This week on the mid-season "fatal" finale of Pretty Little Liars
there is betrayal, there is romance, there is Toby in uniform, there is eggnog, someone is arrested and someone very magical passes on to a new hyper-reality. Basically, it's just another day in Rosewood, a town with a constantly shrinking population.
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When the promotions for the show promised a death, it seemed pretty obvious who that death would be. Of course, the episode really worked hard to throw viewers off the path. Most of the characters had nice grace notes which could have worked as their swan song. Yet Mona was always the one with the most obvious target on her back.
The show will be poorer without Mona and Janel Parrish's amazingly layered performance. You could never quite tell what was going on with Mona. She was always both friend and foe at the same time. Of course, Alison has largely overtaken that role this season, allowing the show to up the stakes by killing off Mona.
Speaking of Alison, she's never been more chilling than she was this week. Before the finale, it was always somewhat hard to imagine Alison as 'A,' even with all of her scheming. But after the cold and calculated way she approached everyone from Emily to the police, it seems easier to buy that Alison might have taken on the role as the girls' tormentor.
When you play the game of lies, you win or you die. Right now, it looks like Ali has retaken the mean girl iron throne.
Is Alison really a "socio"? Is she 'A'? Did she kill Mona? Will Mona rise again in three days to judge the lying and the honest? (The show did replace Jesus with a doll of Mona, after all.)
And just what is Alison planning out there on the farm with her new army? Probably nothing good for the liars.
A Fatal Thanksgiving
"Finally, someone dies on another holiday," Halloween sighs in relief. The episode opens in medias res, with the girls crying hysterically outside a house with crime scene tape all around it.
If you lived in Rosewood, wouldn't you be so jaded by all the crime scenes by now? "What happened outside, honey?" "Oh, just another teenage girl brutally murdered. You know, the usual."
This is a town where letting your dog out for a romp in the neighborhood comes with a high risk he might return having fetched a human hand. I call malarkey on all the onlookers. No one cares about a little light murder in that town anymore.
We later find out this crime scene is Mona's house, where the amount of blood smeared everywhere has the police calling Mona the victim of a homicide, even without a body.
So, wait, 'A' had time to not only murder Mona, but also to Jackson Pollock with her blood around the house before carting her body away? You have to respect 'A's' time-management skills, considering Aria and company were already on their way during the murder.
During the murder, we see more of 'A' than ever before, by which I mean we see some blonde hair sticking out of a black hoodie. This, coupled with the fact that Mona was about to uncover Alison, seems to point pretty damningly to Alison being the culprit. Of course, this is Pretty Little Liars, and nothing is ever as it seems.
Alison as Socio
First of all, should we take all of the mentions of "socio" as a way to honor the late, honestly-just-okay-but-not-that-great ABC Family drama Twisted? Before Twisted, "socio" was not a thing I ever really heard people say. It's still not, unless I'm just spending time with the wrong crowds.
Thirty-six hours before the murder, the liars go to Mona's house to steal her mom's cookies and ask for helping defending themselves against Alison. Mona is sympathetic to their plight, and apologetic for taking her Ali-related anger out on the girls. "Sorry about all those times I tried to kill you. I guess I was just projecting."
She tells them she wants to bow out, though, because she's number one on Alison's hit list and she's officially freaked out. Then she calls in a favor from Mona's Army, which is now just Lucas. Alison has stolen the rest of the army and convinced them to start calling her "Crazy Mona." Mona gets that crazy look about the eyes, which means Rosewood pedestrians better watch out.
She meets the liars in the bathroom the next day to tell them Alison is off the reservation. She says she thinks Alison has taken up the 'A' mantle and is tormenting the girls because they've abandoned her. Then she spins a tale about her theory that Alison is a sociopath who can't feel so she surrounded herself with the girls in order to mostly manipulate and toy with them. The girls all had things Alison didn't and felt things Alison could never feel.
"Since she needed a brain, she chose Spencer. Since she needed a heart, she chose Hanna. And since she needed courage, she chose Emily," Mona says, turning the show into the Wizard of Oz.
"What about me?" Aria wonders. "Well, you have compassion," Mona explains. "Also, you are really excellent at getting out tough-to-remove wine stains. You were like Alison's compassionate Tide stick."
The Forever-Inept Rosewood PD
Toby appears in uniform, having apparently made it through police training in about a week. This is highly unrealistic, and yet makes absolutely spot-on perfect sense when you consider the general level of competence of the Rosewood police department.
I'm surprised Rosewood's police academy lasts more than an hour. I'm surprised Toby's handsome officer uniform doesn't tear away. The only cops Toby is qualified to join are Hot Cops, the fictional stripper agency from Arrested Development.
Here are some other things the Rosewood police mess up, just in this episode alone:
-- They let Lucas into the police department, even though his new facial hair and devil-may-care attitude clearly show he means trouble. This allows Mona to break into the police records and download a video of Alison's lie detector test.
-- Alison clearly has Officer Holbrook wrapped around her little finger. He declines to have Detective Tanner, the only police officer who seems to have any common sense, in the room during the lie detector. Later, he comes to visit Alison, personally, while she's all alone to give her the results. From the way he looks at Alison, I'm guessing we have another name to put on Rosewood's already impressive predator list.
-- They arrest Spencer based on pretty much the flimsiest excuse possible, which is just a stupid theory they (as far as we know) have no evidence to back up.
Spencer's role at the top of the suspect list is what Mona discovers after breaking into the police files. The questions being asked to Ali in the lie detector are obviously leading, and they're all leading back to Spencer. The police think Spencer killed Bethany Young in order to make inroads with Alison so she wouldn't spill the beans about her pill addiction.
Cool theory, bro, except there is literally no evidence. Unless somehow the police found Melissa's taped confession, in which case ... whoops!
And this, Melissa, is why you never make a recording which can be used to put a family member in jail. No matter how secure you think your hidden chair compartment is, there's always Noel Kahn in a Casper costume ready to steal it.
Breaking into Radley
"We need to break into Radley to find out more about Bethany Young. Let's see, we have two people who were locked up there and would be instantly recognizable to any of the foxy orderlies. Hmm. Let's go with the former patients!"
Mona goes into her magical Narnia wardrobe of costumes for every occasion, and soon she and Spencer are sneaking into Radley. Outside, Caleb and Hanna break into the security system and give directions in "code."
Wait. Since when does Radley have any security at all? It's common knowledge that you can sneak out of that place using a board game as a map. Mona would pop out to go craft shopping to make paper mache murder masks, and then be back before anyone noticed she was gone. Suddenly, it has a high-tech security system? I once more call malarkey.
Inside, Aria works as a distraction by spilling paint in the arts and crafts room and keeping the orderlies occupied. The girls are obviously playing to Aria's strengths: endlessly talking about herself and cleaning up spills. Aria was born for this moment.
Elsewhere, Mona and Spencer bond over college admissions. If you were paying attention, this is the very moment you should have known Mona was toast. She talks about the many Ivy League schools she's been accepted to, but that she has to make it through senior year first. This is a rookie mistake, as Mona should know the only way out of Rosewood is in a body bag.
Outside, Hanna is playing Oracle to Mona and Spencer's Batman. She alerts them to Holbrook's presence, who harasses Aria more about Spencer's role in everything.
Outside, Spencer is on the phone with Toby when he gets into an accident and breaks his leg. "All my minutes of police training, wasted!" Toby cries in anguish.
Mona's Final Moments
Meanwhile, poor Emily is saddled with trying to distract Alison. Still smarting from realizing Alison never loved her, she can't really play the act well enough. Ali catches her in a lie and Hulk!Emily accuses her of being 'A', so she storms off. At the same moment, Paige arrives and immediately jumps into superhero mode to follow Alison in her car. She sees Alison go to an abandoned farm with a bunch of other cars and assumes Alison is building her own army.
While all this is happening, they're shifting through Bethany's records. A tape from August 8 has Bethany feeling betrayed, wondering if both mother and daughter are bad news. It appears Mrs. D had a second affair (those scarves could get it!) with Bethany's father.
After Mona's mother leaves, Mona reads over the files and calls the girls. She says Alison lured Bethany to Rosewood because she was jealous of her and wanted her dead. She says she has enough information to nail Alison to the wall.
"Game over, Alison" are Mona's last words, before a blonde in a hoodie murders her. Unfortunately, it was game over for Mona instead.
Theory time: what if Alison was never hit over the head and buried alive? The only source for that story is Alison, and it seems awfully unlikely. (I mean, how did Mrs. Grunwald even know to find her?) Maybe instead, Alison hit Bethany with the shovel and left her for dead. Worst of all, what if Alison killed her own mother because she was the only one with the ability to poke holes in her story? It's a crazy theory, but clearly there's nothing Alison won't do.
Elsewhere in Rosewood...
--- Paige decides she's had enough of talking and just kisses Emily on her perfect face. From drowning to makeups, Paige always favors the most direct route.
--- Emily and her family are super serious about Christmas, starting the decorating process before Thanksgiving. This is obviously a setup for this year's holiday episode, but also it's hilarious to see Emily giving Hanna the stink-eye about her lack of Christmas spirit. You will drink that eggnog, and you will like it.
--- Apparently, Aria and Ezra are officially back together. I guess this happened in the same episode where Toby actually went to cadet school. I thought that Aria was keeping her distance. I thought she was still mad about all that stalking and manipulation. But apparently Ezra is not only in the clear, he's also invited to Thanksgiving dinner. "I wrote 'Sorry for Stalking You' in whipped cream on the pumpkin pie. We're good now, right?"
--- Mona is really and truly dead. While her body wasn't found in the house, we do see it in the trunk of a car. 'A' replaces Jesus in the manger with the Mona doll, and then puts the baby Jesus on Mona's dead body. I hope this is a hint that someday soon Mona will rise again and Hanna will build a church in her name. But sadly, I think it just means Mona is really gone.
What did you think of the mid-season finale? Is Alison really a murderer? What's she planning? And how upset are you that Mona is dead? Sound off in the comments!
(Image courtesy of ABC Family)