This review contains spoilers.
4.15 Love ShAck, Baby
After last week’s confident scene-setter of a mid-season premiere, Pretty Little Liars is now forging ahead with its new, refreshed mission statement and clearly having tons of fun doing so. Love ShAck Baby, aside from the obvious tease in the episode title, was a great example of a show relishing in the fact that its audience know more than the characters for once and, if you temporarily turn off your moral centre, it’s actually possible to treat Ezra as your stand-in protagonist while the liars are stuck in the dark. I said it last week and I’ll say it again now – making Ezra a villain was the smartest thing this show has ever done.
Because when Pretty Little Liars has conviction in its ideas and deep, dark subject matter to deal with underneath the mystery solving and teen drama, it’s more fun than anything else on the telly. When it veers off on tangents and starts to forget itself in a bid to fulfil episode orders, the silly stuff just doesn’t land in the right way. At the moment, it’s more in keeping with the former and, until the inevitable reveal in which we discover what Ezra’s motives really are, we can enjoy a rejuvenated show that feels as though it’s enjoying itself as much as we are watching.
This week’s episode in particular was all about Alison’s diary, and there are some secrets in there that at least one of the Liars had hoped Alison would take to her grave. Nothing particularly juicy was exposed by the character themselves but, with the benefit of a pause button and good eyesight, there’s plenty for dedicated fans to decipher by themselves. Forget Hanna hooking up with Mike Montgomery – who’s this girl stealing all of Alison’s friends? Another little clue was the EF+AD graffiti on the kissing rock, which could quite easily stand for Ezra Fitz rather than Emily Fields, as we were supposed to assume.
The fact that Alison lied to the Liars has hurt each of them in very particular ways and, while Aria is being her usual bland self and Spencer’s thirst for answers has gone into overdrive, Hanna and Emily are feeling it the most. Hanna’s breakup added an extra stressor she really didn’t need and all of the ‘Hefty Hanna’ insecurities that Ali brought out in her seem to have returned. Emily, meanwhile, is fighting through her unresolved romantic feelings for Alison at the same time as resenting her for not treating her as the special one of the group. Her dream (and yes, I think it was a straight-up dream) of Alison revealed that much, and it’s clear that every one of the Liars thought they were the one who knew Ali in ways the others didn’t.
My biggest complaint about this half-season has to be the Spencer/Toby/Radley stuff, which better be linked to the central mystery soon or it’s at risk of becoming even more redundant. At least it gave Spencer a chance to finally stick it to her family and move out, but the revelation that Toby’s mother tripped and fell rather than committing suicide/being murdered really didn’t matter as much as the writers clearly thought it would. The minor bit of intrigue is the other patient who was being protected by the cover-up. I know that whenever there’s a mysterious Radley patient mentioned on this show my mind automatically jumps to Courtney DiLaurentis, but it’s still possible I’ll be on the right track with my twin theory one of these days.
After being very underwhelmed by the Wilden mystery and endless Red Coat teasing in the first half of season four, I really love this new and improved Pretty Little Liars. Even if Ezra turns out to be sweetness and light (doubtful, given that we’ve just seem him creeping around yet another teenage girl’s bedroom) in a couple of weeks time, it doesn’t mean that the new life that’s been breathed into both his character and the A mystery has been for nothing. It’s reminded us of how fun the hunt for the Liars’ tormentor used to be, and proven the writer’s assurances that A could really be anyone. See you next week for more Alison, more EzrA and hopefully some more creepy cabin sequences.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, Who’s In The Box?, here.
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