, the Hastings and the DiLaurentis families go to war, like a preppy and repressed version of the Hatfields and the McCoys.
Can Ali be Trusted?
What's great about this episode, besides everything, was how it subtly looked at the ways each girl is dealing with Alison's reappearance in their lives. Emily letting go of Paige, Hanna questioning her post-Alison personality transplant, and Spencer, of course, always questioning everything are all somewhat motivated by Alison. What's interesting is seeing how ambivalent all of the girls are about Alison's continued presence in their lives, with maybe the exception of Emily.
What the show is also deftly pulling off is keeping the audience in the dark about Alison's true intentions. Ali is a slippery eel, and when Spencer questions the coincidence of the funeral dress, it's an understandable perspective.
Without seeming too, Alison is already needling all of the girls in their most vulnerable spots. Just look at Emily's face when she realizes Alison asked Hanna to accompany her to the funeral home. Hanna basically goes into a mid-life crisis from just a throwaway mean girl comment Alison tosses off about Hanna's former weight.
Alison knows how to pull the strings on these girls and where they're most vulnerable. She might have been away for years, but it doesn't appear she's lost any of her manipulative touch. Is Alison genuine or is she playing a game with the liars? Or is it a little bit of both?
The question of how much to trust Alison will probably be the overlying theme this season, and already the show is doing a masterful job at showing how she's got the girls spinning like tops just from her mere existence in Rosewood.
Hastings Family Drama
All over Rosewood, Hastings and DiLaurentis family members are circling each other, snapping their fingers like the Sharks and the Jets from West Side Story. Melissa verbalizes the tension by comparing the families to the Borgias and the Medicis, because the Hastings family excels at esoteric references. Of course, the Borgia reference does seem apropos considering half-siblings Jason and Melissa once made it to first base.
There are so many Hastings family scenes, which means we spend half the episode with everyone talking like they have their hands on the nuclear launch codes. Can you imagine how exhausting and amazing it must be to be a Hastings? They never talk to each other like human beings. Every conversation is so operatic.
When Papa Hastings walks through the door with a midnight snack, Spencer is waiting for him there in the dark, just like Jason did last week, proving a flair for the dramatics is hard encoded in the Hastings DNA.
Melissa tells Spencer to stay away from the DiLaurentis family. "Blood might be thicker than water, but it's awful slippery. Also you should stop looking at Jason like that. Girl, I get it, but we're all related," Melissa says sadly. "I understand he just keeps getting hotter and your chemistry makes everyone very uncomfortable, but you cannot tap that."
Spencer, hearing a challenge instead of maybe useful advice, goes to see Jason and smolder at him some more. "We are creeping everyone out, but sometimes it's hard to cage in this much sexy," Jason says. "Also your dad is totally a serial killer. Peace!"
Since Jason's alibi checks out thanks to confirmation from the only homeless man in Philadelphia, Spencer's belief in her half-brother is vindicated. But since he's no longer a suspect, the rules of Pretty Little Liars side characters necessitates he must take a spirit walk to go grow out his facial hair and return in another two seasons, like Lucas. It's been real Jason, it's been real.
Before he goes, he advises Spencer to drop chasing after the truth and just live in lovely, ignorant bliss. "Bitch, do you even know me?" Spencer says, and then accuses her whole family of murder.
When they won't incriminate her by telling her the truth, she stomps upstairs. It's so unfair when you get grounded for only mildly implying your dad buried someone in the back yard. God, parents really don't understand.
Melissa and Papa Hastings definitely know something very, very bad. So bad that telling Spencer would put her in potential legal jeopardy. Of course, Papa Hastings corners Alison skulking around Rosewood like a blonde ninja and offers her a ride in a way that seems specially customized to become an after school special PSA.
Who is Hanna?
A misunderstanding and a tossed off comment about Hanna's former weight sends poor Hanna into an existential tailspin. On Pretty Little Liars, all existential crises come complete with flashbacks, soft lighting, and mildly homoerotic undertones.
She thinks back to when Alison disappeared and Mona quickly appeared on the scene. After "glamour camp" and Hanna's weight loss, Mona convinced Hanna to step into the void left by Alison's disappearance. Apparently the natural order of Rosewood High requires a hot blonde at the top of the social pecking order, and Hanna fit the bill.
In softly lit scenes, we go through Hanna and Mona's love story, from their meet cute over cupcakes, to a shopping spree where Mona dresses Hanna in Alison's favorite Michael Jackson outfit, to their final coming out ceremony power walking through the halls of Rosewood High. The only thing missing from the perfect flashback rom-com was a breakup scene in the rain and Mona running after Hanna's plane.
After the last flashback, Hanna asks Emily, "What was it like coming out?" At which point it became clear the show is just openly messing with us now. Emily admits that she always knew who she was, and coming out just allowed her to finally be herself. Hanna wonders at what it must be like to know who you are, since she's never been sure.
Later she confronts Mona in the coffee shop and asks why Mona groomed Hanna for the Ali role, knowing full well Alison was alive. Mona asked who Hanna would even be if she hadn't given her the Alison upgrade. "I'd still be me," Hanna responds, but Mona thinks Hanna doesn't even remember that girl anymore.
So, just like after every bad breakup since time immortal, Hanna decides to do something different with her hair. "I want to go the full Felicity," she tells her stylist. "Maybe do something that will look edgy, but kind of dumb. Maybe that's who I am?" Hanna tells her stylist, even though clearly that is who Aria is, not Hanna.
Behind the frosted glass in the hair salon, Mona cackles diabolically. Sure, she's run over Hanna with her car before, but convincing her to get a bad haircut might still be the meanest thing she's ever done to Hanna.
You Might Have Heard, I Killed Someone
Meanwhile, Aria is still tripping about the whole "murdering someone" thing. "God, you're still on that?" Alison wonders, rolling her eyes. Although honestly, who in this town hasn't at least wondered whether or not they've killed someone?
Aria is sent on a hero's mission to find out whether Ezra will take the party line about Alison's kidnapping, even though she very badly wants to stay away from her ex. At his apartment, Ezra has changed the locks to his door so Aria can't go punk rock on his apartment and destroy all his things again. "I still miss you boo," Ezra says, but Aria's not biting and she leaves.
Later Ali comes to visit with his manuscript, totally unimpressed with what he managed to find out. She advises that if he has more information he's withholding, that he should keep it locked up tight. Then she easily flips his new locks and laughs in his face when he talks about being honest with Aria.
When he tells Aria about Alison's visit, Aria is moved by the sprirt of this weird honesty concept she is almost wholly unfamiliar with. She tells him about her accidental murdering of Shana and Ezra offer his support, such that it is.
"What do you need?" he asks. "Keep in mind, my special skills are stalking teenage girls, installing surveillance equipment in your bedroom as you sleep, poetry, and collecting vintage typewriters."
Emily Lets Go
Meanwhile, there's a new girl on the swim team who has no idea she's about to enter the most uncomfortable, sexually charged locker room of all time. All poor Sydney wants is to swim like Emily Fields, but she can't because Emily Fields walks on a cloud of rainbows and sunshine, and this girl spends most of her time skulking around corners and staring. She also has the unfortunate privilege of being in the middle of a breakup that Paige doesn't even realize is in the midst of happening.
Paige shows up at Emily's house to tearfully tell Emily she loves her. Paige thinks they're having a fight, while Emily is fully out of the relationship at this point, waving goodbye to Paige as she speeds off on the Alison Express. (Which, it must be noted, is going to crash and burn with poor Emily in the vehicle. But Emily doesn't really learn when it comes to Alison.)
"You deserve the best of everything," Emily tells Paige as she walks off, which is like the most terrible breakup line of all time. Paige's heart explodes in a million pieces, which probably means she'll be vulnerable to the crazy Team Mona shenanigans sure to transpire soon.
Elsewhere Around Rosewood...
-- In Rosewood, even dye jobs are menacing. Is there anywhere these girls can go to relax for just five seconds, without someone plotting their demise behind a hair dryer?
-- "We can just put a koi pond out back, somebody already dug a hole," Spencer says about the Mrs. D crime scene. You have to hand it to her, Spencer can be ice cold.
-- A lot of really great character moments in this episode, but the Spencer and Aria scene was one of the best. Poor Aria is having a hard time dealing with her homicide.
-- "Yes I know the dead girl who isn't dead anymore," Emily says, by way of introduction to new girl Sydney. For Emily one liners, this is probably up there with, "I guess you've heard I killed a guy." There's something so hilarious about Emily's refreshingly blunt take on Rosewood current events.
What did you think? What are the Hastings hiding? Was it a mistake for Aria to tell Ezra? And just what evil does Mona have planned? Share your theories in the comments!
(Image courtesy of ABC Family)