Pretty Little Liars season 5 episode 15 review: Over A Barrel

Is Pretty Little Liars finally making bold moves and getting back on track? Latest episode, Over A Barrel indicates so...

This review contains spoilers.

5.15 Over A Barrel

The first rule of Pretty Little Liars is that, if the girls are 100 per cent, unequivocally sure of who’s behind A’s shenanigans, then the person in question is going to be completely innocent. In season 5b, this applies to Allison and Holbrook so, while neither character seems to be completely on the up and up, they aren’t the omnipotent tormentors that the Liars are assuming they are.

But it’s frustrating to watch, because the audience know this about the show by now, and there’s nothing worse than a bunch of protagonists who don’t know the rules of their own universe. Previously, it’s been characters like Spencer and Caleb – the voices of reason – that balance it out, but even they appear to have taken crazy pills this season. They’re still taking the initiative and investigating, but it’s all through the eyes that Ali is A.

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That said, putting those two competent characters together for any storyline is going to work out well, and Spencer and Caleb’s little sleuthing session was pretty glorious. The search for the laptop, the creepy Breaking Bad reference, the sniping, the duelling neurosis – all great.

I do also like the use of Spencer’s new house guest as the ‘only sane man’ figure, but he’s probably going to be evil, so I won’t dwell on it too much.

And the investigation leads to an unfortunate wrinkle in the Mona murder mystery – Hanna, as the only blonde member of the group and the closest to the deceased, is being framed.

It’s when things like this come to a head that Toby’s presence on the police force is going to get more important, but it’s actually working great without any of the extra pressure. He’s there to help out, but it’s an interesting moral dilemma when your girlfriend is committing crimes all over the place in the hopes of solving a massive conspiracy that has engulfed the town. He can’t know, but he also needs to.

It instantly makes Toby more interesting, which was not a word I would have used to describe him in any previous season, and it’s bold moves like this that Pretty Little Liars needs much more of.

Ezra, for example, has never been more boring. Usually I can get by on the knowledge that he’s a creep with no legitimate place in these girls’ lives, but that’s a lot harder to do when we’re looking at him from afar with Aria’s ‘Ezria’ goggles on. Are we really supposed to get behind Aria feeling guilty about telling someone the truth?

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The way that letter was written suggests that at least the show’s writing team understand the implications of this relationship, but there’s no follow-through. Who’s side are we supposed to be on?

And A blackmailing Aria over her relationship has been going on since the first episode, which demonstrates how little this character gets to do beyond an affair with her English teacher (still ew).

Somewhat similarly, Emily has been defined by her various relationships since the beginning, whether that’s her coming out story in season one, Maya’s murder, her connection to Alison or whatever’s been going on with Paige the last few years. Now, her storyline seems to be heading towards new girl Talia, who was definitely flirting with her despite expressing interesting in Ezra’s “buns” in the same breath. Again, ew.

The most compelling thread that’s consistently run through season five, though, has been the girls’ pursuit of a future away from Rosewood. Spencer has always been leading the charge, such is her personality, so it was interesting to see her consider other options at the end of this episode. Like Paige, all of these girls are pretty exhausted, with PTSD sure to follow the final capture of A, so something as mundane of college probably does sound ridiculous.

If season five had more of this, the silly annoyances might not come across as strongly, so my hope is that, instead of being the pantomime villain they have become, A gets back to being that unseeable, unwavering metaphorical force that’s preventing the Liars’ from getting on with their lives. That’s a better show, in my book, and one that Pretty Little Liars is more than capable of being.

Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, Through A Glass Darkly, here.

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