Who killed Charlotte? The answer is finally revealed in the penultimate episode of Pretty Little Liars, which also features Aria talking to the dead body in her trunk, Spencer and Caleb entering an underground tunnel via a pie restaurant and a literal gas leak to explain stray plot points. If the best and worst of seven seasons of Pretty Little Liars could be distilled down into one episode, that episode would probably look a lot like “Farewell My Lovely.”
This episode is the series’ bow for writer and director Joseph Dougherty, and it manages to include some great bits of dialogue that really speak to the snappy lines usually found in his episodes. Unfortunately, the episode also has a whole lot of work to do, and at times it feels like it’s buckling under the strain of all that exposition.
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This is what happens when, given only 10 episodes to tell a story, you spend a whole episode sending Spencer off to play ping pong with a random detective, or you spend a whole episode introducing a bratty high schooler for no reason. This episode has to do so much heavy lifting because much of the early part of the season meandered.
So the episode ends up feeling rushed and exhausting, like the sprint to the finish line that it is. Even though it’s a bumpy ride, there are some seriously great moments in this episode that makes it worth the price of admission. Dougherty always gets great performances out of the cast, and Troian Bellisario, Lucy Hale and Janel Parrish in particular really crush some meaty and bonkers material.
So Who Killed Charlotte Anyway?
It turns out that Mona killed Charlotte, which might put her at the top of the murder leaderboard. (At the very least, it puts her even with Emily who, you might have heard, has killed a few guys.)
In a flashback, Mona meets Charlotte in the bell tower with some flowers, and the two get into an argument. Charlotte gets extra evil and tells Mona that she’s ready to make their previous torture look like a cakewalk. Mona shoves a screwdriver into her back and threatens to make her jump but loses her nerve at the last moment. That’s when Charlotte begins fighting with Mona, trying to throw her out of the tower. Mona pushes Charlotte against the wall, and the back of her neck is impaled on a sharp metal object. Mystery solved.
This feels like such a tepid revelation for a few reasons. The first is that Mona has been under suspicion pretty much the whole time for killing Charlotte, so this doesn’t feel like much of a surprise. The other reason is that, way back in season 4’s “A is for Answers,” we found out that Mona was the one who killed Bethany Young. Having Mona once again be the murderer feels like retreading old ground, no matter how well Janel Parrish can sell a scene.
And that isn’t even getting into the show doubling down on the mistakes they’ve made with Charlotte. It would take a lot longer than an episode recap to unpack the harmful tropes Pretty Little Liars has perpetuated about trans women, but so much of it rears its head again in this episode. After being told that the reveal of Charlotte as ‘A’ was problematic, the show’s solution seems to have been to shrug and then make Charlotte even more evil.
When Liars started, it was a positive light of representation for the LGBT community, but it is certainly ending on a much different note.
For someone who has loved the show through ups and downs, the way that the show has failed to listen to any criticism and seemingly doubles down instead on its negative portrayal makes me sad. I love this show, with its crazy talking birds and dead bodies in the trunk, but I’m so disappointed that they go full tilt into making their one trans character irredeemably evil before killing her off. These decisions aren’t just harmful when it comes to representing a group with little onscreen representation; these choices are also going to mar the show’s legacy.
Aria Talks to Dead People
The episode begins with Ezra yelling at the liars about icing out Aria. Someone says that Ezra is right, which is not a sentence that should ever be spoken in Rosewood. And just where is Aria anyway?
Oh, she’s just telling the police officer that pulled her over that she locked her car keys in the trunk with the dead body that’s in there. You know, making smart choices while committing crimes. That’s so Aria!
“I’m sorry, ma’am. Did you say the keys were on top of the dead body or underneath its hand with four fingers?”
Thankfully, Aria gets one of the cops who took the same four-hour training as Toby, and he just wanders off while she fishes her keys out from between Rollins’ decaying fingers. Close one!
Back in the car, the episode’s single greatest scene plays out. I cannot given enough props to writer and director Joesph Dougherty for this scene because it is just that good. In an episode so stuffed with revelations, it’s amazing how much time he’s allowed for Aria’s gradual unraveling.
Aria begins to talk to the dead body in the trunk, telling Rollins that he should have been more quiet. “Keep it quiet back there, I’m trying to think,” is a line Aria actually says to the dead body in her trunk. I am going to miss this show so much when it’s over.
Aria finally realizes, with a little help from her dead trunk pal, that she can still turn herself in to the police and make everything right with the other liars. She can make up for her mistakes and for getting pulled into playing A.D.’s game. As she begins to walk towards the police station, however, Ezra jumps out of nowhere and convinces her not to turn herself in.
Because he’s terrible, Ezra tries to convince Aria to just ditch her friends and run away with him. “Nah, I think I’d rather take the murder rap,” Aria says, intelligently.
But they still have to figure out what to do with the body. Ezra declares that as someone with a master’s in American Literature, he’s more than prepared for this situation, which is a pretty hilarious line. Unfortunately, when they get out to the car, they discover that the body is gone.
Later, Emily and Alison apologize to Aria for icing her out. Alison says it was something she would have done in high school, back when she had a personality. Aria explains that everyone reverts back to their old high school selves when they’re stressed. Does this mean Alison will regrow her personality again? Because I’m losing faith.
Speaking of losing faith, the show pulls another fast one on the audience so audacious that I almost have to laugh. Remember the end of season 6A and the beginning of the time jump when the girls came rushing into “Mrs. Rollins'” classroom to tell Alison that “he” is coming for her? You’ll be excused if you don’t because there is no timeline in which this scene would make even the slightest lick of sense.
So instead of pinning this scene to a board somewhere prominent to make sure they wrote towards it, the writers promptly forgot it until one episode before the end of the series. Then they were like, “Oh, crap! How do we explain this?” And someone, some shining genius in that writers’ room was like, “What if we just said it was a hallucination caused by a gas leak?” And all the other writers cheered because it made as much sense as anything else, I guess.
It turns out that the flash forward was really Emily’s dream, caused by a mysterious (yet non-lethal) gas leak at Alison’s house. Because, sure, why not? When you’ve written yourself so thoroughly into a corner that “gas leak” is the only way out, you know your show is in trouble.
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Out, Damn Spot!
Before Mona reveals the truth about her part in Charlotte’s death, Caleb and Hanna go to confront her over having the board game. Instead, they follow her to the Two Crows, where she supposedly went to meet Charlotte the night she died.
Caleb goes in to confront Mona and notices that she’s basically freaking out over having the game stolen from her. “Someone’s always stealing the game from me,” Mona says, while wiping at her hands like Lady MacBeth. Even Caleb, not usually Mona’s biggest fan, realizes that something’s off about her.
Mona takes a runner for the ladies’ room, and inside they find a secret passageway out of the restaurant because this is Rosewood and sometimes you go for pie and have to flee the scene in an underground tunnel.
Spencer and Caleb go down into the tunnel, where Caleb breaks the marriage news to her, and she tells him not to apologize or forget their time together. It’s probably one of the best Spencer and Caleb scenes we’ve gotten since their breakup.
Later, Hanna finds Mona in the bell tower in her nerdy Mona outfit and glasses. She seems to think that Hanna is Charlotte and flashes back to their argument the night she accidentally killed Charlotte.
With Mona totally out of it, the liars decide not to take her to the police but to call Dr. Sullivan instead. She’s the only one equipped to deal with Mona’s adrenalized hyperreality. Hanna apologizes for dangling that board game in front of Mona’s face, and Mona says she just wanted to help.
It’s a sad “ending” for Mona, who is usually the smartest and most competent character on the show. It’ll be interesting to see where her character ends up in the series finale after these revelations.
The Martyrdom of Mary Drake
After Mona admits to her part in the murder, the liars find two additional puzzle pieces tied to the car. When they place the pieces into the board game, a virtual reality figure walks from the center of the board to Aunt Carol’s house on the phone screen.
The liars figure out that this means that Rollins’ body is probably under the headstone out in the yard, and they go with shovels in tow to dig it up. I really worry about the shovel industry in Rosewood if the liars ever decide to actually move.
Aria, a person who was literally having a back-and-forth conversation with a dead body probably about one hour before, ends up being the voice of reason at the grave site. She explains that they’ll never be free of this whole situation if they keep doing the crazy thing out of fear and self-preservation. Spencer agrees with Aria, and they all tuck their shovels under their arms and walk away from the grave, having grown as people.
Unfortunately, this is right when Detective Tanner shows up with a backhoe, ready to dig up the grave. Busted! Tanner had been working on getting arrest warrants for the liars all night, and now she finally has them back in the police lineup room.
Spencer explains to the girls that earlier in the evening, Mary Drake deeded her and Alison the Lost Woods motel so they could pay for their lawyer bills. Emily wonders how they’re going to get out of their predicament this time, and Spencer sadly says that they’re toast.
That is, until the two-way mirror fires to life in time for the liars to watch Detective Tanner question Mary Drake. It turns out that Mary has confessed to the murder of Elliot Rollins and, in turn, also confesses to the murder of her sister, Jessica. The details all add up, which Tanner tells the girls is what the District Attorney really wants to see in his cases. He wants something that makes sense, not a bunch of loose ends.
Spencer is on the verge of tears as she questions whether Tanner really thinks that Mary Drake killed Rollins. Tanner knows that Mary killed at least one person, then advises the liars to remember that, all evidence to the contrary aside, they’re not actually criminals.
Outside of the holding room, Mary Drake locks eyes with Spencer and puts her finger over her lips in a really cool visual reference to the opening credits. This episode might be packed with info dumps, but it’s in little moments like this one that the episode really shines.
Later, the girls go back to the board game to find that it’s finally run out of juice. They discovered Charlotte’s true killer, so perhaps that’s why the game is finally over? They never did figure out who A.D. was, but for now the girls are just glad that the game is over. As they all file out, Spencer shoots back one last look at the board game before closing the door on the Lost Woods motel.
Meanwhile, in a car driving out of town, the liars’ game pieces are all in a plastic bag in the backseat and someone in a hoodie is driving. Is that it? Is A.D. finally leaving? Given that there’s still a two-hour series finale, I would highly doubt it. But for now, the screen fades to white, with the liars finally at peace … at least for a little while.
What did you think of the episode? Were you satisfied with the reveal of who killed Charlotte? Do you think Spencer has an evil twin? Do you think Caleb was acting shady? Share your theories for the last time in the comments section below.
Pretty Little Liars season 7 airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on Freeform. Want more news? Like our Pretty Little Liars Facebook page.
(Image courtesy of Freeform)