WE’RE BAAAAACCCCKKKK. Alexis, Catie and Rosemary all here, trepidatiously dipping our toes back into the PLL pool (which is probably filled with, like, sequins and arsenic). In a strange reversal from normal, we have only aged approx. 6 months while our good friends in Rosewood have lived an entire five years. However, we do have one thing in common: we just. can’t. quit. this. show.
That’s not to say that we’re suddenly thrilled with how the show handled Charlotte’s story. We’ll again direct you to read more about the problems with how the show (and, perhaps more significantly, the PR team) handled Charlotte’s trans identity, written by people much more eloquent and qualified than we are. But we’re still here, and we’re hoping that this time-jumping reset/reboot gives the show an opportunity to remind us why we loved it so much in the first place.
THIS WEEK’S MVP
Ezra! …Just kidding.
THIS WEEK’S LVP
Ezra. Did you think that we would ease up on our Ezra hate now that he and Aria are both “consenting adults”? HAHAHA NEVER.
BIGGEST SURPRISE/BEST SHOCK
MURDERRRRRRR. We know, we know—murder? In Rosewood? Yawn. But Lorenzo telling the girls that Charlotte’s death had been ruled a homicide, and thus there was a new mystery to be solved, was just the kind of horrific fresh intrigue we needed. THE GAME IS AFOOT. Distressingly problematic, but afoot.
Ezra still won’t let Aria get a damn sentence out.
THAT’S FREEFORM, FOLKS
What better way to show you’re down with the kids than having our freshly reunited Liars stop what they’re doing to document said reunion with a SELFIE MONTAGE. Be You! Be Free! BeCOME! FREEFORM(TM).
MOST LIT ALLUSION
YES, THAT’S RIGHT. A NEW AWARD CATEGORY. New network name, new timeline, new Liar ‘ships (we are all Team Spaleb, believe)—we want in on that novel action! To that end, we will be rolling out some new award categories as #5YearsForward progresses and we start to get a feel for what weekly occurence we’ll want to consistently draw attention to in place of our OG awards. We mean, we can’t keep awarding LVP and Biggest No-Duh to Ezra forever. Or, we could, we guess, but for the love of God, we refuse.
In any case, while this particular award is already six seasons too late for a show which has featured a high school production of “The Bad Seed” and multi-season long deep Nabokov cuts as main plot points, it, like #Spaleb, could not have existed until 2016. So bring it, 6B allusions! Let’s get LIT.
#twilightzone #PLL Where titles come from. pic.twitter.com/2hpQfPG5of
There were several strong contenders for this award’s first out—the episode title was a classic Joseph Dougherty callback to The Twilight Zone, which tbh is how watching this show always feels; Ezra’s debut, Ostinato, is titled after the musical device that is a “motif or phrase that persistently repeats in the same musical voice, usually at the same pitch,” which is defintely meta shade on Ezra’s who THING if not on the show’s thing altogether; and the already literarily smug To Kill A Mockingbird reference that was the entirety of Radley Sanitorium is cranked to 11 now that Ashley has renovated that literal hellhole into a luxe local hotel hotspot, preying on Rosewood’s pervasive “cultural amnesia.”
Still, nothing can beat Ali’s dreamy, impassioned reading of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 30:
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste.
Then can I drown an eye unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long since cancelled woe,
And moan th’ expense of many a vanished sight.
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er
The sad account of fore-bemoanèd moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored, and sorrows end.
FOR PRECIOUS FRIENDS HID IN DEATH’S DATELESS NIGHT. That’s an elevator pitch for PLL if ever there was one.
PREVIOUSLY ON PRETTY LITTLE LIARS
Cece was Charlotte was Charles was A. She kidnapped Ali to tell her the entire story, plot holes and all, while the Liars+Mona listened in from A’s Matrix Lair. Sara Harvey was Red Coat, and when Emily realized that, she punched her right in the noggin. The girls literally talked Charlotte off a ledge, and on Labor Day, they left for college, Alison stayed in town, and Charlotte stayed in Radley. The end.
PSSSSSYYYYYYYYYYCCCCCHHHHHH FIVE YEARS LATER
We open on the hallowed halls of Rosewood High, now filled with new students and probably new predatory adults. Ali is reading poetry to a classroom full of students. The bell rings and as they file out, Dr. Rollins, Charlotte’s boring-hot doctor and what would appear to be, most inappropriately, Alison’s new man piece, appears to tell her a judge has set a date for Charlotte’s release hearing – in either four days or six months (which in Rosewood is the same thing). He chose (yes, he, hi again, Rosewood) four days. Which means Ali’s got four days to get the Liars back in town to convince the judge that they’re totally over it and A-OK with Charlotte being released onto the unforgiving street of Rosewood.
Ali wastes no time in writing letters to the Liars (literally none, she sits down and starts writing four long, hand-written while he’s still talking), and the camera cuts to the Liars in their respective #5YearsForward lives, reading her missive.
Spencer, in a trench coat, sits in front of a terrible green screen of the U.S. capitol. Aria is working a book signing and—from underneath a copy of Ezra Fitz’s debut novel Aristoxenus—pulls out her copy of Alison’s letter. Hannah, on a plane full of leather recliners with a trick baby that turns out not to be hers, has the court summons on the leather recliner next to her leather recliner. Emily’s still serving people drinks and shoving money any old place, but this time in a tropical locale. And back in Rosewood, Ali is still sitting in that classroom, hand-writing a dozen long heartfelt letters, and Dr. Rollins is like, “Uh…have you heard of email?…I have a thing…”
In her letter, Ali asks them for five minutes before the hearing to explain. She’ll need their help getting Charlotte released. Cut to Ali visiting Charlotte in Not-Radley, promising her that she’s going to bring them home.
We’re a little annoyed that the credits are barely different—you give us dripping blood one time, and now we want it all the time, okay?—but they’ve added Ali into the funereal lineup at the end, and at least her “shush” is more centered than some people’s, Lucy Hale.
Liars’ Grown-Up Summit (There’s Wine)
Three days later… they’re back! And not much has changed. The blonde, the brunette, the other brunette, and the other brunette are still sitting around a table at Lucky Leon’s when they’re surprised by a simul-text on all of their phones. But this time the text makes them laugh, not gasp, and also they’re just four random girls that Spencer is watching with a hint of wistfulness slash terror from across the square.
At good old Bookcafe Brewstore, Emily’s throwing back handfuls of pills, waiting for Hanna, Spencer and Aria to show up. When they do, the four are finally reunited, all looking like slightly more polished versions of their old selves. They hug! They squeal! They take LOTS of selfies!
After they’ve successfully documented their reunion, they sit to catch up. It all feels too easy; as if they’re acting the part of best friends instead of truly feeling it. Which, for those of us who have grown up and away from our high school friends, probably holds a bittersweet familiarity. Hanna has a high-fashion job with a non-disclosure agreement, and an engagement ring…to a guy named Jordan. Emily is evasive about her job “at the Salk institute,” so we’re guessing the others might be surprised to find she’s such a big pina colada fan. Aria’s dating an “adorable” guy named Liam who may or may not be in his mid-fifties. Nothing she said hints to this, but we know her type. Spencer is too busy for boys, including the ambassador’s son she used to hook up with. So it would seem that none of our previously shipped pairings made it through college. What a strange, unusual occurrence!
Sounds like it’s been a good five years for the Liars, whose lives are more together and successful than most 40 year olds we know—at least, that’s what they say.
What’s Up With The Parents Tho
Emily’s mom is dating, which means she is divorced…no – widowed! Ouch. RIP Papa Fields, your heart was too good for this world, too pure.
In the most Rosewood renovation ever, Radley Sanitarium is now a fancy restaurant and hotel thanks to Ashley Marin’s sheer force of will and neverending pasta-box funds. Can’t wait to read those Yelp reviews. She and Hanna are on the terrace having wine, and the stress of converting an asylum into a country club has wreaked exactly zero havocs on her face. She is free of all fine lines and wrinkles.
Aria tries to win her dad over with books from her new man piece, who’s probably only dating Aria because he wants to be friends with her dad, because HE IS FIFTY. Even a bunch of years later, Byron is still scarred by the fact that his daughter dated her high school English teacher. Us too, Byron, but frankly THE APPLE DOESN’T FALL FAR. He asks if she’s seen Ezra, because yeah—he’s back, he still owns The Brew and he has moved back into his old apartment. He got sick in South America and they sent him home. “Did you know the girl?” Byron asks Aria mysteriously. “Nicole? Yes,” Aria responds. She wrote him a letter when “it” happened but never heard back. Byron clucks his tongue. “Fifteen dead or missing,” he sighs. OR MAYBE, “Fifteen, dead or missing,” he sighs. (We assume that there are fifteen people unaccounted for, but honestly, it’s Ezra. Maybe Nicole is fifteen. Dead or missing.)
Veronica’s running for State Senate because, let’s face it, “probably killed a guy” is a totally acceptable thing to have on your political resume these days. It just means you’ve got follow-through. She’s back together with Mr. Hastings, and immediately put him to work raising money for her. We learn that Spencer works for a “grassroots political organizations to advance progressive legislation.” So, she’s a lobbyist.
Of Late We Think of (Ex-)Bed Buddies
Aria goes back to the Brew (whyyyy) and Ezra comes limping in, unshaven (ughhhhhh). Aria works for Ezra’s publisher (sigh), and he’s worried about that advance on his second book that he clearly has not written. Apparently, his teenage girlfriend Nicole got “dragged off by half-baked revolutionaries while building houses in South America, and no one can seem to find her.” This is THE weirdest unexplained plot point of this show yet—which says a lot. It’s also super fun how both Byron and Ezra try to mansplain the awfulness of kidnappings to Aria, who was held in a dollhouse bunker for like six months. Ezra seems just completely dumbfounded about the fact that bad things happen to young female people, which, again, is a bit rich coming from him.
Spencer finds Toby right where she left him: sawing wood in the single Rosewood backyard. They have a sweet catch-up conversation, during which we learn that he’s probably still in love with Spencer and is also maybe, probably, building her a house. Everything becomes and recurs eternally. He also went fishing with Caleb recently (“we’re the brotherhood of ex-boyfriends”—Spinoff alert!?) and—ooh—Spencer oh-so-casually mentions that she’s seen Caleb recently. OH HAVE YOU, we think, immediately starting to write scripts for Hastings and Rivers: Private Eyes.
As for our favorite hacker sleuth? Nary a sign so far, except in Spencer’s heart, probably.
Once an ‘A’…
Ali apparently lives in her classroom so the girls all gather there while she explains that Charlotte’s fiiiiiine. They even let her out on a supervised visit recently. No group texts were sent, no teeth necklaces made, no finger-bone corsets carefully stitched. She’s doing much better. The judge will decide if she should be released and they want “statements of support” – in other words, they want the Liars to say, for the record, that they aren’t afraid of her anymore. The girls hesitate, which shocks Alison. “I don’t care if you forgive her. Just don’t blow my only chance at having a normal family.” WHICH IS A STRETCH, but sure? Speaking of her normal family, Jason won’t be there because he doesn’t think that Charlotte is ready for release, and by the looks on their faces, the Liars might agree. Alison says please, but the girls are being sort of bitchy to her. Bring back bitchy Alison! We miss her.
The girls gather at a “Hastings for Senate” rally to discuss. Spencer reminds them that the judge knows what Charlotte did as A. All Ali wants is for them to admit they aren’t afraid of her—in other words, lie for her one more time.
Spencer sneaks away and runs right into Mona. She’s in politics now like Spencer, but “a different kind of policy,” Spencer reminds her. Is Mona a Republican?? She is, at least, still plagued by her time in the dollhouse. Three shrinks and a lot of prescriptions but Mona still has nightmares. What about you, Spencer? What about us, readers?
Toby and Emily are having a beer and sharing stories on the porch because they are best frans forever and don’t you forget it. He got his degree, he and Spencer drifted apart, he got passed over for a promotion at the precinct. And now he’s still here, Noahing the shit out of life and building Spencer a house. On Emily’s side, she explains that college wasn’t what she thought it would be. When her dad died, she didn’t see the point to anything. And now she has to pretend she’s off curing diseases in California instead of just trying to figure things out—in other words, being a normal 23-year-old.
Hear, Hear, Bitches
The girls gather in the courtroom for Charlotte’s hearing. Ali starts by explaining to the judge that Charlotte is part of her family, and she just wants to bring her home. Spencer, Emily, and Hanna in turn read prepared statements, giving stilted, unemotional performances to the judge.
Spencer: “People are not always the things that they do. Charlotte poses no threat to me.”
Hanna: “Every morning I wake up, I drink coffee, and I walk outside. I’m free[form!]. I don’t see that Charlotte shouldn’t have the same chance. I’m not afraid anymore.”
Emily: “My dad always said you can decide what you’re going to be afraid of. I’ve decided I’m not going to be afraid of Charlotte.”
Then things get interesting. Aria’s just begun to speak, staring uncomfortably down at the handwritten statement in front of her, when Ezra barges into the room interrupting her right in the middle of her sentence. Typical. But his entry triggers her painful flashbacks, and she sits there remembering the dollhouse, the torture, being forced to watch her friends suffer, that time A wrapped her up in a plastic sheet and stapled it to the wall, that time A dyed her hair.
“No,” she says at last. “I would not feel safe.” And honestly? We got chills. Aria doesn’t want Charlotte released. Ever. And, like, she dated an unhinged sexual predator, so if she’s scared, then that shit is JUSTIFIED.
Mona gets up next, and surprisingly: “My friends managed to forgive Charlotte. I can’t hate her because I know what she went through. I was in Radley for months. Charlotte was there for years. Being there was what twisted her out of shape. Let her out. Let her go home.”
TRIPADVISOR SAYS “SO LUXURIOUS, YOU’LL LOSE YOUR DAMN MIND.”
Over wine at the fancy Radley restaurant, Em and Spencer remember the days Spencer was locked in that very wine cellar. They get a text from Ali – great news! The judge deems Charlotte safe to go home. Aria and Hanna appear, and the four agree that Aria was the only one who really spoke her heart today. “You’re small, but you’re mighty,” says Spencer, even though Aria’s testimony wasn’t enough to keep Charlotte locked up.
Then Hanna forces everyone to turn their phones off – even Spencer. Because? It’s time for (legal!) drinking and dishing.
They get drunk and promise to see each other more often. They plan trips to Paris, Rome, Milan. At 23, we were lucky to get as far as happy hour at TGIFridays, but okay. It all feels very performative, and it’s clear (to us, anyway) that the possibility of flying off to Milan for the weekend is only a real possibility for those of them with a trust fund and a family estate. Did it only take five years for them to start lying even to each other, again? They’re not really acting like best friends, they’re just saying that they’re best friends and that they love each other soooo much. Prove it, bitches.
Time passes, they get drunker. Spencer gets sauced and saucy: she admits that she didn’t think it would matter what they said because she was sure they wouldn’t let Charlotte out regardless. She thought they were just lying for Ali one last time. “Wouldn’t it be the most cosmic joke ever if Charlotte gets to live happily ever after?” Aria asks, in a very foreshadowy tone. “Well,” Emily says, “If she can do it, so can we.” And they toast to Charlotte. Things aren’t looking great for Charlotte. Same for the girls—there’s a security camera watching them from a corner of the room.
The next morning, they’re all passed out in Hanna’s posh hotel suite at Radley, sleeping in lil piles, two to a tiny couch just like the good olden days. Hanna’s phone rings—it’s Ali, sounding panicked because Charlotte disappeared in the middle of the night. In the bedroom, Emily knocks her purse over on the floor and all her vices spill out, which she quickly tries to hide. Ali wants their help finding Charlotte, fast.
…But they’re beaten to the punch by someone else. Cut to the town coroner, and Toby, covering a body. Charlotte jumped from the belfry last night, Toby explains to Lorenzo, who isn’t in a uniform but IS wearing a badge, which must mean HE got Toby’s promotion. Worth noting that we don’t see the body—Toby says they’ve made a positive idenfitication, which on this show (in this town) is pretty much meaningless.
But things are looking bad, which means when Hanna swings opens her hotel room door, who else should be there to make us feel better but Caleb, looking cute and showered and kempt. Hanna’s weirded out that he’s there, and he explains that Spencer called him. OH DID SHE. “I saw her in Washington. I’m thinking about working with her outfit.” Oh, like taking it off?? ::our ears perk::
Anyway, when he heard about Charlotte, he came straight away—he wanted to help, it’s what he does. Hanna offers him a hotel room, but he’s staying in Spencer’s barn. ::our ears perk again::
As he’s exiting the hotel, Spencer meets him in the lobby, asking how it went, because SHE CAME TO THE HOTEL WITH HIM. “It was weird,” he admits. They look shy and weird, and our ears. Keep. Perking.
“This Isn’t Happening”
At Charlotte’s funeral, the girls are BACK IN BLACK. Funeral dresses, that is. Has Aeropostale released their PLL Funeral LBD collection yet? The door opens and BAM, Shower Harvey in a veil.
She is being led like she’s…blind? LIKE JENNA? Is it all starting over again? Oh, maybe not blind; she looks right over at the girls. Then why is someone leading her places? Did Emily punch her so hard she went kinda blind? Did she lose her equilibrium and now has a terrible case of vertigo? Is she just in general need of a Rosewood Generic White Boy(TM) to lean upon at all times?
The girls gather outside the Rosewood church after their sixteen-dozenth Rosewood funeral and watch Sara get into a car. Caleb squeezes Spencer’s arm and whispers that he’ll bring the car around and OUR EARS ARE SIX-SHOTS-OF-ESPRESSO-LEVEL PERKED. Lorenzo approaches them, and asks them to stay in Rosewood for a few days. And not just because he misses them and wants to catch up. Nope, because the autopsy reports are back, and Charlotte was dead when she was thrown from the bell tower. Her death was ruled a homicide, and it’s murder-solving-o-clock in Rosewood again.
As the girls watch Lorenzo walk away, the back window of a nearby car rolls up and the car drives away—but who was in it? “Ugh, I want to go home,” complains Hanna. But Spencer just stares around Rosewood’s single street, feels the past like a magnet pulling them back: “We are home.” And then, those all too familiar opening bars of “Crazy” start playing.
Welcome back, everyone.
Aria is the first murder suspect on the chopping block, and hey, probably Ezra had something to do with it too!
That’s it for this week. Until next time!
A (lexis, Catie & Rosemary)