Friends, Rosewoodians, countrywomen, lend us your ears!
Live look at your recappers
We truly thought we would be coming to you today to bury PLL, not to praise it. But if you were as glued to your screens on Tuesday as we were, then you’ll already know: they fucking pulled it off. Not perfectly; not with a bow big enough to cover their many, damaging Charlotte-blunders. But in terms of better-than-LiarLogic™ gAme closure? OH MONA DID THEY EVER DO IT.
The things we wanted—everybody is twins; Mona is redeemed; the Liars loving each other; two hours to work everything out; a fun and as unproblematic-as-possible psychotic A.D.; WILD wedding fashion—we mostly got! The one thing we wanted least—an Ezria wedding—we ALSO got! The thing we never asked for—an exact Season One reboot with Rosewood’s Liars 2.0??—we also somehow got! (Alexis has some deep dive analysis of this one, at least.)
Do. Not. Jinx. It.
It’s a lot, so we are going to break this down into manageable pieces: the first, plotty half, we’re recapping like normal; the second, more expository half, in Q+A format like we did for the ChArlotte reveal.
We did a monster all-series Awards post on Tuesday evening (written BEFORE the finale), so check that out for the everything not appearing in the finale.
THAT SAID—this finale was bonkers; we've got some totally new (and last!) awards to hand out.
THIS WEEK'S MVP
Look, we always want to give this to Mona, and Spencer DEFINITELY deserves more than a cookie for having the mental wherewithal to swipe Mary’s bobbypins and break her and Ezra out before Alex got back with that axe, and what a perfect opportunity this is for us to use this gif to hand out an award…
Jenna, Toby and a danged horse truly won the cup here in the final hour. Sometimes it pays to be blind/blinded by love/horsewitted!
THIS WEEK'S LVP
By the logic above, the LVPs in this final episode just have to be all the non-Spencer Liars. Ladies! You’re not blind! You can hear! Spencer is one of your oldest boon companions! GET A CLUE.
BIGGEST SHOCK/BEST SURPRISE
Rosemary has been calling this since the pilot, and she is NOT going to be quiet in her victory. Sure, Alex didn’t make it onto the scene until after Charlotte fled the US as Vivian Darkbloom, but then again, that’s just Alex’s story. And like Catie said: Alex is a maniac! WHO KNOWS when she really got herself involved??
MOST LIT ALLUSION
Lolololololol…Christopher Paolini, "Without fear, there can be no courage," quoted by Spencer in Mona's snowglobe daydream.
Yes, the author of epic YA dragon series, Christopher Paolini; you did not hear wrong
THAT'S SO [YOUR TROPE HERE]
Dipping into the fanfic well for this one: find the right twin!
One of these women is…probably the Emison twins' genetic mom.
Toby's heart did well.
PREVIOUSLY ON PRETTY LITTLE LIARS
Like, how do you even write a Previously On section for the series finale to THIS show? Literally everything you could possibly imagine plus some weird doll shit you probably COULDN’T imagine brought us here (self-decapitation, anyone?). Besides, you’ve got seven years’ worth of recaps to read if you’d like more than that!
We open on the Liars, sitting around a cafe table on Rosewood’s only street corner, drinking iced coffees. In sundresses. At night. It’s hard to concentrate on what they’re actually saying (something about “Vanderwaal original” handbags selling for $1k a pop?), though, because Lucas is literally tap-dancing up and down the street in a white tuxedo. “I can’t believe we never figured out who A was,” Alison says dreamily, as Jenna rides a horse in full circus regalia (both her and the horse) right past them. Of coures, the internet denies us this scene in gif form.
“Do you think we miss A because now our lives are just so boring?” another Liar posits. At this point, we know it’s not real. Probably a dream. Or…even better, a come-to-life scene straight from Mona’s adrenalized hyperreality?
Ding ding ding! Just then the weather shifts from summer heat to winter cold - two things it’s-always-fall-here Rosewood has never experienced - and snow* starts to fall. The camera pulls up and out and we see that Mona, in her room at the bastion of compassionate, uncompromised healthcare that is Welby, is holding a snowglobe like two inches from her perfect eyeballs.
She smiles at her hyper-adrenalized daydream, but then someone opens the door to her room. Someone tall. Someone in a black hoodie. She drops the snowglobe on the tile, shattering it to pieces. “I never would’ve guessed it was you!” she says, drawing back into a defensive curl in against the wall. “Are you here to kill me?”
Obviously not! But we'll have to wait a year (give or take 8,759.5 hours) to find out.
*Alexis truly wished these snowflakes were actually the embers of Rosewood after the Liars had set it ablaze. Alas.
~*~ ONE YEAR LATER ~*~
Happily Ever After?
We start things off with a bang! And by a bang, we mean a shovel to the back of the head, and by a shovel to the back of the head, we mean, the Liars are all finally “happy” and “safe.”
First up: Ian and Lucy wander the backlot of Pretty Little Liars playing Ezra and Aria touring the backlot of Warner Bros. Studios in LA, marveling at how “their” “book” is about to be made into a movie, then sweeping each other up into a kiss right as a studio tour cart drives by laden with a dozen Snapchat-armed Ezrians. Lucky Leon’s Cupcakes is right offscreen; the building that houses RHS on one side and the RPD on the other is like ten feet behind them. It is simultaneously VERY META, and also the cheapest location shot PLL has done since sending Spencer to “London” and “DC.”
Would've thrown my phone at them if I'd been on that tour.
Anyway, if your hopes about this ‘ship were up seeing Ezra, at least, ringless even a full year after A.D.’s game ended, sorry: that sweeping kiss? Meant to show us these dolts are definitely still getting married.
Meanwhile, in a house we’re pretending is across the United States but is actually about fourteen feet away, Emily is joyfully feeding the world’s whitest baby…except oh wait! There’s two of them! Emily and Alison had twins, which, we feel the need to point out, don’t technically run in the non-white side of their nontraditional family. HMM. Could Rosewood’s local health/genetic testing center have actually been compromised by a meddling A.D., and the white, blonde, blue-eyed twins actually be Drakes/DiLaurentises? In Catie’s medical/expert PLL-fan opinion, probably (verbatim: “Alexis. This is PLL. When has a blood test ever been real. Mike probably stole the vials and hid them in the woods.”)! Rosemary totally buys that the doctor who performed the blood test was a life-sized doll (if he’s the same fertility doctor Mona and Emily worked over, he’s not even an adult!). Which means, as far as Rosewood twins go, we ought to start taking bets on which of them is an evil mastermind and which will end up murdered (they’re part of Liar Generation 3.0, natch).
"Just eat it, Grace, Mommy already checked for a note from A!"
Alison comes downstairs and kisses her family goodbye before sneaking off to The Radley to meet up with none other than Wine Mom #3, Pam Fields! “I hate lying to her,” Pam says to Alison. Alison agrees (SINCE WHEN, GIRL??), but assures her that Emily will learn “the truth” soon enough, and promises to always take care of her. It’s pretty vague, but knowing this show, it probably means someone is either 1) dying, 2) pregnant, 3) getting back with a high school lover. Given it’s Alison, maybe all three!
Next up: Spencer! She’s found her riding boots and is back in the saddle (lolz) with none other than Sister Melissa. They bond over their adopted horses until a rogue woodsman appears, backpacked and unbearded. It’s a Wild Toby! He’s been walking around since last we saw him—like literally ::walking around:: confused and lost, hoping to end up somewhere familiar—but he grew up in a one-street town, and the rest of the world has too many options, so he turned his bearded face south and headed right back to Rosewood! Luckily, he’s stumbled into the stables of his ex-girlfriend who seems much happier to welcome him home than we are. Anyway, Bashful the Horse likes him (and literally no one else).
Bashful back there solving mysteries before they even start.
Alison is still teaching at Rosewood High School, and Addison WhatsHerFace, Rosewood’s least woke lil’ bitch, is still terrorizing everyone around her. Like, we don’t disagree with Ali’s karmic retribution being dealing with every iteration of her each new graduating class can come up with, but shouldn’t Addison’s time in her classroom have been finished last year?? Apparently not. Which is good, because Addison is so terrible she is still calling Ali both by her first name and by “lesbo” and is planting stabbed-up dolls in a hearing-impaired girl’s locker and is saying scads of mocking, politically incorrect things right to Jenna’s blind face, because Jenna works at Rosewood High now, too? Okay, we guess? Jenna is mad fierce swiping Addison’s wrist out of midair as Baby Beast tries to mock her blindness physically, but honestly, unless you’re one of the few people interested in seeing a Pretty Little Liars 2.0 spinoff, It all turns out to be hardly relevant anyway, so we’ll just move on.
Who’s next? Oh, yes, the Marin-Riverses, so happily married in secret that night before Hanna almost got arrested. Turns out, all is not well in paradise! Wedded bliss ended way back when they never left Rosewood because Hanna, the only Liar with a heart tbh, couldn’t bear to leave Mona behind in Welby. So Caleb sold Lucas some fancy software, and used the money to buy the Lucas Loft—even though he, like the rest of the Liars AND ASHLEY, clearly doesn’t share Hanna’s belief that Mona’s worth waiting around for.
In any case, they can’t fight about it now, because Mona is home from Welby! She looks healthy if a little plain (Mona isn’t Mona without bedazzled earrings and shoulder-padded blazers), and she seems sad when she realizes Hanna can’t have dinner with her because she and Caleb are going to Ezria’s bachelor/ette party that evening/overnight. We’re pretty peeved at Hanna for having the forethought to be Mona’s sponsor, but NOT to schedule her return to the world on a night that she could actually be home to BE sponsor. Mona’s fine, though; she’ll just watch a little TV, maybe the All Day Game channel! (We laughed at the idea that Mona watches any TV until she said “game channel,” because, oh, right, she totally would).
Righteous! Party On!
Speaking of that double-batch party, Spencer, new owner of the Lost Woods Resort and world’s biggest overachiever (and also, remember in the pilot how Spencer was Really Into interior design then it was never mentioned again?) has redesigned the Lost Woods to mimic the style of the great cabins of the Adirondacks (settle down, Aria). And sure, half-sister Alison maybe helped but probably not because she has twin infant daughters and Spencer is not great at group projects and tbh, there is only so much Intense Fringe that can be in one room before the room spontaneously combusts.
Anyway, they’re hosting a sweet little bachlor/ette dinner for Ezra and Aria there in the woods, with all their friends except Mona, who saved their literal lives literally a dozen times, but they aren’t alone! Someone is watching them from the bushes!
Not that the Liars+Friends notice—they are too busy embroiling themselves in ‘ship drama.
To wit: Never good at hiding exactly what’s going through her mind, Hanna pines jealously over Ezria’s honeymoon plans, flashing a resentful glance at Caleb as she mutters she never had one. He rolls his eyes like the long-haired rebel hobo teen he once was. Ezra voices that he doesn’t think marriage will be all that hard, which warrants a snort from Emison. “Try having kids, lol, speaking of we have the night away we’re going to have sex byeeee.” (That’s almost verbatim.) Everyone save for Spencer and Toby follow their cue and retire to the cabins. Spencer looks up at Toby through her lashes. “Want to take me back to your room?”
Cut to them playing Scrabble on the bed (throwback!) and Spencer telling him she’s closer than ever to her mom and sister and generally, actually happy (which mom??? which sister??? TIME WILL TELL…OR NOT).
Mmm, feel that limerence.
This sweet convo is interrupted by a flash of Ezria/Emison sex scenes (respectively, of course) set to a syrupy sweet R&B soundtrack and juxtaposed against Caleb and Hanna bickering, Hanna’s legs up in the air as she lies naked in bed. YUP, this gal’s trying to get knocked up, and if Caleb doesn’t shut his piehole, he’s going to scare her ovaries. Keeping up his entitled teen boy routine, Caleb bitches that his living situation and his sex drive are both at Hanna’s ovulating/Mona-loving whims and he’s tired of it. So yes, this is exactly perfect timing to introduce a baby to the mix.
In her own room, Aria gets a late night phone call and slips out of the room to answer it. “Are you sure?” she asks, as a black hooded figure watches her from the window. Spencer, having left Toby asleep on top of the Scrabble board in his room, finds Aria crying in the living room, sniffling that she can’t marry Ezra after all. We nod our heads enthusiastically, even though we know this is not going to turn out how we hope it will. The Liars convene and try to convince Aria that she has to tell Ezra whatever this horrific secret is, and she needs to do it BEFORE the wedding, but she refuses.
"I'll steal this motel like I stole that barn."
Outside, the black hooded figure turns and gasp! It’s Melissa! Except she reaches up a gloved hand and pulls off a VERY REALISTIC mask and gasp! It’s Mona! Except she reaches up a gloved hand and pulls off a VERY REA—just kidding, it actually was Mona.
She glances down at her phone, where she’s FaceTiming with A.D. wearing her own face (GIVE US A MONA SNAPCHAT FILTER OR GIVE US DEATH) and talking about Aria’s secret. Just like A.D. forced Aria to do their bidding, they are now forcing Mona to do the same, but Mona refuses to play by the rules.
The Morning After, AKA Then And Now
The next morning, after all the Liars have gone home, Aria breaks a wine glass and dissolves into tears. When Ezra comes running to ask if she’s okay, she starts crying. “I got a confirmation yesterday,” she says, “I can’t have kids.” They move to the couch where Aria apologizes to Ezra for keeping her doctors appointments secret, but he assures her that they will have a family if they want one. “We will adopt, get a surrogate, we’ll do whatever we have to do.”
Girl, SELL IT.
Relish this moment; it’s the best you’ll get from Ezra for the remainder of this show. Lucy Hale, btw, absolutely kills the emotion in these scenes. Bravo, girlfriend.
In case you’ve been wondering where Mary Drake’s been hiding (you haven’t), we see her escorted into a room at the prison for her supervised visits. She’s shackled at the wrists and ankles and wearing an orange jumpsuit. Spencer waits for her at the table wearing a VISITOR badge, but our TwincerSensors™ are abuzz because this Spencer seems a little too excited, a little too perky, at the sight of Mary. “I’ve missed you sweetheart,” Mary says. “It’s been weeks since your last visit.” They hold hands under the table as Spencer/Twincer tells Mary she needs her help.
Rehearsal Din— WINE MOM MADNESS
Hanna arrives to Ezra and Aria’s rehearsal dinner with Caleb and Mona in tow, the latter of whom raises a few eyebrows. Specifically those of Ashley, Alison and Aria, who has a bit of a bridezilla “you brought her to MY rehearsal dinner” moment. Which, let’s get real, you want a rehearsal dinner free of former foes, maybe try getting married on an island in the Caribbean and not the town where every fourth person has tried to murder you. Hanna, faithful to Mona to the bitter end, tells the girls to freaking chillax and fake it for one night because it’s hard to find a babysitter for someone in their 20s.
At the same time, Ezra and Byron drink scotch and have a ridiculous/regressive conversation about permission and blessings and Aria’s happiness, while Ezra’s mom and Ella fight over cocktail weiners. We’d go into more detail but that’s literally it.
As Ezra’s mom stalks away (hopefully forever), Ashley and Veronica join Ella around the hors d’oeuvres to bitch about Ezra’s mom. “Sometimes I wish we were still in the basement,” Ella admits. “Pam didn’t drink for a year after that,” Ashely counters. #WineMomSpinoff2018
WE WOULD GIVE OUR PINKY TOES TO KNOW.
Wine Mom #3 Pam Fields can’t make the reunion because she’s too busy scheming with Alison across the room, which does not go unnoticed by Emily. But as she attempts to cross the room to find out what’s up, she’s stopped by two high school waitresses, we will assume Mini-Spencer by her glasses and Mini-Emily by her ambiguous ethnicity. Turns out, Mini-Emily is actually Maya’s niece, but that’s all the fan service Maya stans will get this episode. These girls tell Swim Coach Fields that Addison (Mini-Ali) is bullying them, to which Emily preaches long and hard about the importance of not letting the mean girl get them down. Which is frickin’ GOLD coming from the girl who has two babies and a dubious plan to marry the Addison of her generation.
Afterward, everyone’s making their way out to the street, where Toby and Spencer rendezvous. He invites himself to go riding with her Sunday and hints that she played a word that meant “unrequited love” on the Scrabble board after he fell asleep the other night. The way Spencer nervously runs away hints that this is the actual Spencer who is scared to admit her feelings, and not Twincer, who jumps Toby’s bones every time they’re near one another. Meanwhile, Ashley is telling Hanna that Caleb’s right and she should kick Mona to the curb to save her marriage or something. We don’t have too much time to question Ashley’s advice here, as the rest of the Wine Moms sweep her away into Veronica’s Range Rover for a night of WINE MOM MADNESS.
The soon-to-be-newlyweds are choosing to spend their final night as single people apart, so as Ezra walks Aria to her hotel, he asks how long she’s known about the infertility thing, then has the gall to be annoyed that she’d been seeing fertility specialists for weeks without telling him. Sure married people share stuff, but this was about her, not about him. And she was afraid this would be a deal breaker for him. “If you think so little of me, why would you want to marry me?” GREAT QUESTION. We’ve been asking this for many seasons now. Aria tells him she loves him, and he responds with, “I love you too but it’s not really the same thing, is it?” What does that even MEAN? Why is he the WORST? When will it END?
(Answer to all three: who TF knows.)
(Hashtag) Wedding D-DAy
To illustrate how far Alison has fallen from the captivating, complex and alluring teenage nightmare she was when this show began, she is now donning an oversized sweatshirt emblazoned with a pug who is “waiting for the weekend,” and bangs bad enough to prompt Rosemary’s husband to ask if they made her a “middle aged country music singer.” Her transformation into a sad damsel in distress over the course of the show is almost as disappointing as the way they refuse to allow Mona to be the bright and shining star she truly is. Because this person? This person could never both inspire and also strike fear into the hearts of a group of girls, making them love her enough to lie for her while also hating her enough to wish they hadn’t.
When Emily pushes Alison to tell her why she was whispering with Pam, Alison doesn’t even have the energy to lie or pretend to put up a fight (literally the two things she was once best at). Instead she heaves a sigh and digs in her purse, pulling out Emily’s grandmother’s engagement ring. “When I was at my most lonely and unhappy and angry place, you loved me,” she says. “I was an ugly human being, you saw a beautiful soul.” Her proposal is so dang sweet, it manages to melt even our stone cold anti-Emison hearts.
It'd be easier to ~feel~ things if this weren't happening with a Waiting for the Weekend pug sweatshirt backdrop.
Emily says yes, duh.
Speaking of love and marriage and babies (the only three things this cast seems to care about), Caleb is pouting on the couch pretending that a fried chicken informercial is more exciting than impregnating his hot wife. Hanna comes out of the bedroom and sits next to him. “The decisions you make don’t just affect you,” he says. To which Hanna responds all “cool cool cool” and tries to make out with him. She will tell Mona to move out, but it can wait until the morning. Caleb, who must have been half-ghost for the last five years and thus unable to remember anything happening around him, responds, “How much damage could Mona do in one night?”
Ahahahhahahhahahahhahahahahhahahaa…ah. Caleb, you sweet, precious ghost angel.
In his hotel room, Toby gets out of the shower and digs through a bag while wearing nothing but a towel. Someone knocks at the door, and when Toby answers, Spencer/Twincer barely has time to mutter a joke about room service before she rips off his towel and they have sex.
There’s an immediate and weird cut to Spencer getting out of the shower (again with utterly unwashed hair). Too soon to be “later that night” and also no longer at the hotel, she’s back at the barn, and she starts to hear bad piano music play. But when she walks out to see who it is, Mona appears in a black hoodie. “Déjà vu, bitch,” she says, bafflingly, before punching her right in the face.
Spencer comes to in a strange metal room. It’s like a futuristic prison cell, reminiscent of Charlotte’s Minority Report space station A-Lair from Game Over Charles. Glass panels with little air holes divide the cells, and tunnels connect to other tunnels with tubes of glowing green light outside. It’s all very strange, which is in part because we’re seeing it through Spencer’s eyes as she slowly regains consciousness. She reaches up to rub her head and sees herself reflected in one of the glass panels. But then, as she’s still holding her head, her reflection drops its hand.
CUE INSANE SCREAMING FROM YOUR RECAPPERS.
After Mary Drake, star of A Mother’s Betrayal new on Lifetime!, handcuffs Spencer to the bed in the corner, Twincer stands up and jauntily makes her way inside, sits backwards in a chair, and opens her beautiful mouth. And while Rosemary has always known that Spencer’s evil twin would be end game, she never once expected what came out of that mouth.
To quote a different pair of American/Cockney adult twins meeting for the first time:
Alison Hendrix: This one's some kind of lowlife grifter! How do we know she didn't push her?
Sarah Manning: Oi! I already told you... I didn't want to be her. I got stuck! I was running from my own shit.
Alison Hendrix: [Alison sarcastically replies] I can only imagine.
TWINCER IS REAL. SHE’S REAL AND SHE’S BRITISH. And not just any British. We’re talking My Fair Lady/Sarah Manning, lots-of-coal-makin’-lots-of-’eat, Cockney British. Which, since everything that follows, plot-wise, from here is basically Twincer switching off with Mary telling a trapped-Spencer her backstory, while the rest of the Liars gather around Aria to help her get married slash mourn/worry over Ezra, while Toby, Jenna, Mona and Bashful work in tandem to Get Shit Done, means it’s time for the Big ReveAl Q+A!
Q: Million-mask question first—WHO IS A.D.?
A: A.D. = Alex Drake. WHO?!?! WELL. Let us tell you. It turns out that Peter Hastings, He of the Mightiest Libido, didn’t just knock up Mary Drake. He knocked her up twins-style. But he was in such a damn hurry to gather his baby and get the heck out of Radley that fateful night in (apparently) 1934, he didn’t wait around long enough to hear the doctor yelling that baby #2 was on the way. Alex Drake, born to Mary Drake and Peter Hastings and identical twin sister to Spencer, was born in Radley then sold to the highest bidder in exchange for enough travel money to buy Mary a ticket out of there.
Mary claims that Alex was adopted by a rich British family for a brief period of time before they noticed that something was “off” with her and dumped her at the Ambrose Home for Wayward Children, because once again, this story is apparently taking place in 1904 instead of 1994. Seriously. There was no better place in England to take an unwanted infant than something that sounds like the name of a horror movie about baby ghosts? Alex managed to stay in the orphanage until she ran away at age ten, at which point we are to assume that she lived like a little Oliver Twist on the mean streets of London, making her own way as a mouthy bartender until the fateful day one Dr. Wren Kingston, Esq. comes in from the rain and orders a drink from her.
"Ew me? Oi'm jussa bird wif a braid slinging pints. Mus be da wrong girl innit?"
At first, Wren is as shocked as we are to see the little sister of his former fiancée/the 15-year-old he used to mack on tending bar in a pub, but eventually he manages to put all the fractured plot pieces together and befriend/seduce Alex, then introduce her to Charlotte. Which began the trifecta of crazy evil genius that gets us where we are today.
Q: Where did Alex get the money for all of this?
A: Charlotte’s misbegotten Carissimi Group funds, which Archer helped requisition by conning Ali after Charlotte’s death.
Q: Who shot Spencer?
A: Alex shot Spencer; Wren shot Alex to LOOK like Spencer.
Medically I can’t be down for shooting someone in the shoulder just to make them look like they were shot in the shoulder. - Catie, a real doctor
Honestly it’s not like Spencer was missing half a finger. There are other ways to fake a scar, but the fact that Alex insisted on a matching bullet wound made her a level of looney tunes that was SO EXTRA, and so much more fun to watch than had they chosen a random B-list character to be A.D.
Q: Was Wren ever a ghost?
A: Yes and no! Not, evidently, all that time we made jokes about it, when Spencer flew off to London to stay with him and Melissa but only ever saw Melissa. But YES, now he is—at least if you consider a diamond compressed from human ashes to be a ghost, which we do. Alex straight up murdered and diamondized her boo, all because he was a reminder of her old life as Alex, and she was ready to move on up into inhabiting Spencer’s life fully!
CHICK. IS. WILD.
Shine bright like a diamond, Wren.
Sorry, Wren. Maybe you should have adhered to that “first do no harm” oath a bit more often, yeah?
Q: When did Mary find out about/meet Alex?
A: We honestly have no idea! We spent a lot of time going back and forth, trying to figure out if it was always Spencer visiting Mary until Alex visited her last, or if it was always Alex visiting Mary and Spencer closing that chapter, or if it was sometimes Spencer and sometimes Alex and no one but Alex and Mary knowing. And even if we knew that, did Mary meet Alex before confessing to Tanner/leaving an entire property to Spencer+Ali? If so, when? If not, when?
It is possible that we could rewatch this monster of an episode to figure it out. It is not likely that we will do so until the next time we rewatch the whole series for our Murdercabin Returns podcast, twenty years from now.
Q: Wait, so which Spencers were *for sure* Alex-Spencers, then?
A: The Spencer who appeared bang-less to Hanna from the torture shed; the Spencer who gave Toby the poetry book and asked him for a kiss; the Spencer who slept with him on The Night Of All The Sex in 7x19 when Tanner was about to close in; the Spencer who ran into Ezra at the airport while arguing with Wren; and the Spencer who looked at a baby photo album with a weird look on her face during 7x08 (about which, Rosemary recapped, “Nothing strikes the viewer as unusual, but Spencer has a very strange look on her face, like she's having A Revelation. What did she figure out about her family? Is she adopted? Is SHE Mary's other baby?”)
If we had to make guesses about which other Spencers were actually Alex but not revealed to us in the finale…we wouldn't even know where to start. Check back in twenty years when we finally get to that podcast!
Q: Who was the sperm donor for Emily’s Ali’s babies?
A: Well according to Alex, speaking only to the baby and not to anyone whose belief in a lie might benefit her, Wren was. Willingly or not, we’ll never know. We’ll also never know if the eggs really were Emily’s or if they were actually Ali’s or Alex’s, and Alex planted data at the health clinic to make the Liars believe Emily’s worst nightmares to be true. We mean, that headcanon fits the evidence a lot more than the shown canon does, so whether or not that’s what they intended, that’s at least what (me, recapper) Alexis is going to the grave believing.
Q: What in Vanderjesus’ name, then, is the actual, official Liar family tree?
A: This took literal back-of-the-envelope calculation, but here is what we have:
CHARLOTTE is half-sister to Spencer and Alex by Peter, half-cousin to Ali and Jason by Jessica, and not related to Melissa by blood at all
SPENCER & ALEX are half-sisters to Melissa by Peter, half-sisters to Charlotte by Mary, half-cousins to Ali by Jessica, and both half-sisters AND half-cousins to Jason by Peter and by Jessica
JASON is half-brother AND half-cousin to Spencer & Alex by Peter and by Jessica, half-cousin to Charlotte by Jessica, half-brother to Melissa by Peter on the other side, and half-brother to Ali by Jessica
ALISON is half-sister to Jason by Jessica, half-cousin to Spencer & Alex by Mary and half-cousin to Charlotte, also by Mary, and not related to Melissa by blood at all
MELISSA is half-sister to Spencer & Alex by Peter, half-sister to Jason by Peter, and not related by blood to Ali or Charlotte at all
THE EMISON BABIES are either not related to anyone above (if the blood testing proving Emily’s parentage and Alex’s whispering about Wren’s parentage were true), or are some measure of daughters to Ali/nieces to Jason/second cousins to Spencer, Alex, and Charlotte, or are daughters to Alex/nieces to Spencer, Melissa, Charlotte, and Jason
PETER HASTINGS is patriarchy incarnate.
Q: Does Charlotte’s post-Dollhouse (retch) trickery and almost-betrayal of Alison make any more sense now, with all the pieces together?
A: Ye-es, in that we now know that Charlotte did find a real (half-)sister to love and be loved by without any of the baggage connections to Rosewood carry, and the stuff with which they made their bond was the stuff of insanity borne by abandonment, so it makes a certain amount of sense that THAT is what Charlotte would have held onto throughout those five years of “therapy,” to also hold on to the one sister who actually knew and loved her for exactly who she was. We doubt even the most skilled, most patient therapist could have disentangled Charlotte from her specific type of brokenness without knowing about the existence of Alex—and we all know Rosewood/Welby are pretty short on even moderately ethical medical providers, let alone rockstar ones.
Still, this does not absolve the show of what its (accidentally and then willfully) anti-trans transgressions. As much as we all wish it were otherwise, Charlotte and Rosewood do not exist in a cultural vacuum, and representation matters.
Q: Where did Mike end up?
A: Mystic Falls, we guess!
Don't worry; Mona gave him all the skills he needs to survive those lupine wilds.
Q: How did the Wine Moms escape?
A: SHHHH! They’ll never tell.
Q: How was Sydney involved?
A: She was a patsy, had been stealing from the bank she worked at (how very Ashley Marin of her), which Alex used as leverage.
Q: How was Jenna involved?
A: Well, aside from saving Spencer and Ezra’s hides, she was also a patsy leveraged by Alex, although with more of a connection to the Liars, as Alex promised her enough money for yet one more eye surgery.
Q: How was Lucas involved?
A: He wasn’t!
Q: How was Melissa involved?
A: She wasn’t!
Q: How was Jason involved?
A: He wasn’t!
Q: How was Peter involved?
A: Literally we didn’t think of this question until it came out of our typing fingers. Peter was Alex’s dad, too! One would IMAGINE that one of her very first steps would have been to murder/frame him, but alas, no—it seems like Peter Hastings, even moving Out Of Town permanently, kept some of that ol’ Rosewood Patriarchy magic, and escaped paying for this worst half of his long-ago error, too.
Q: Peter’s influence maybe being contagious aside, why are all these 24-year-old girls so obsessed with having babies?
A: Another excellent question, and one that baffled Rosemary especially. Is 24 an okay age to have a baby? Sure, we guess. Is it an okay age to be so panicked about having a baby that you prop your legs up against the wall after sex, or make an appointment at the adoption agency THE DAY you get home from your honeymoon? Not so much, we think. We can’t really compare these girls to ourselves at 24 or even other 24 year olds we knew since they have clearly been through events much more traumatic than most experience, but wouldn’t their trauma make them a skoshe hesitant to bring a bunch of babies into this cruel, cruel world? Especially when most of them ARE STILL LIVING in the town that played host to their torture?
We mean, whatever: to each their own. This just seemed like a very strange thing to hone in on for all these specific ladies. Had one of the Liars been baby-obsessed, we’d buy it, but the whole group? Sure there’s a *touch* of suspension of disbelief happening, but even this seems unrealistic.
Q: So did ALL the Liars end up back with their high school bed buddies?
A: Yes. Which, again, statistically unrealistic.
Q: And now they’re all back in Rosewood? Forever?
A: Considering that Rosewood is a black hole of seasonless autumnal weather and motorcycle jackets, it appears that way. We don’t actually know if any of the Liars plan to leave Rosewood. Emily and Alison seem pretty cozy with the twins in the DiLaurentis house, working at Rosewood High. Hanna and Caleb now own the Lucas Loft and are living off Caleb’s sweet software money, and though Hanna once had a dubious future as a Fashion Designer, the only plan either of them seem to care about at the moment is Baby Haleb. Spencer and Toby appear to be rekindling their relationship, despite the fact that Toby failed to recognize the not-ness of Spencer's lady parts every time Alex sexually assaulted him (which, we hope, is something he and Spencer will work through carefully and with compassion for one another). And Aria’s only get-out-of-town plans at the moment are her honeymoon in the South of France. Surely of all the Liars, Aria will have reason/will enough to leave this hellscape once she’s making mad bank for her book-turned-movie.
Q: WAIT. I’m still stuck on the mystery-mystery. So how was the RPD/Tanner involved? What happened to Mary and Alex??
A: Hahahahahaha…they weren’t. Sure Mona SAID she called the cops while the rest of the Liars lost their heads on the race to Toby’s old-new house, and sure a “cop” showed up to “arrest” Alex, but, like always, not one Liar appears to have 1) noticed his French accent or 2) ever thought to follow up on Alex’s criminal case, or Mary Drake’s whereabouts (shame, Spencer!), and not one officer of the RPD ever thought to follow up with the Liars about the same. ROSEWOOD. Y’ALL ALMOST DESERVE EACH OTHER.
Q: Okay, so what happened to Mona?
A: SO GLAD YOU ASKED. Because our queen Mona DID get out of Rosewood. As a matter of fact, she hightailed it all the way to a creepy, old-timey street in Paris where she runs a creepy, old-timey doll shop while wearing berets and ballet flats. Very on-brand.
And remember that cop that arrested Alex? The one with the weird French accent? Turns out he wasn’t a cop at all, but rather Mona’s petit ami. Where did he come from? How did she meet him? How long can she POSSIBLY have known him, if Wren showed up at Welby a year ago, and she only got sprung back to the real world 48 hours ago? WHO KNOWS. But we do know that on that fateful night, under the fake-ass starlight sky in Alex’s underground bunker, when Mona said she “called 9-1-1” on her way over, what she actually meant was she called her French boyfriend to show up dressed as a cop and haul Mary and Alex away.
And knowing that she is surrounded by buffoons too caught up in their own ridiculous lives to so much as wonder at the fates of anyone other than themselves, Mona managed to smuggle Mary and Alex out of the country to her own underground bunker, under the floors of her Parisian doll shop, where she keeps them behind glass, dressed as dolls locked in an eternal hellish tea-time. She sips her tea and watches them through the glass, and we who had faith in Mona all along sleep well at night knowing that our girl got what she deserved in the end: to win the game.
Reign on, queen; reign on.
Q: So…is Rosewood actually an allegorical construct?
A: Funny you should mention! YES. Regarding the noir-ness of PLL’s use of Rosewood as a central character, Alexis wrote this in the Series Awards post:
Raymond Chandler’s subject was Los Angeles, and the anonymous, unrelenting darkness its shiny surface hides; at its best, Pretty Little Liars’ subject has been Rosewood, standing in for all anonymous American small towns, and the unrelenting darkness their quaintness hides.
To quote THE LONG GOODBYE:
Twenty-four hours a day somebody is running, somebody else is trying to catch him. Out there in the night of a thousand crimes people were dying, being maimed, cut by flying glass, crushed against steering wheels or under heavy car tires. People were being beaten, robbed, strangled, raped and murdered. People were hungry, sick, bored, desperate with loneliness or remorse or fear, angry, cruel, feverish, shaken by sobs. A city no worse than others, a city rich and vigorous and full of pride, a city lost and beaten and full of emptiness.
After so many seasons, and so many As, and so many figures of authority blaming the Liars for what all the As have put them through, the truth that the show shows clearest—whether it means to or not—is that there is nothing special at all about these 4-6 girls; nothing special about what they have gone through, nothing special about who they each are, nothing special about how they have endured. THEY, personally, have never truly been the root cause of any of the As’ brokenness. They are just girls, now women, trying to make it through an unfeeling world without suffering too much damage in the process. But in a world where the toxicity of the patriarchy is baked into every interaction, even ones that are private, even ones that are in girls-only spaces and relationships, making it through undamaged isn’t possible. The As torturing the Liars are heightened, unhinged manifestations of the damage girls and women suffer just to grow up, but so are the killers and plots in Chandler’s noirs. Rosewood is just the box that contains it.
Given that many precious minutes, including a full, beat-for-beat replay of That Night from episode 1x01 with Addison Derringer’s Liars 2.0 *after* our Liars said their series farewells to each other and us, and given that the Liars all chose to stay in Rosewood, despite the years of literal torture they experienced there (and the enormity of the world outside of Rosewood), Rosewood being an allegory for all the anonymous, dark small towns in America hiding the same anonymous, dark misogyny that plagues all girls, at all ages…well, it seems pretty darn believable.
Sorry, Emison twins: we guess we’ll be seeing you in 15 years.
Lingering Questions: Who is the shady contractor that makes serious bank from building all these underground bunker torture chambers in Rosewood? Who are the actual parents of Emison’s twin babies? Where the heck are Mona’s parents? Why on earth do they think we want to relive this with a spin-off? Didn’t Veronica have cancer? Where is Magic Mike? What about "The Lady In Black is EndgAme" (Wilden's funeral)? HOW DID THE MOMS ESCAPE THE BASEMENT???
Nothing! That's it. We did it. We got the Liars all the way from sisterhood to amazing independent careers to marriage and babies! THE DREAM.
We also got some really solid friendships with each other, and hope for female-friendship-driven media in the future.
No snarky caption, not even in the face of this, Aria's most amazingly ARIA outfit to date, just <3 <3 <3
We love you all. We will miss you.
A(lexis, Rosemary and Catie)
And unless we get a Pretty Little Liars 2.0 starring Rosewood as the 10th Circle of Hell, we have officially reached the point of…