This week on the mid-season finale of Pretty Little Liars,
everything goes insane all at once. Every crazy thing in Rosewood folds in on itself and implodes like a dying star, pulling all the girls into a giant black hole of danger and surprising revelations.
In only one hour of television, the show manages to pack in magic, more creepy dolls, deadly sawmills, clowns, supernatural abilities, murder and two giant reveals that have the power to change everything we know about the show.
Try explaining Pretty Little Liars to a friend of yours that doesn't watch the show. You will sound like someone who belongs in Radley Sanitarium, but don't worry, since you watch the show you already know what board game map you need to escape.
When Pretty Little Liars teased that a big bomb would drop in this finale, I knew to expect anything. Yet even I was shocked over the revelations doled out over the course of the hour. Whether or not the show will stick the landing with these giant bombshells remains to be seen, and will certainly lend some narrative momentum to the show which has been missing a bit in this half-season. For now, however, I stand in awe of another crazy, impressive finale.
'A' is for ... EzrA?
Okay, let's start with the finale's biggest and most controversial moment. It appears, at least for now, that 'A' is actually our favorite inappropriate English teacher Ezra Fitz.
This revelation fills me with an airy sense of joy for several reasons. The first is personal, because I'm never right when it comes to these mysteries. But I called Ezra being 'A' way back in the first season and haven't trusted him since. Perhaps it's his already observed tendency to date teenagers that made him seem untrustworthy. Although, to be fair, on this show, that describes half the male population of Rosewood.
The second reason this makes me so happy is because it addresses a problem I've had with the show's narrative choices for years now. I've been harping about this a lot, especially this season as the storylines propelling the main narrative have been slightly less compelling than in previous installments.
Basically the problem is while the other girls are involved in the main mystery and fighting life or death stakes, Aria is deciding what boy she wants to date and fighting wine stains. This finale levels the playing field on several fronts when it comes to Aria and finally and thankfully gives Lucy Hale a meaty storyline to sink her teeth into that's equal to her talents.
It basically makes Aria's former snoozy storylines retroactively matter by placing her into an unknowing relationship with her own tormentor. It also very clearly explains why she has always gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to 'A's' terrorism. Hanna's mom almost goes to jail, Emily gets a car through her house and Aria ... gets a few bees in her mom's car. There's never been a sense of equal play when you compared Aria's 'A' battle scars to the rest of the girls, and now this presents a believable reason why.
It certainly explains other things, like why Ezra would continue to date a high school girl he hooked up with one time in a bathroom at the expense of his career. Ezra probably went into that bar looking for Aria so he could be close to Ali's friends.
With all his family money, he would certainly be able to afford running a company with minions on the payroll. Also what do you think the job interview would be like for that job? "So how do you feel about coaxing angry bees into a car ventilation system? Or taking out every letter other than 'A' in a box of alphabet cereal? Or beating a snake to death with a mannequin leg? Oh, also I offer dental."
Now the question remains whether the creative team will stick to their guns and stick with Ezra as 'A.' They backed off once before, making Toby a member of the 'A' team and then explaining it was just to protect Spencer.
Perhaps Ezra isn't the mastermind behind the whole operation, but at this point I'm not sure the show can afford to cop out of a reveal like this twice. However, considering what a shocking and game-changing revelation this is, I'm not really sure why they would even want to change a thing.
A is for ... Alive?
The other huge revelation is that Alison is still alive. This one is slightly less dramatic, seeing as how we've been getting hints Alison wasn't as dearly departed as we thought for seasons now. Last season, we even saw Alison's face after she pulled them out of the burning building (a ploy by Ezra to get her to show herself, maybe?) and this half-season has been very much built upon the suspicion that Alison might still be alive and kicking.
The Alison and Ezra reveals are tightly linked together and, if both true, work to explain a whole lot of weirdness at the very core of the show. For instance, why was 'A' targeting Alison's friends? Perhaps to lure Alison out of hiding. It also explains why Ezra was at Alison's funeral in the pilot.
It turns out "board shorts" had developed a scary obsession with Alison, who he thought was over 18. (Which ... actually doesn't sound much like Ezra.) She began calling Mrs. Grunwald in Ravenswood as her own personal psychic hotline, asking when she might expect to get murdered.
"Oh, any day now, dearie!"replied creepy Mrs, Grunwald, whose color-corrected blue eyes stare deep into your soul, into all the places you hide your darkest secrets and silently judges you for that thing you did that you never wanted anyone to know about.
They seriously need to cool it with whatever they do to the colors in Ravenswood. I feel like I'm watching Frank Miller's Sin City every time they step foot in that town. I hope it's just for contrast with Rosewood scenes and the new series won't be shot in this style constantly.
Mrs. Grunwald, feeling a disturbance in the force, headed one night down to Rosewood to see if Alison was okay. "My god, the colors are so bright here! I'm blind! Where is the gray? Where is the sepia tone?!"
Once there, she sees Alison's dying hand sticking up from the dirt where she was bludgeoned and buried alive, and she pulls her out. This is the same sequence we've seen several times before, so yet another question answered by the finale.
Alison disappears shortly after Mrs. Grunwald drives her to the hospital, and she's been in the wind ever since, occasionally saving her friends from being sawed in half.
After two shocking reveals, it's really hard to focus on all the other stuff that happens in the episode. However, many other things do happen besides Ezra donning a creepy baseball hat and punching a cabinet.
After Hanna's mom is finally free and clear to go out and get as freaky as she wants to with Pastror Ted, 'A' is not happy. The girls get several threatening care packages featuring -- you guessed it -- creepy dolls. The fact that Ezra might be 'A' really puts a whole new coat of creepiness on the doll obsession, doesn't it?
The dolls continually threaten Mona, who doesn't show up for her French club meeting with her pretentious friends, forcing Paige to nearly bludgeon a girl to death with a croissant. While everyone, but especially Hanna, is worried about Mona, it appears she's fine. She's been hanging out with Shana knitting something. Is Mona still in the 'A' game? It was, after all, knitting needles that almost impaled Aria last week.
After a little adorable cuddling with all the main couples, the girls get another special delivery. This time, it's a magic trick, which of course Spencer knows how to open after her time in performance arts camp.
"This one time at magic camp..." Spencer begins. "Neat trick!" Hanna replies and tries to replicate it with little luck. "Illusion, Hanna. Tricks are what a whore does for money." You have to respect Spencer's commitment to the magician's alliance
The clue takes them to Ravenswood, where they automatically lose all skintone and reservations about being touched by mimes. While Aria is part of a magic trick, 'A' uses slight of hand and French to steal Emily.
"French, why did it have to be French?" Emily wonders, stuck in a wooden box hurtling towards a table saw like a cartoon character. The girls follow Red Coat into the Sawmill, where they try to free Emily, and no one thinks, "Just turn off the saw." I mean, I guess I can't judge. None of my best friends have ever been in danger of being sawed in half.
Surprisingly, it turns out there are two red coats. One runs off and then waits at a doorway for Spencer to discover the hidden obsession room upstairs. This is the Red Coat who is most likely Alison, if she indeed is still alive.
The other runs upstairs where she is set upon by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Aria. Those two classes Aria took with Jake, the best martial arts instructor in the world, really made an impression. She looks like a kung-fu professional in her battle royale with CeCe. #MovesLikeAria, indeed.
The Red Coat she's fighting turns out to be CeCe Drake, who jumps onto a rope that breaks and she eventually falls. But then while the girls are patting Aria on the head and Emily is gently welcoming her to the murderers club, CeCe drags herself out without anyone noticing. I know they've got a lot going on right now, but this isn't even the first time a formerly dead person has just gotten up and walked out while they were group-hugging it out. Have they learned nothing?
Elsewhere in Rosewood...
-- Toby has some more sad feelings about his mom's death and it ultimately goes nowhere in this finale. I hope they wrap up this storyline post haste next year. I understand the urge to give Keegan Allen more to do on the show, but this storyline has floundered way too much to be a valuable use of the actor. There's only so many times I can see someone look at something sadly and cry before I mentally tune out, especially when someone in the next scene is about to be murdered.
-- Shana is sending something to Wren, who is moving abroad, it seems, in the care of Melissa Hastings. Are Wren and Melissa back together? Are they on 'A's' payroll? If not, how are they involved in all this?
-- To help the girls decode 'A's' lair of super high-tech surveillance stalking, Caleb gets on a bus to Ravenswood ... never to return to Rosewood again.
-- Mrs. Grunwald tells the girls to get out of town before Ravenswood's Victorian party because 'A' is using them to track Alison. But instead, a few well-placed outfits convince the girls it's time to finally get some answers, regardless of the danger. Their middle name is danger!
What did you think of the mid-season finale? Do you think Alison is really alive? How shocked were you with the 'A' reveal? Is Ezra really 'A'? Or is there more to the story? Share your theories in the comments!
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(Image courtesy of ABC Family)