This week on Pretty Little Liars
, Alison tells the girls the many and sundry things she did the night she was almost murdered. The episode answers plenty of long simmering mysteries, sure, but it also opens more avenues for questions. Much like the liars themselves, the show can't survive without its secrets.
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Unpacking the amount of condensed story in this episode feels neigh on impossible. After reversing the "Ezra is A" reveal a few episodes ago, it's almost as if the show realized it had to win back some goodwill from the audience.
And how do you win back the goodwill of an audience that will blithely accept finger bone corsets, human teeth bracelets and bear traps outside a fashion show? You answers some damn questions and you certainly don't get coy about it.
This episode goes for broke with the question answering segment, finally laying plain the timeline of what happened to Alison the night she went missing. Or at least as plain as a show like Liars can afford to get.
With a few hiccups excepted, the timeline presented makes a startling amount of sense, despite the fact that it's probably more than any human being could accomplish in a few hours. Unless that human being is Mona Vanderwaal operating in a heighten state of hyper-reality. But for the rest of us living in actual reality, Alison's feat of time management is downright impressive.
Far from answering all of the burning questions we want answered, the finale also opens up some new puzzlers. What does Melissa know about Alison's replacement body? What rap battle style beef was going down between Mrs. D and the Hastings? Who was Mrs. D covering for when she buried Alison's body? Who does Ezra think is 'A'? Is this person actually 'A'? Will Ezra live to tell the tale or die on the rooftop because the girls decided to leave their phones behind for once in their lives?
The biggest mystery remaining is the central mystery of the series, which we've gotten no closer to actually answering: just who is 'A'? Is it the same person who tried to kill Ali the night of her disappearance?
We have a whole, whole lot of questions to ponder until the show returns in June. But thankfully, the season 4 finale gives us some real, solid answers to some of the ancillary mysteries floating around from seasons past, and explains how Alison got from a shallow grave to a hideout in Philadelphia.
With another whole season at least, the show can honestly only answer so many questions. Some mysteries need to stay alive so the Pretty Little Liars can continue weaving more delightfully demented yarns. By answering so many questions and giving the audience some needed backstory, however, the show gains back a little bit of goodwill after a season filled with far too many red herrings.
Season 3B was more emotionally grounded and interesting than the first part of the season, which is why the recent Ezra cop-out was such a bad move. This season, the show took us to the edge of a cliff and almost jumped off, but thankfully pulled back in the last few episodes to put us back on solid ground.
The episode opens with the liars being shocked that Noel Kahn has been moonlighting as Alison's official secretary. "Do you have an appointment, ladies? Also, Aria, looking good, girl!" They all stare at Noel with dead shark eyes until he skulks out of frame, sad at the hero's welcome he did not receive.
Then Alison appears, hugging each of the girls in turn and then glaring at Spencer just in case you thought Ali had completely put her mean girl ways behind her. As she gathers her little ducklings around her like a proud mama goose (oh Hanna), Alison begins to tell the story of her final day walking the earth.
"And that, kids, was how I met my murderer!"
Alison's No Good, Very Bad Day
"Picture it, Rosewood circa 2009. Beyonce hadn't released Beyonce, Emily hadn't released her inner lesbian and Hanna hadn't released the bag of cookies she was holding. I was queen of the world, but I was also being harassed by a psychopathic murderer. So honestly, it was a little bit of a mixed bag that summer."
In an attempt to figure out who was harassing her, Alison hooked up with Ian in order to gain access to his NAT club video files. She then used the video files to blackmail Jenna into leaving, but unfortunately soon found out that Jenna wasn't the culprit.
So it was on to the next suspect, which was Toby, who was just glad to be free at last thanks to his time enthusiastically embracing the doo-rag look in juvie. "Toby's one of the good ones, Spencer," Alison says.
But is that actually true? It's been a while since I've suspected Toby, but his behavior of late has been a little suspicious. After all, why would he go all the way to London (carpenters are making bank in Rosewood!) to get Melissa? And why did it seem like he knew more than he was letting on about Spencer's drug fueled murder spree? Throughout this season, he's been exchanging some knowing looks with the Hastings parents.
Trying to leave the house, Mrs. D catches Alison and tell her not to leave. Alison just came home to a death threat on her mirror, so she's not really down for the idea of staying home with her increasingly unstable mother. Plus, she still has at least half of the town to drug and/or blackmail.
Mrs. D is especially frantic about not trusting the Hastings. "Never turn your back on a Hastings," Mrs D say. Ironically, this is also the Hastings family motto, stitched onto the family crest under a shovel and a bottle of black tar Adderall.
Of course, Alison sneaks out anyway and takes some of her mom's sedatives in order to drug her friends. The thought being that if she gets any 'A' messages while they're out, she can rule out her besties. Alison is the kind of friend you hope to never, ever acquire.
Out and about again, Alison blackmails Ian, who seems legitimately spooked that she has the videos in her possession. What exactly was the NAT really taking those videos for? I'm starting to doubt it's just because Rosewood is the town that Chris Hansen forgot.
Alison then blackmails Bryon and gets into a fight with Ezra, who just recently found out she's not of legal age yet.
In yet another flashback requested by Aria, we see Alison meet Ezra for the first time and pretend to be of legal drinking age and also interested in Ezra's boring literature. The least plausible part of this whole episode is that Alison would be even remotely interested in the killjoy sitting in the corner reading a book in the middle of a party.
Finally, Alison has it out with Spencer. In present day, Spencer is terrified that they're about to get to all of her murdering. But it turns out that while Spencer did threaten Ali with a shovel thanks to her roid rage, she didn't actually hit anyone with it. Her pills fall out of her pocket and Alison picks them up.
"Are you speeding?" Alison asks, a question no human being has ever asked another human being in all of recorded history. "Are you speeding?" is going to be my go-to phrase now for when people I know and love have too much coffee or sugar or are talking too much.
"Yes," Spencer cries. "I'm speeding and I'm speeding hard. I need that sweet, sweet focus. Please don't tell my parents about all of the speeding. They'll never understand!" Alison nods wisely and tells Spencer to stop taking her Adderall with alcohol because it turns her into a murderous, shovel-wielding rage monster.
Then she tells Spencer to sleep it off. Spencer turns and walks away sadly, dragging her shovel behind her like Linus from The Peanuts drags his blanket. I guess she'll just have to bash someone's head in with a shovel another day.
Feeling pleased as punch about her detective work, Alison heads home patting herself on the back. Clearly, Alison has never seen a single horror movie or else she would know this is the exact moment the killer always strikes. Alison is hit in the back of the head with a rock, so she doesn't see her assailant, but Mrs. D does.
Poor Alison is buried alive by her own mother, which is possibly as pitch-black as a show featuring wearable human remains has ever gone. Ali says her mom kept repeating the question "What have you done?" Her cover-up certainly points the finger at the culprit being someone close to Alison and her family. Perhaps Jason?
The Walking (But Fashionable) Dead
After Grunwald pulls Alison out of her shallow grave, she just wanders around town like a reject from The Walking Dead. That's the exact moment Mona pulls up, her eyes full of hope and molten insanity. Mona takes her back to her hotel of horrors, where she advises Alison to embrace being dead and go on the run to avoid being murdered again.
Alison falls asleep exhausted, while Mona looks over her, tenderly and gently measuring her for a nice skin suit. Then she goes next door to her serial killer lair to tidy up her horror dollhouse and hum like a lunatic.
The next morning, Alison in full Vivian Darkbloom getup, advises Mona on how to be popular before taking off for parts unknown. Alison admits that she didn't notice that she was playing right into what Mona wanted all along.
Which begs the question: did Mona bash Alison over the head? It seems unlikely, because why in the world would Mrs. D cover for Mona? But did Mona have something to do with the murder attempt?
Next, Alison tells several quick stories about how she came back after Mona ran Hanna over with a car and saved Spencer from Ian in the bell tower. Alison is like a one-woman Justice League, except much meaner.
Will Ezra Survive?
One of the things I don't like about the finale is how it tries to retroactively redeem some of the show's seedier elements. Perhaps Pretty Little Liars finally realized people have been criticizing Rosewood's pedophile problem for years.
The show does backflips during the finale to redeem the older male citizens of any sexual impropriety. Despite having earlier seen a supposed sex tape between Ian and Alison on the night of her disappearance, now it turns out they never actually slept together.
But most of the rewriting of history centers around Ezra, who the show is suddenly at great pains to show he isn't that creepy of a guy. "Sure, he's sort of creepy. I mean, he's still a statutory rapist, we get that. But what if he was a statutory rapist with a heart of gold? Does that change anything? No? Bueller?"
So now Alison and Ezra never slept together and Ezra has spent his post breakup time tracking down Shana (another underage girl he presumably found easily because he'd been stalking her) to find out Alison's location. According to Alison, Ezra is trying to find her in order to save her and get back together with Aria.
This changes none of the creepy facts about Ezra, however, and I resent that the show is trying to redeem his character. Whether or not he feels bad about it now, Ezra purposefully pursued a relationship with a 16-year-old student in order to pump her for information for a true crime book.
He stalked teenage girls without their knowledge or consent. He set up creepy surveillance equipment all over town. He might have assaulted Spencer in Ravenswood. He presumably forced Mona to date Mike just for information. Ezra can take an unlimited amount of gut shots for all I'm concerned and he'll still be a giant creep.
Of course, while the girls are jawing over who might have tried to kill Alison, someone else tries to kill Alison. Someone in a black hoodie and black mask shoots at the girls and chases them onto the roof. While Emily is gung-ho about jumping to the nearby roof, everyone else is more concerned about falling to their deaths.
If only Aria had worn her giant feather earrings, she could have strapped them on her arms and flown to safety. Aria, always remember: What Would Tippi the Bird Do?
Before 'A' can shoot them, Ezra charges and fights him/her/it off. Ezra says he knows who 'A' is and has already called the cops. Special Agent Hanna Marin lets her training take over and immediately grabs the gun. "Take off the mask, sucker!" Hanna yells.
But instead of solving the central mystery of the show, 'A' jumps to the next roof and scurries off. "I don't think that was Mona," Hanna says, using her training from Quantico in hooded figure running pattern analysis.
This is the exact moment everyone notices that Ezra is acting weirder than usual. "There are five underage girls here and Ezra is hitting on none of us. My god, something is terribly wrong!" It turns out Ezra is shot in the gut and possibly dies before telling anyone his 'A' suspect.
Everyone is very sad, but I would be slapping the crap out of him trying to get him to fess up before he goes off to that big writer's saloon in the sky. Also, there's probably no way they're really killing off Ezra, but I have my money on selective amnesia next season, which we will eventually find out is fake.
Elsewhere Around Rosewood...
-- CeCe Drake is apprehended and mentions that she's been trying to help her friend Alison. Has she really? I still don't trust her. She does, however, seem to know whose body is really buried in Alison's tomb.
-- "Surprise, b**ch!" Melissa says, returning from London to find the police arresting everyone in her home. "I see nothing has changed."
-- Mrs. D and Mr. Hastings talk about an agreement, which Mrs. D says is out the window now that she knows Alison is alive.
-- Finally, Ezra's isn't the only (possible) death in the episode. Mrs. D is seen dragged and then buried, like Alison, in a shallow grave. Let's just hope she wasn't still alive.
-- Next season, Mrs. D will return as an Asian horror movie vengeance demon, dressed all in white with her hair stringy. "Don't wear that!" she'll moan at you through the screen. "You look like a prostitute. Have you ever considered a nice argyle?" She'll groan mournfully, crawling out of your television set and throwing away all of your clothes with animal patterns. "Tacky," she'll sigh, blowing away on a strong breeze. We'll miss you, Mrs. D.
What did you think? Did you get the answers you wanted from the finale or did it leave you wanting more? Who do you think is 'A'? And is Ezra really dead? Sound off in the comments!
Pretty Little Liars season 5 premieres Tuesday, June 10 at 8pm on ABC Family.
(Image courtesy of ABC Family)