This review contains spoilers.
6.3 Songs Of Experience
There’s a moment in the middle of this episode – an excellent third instalment in a so-far outstanding season of Pretty Little Liars – where Aria ponders just how much she doesn’t know. But it’s not about A or the mystery or the several murder investigations circling around Rosewood at any one time, but about the guy she dated a few months ago. She says: “I trusted him, but all I knew is what he told me.”
That line there, more than a lot of the things said in these two introspective, admirably quiet hours of television, sums up where we are with the show right now.
Even the good guys, the people the liars trust, have proven more often than not to be liars themselves, and Andrew is just the last in a long line of would-be heroes that have become wrapped up in this warped reality, only to discover that they in fact have no power at all.
In this universe, much like the real one, a narrative is constructed around everything, and whether that’s the truth or not doesn’t matter. Andrew, like Charles, has decided on a certain reality and will not be wavered from it. He intended to be the one who rescued the girls and took the glory, but the fact that they thwarted his attempts to commandeer their story has left him blaming them for their own tragedy.
The character who represents this shift in the show’s storytelling style is actually, to everyone’s surprise, Aria. She’s been pretty wonderful this season on the whole, owning her clout as the most ruthless, determined member of the group, and channelling all of the energy she used to invest in her relationship with Ezra into the A mystery. After five seasons of watching her seemingly exist on a separate show, this is satisfying.
The writers are clearly having a great deal of fun playing with the weird mythology that’s build up around her, plying her scenes with mirrors and dolls and suspicious looks. It could mean nothing, or it could mean everything, such is Aria’s MO.
I even like her dynamic with Ezra more since their breakup, acting as the world’s worst detective team but somehow uncovering a vital clue in the process – Andrew was adopted, and this could explain why he looks like a 40-year-old man still attending high school.
While Aria is in full mystery-solving mode, Hanna is simply trying to repair the rift between the four liars. Dr Sullivan is back, and thus back on a lot of people’s suspects list, and much of her story this week focuses on rallying the girls so they can engage in some always-useful group therapy.
They never make it to the session, of course, because A intervenes with threats and a new texting interface, but its inclusion leads them to realise that they were, in fact, never really hurting each other while in the Dollhouse. Charles just wanted to show them that they would do it, when pushed to a certain limit, to separate them not just from their friends and family, but also each other.
It’s a twisted game even without the actual torture (this is ABC Family, we’re reminded), and a lot of this episode makes me wonder if – Charles or not – Andrew’s MRA manifesto was really planted or not. He sure echoed a lot of those sentiments in his speech outside the police station, dubbing them the “toxic dumps” of Rosewood simply because they dared to save themselves before he could get there.
Emily, as expected, has invested all of her maternal instincts in taking care of Sarah, and that – in addition to her tendency to date unhinged women – almost definitely means they’re going to get romantic at some point before she’s exposed to be an agent of Charles. The reveal of that short, blonde haircut was genuinely unsettling and, with hair being a recurring motif this season so far, I’d guess it was meant to be taken that way.
Spencer had much more to do this week to our collective relief, and I love how season six seems to be boosting the connection between her and Alison. It’s an easy way to hammer home how much Alison may have changed, with theirs previously being the most contentious relationship while Alison was Queen Bee in charge.
Toby, as a male on this show, immediately gets protective of his buddy when he and Alison start getting chummy, and demands that Spencer warn her away from Lorenzo before she inducts him into her cult of deceit. She’s been asked to become a youth group leader, which she immediately turns down after her previous experience being a “leader of girls,” and she’s never looked more unsure.
We don’t see Spencer’s response in that scene, but later we realise that she has no intention of following orders, and rather supports Alison to continue on her current redemptive arc. His look to her outside of the police station is not unlike Andrew’s reaction, which really makes you wonder about Toby.
Spencer herself is still struggling to deal with the Dollhouse aftermath, rejecting the Hastings’ mantra of picking yourself up and forgetting it ever happened. It did happen, she says, and she’s going to damn well own it. There’s no happy ending for her, there never really was, and whatever Ken told Alison and Jason about Charlie in the final scene will likely make even more sure of that.
So, yes, Charles DiLaurentis is supposedly dead, and Jason has grown up believing that ‘Charlie’ was just his imaginary childhood friend. Does this, and the photograph in the button jar, confirm that he’s really Jason’s twin, possibly one that went to Radley at a young age and was subsequently erased from the family history? Quite possibly. Is it Andrew? Probably not – he’s just your standard creep, the hero of his own story, in which these girls are now the villains.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, Songs Of Innocence, here.
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