N.B. This is posting right after the ET/CT airing of the finale, but we finished writing it before then. We reserve the right to be proven wrong about any or all of what follows!
We have been awfully hard on Pretty Little Liars of late (…the last two years), but, as Mari so eloquently reminded us in a comment on last week’s penultimate outing, there is a lot about this show to not just love, but cherish. Girls (now women) coming together in love and support and solidarity, in the face of a very cruel world, is something that pop culture had been desperate for when the show premiered, and is not something that has been much solved in the seven years since.
Our complaints about the show feel so sharp BECAUSE of how groundbreaking and necessary the show is, at its core, but that doesn’t mean we should forget all the things it has been great at.
So, here it is, our final round of awards for the show that literally brought your recappers together as friends. We love each other because of this show. That’s something that can’t ever be taken away.
Without further ado, here’s Referee Boo Radley Van Cullen to kick the ceremony off!
MOST QUESTIONABLE LIAR OUTFIT
Let’s face it: the Liars have all donned their fair share of cringeworthy outfits over the years. There was the time Aria wore a skirt made of ties and the approximately 16-18million times she wore shirts with cats on them and, of course, this 3-dimensional, sequined zebra sweater (6.14 “New Guys New Lies”):
As for the rest of the Liars, Hanna once donned a muppet stole like it was NBD; Emily was forced into every lesbian stereotype imaginable, including but not limited to sports jerseys, flannel, and denim vests; Spencer went through a weird Wednesday Addams-with-cutouts phase; and we’re just going to dub Season Four the Season of Offensive Leggings.
But we didn’t create an award for their distressing duds until 7A, and of those episodes, our MOST Most Questionable Liar outfit goes to Aria’s hodgepodge proposal sweater, which paired horrendously with the loungewear Ezra chose to propose in (7.5 “Along Comes Mary”):
BEST FUNERAL WEEDS
Relatedly, the Liars have ALSO donned their fair share of funeral weeds! This is one of Catie’s favorite tropes, and probably is one of yours, too. We’re pretty partial to the LEIS they wore to Mona’s funeral, but also Rosemary liked Aria’s dress from Charlotte’s funeral so much that she *bought it for herself* so, go where your heart may lead you!
And finally, for Charlotte’s funeral (6×11, “Of Late I Think of Rosewood”), please enjoy this, the best funeral joke PLLTumblr ever madel:
There are too many of these to count, and each one that was a Liar lying to the other Liars is just too sad for us to relive, even for a poll, so take to the comments and tell us yours!
BEST LIAR GIF
It’s like Renaissance art in gif form. It can convey happiness, excitement or sarcasm. Each Liar claps a little differently. We saved it to our phones and use it with regularity.
That said, this show has given us SO MANY great gifs! Leave us your favorites in the coments, pls & thank u.
BEST WINE MOM
POLL: Best Wine Mom
- Ashley 69.05% (58 votes)
- Ella 10.71% (9 votes)
- Pam 8.33% (7 votes)
- Veronica 9.52% (8 votes)
- Mary Drake, on the back porch, with the wine bottle 2.38% (2 votes)
Emily’s dad (we already covered the rest) is the only option.
Eulogy for Lieutenant Colonel Wayne Fields, a man so decent and (eventually) understanding and accepting of his daughter’s sexuality and autonomy that Rosewood had to kill him.
Caleb, obviously. You’ve got to be pretty damn good at being a ghost if you can ghost on an entire TV show, star in your own spin-off as a ghost, then come back to your original show—which takes place in the same cinematic universe as that show you ghosted to—as a real live hobo-boy.
So hot he sets books on fire just reading them!
Barry Maple wins this one by default, since he was the only cop in Rosewood who didn’t stalk or wrongfully murder anyone and also never slept with a Liar (high school or no). But also, Barry Maple turned out to ACTUALLY be a good cop by anyone’s standards, and we were thrilled to see he was promoted to detective by 7B. Two for you, Barry Maple. YOU GO BARRY MAPLE.
Oh dang, Mona (real) as Ali (mask) as Caleb (pretend) as Phantom of the Opera (mask) on Murder Train, OBVIOUSLY. (3.13 “This Is a Dark Ride”)
But runner-up to Season 1’s too-ubiquitous flashback Halloween baby zombie mask, for sure.
BEST THEME PARTY
You can have a poll for this one, but we’ll have to see a real wave of popular argument to sway us from loving anything more than Murder Train (3.13 “This Is a Dark Ride”):
POLL: Best Theme Party
- OG Halloween (baby face killers) 2.86% (2 votes)
- Halloween “Ghost” Train 70% (49 votes)
- Masquerade Ball (with the Black Swan) 8.57% (6 votes)
- Raven5wood costume ball 2.86% (2 votes)
- Hoedown 2.86% (2 votes)
- Ice Ball 4.29% (3 votes)
- Dollhouse Prom 4.29% (3 votes)
- Real Prom 4.27% (3 votes)
BEST EXCUSE FOR FORMAL WEAR
That weird wedding show at Jessica’s in season 4, if only for making it possible for A to plant fingerbones in Spencer’s corset. (4.23 “Unbridled”)
POLL: Best A-message
- OG friendship bracelets from Ali’s ghost 1.14% (1 votes)
- Worms in takeout noodles 4.55% (4 votes)
- Ali’s video, projected in graveyard 12.5% (11 votes)
- Doll hospital, “follow me end up like me” on loop 6.82% (6 votes)
- Hanna’s tooth scroll 32.95% (29 votes)
- Corset fingerbones 3.41% (3 votes)
- ACT NORMAL, BITCH 25% (22 votes)
- MurderJumanji 13.63% (12 votes)
BEST GENERIC WHITE BOY
Alexis: Tow-Truck Travis! Much like Wayne Fields, he was far, far too good for Rosewood, so we should all be happy that he faded back into obscurity once Caleb’s ghost returned, and presumably ended up graduating from RHS and hightailing it out of town, never to look back. They can’t KILL you if they can’t CATCH you. Travis knows what’s up.
Rosemary: Sweet baby angel Liam, who was everything Aria’s literary boyfriend dreams were made of except for the fact that he wasn’t Ezra. Liam graduated from Generic White Boy status when he told Ezra TO HIS PEDOPHILIC FACE that he def took advantage of Aria and their relationship was 110% sketch. (Also, Liam was Hispanic and I know that, but what began as a term to describe actual white boys somehow turned into describing any/all disposable boyfriends throughout the years. If you refuse to accept Liam as a GWB, I’ll just pick Jimothy or Chadley or Nickathan.)
Can y’all believe this episode was 7×02??? IT SEEMS SO MUCH LONGER AGO THAN THAT.
BEST PANTRY STAPLE
POLL: Best Pantry Staple
- Ashley’s lasagna noodles 51.22% (42 votes)
- Ezra’s chickpeas 17.07% (14 votes)
- Spencer’s extra bold espresso 6.1% (5 votes)
- Pam’s chocolate chip cookies + vodka cabinet 10.98% (9 votes)
- Hanna’s cheese puffs 8.54% (7 votes)
- Cash, obvi 6.09% (5 votes)
BEST OUT OF TOWN EXPLANATION
Caleb needing to go haunt Raven5wood for a hot second.
BEST SHOT (gun)
Tie between Emily, in the tower, with Cousin Nate, and whoever shot Ezra (we don’t remember; it doesn’t matter).
BEST SHOT (cinematography)
Can we pick the entirety of “Shadowplay”? Oh wait—we made up this category! Then yes, yes we can: the entirety of “Shadowplay,” with special props to the Mona-in-the-mirrors shot:
A very good and moving runner-up that’s NOT in “Shadowplay,” though, is the shot of Caleb and Spencer crying through the door of her barn as he tried to apologize for kissing Hanna, as Hanna stood inside with Spencer just out of the shower after washing of Dunhill’s murder evidence. That scene was BRUTAL, and so perfectly framed.
BEST MUSIC CUE
N.B. We don’t remember the episode numbers for any of these, so can’t pull up the song titles on Tunefind—they are just the beats we remember best as having great music tied to them. Feel free to school us in the comments!
POLL: Best Music Cue
- Spencer’s Beautiful Mind (Ezra research) 30% (18 votes)
- Chickpea Murdercabin 5% (3 votes)
- Police backing the first explicit Ezria sex scene 10% (6 votes)
- Hanna facing off with Holbrook on the highway 18.33% (11 votes)
- “His body’s in the trunk of my car.” 28.33% (17 votes)
- Hanna and Mona’s flashback makeover slow walk 5% (3 votes)
- Other: 3.33% (2 votes)
BEST PLL PET
Not pictured: the raccoon that Mona tamed after Charlotte chipped the Liars. He’s missing, too. Go ahead and make a reward poster.
POLL: Best Pet in Rosewood
- Tippi 43.55% (27 votes)
- Pepe 29.03% (18 votes)
- Oscar the cheese-puff loving raccoon 27.42% (17 votes)
POLL: Best Sibling in Rosewood
- Mike, pre-Mona 18.75% (15 votes)
- Magic Mike XXL (Mona/post-Mona) 42.5% (34 votes)
- Melissa 7.5% (6 votes)
- Jason 27.5% (22 votes)
- Charlotte 0% (0 votes)
- Jenna 2.5% (2 votes)
- Mary Drake 1.25% (1 votes)
*Yes this poll IS missing someone VERY IMPORTANT. It’s just that Wes doesn’t rate high enough to even be in Ezra’s wedding after all, so why bother. jkjkjkj we know, we know, we know exactly who’s missing; don’t worry. We’ll get it in the finale recap!
BEST ARIA OUTFIT
POLL: Best Aria Outfit
- Anything with cats 10.39% (8 votes)
- Anything with skeletons 15.58% (12 votes)
- Anything with feathers 22.08% (17 votes)
- Anything with a leather moto jacket and leggings 20.78% (16 votes)
- That giant panda head brooch she wore when studying with Andrew (and whatever it was pinned to) 12.99% (10 votes)
- That tie skirt 16.88% (13 votes)
- Other: 1.3% (1 votes)
BEST DRY SPENCER SASS
POLL: Best Dry Spencer Sass
- “Why enjoy today when you can be worrying about tomorrow?” 19.79% (19 votes)
- “You know what they say about hope: it breeds eternal misery.” 40.63% (39 votes)
- “I thought [sarcasm] was the native tongue in this house.” 39.58% (38 votes)
BEST EMILY EQ
Going to make a callback to Catie’s and Alexis’ very first ever recap, because Emily never found more emotional clarity than this:
Emily realizing for herself, then telling Paige, “I don’t think she [Alison] ever loved anybody; I don’t think she knew how.” Emily, you unfailingly compassionate unicorn. I’d want to slap you for taking so long to get to this point, but you’ve suffered enough already for just being your perfect, forgiving self.
BEST CONNIVING ALI
A tie between Ali holding her breath until she almost passed out (in Jessica’s flashback) and Ali faking PTSD after her Season 5 return.
We truly, truly hope that tonight’s finale turns this all back around.
Impossible to pick. ALL Monas. But if we need to make a poll:
I think it’s a tie between OG Mona and OG Ali, in terms of how creepy/mean they were just straight out of the gate—Mona was *sort of* inspired by Ali, but the signAture twists she put on Ali’s more quotidian Mean Girl tactics were completely original. All the As that followed just took Mona’s game and turned it to 11,000.
However, if we’re talking best almost-a-villain-until-they-chick(pea)ened-out? EzrA.
BEST VIOLENT DEATH SCENE
Rosewood’s murder per capita rate has to be the highest in the country at this point, and not all its violent deaths were at the end of a loaded gun. Lots of shovels-to-the-back-of-the-head and belfry-related deaths happened over the years, but none as violent or memorable OR self-induced as Noel Kahn accidentally beheading himself at the end of 7A. It was somehow grotesquely shocking and completely hilarious at the same time.
BEST VALENTINE’S DAY FLOWERS FROM ROSEMARY’S HUSBAND AARON
For four years in a row, Rosemary has received PLL-themed Valentine’s Day flowers from “A”, and there have been some doozies, but knowing her husband had to ask the florist to transcribe this message makes it the real winner:
MOST UPVOTED NEW COMMENT ON TRIPADVISOR: ROSEWOOD
WEIRDLY the Rosewood page on TripAdvisor has gone defunct. Can’t imagine why!!!!!!! Anyway, here are some of the greatest hits from when it was still around:
On our latest visit to Radley Hotel, we were thrilled to discover their new feature that allows you to learn about the mental patient who previously inhabited your room. It really brought us together as a family to read about the person who was locked in this room, day in and day out, while they recovered from a terrible psychologic trauma! Plus, when all of the banging and wailing started up at night, we knew we could just yell ‘Hey Karl, keep it down!’ and the ghost would actually listen!Ruth H., October 2016
Our car broke down outside of Rosewood, and this was the only garage in town. I guess they did a good job because the car eventually started again, only now it makes this strange wailing noise any time I drive it over 25 mph, and I may be crazy but I feel like someone’s following me. Also, it’s kind of weird that they make you pay by filling an envelope with cash and leaving it tucked into a secret location within the garage. Hasn’t Rosewood heard of AmEx? Two stars.Leon, 2016
My two favorite things in the world are eating ice cream outside year round, and Halloween-themed anything, so I was like YAAAAASSSSS FIIIIIIIRRRREEE when the girls and I were driving through Rosewood last weekend on our way out to wine country and saw the ice cream truck parked on Main Street with that V V V creepy, pale MANnequin slowly licking a drumstick outside of it. TOTALLY my costume this year. Chill inducing on every level WUT 20/10 I’m buying this for my backyard Gibsihana-style.Ilana G., 2016
MOST LIT ALLUSION
It seems like a cop-out to do this one just one week after “Farewell My Lovely” and the callback both it & Alexis made to “Shadowplay,” but honestly, with great props to every Hitchcock reference throughout, Alexis still thinks that the noir elements of this show have always been the most strongly executed ones—and not just because Ali/Mona/Charlotte have been double-agent femme fatales mucking up the Liars investigations from the start.
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.
BIGGEST SURPRISE/BEST SHOCK
A tie, for us, between the original MonA reveal, and Aria’s fever dream with Mona singing around a beat-up Ezra. We have a brand!!
(Also, though, our brand may blind us: what are some shocks we’re missing?)
Ezra not being evil. We have already written a million words about why this happened and how we feel about it, not worth rehashing here. We know why they didn’t pull this trigger. We hate it, but we know.
(VERY RELATED) Runner-up: One moral of the story ended up being, women needing relationships to be whole.
THAT’S SO [YOUR TROPE HERE]
Women needing relationships to be whole!
Ezra/the patriarchy. We ran an entire month’s worth of head-to-head polls narrowing down the worst of worst dudes in Rosewood, and nothing has happened since then to render any of it out of date, so, we don’t really have to go into detail about it.
Mona! Could it ever be anyone BUT Mona*?
Despite being the original A, Mona has never not wanted what’s best for the Liars. Of all the redemption arcs the show tried to sell, hers was the only one that both made sense and stuck…and stuck, and stuck, and stuck, even if the Liars never saw/accepted it. WE saw and WE accepted. With apologies to Spencer, Mona is the smartest person Rosewood has ever produced; with apologies to Hanna and Emily, she has the biggest heart; with apologies to Aria, she even has the best fashion sense. She made mistakes, but no more in number than the Liars did, and for the scale of the mistakes she made, she matched each and then some in her attempts at restitution. SHE FAKED HER OWN DEATH by harvesting her own blood for months, FFS, and then survived Charlotte’s psychological torture alone in the Dollhouse for months before the other Liars got there. That the show sent her off by breaking her at the mere memory of Charlotte, it’s a travesty. But we know who Mona really is, and what she is worth.
* Alexis wrote an even longer paean to Mona over at Paste!
And there you have it, everyone! All of our thoughts and feelings about the show that was Pretty Little Liars, before the final chapter closed. We will do our best to get our very last recap up ASAP, but in the meantime, use the comments section of this post for whatever discussion/screaming/sobbing/sighing you need.
A(lexis, Rosemary, and Catie)
About the Contributor:
Alexis Gunderson is a TV critic and audiobibliophile. A Wyoming expat, she now lives in Maryland, where she runs the DC chapter of the FYA Book Club. She can be found talking about Teen TV on Twitter, and her longform criticism can be found on Authory.