This review contains spoilers.
6.6 No Stone Unturned & 6.7 O, Brother Where Art Thou?
Season six of Pretty Little Liars – the #summerofAnswers – started off with a really interesting exploration of trauma and PTSD. These episodes, No Stone Unturned and O Brother, Where Art Thou, feature two set-pieces involving an evil racoon and gummy bears laced with marijuana. Never say this show doesn’t deliver.
For a lot of Pretty Little Liars fans, these episodes are the show at its best and most fun. There’s humour and mystery and, most importantly, a couple of answers. For others, those of us who relish the chance to just sit and stare at these broken human beings for 40 minutes each week, they’re not the strongest.
I like an inebriated shootout in an amusement arcade as much as anyone, but this is a show that exists right on the line between exaggerated and silly, and its felt dangerously close to falling over the edge.
O Brother, Where Art Thou is a strange episode in that there’s no red herring suspect beyond Charles, back on top of the list after Mona pointed out how obviously faked the autopsy report from Radley was. We knew before the previous episode that Lesli wasn’t A, even if she’s still very suspicious in her absence, and there’s a general sense that we’re gearing up for a big reveal here. At long last.
The girls discover they’ve been chipped – another fact the audience have been aware of for a few weeks – and they’re now so paranoid that seeing four animal cages in the back of a girl’s car is enough reason to suspect that she’s evil, those cages are for them and they have to immediately bring her down.
They’re not, and they don’t, so the majority of No Stone Unturned feels pretty inconsequential. In another season that might have been okay, but here it feels dangerously like filler in what is essentially the show’s all-important final season in its current form.
After focusing on the girls for much of this run, however, these episodes bring attention back to some of the relationships. Hanna is still being frosty towards Caleb, who decides based on Ashley’s advice that the best way to get back into her good books is to shout and demand it be so (disappointingly, it works), and we’re treated to one of the greatest Ezria scenes ever committed to screen.
‘Who knows her better than him?’, she asks. No-one, because he spied on her and her other teenage friends for years. Does he still have one of Aria’s photos above his desk? Of course he does. What does he think of the creepy, wounded doll sent to her by A? It’s certainly… disturbing.
It’s hard not to notice that the show is doing with Ezra exactly what it did in season 4a, just before he was revealed as a potential A candidate, finding any excuse it can to have him interact with the Liars despite him and Aria not actually dating. He keeps digging for information he really has no right to know, and that’s never a good sign.
Meanwhile, things between Emily and Sara are more or less official, and this leads to a lot of unhealthy possessiveness – this time from Emily! – when Sara’s old friend comes to check on her. Sara instantly comes to life when faced with something from her previous existence, and Emily is forced to recognise that she’s actually been relying on their relationship much more that Sara has.
Throwing herself into taking care of someone has always been Emily’s go-to coping mechanism but, now that Sara has moved out and started to really recover, she has to face up to her own delayed suffering.
The less said about Spencer’s love life the better, with her interactions with Toby in the second episode providing more than enough entertainment to wipe sponsor dude from our collective memories. Yes he steals her gummy bears, yes he eats the entire bag, and yes this leads to him losing A despite cornering him in an arcade later in the episode. It’s so wonderfully ludicrous that I still can’t believe it happened.
The episode also saw the long-awaited (by me, anyway) return of Mike Montgomery, explaining away his absence by saying that Mona hasn’t been taking his calls since she returned. This was one of the better threads of season 5b so I’m glad the show followed up on it before the time-jump, but something tells me that Mona’s promise to work things out might not be fulfilled.
I do love when we get to see this vulnerable, human side of Mona, though, especially when we really didn’t get much of their relationship at all last season.
The gummy bear incident blew the girls’ best chance so far of catching Charles, and Jason isn’t too happy with them right now. He wanted a moment with his brother before driving him to the police station, he says naively, and in his mind this was his only opportunity.
Someone planted that video of the secret birthday party, though, and it seems to confirm that Jessica DiLaurentis was indeed sneaking Charles around. The threads are slowly untangling and, with three episodes left before we (presumably) find out what the heck has been going on for five and a half seasons, it feels like we’re at least moving in the right direction.
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