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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Pretty Little Liars: “Now You See Me, Now You Don't”

Illustration for article titled Pretty Little Liars: “Now You See Me, Now You Don't”
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Well. Isn’t that interesting? Now, I’m not the bragging type—that’s just not in my nature. I would never, just for example, direct you to a season’s worth of Pretty Little Liars reviews where I repeatedly, often strongly, advanced the idea that Ezra was completely and totally A. To be fair, there was something of a process-of-elimination thing happening. We had already been led to suspect basically everybody on the Rosewood map at some point or another. That we never were asked to suspect Ezra obviously meant, by the rules of reverse psychology (and don’t think that shows like Pretty Little Liars aren’t engineered for misdirection first and sense-making second), that he must be the guy. There was also an economy-of-character thing happening, where Ezra was just cooling his heels all season, occasionally advising Spencer and Emily, tucking away his Baby Mama Drama when it became inconvenient. Sooner or later, he had to be on the canvas for some reason. That’s not to say there is no story-based support for Ezra being A all along. It’s been pretty solidly established that Aria was dating an older guy, and that caused a lot of trouble for her. Ezra, you may have noticed, doesn’t have much of a moral compunction against dating high-school girls.

The show itself has always kept an odd no-comment stance on the (let’s get real here) statutory rape that stands at the center of one of its top ongoing romantic storylines. Aria and Ezra (or, ugh, #Ezria) have always been a feature of the show, and Aria’s struggles to maintain their relationship were written and performed with the intention of garnering audience support. But still, there’s always been a sense of kicking final judgment on the rightness or wrongness of their pairing down the road, waiting for either Aria to graduate or… something else. It looks like we got our something else. In a way, putting Aria and Ezra together again right before the reveal not only ups the stakes on said reveal, but it also twists the knife on what is certainly the show’s most controversial ongoing storyline.

I should also probably mention that Ezra’s reveal as A is all hanging on a very big asterisk and contingent on whether Pretty Little Liars sticks to its guns or attempts a reset. Obviously, it did the latter when it came to the Mona reveal a couple years ago, and if there is still no end in sight for the series, the creative team may well decide there is no show without an unknowable A, and we’ll find out that there is yet another mastermind pulling the strings. But hope springs eternal, and maybe next season takes the EzrA ball and runs with it, shaking up the structure of the show (suddenly the audience knows more than the Liars do) as well as the story.

So how did we even get here? Each of the Liars did their part.

Emily: Em’s the biggest catalyst by virtue of being kidnapped while attending the magic show in Ravenswood. By the way, despite getting carried away by the plot reveals this week, I still say this show functions primarily as a triumph of tone and ambience, and everything that happens in Ravenswood bears that out, from the ludicrous grayscale to the old-timey magic show to the sudden return of Madame Grunwald, the sorority-house mother who shows up and basically performs the function that an old gypsy oracle might provide in a horror movie. She confirms that Alison is alive—in fact, putting herself at the scene when Ali’s hand dug herself out of the ground (so that’s one mystery out of a billion solved). Her killer (Ezra, presumably, though there’s still time to muddy those waters) is after her and looking to follow the Liars right to her. Hence his giant storyboard lair and surveillance center, also located in Ravenswood. With the spin-off coming with October’s Halloween special, it certainly looks like Ravenswood will remain important to this show well after Caleb takes off to stare at cemetery angels.

Aria: A season’s worth of inaction (if not more) gets made up for by Aria busting out enough kickboxing moves to best Cece Drake in a little hand-to-hand combat. Cece manages to survive her fall from the scaffolding and escape, and after the sight of two blondes in red coats (one of them presumably Alison, leading her friends to Ezra’s lair), it seems Cece and Ali may be working together.

Spencer: Who’s in for a prequel spinoff following Spencer at performing arts camp? Anyone? Everyone? I should mention that were a couple very strong Spencer/Toby scenes this week, particularly when she levels with him that she would be a very cool girlfriend if only he would trust her to be. Also, credit where credit’s due to Keegan Allen, Toby cried very credibly while opening the box of memories of his mom.


Hanna: An uncharacteristically quiet week for Hanna, given how climactic everything got. Her complicated feelings towards Mona continue to keep things interesting, and it’s adorable every time she announces she’s right and Spencer’s wrong, only to have the opposite be true. But it must be said: Caleb now officially has more chemistry with Hanna’s mother than with her. Can we get her moved on to Travis already? He’s not perfect, but he can be her rebound guy while she suits up to battle Melissa Hastings for Wren’s affections. Like the best season finales, this episode left quite a few balls in the air.

Stray observations:

  • Like, for example, the costume parade in Ravenswood that awaits us in the Halloween special! Hold on to your butts.
  • So Mona left Radley, escaped A’s threats of murder, and is now chilling at a B&B, dishing out orders to Shana? Sure. Sounds great.
  • As ever, we are told that Jake is not the guy for Aria via the shorthand that he can’t get into old black-and-white movies like Ezra can. He’s going to have such a sweet told-you-so moment once Aria finds out Ezra’s been trying to ruin her life for the past three years.
  • Okay, but seriously, whose body got discovered and buried if Ali is still alive?
  • Also, how did A manage to create those custom Magic 8-Balls? And how can I commission a few of my own?
  • See you all on October 22nd for the Halloween special. Perhaps Adam Lambert will show up as the Ravenswood grand marshal!