This review contains spoilers.
6.4 Don’t Look Now & 6.5 She’s No Angel
As the last six years of Pretty Little Liars have unfolded, we’ve all grown accustomed to a lot of its quirks – the three-episode red herrings, Aria’s increasingly avant-garde fashion sense and the fact that all adult men living in Rosewood are inexplicably attracted to teenage girls – but it’s one of the show’s earliest tropes, the tendency for the girls to jump to conclusions based on very little evidence – that has become actively irritating.
It makes a lot of sense from a narrative perspective – just listen to Scream‘s explanation of how a slasher flick can and can’t exist as long-form storytelling – but, as we approach the actual, real, genuine answer as to A’s identity, it’s hard to watch Alison DiLaurentis immediately believe her father when he tells her Charles is dead, or Hanna suddenly positive about Lesli Stone being A’s alter-ego.
So we begin Don’t Look Now with all five girls gathered to discuss the conversation Alison has just had with her father – Charles was an unhinged child, 15 months older than Jason, who was quickly sent to Radley after trying to drown and/or scold baby Alison to death in a bathtub. He killed himself when he was 16, Ken attests, and thus cannot be the one responsible for their kidnapping.
Jason is particularly put out by this news, suddenly reframing his and Alison’s childhood as something ‘happy’ and ‘normal’, despite both his sister and his mother having been murdered and buried in the backyard, and the very illegal NAT club being his idea, and the strange presence of a third dress-wearing child in the home. Yep, totally normal.
To be totally fair to Ken, he probably doesn’t even know he’s lying to them, since we’ve seen in flashback that Jessica was up to more than one shady thing under the nose of her husband, and that he’s under the impression that Charles was cremated, not buried in Aunt Carole’s back garden.
But he ruins any sliver of good will he may have ever earned come She’s No Angel, in which he spends a full hour slut-shaming his daughter despite the fact that she is a girl who’s been repeatedly targeted by not just grown-up men, but grown-up police officers.
I don’t know what point the show is trying to make with Alison and Lorenzo’s relationship because, without Pretty Little Liars‘ previous with strange statutory rape storylines, waiving away Ezra’s sins and glossing over the actions of Ian, Garrett, Jason, Holbrook, Wilden and countless others for the sake of shipping, it might be quite sweet.
Because of all those things, it’s not so sweet, and renders the choice to make Alison’s next love interest a cop all the more baffling. Do we get behind this, or is Lorenzo just yet another creepy Rosewood male?
Hanna, thankfully, is the voice of the audience in these episodes, and rightly points out that no body and no grave means no proof that Charles is actually dead. Frankly, that Alison would really take the story on face value after she herself faked her own death successfully for two years is laughable, and just another example of the strange, more passive and demure Ali we’ve had this season.
Perhaps it’s all just one long-con from the most brilliant, conniving woman in Rosewood? Let’s hope.
“All roads lead back to Radley,” Spencer says, and she, Emily and Hanna all head straight for the institution’s old records for answers. Radley is famous for its lax security, of course, but it’s not quite that simple this time. The files are all waiting to be shredded after Radley was shut down (we still don’t know who bought it), so it’s now or never.
With Radley comes Mona, who also makes her long-awaited return. She’s bashful and full of remorse, which definitely means that she can’t be trusted. Yet Hanna trusts her, because she loves her and love is blind. The audience loves Mona just as much if not more than Hanna does, but we have previous experience to tell us that she is almost definitely up to something.
I liked that she’s more afraid of Alison than she is of Charles, almost as if she’s still living in the show’s first two seasons, in which she was A and everything was about the horrible things women do to each other.
After some bookend snooping from Aria, she sits out most of these episodes’ main plots as if it’s season three all over again, and spends the hours at Hollis’ photography studio with new love interest Clark. Clark seems nice and well-adjusted, so he’s probably a serial killer, but at least Aria acknowledges that she’s not really in a place to date.
Highlights from the Aria portions of these episodes all come down to Byron, who makes a surprise appearance after a lengthy period of being the invisible parent calling his daughter for dinner off-screen and constantly going out of town etc. Kind of like Mike is now, if they had mentioned him at all, and he wasn’t currently starring on Teen Wolf. She opens up to him which, after everything these two have been through as father and daughter, feels good and weighty.
Then, her photography accidentally lands her in the main storyline, after a shot of A reveals that, dead or not, Charles might not actually be a guy at all.
Hanna, meanwhile, is dealing with an overprotective Caleb. Remember in the season’s second episode when Caleb was the world’s best boyfriend, as he so often is on this show? That’s over, because putting a tracker on your girlfriend’s car without asking her isn’t acceptable behaviour even in this town and, though all of this is completely in character and something we’ve seen from Caleb on multiple occasions, Hanna needs time and freedom to sleuth.
Spencer is wrestling with shackles of a different kind – those of her own overactive brain. Without the anti-anxiety meds that she genuinely digs through Aria’s bins to find here, she turns to Ezra’s new baker, Sabrina, for some ‘special’ pastries to, in her own words, “quiet the noise.”
Even with the rubbish-digging, most fans would probably grade this towards the lower end of destructive Spencer-behaviour after watching seasons 3b and 4b, but Ezra (in no small part the cause of 4b’s meltdown) self-righteously sticks his nose in anyway, both to remind us that Ezra is a part of the story even when he’s not dating Aria, and that the show isn’t really passing judgement on Spencer’s decision one way or the other.
In all honesty, I live for Spencer/Ezra scenes, mostly because I find the two of them absolutely fascinating in their madness, and also because Troian Bellisario and Ian Harding do wonderful, compelling work opposite each other.
Upon meeting her old sober sponsor at an NA meeting, she decides that what she really needs is to embrace the noise in her head and, after watching the cold open of She’s No Angel, I’d agree.
On any other show, a 3-minute interpretive dance sequence opening episode five of a random season might be something to take note of, to write a million think-pieces about or to induct into the TV hall of fame. For PLL, though, this is just another example of the show doing whatever the heck it wants.
What does it mean? Who knows, other than that Spencer Hasting’s mind is a wonderland of insane creativity, repressed memories and dark secrets. Maybe that little girl WAS her brain, and she doesn’t even recognise it anymore.
Sara continues to be strange and off-putting – Emily’s type – and their romance is all but solidified in this episode after the two go for a chaste, romantic date at the community pool. Sorry, Paige fans, but Pretty Little Liars doesn’t care about your sacred mementos from relationships past and, if Sara doesn’t turn out to be Charles or Bethany Young or someone else entirely, then this might turn into a real thing.
Sara also wants to get emancipated, which Caleb points out is completely pointless because she’s almost 18 anyway and emancipation takes longer than the three and a half days this season plans to take place over.
In terms of the mystery, we’re currently being told that Charles was indeed at Radley, and that he appears to have died and been buried in secret behind Aunt Carole’s house. A Jason flashback indicates that someone was living there as late as that weird episode in which he fell down an elevator shaft, but the gravestone has been there a while, so it must indeed have been ‘the wind’.
Also, Lesli is definitely, for certain Big A, and so the girls must destroy her. In reality, Lesli is just the subject of PLL‘s latest three-episode arc, but I’ll admit it’s curious that we didn’t see her face in that last scene between her and Mona. Also interesting – she was at Radley long enough to know Charles and Mona (and presumably, Spencer), and was even Bethany Young’s roommate.
This episode was all about heading off some of the most robust theories about Charles, as well as the ones which had Jason being swapped out for his twin after the elevator shaft incident, and we’re now presumably looking for someone appropriating Charles’s identity, rather than Charles himself.
Or everything Ken said could be nonsense, and we’re just being manipulated into jumping to conclusions just as the Liars have been for the last five seasons. Let’s keep our theories malleable, folks, because we all know how this show can turn around on us at the least expected moments, and I still plan to be surprised.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, Songs Of Experience, here.
Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here.