This review contains spoilers.
6.12 Charlotte’s Web
Killing Charlotte off in the first episode was a ballsy move for a number of reasons, not least because it removed the most obvious source of old conflict from the Liars’ lives. We’re five years on, and all of the girls (plus Mona) are still dealing with what happened to them as teens, but Charlotte was a relic of that past that could easily have been the driving force behind season 6b.
Killing her off removes that most physical manifestation of their trauma, but it still lingers. Instead of using her as a reminder of the A mystery, the writers chose to have her become the catalyst for a whole different collection of emotions. She’s the victim, the enemy and the malevolent dead girl haunting their dreams all at once. In other words, she’s exactly what Alison represented back in the first season.
Worst of all, the girls can’t even trust each other anymore. Aside from all the things that Pretty Little Liars always does really well (and badly), what’s struck me the most about season 6b so far is how well the show has captured that sense of distance between old friends after high school. Aria, Hanna, Emily and Spencer are bonded for life by their experiences, but they lead very different lives from each other.
This is the first time they can credibly accuse each other of murder and have us believe in it, and that’s just a heightened, ridiculous version of how we all feel about childhood friends if and when we attempt to rekindle that friendship once we’ve moved into adulthood. You know their faces and their fundamental character, but the truth is that the fundamental characters of these girls have never been incapable of killing.
And the audience are right there with them because, without flashbacks, we too are left guessing as to who any of them are after five years of independent, A-free lives.
As well as being realistic, it also serves the narrative. In the old days, watching Emily keep secrets about her health or seeing Spencer and Caleb grow ever closer right under Hanna’s nose would have felt false and frustrating. Now, though, why would they confide in each other before, say, their significant others? I’m sure the new villain will bring them back together sooner or later but, right now, there’s a chasm of distance between our main characters.
We begin the episode with Aria under suspicion, and this soon switches to Ezra when the truth about the new ‘that night’ is recounted. Because the two of them can’t resist each other in their joint awfulness, we find out that Aria texted Ezra at 3am and left the hotel with him. After spotting Charlotte entering the church, Aria allegedly got in a cab back to the suite and Ezra stayed.
Now, we’re in episode two of a new mystery, so we can almost certainly assume that neither of them had anything to do with the murder, and it’s fun to realise that the two characters most often accused by Tumblr et al are the first two to come under the spotlight. It’s a bit of stretch to even connect Ezra to Charlotte in the first place, but then he’s always been the guy to appropriate everyone else’s pain in order to feel sorry for himself.
It should be fun to see Aria questioned about it anyway, now that Alison has turned her over to Lorenzo. If not, then Spencer’s next on the list, having written a paper on an almost-identical murder case for a criminology class in college and shown it to Ezra over a dinner for which I really would have liked to be a fly on the wall. The same mystery-fiction logic applies to Sara Harvey, who is acting so damn evil and suspicious that it’s probably going to turn out that she really did have Stockholm Syndrome. Something happened to her the night of Charlotte’s arrest, and it was the Liars’ fault, but she’s more of a Jenna figure and probably nothing more. I just want see what’s under those gloves.
Emily’s aforementioned health issues are no clearer than they were last week, but a trip to the health centre did lead her to a possible meet-cute with Sabrina – provider of pot gummy bears from earlier in the season. She tells Emily that she had cancer years ago (explaining the pot gummy bears), but Emily is determined to go through whatever it is she’s going through completely alone. Which brings me back to the overall mood of this episode. The writers are doing a really good job of infusing every second with hints and teases about all the pieces we’re missing. Hanna and Caleb are able to have a conversation, but we still don’t know why they aren’t together. Alison is still Alison, but she’s an amalgamation of the old Ali and the new, domesticated family girl. It’s a balance, and so far it’s been done perfectly.
But how great would it be if Ezra was actually the killer?
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, Of Late I Think Of Rosewood, here.