Navy SEAL, but this show believes all our heroines can only be truly happy if they never, ever leave the small town where they grew up and were bullied, stalked, and tortured for more than half their lives.
I am also grateful to Spencer for justifying a habit of mine that my loved ones love to criticize, which is leaving a trail of bobby pins everywhere I go. Just when you think your troubles are two time jumps behind you, BAM, your evil twin that you never knew existed pops up out of nowhere to kidnap you and imprison you in an elaborate underground jail that includes a fake above-ground section because, sure. Anyway, you’ll need to pick the lock with something and this just goes to show that you never know when you’ll need a bobby pin.
4. Ezra making fun of Aria’s ugly-cry (last week: not ranked)
Someone’s been reading the internet.
5. Aria (last week: four)
I give this girl a lot of grief and I’m going to tear into both her wedding dresses in a second, so I’ll say this first: I really like her rehearsal-dinner look. (I’m generally pro-brides not being so rigid about wearing white to every single wedding and wedding-adjacent event, for one thing, and also her eye makeup looks great.) I also like that she counters Ezra’s pouty-face about her infertility with, “It wasn’t about you, it was about me.” But then her first-choice wedding dress looks like an oversize Victorian nightgown, and her second dress is like a doily from Free People. Never change, Aria.
6. Ezra (last week: 9)
So Ezra manages to get kidnapped and imprisoned on his wedding day — not ideal — and then spends his time behind bars losing his cool and relying on “sarcasm, my brain’s self-defense mechanism for whenever I’m about to be murdered.” At the end of the day, he and Aria still wind up doing just fine: They’re married (ugh), with their book on track to be made into a movie, and in the good graces of at least one set of parents.
7. Toby (last week: not ranked)
Let’s take a second to consider this: Ezra could tell Spencer wasn’t quite Spencer based on a brief conversation they had at the Radley, and that traumatized rescue horse was all neighhhh, not today, Satan when Alex tried to saddle him up, but Toby didn’t realize Spencer wasn’t Spencer while he was having sex with her? I get that they’re identical twins but, oof, come on. This is just like that time Buffy and Faith swapped bodies and Riley had sex with Buffy anyway, and I’m realizing just now as I type this that Toby is such a Riley, which explains everything.
I’m sure all of you could hear, from wherever you are, the sound of me groaning, “Ughhh, fuck this” when Toby arrived with his Cheryl Strayed backpack on to inform Spencer, “We finished a well ahead of schedule” somewhere in Africa and that, after flying back to New York City, he walked to Rosewood. Toby and Spencer (maybe it was Alex? I’ll leave it to you attentive viewers to decide) almost have sex at the revamped Lost Woods resort, but end up playing sexy Scrabble like some kind of Handmaid’s Tale–themed foreplay. Toby finally catches up to wiser men — Ezra, that horse — when he realizes a book Spencer gave him over a year ago couldn’t possibly be Spencer’s because there was no writing in the margins. Welcome to the party, Toby! So glad you could make it.
8. In this tumultuous world, I guess I should just be grateful for the things that will never change, like how the Liars STILL do not go to the police when they are in danger (last week: not ranked)
Based on the fact that Mona was able to smuggle Mary and Alex out of the country and trap them in her little Dollhouse prison, we are supposed to assume that the police officer she called wasn’t the real Rosewood PD, yes?
9. Alex Drake (last week: not ranked)
Spencer has an evil twin! All of you who called it, I tip my black hoodie to you. Here’s the real question: Did anybody predict that Spencer’s evil twin would have an accent like someone from rural Arkansas attempting to sound British for a community-theater production of Sweeney Todd? THAT ACCENT. Were they going for a Sarah Manning vibe? It did not land. It was so distracting! It was definitely not threatening. None of these British characters needed to be British, just like no one needed to have bangs, but I guess it’s too late to walk those choices back now.
Because the Pretty Little Power Rankings are emphatically not about plot, I won’t dwell on this for too long. But is anybody satisfied by the Alex revelations? For me, it came way too late in the game to pack any punch, except for the punch she used to knock Spencer out. The idea that Alex wants to single white female Spencer because she’s jealous that Spencer won the parent lottery — which is really saying something about that lousy orphanage, considering Mr. Hastings’s whole deal — is not exactly all that original or exciting a concept. (Like so many crazy twists we’ve seen on PLL lately, this was far more enjoyable when it happened on Jane the Virgin.) Maybe this would have been cool if it turned out that Alex was hanging around from the very beginning — like, “kissing Wren when he was engaged to Melissa in the pilot beginning — and had been part of the A team from day one. As executed, though, it felt decidedly meh.
10. Mary Drake (last week: 7)
Neat how Spencer and Alex are 24 years old in (what one assumes to be) the year 2017 and yet somehow Mary gave birth in the 1940s. What I also love about that scene is how terrible Mr. Hastings is. This woman he impregnated is obviously still in labor, but he just bolts from the scene with Spencer in his arms so he doesn’t find out about the twin. Mary wins the understatement of the year award for “apparently Alex had some issues.” She then explains the wealthy parents who adopted Alex just left her in an orphanage. Wait, wasn’t this ca. 2003? Was there not a safer place for unwanted youths than “the Ambrose Home for Wayward Children”? Anyway, breaking out of prison really undermines the self-sacrifice of her confession from last week’s episode. Mary ends the series alongside Alex, under Mona’s thumb, probably asking herself why she didn’t just keep shacking up with Pastor Ted when she had the chance.
11. Caleb (last week: 5)
“How much damage could she do in one night?” Caleb asks Hanna about Mona, betraying the sad but unavoidable truth that Caleb has clearly not been paying attention to anything that has happened to anyone for the past seven seasons.
Was it just me or was Hanna weirdly absent from this episode? She is kind of sidelined here, like the show already dealt with the most important part of her life (marriage, apparently) and didn’t have anything left for her to do except continue to dress in such a way that makes me doubt her success in the fashion industry. What is that awful cropped motorcycle jacket? So many studs, such an awkward length. The hair is very strip-mall Shakira. Her obsession with getting pregnant is weirdly out of character, in addition to being extremely strange for someone of Hanna’s age, socioeconomic status, and life stage.
13. Okay, but seriously, how did Alex and Mary pay for all these elaborate prisons? (last week: not ranked)
Alex was a vagrant orphan! Mary was on the lam! Neither of them had any money! Who the hell was funding all this meticulously art-designed torture?
14. Ali (last week: 10)
My lord, those bangs. They are … not great. I miss the old Ali and I think this show did her a real disservice by defanging their most complex, volatile antihero and turning her into a pug-sweatshirt-wearing do-nothing who makes lame new-parent jokes about how it’s her “first night out in months.” Her kidnapping-and-death-that-wasn’t was the spark of this whole series and it got snuffed out by a billion new characters whose names weren’t important enough to commit to memory (R.I.P., Sad Robyn) and their uninteresting fates.
15. Emily (last week: 12)
For not the first but officially the last time, Emily was so inessential this week that I forgot to include her until I was reading this list over and saw that she was missing. Happy parenting, Em.
16. Wren (last week: not ranked)
A man who fell so hard for Spencer’s twin that he shot her in the collarbone so she could be the truest doppelgänger, like the finger-chopping twins in The Prestige, only to wind up dead and diamonded. I’d say something about how the mighty have fallen, but Wren started out this show scamming on his fiancée with her 15-year-old kid sister, so this seems about right to me.
17. Yeah, this show did not need another time jump (last week: not ranked)
You know that Coco Chanel line (who knows if she really said it, but whatever) about how when you get dressed, you should look at yourself in the mirror and remove one accessory before leaving the house? I think a version of that advice exists for TV writers who always want to add ONE MORE thing to a show that already has more than enough of those things. The only part gained from this leap into the not-that-distant future is the opportunity to see who can deliver the clunkiest plot exposition through dialogue.
18. Byron Montgomery (last week: not ranked)
I wanted to place Byron higher because he straight-up told Ezra to his face that he “never really worked to prove us wrong,” re: Ezra being bad news for dating Aria. But then Byron pivots to saying it’s a good thing (?) Ezra didn’t bother to make a decent impression on Aria’s parents because “you’ve focused on making Aria happy.” BYRON. NO. Ezra was ditching your daughter to attend to the bedside needs of his ex not three episodes ago! Also Ezra was secretly working on a book about Aria and all her friends — and in his pursuit of the juiciest details about these underage subjects, he set up surveillance on all of them and stalked them 24/7. ALSO, HE WAS YOUR DAUGHTER’S GODDAMN ENGLISH TEACHER AND STARTED HOOKING UP WITH HER WHEN SHE WAS LITERALLY 15 YEARS OLD, FOR THE LOVE OF STATUTORY RAPE LAWS.
19. Addison (last week: not ranked)
We’re supposed to believe this is so far in the future that high school students already have names like “Emerson,” but also so far in the cultural past that the popular girls are still using “lesbo” as an insult? I haven’t swung by any high school cafeterias lately — unlike Ezra, I am a 20-something who prefers to fraternize with people over the age of 18 — but I have a feeling today’s teens are more likely to duke it out in the wokeness Olympics than get caught mocking someone for their sexual orientation. In other news, Addison is a general pain in the ass, bullies a deaf classmate, and by the end of this episode, is last heard screaming before she allegedly vanishes.
20. All these girls are so obsessed with getting married and having babies even though they are only 24 YEARS OLD (last week: not ranked)
Hanna and Caleb got married at the ripe old age of 23 and are barely a year into their union, yet Hanna is sticking her legs in the air after they screw, tracking her ovulation cycle, and freaking out about not getting pregnant. What? Why? If her fashion line is really taking off and Caleb is minting money from selling that software to Lucas, isn’t now a prime moment in their young lives to, I don’t know, jet off to Paris to get inspired and take Hanna’s designs to the next level? While Aria is understandably crushed to learn she’s biologically unable to bear children, do she and Ezra really need an appointment with an adoption agency the day they get back from their honeymoon? Just because Emily and Ali are raising their demon babies (come on, you know that a half-Ali, half-Wren DNA situation will not end well for anyone) doesn’t mean the rest of these girls need to jump on the mommy track.
This is particularly annoying because the show obviously wants its message to be that female friendship prevails over all threats foreign and domestic, even though the centerpiece of this finale is Ezra and Aria’s wedding and all of these girls’ next steps revolve around their relationships to men and/or their procreation plans. Reminds me of when Taylor promised 1989 would be her girlfriends-are-the-new-boyfriends album, but then 11 of the tracks were about, duh, boys, and the only one that was about a girl was about how much she hates Katy Perry.
21. The end of the Pretty Little Power Rankings (last week: not ranked)
I swear on the shallow grave of Jessica DiLaurentis, I will miss writing these recaps and reading your fantastic, witty, delightful comments each week. Thank you all for sticking around Rosewood until the bittersweet end with me.
Lingering concerns: Do we know what the deal is with Mona’s parents? Why was Hanna the only person she could stay with after she got out of Radley? Seems like a family member would’ve done the honor of hosting the newly sprung unwell, right? How much of Spencer’s horror at her captivity was the knowledge that she’d have to spend forever with Ezra? Is anyone invested in what went down at the next generation’s séance-y slumber party and/or if Addison is the new Alison?
Is it actually possible that all of us are happy at the same time?