This review contains spoilers
5.10 A Dark Ali
It only took ten weeks, but the Liars have finally decided to oust Ali from the inner circle. Ever since she returned to Rosewood, they’ve all been scrambling around trying to pin her motives down and figure out whether she’s trustworthy, all while asking zero questions about what she’s been up to for the last two years. Then again, it took them five seasons to discuss just going to the police and confessing to their various sins, so we know they’re not too impulsive about these kinds of things.
Last week’s cliffhanger saw a confession from Alison’s supposed kidnapper, Cyrus, and the episode continued the ongoing theme of not knowing what the heck Alison is thinking from one scene to the next. Is she a vulnerable teenage girl who regrets her actions and is just trying to protect herself, or is she the same conniving monster that she was before she left? That flashback of her being stabbed was a point in the former column, but then we found out that it had been Ali who had hired Cyrus to confess in the first place. Oh, my kingdom for some answers.
The Alison issue this season, depending on how it plays out in the final two episodes, has either been the best or the worst thing the show has ever done. Not knowing whether to trust one of your main characters is one thing, but shows like Pretty Little Liars don’t often play with the rules of television in order to confuse us. If someone’s being creepy, then they’re probably a creep. If we see something in a flashback, then we should take that as fact. But not here – here we’ll probably never know what’s going on. The show lost our trust last year with the EzrA debacle, and I think their solution to that is to be sneakier than ever.
Which puts us in the same position as the Liars, who have finally thrown their hands up and surrendered to the notion that they’re outnumbered, outgunned and outsmarted. Melissa knows it too, which is why I’ve never thought she was A. Melissa is a Hastings, and Hastings are the best and most dedicated puzzle-solvers in town. If anyone in Rosewood knows what’s going on, it isn’t Ezra or Mona – it’s Melissa. I choose to take her on her word that she wants to protect Spencer, but we’ll have to wait until next week to see what she said on that confession tape. That’s if she and the tape survive until then.
While Emily deals with the Ali situation and Spencer continues to be the sole voice of logic and reason, Aria is still being whiny and emotionally divorced from anything that’s going on around her. Watching Ella try to convince her daughter that, yes, you can trust the teacher who knowingly seduced you in order to dig for information – people can change! – was hugely disturbing, but then we should all be used to that by now. Much more interesting was that fraught exchange between Ezra and Ali, where we momentarily saw the much darker side of his persona emerge. Ian Harding does good crazy eyes – Teen Choice Award deserved.
Hannah and Caleb’s relationship, meanwhile, has never been more endearing, with them both ditching the unhealthy habits they’ve been using as a crutch for the last few weeks and getting stuck back into the task at hand. As much as I want to hear whatever explanation the writers can cook up for Caleb’s time in Ravenswood (psychotic break, maybe?), it’s just so satisfying to see him back to his old self. Besides Spencer, he’s the only one of the group who’s always got his head in the game, and it was nice of the writers to get back to the Haleb status quo so quickly after ripping it away from people.
A few things remain unresolved – who was Melissa handing Noel’s evidence to, if not Cyrus (top suspects: Wren; Ezra; Noel)? Was Emily’s choice to leave Aria off her list of terror a clue, or just an acknowledgement of the imbalance? And what does the Candy Striper outfit in the sting tell us about A? A number of characters have worn that outfit at some point, but I’m just disappointed that it seems to confirm that this A is a girl. My money has been on Wren for a while, but maybe he’s holding on to it for a colleague?
Biggest of all, though, is the latest not-so-subtle hint at Alison having a twin. It’s been 70 per cent confirmed since the season two Halloween episode (go back and look at the family photo in Alison’s room), but seeing Ali dress up as Vivian Darkbloom again for no particular reason is just more compelling evidence to add to the pile. Then there’s her mysterious appearance on the security footage a few weeks ago, and the fact that it would explain so much of her weird behaviour this season if she were two people. If so, then welcome Courtney DiLaurentis!
Next week, Toby’s back and helping Caleb with his teen drinking problem, Melissa finally tells the girls some of the secrets she’s been holding onto for five seasons (although, probably not), and Emily recruits super-sleuth/super-stalker Ezra to uncover the truth behind Cyrus’ arrest and disappearance. Is it just me, or is Emily being especially smart lately?
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, March Of Crimes, here.
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