In the season 7 premiere of Pretty Little Liars, “Tick-Tock, Bitches,” the liars try desperately to save Hanna, with varying levels of follow-through. Having met her friends before, Hanna finally just decides to listen to a hallucination and save her damn self. It turns out to be the right plan.

Elsewhere, we learn slightly more about Mary Drake, who wanders around the town carting bleach and having intense tea time talks. Obviously, she will fit back in to Rosewood just fine.

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And the liars turn on poor, hospitalized Alison with a swiftness, as if they learned nothing from the one time they mistakenly Red Rover’ed her into prison. Unfortunately, the liars have had too many concussions and can no longer remember the past, dooming them to repeat it. (How else to account for Aria backsliding right back into the booze-drenched arms of Ezra?) 

An Improved Premiere

To be honest, I found the second half of season 6 to be wildly uneven. The show had to juggle a lot of balls and the strain really showed. This probably wasn’t helped by the fact that the show decided to do a time jump not between seasons, giving the creative team ample time to figure out what Rosewood five years later would look like, but in the middle of a season.

As the season went along, it became clear that Pretty Little Liars could have used the extra time to figure out the time jump as it tried to balance exposition, backstory, new characters, old characters and new mysteries. 

The seventh and final season premiere, however, puts the show firmly back on the right foot. There is off-the-wall craziness at a level we’ve never seen before on the show (masks on top of baby doll heads?!), and there are great emotional beats, thrills, chills and many new questions. 

This premiere goes full steam ahead into crazy town, which is what Pretty Little Liars does best. It’s a promising start to the show’s final season. 

Will the Liars Be Able to Save Hanna? 

The episode starts in a familiar way for fans of Pretty Little Liars: the liars are covered in dirt post-murder, burying a body. I’m not even sure why the liars get upset about having to put someone into a shallow grave anymore; this is basically a normal Tuesday for them. 

Then we flash back to mere moments after the events in the finale, with the liars, Mona and the boyfriends horrified by that text from ‘AD’ saying Hanna has been kidnapped. Wandering around the town, they immediately see Mary Drake pop into Our Lady of Perpetual Murders, the most dangerous church in all of Rosewood. 

After getting a text about how the bell tolls for Hanna, the gang runs up to find Hanna hanging from the church bell, presumably dead. Caleb looks like he’s going to Hulk out at any moment and everyone is in tears. That is, until they figure out that the “body” wasn’t really Hanna but rather a life-size doll with a Hanna mask. Underneath the mask is a creepy baby doll face, so congratulations because that’s something you’ll never be able to unsee. 

Can we talk for just a second about these masks? While Rosewood might be the creepy mask capital of the United States, these new ultra-realistic masks are really stretching the credulity of this show. I’m half expecting that the finale will see all the characters rip off their own faces to reveal that everyone is actually a lizard person. These new masks are a far cry from Hector Lime and his paper mache molester shack in the woods. This is some Avengers-level technology.

After the girls discover that dead-Hanna is a fake, they get another text from ‘AD’ warning them that if they don’t provide Charlotte’s killer in 24 hours, Hanna will be murdered for real. “Tick-tock!” goes the real-time clock on the screen as the show quickly morphs into a more realistic version of 24. (They even talk about waterboarding! It really is 24!) Unfortunately, Ezra is not mauled by a cougar. 

Who Killed Charlotte?

As was once the case with Ali, the liars feel like they all have a piece of the missing puzzle of who killed Charlotte. They all put their suspects in a fishbowl, and besides votes for Mona and Spencer (they probably voted for each other), all the other votes come in for Alison. Congratulations, Ali, you’ve just won more unearned suspicion! 

In order to pin the crime on Ali,  everyone’s favorite murder suspect, the girls split up to see if they can find any evidence in her house. “Hey, guys, what if Alison didn’t do it?” Emily asks, trying to hide her notebooks full of “Emison 4eva” drawings. The rest of the liars roll their eyes at poor, lovesick Emily and send her to the mental hospital to visit Alison while they do all the breaking and entering. 

In the hospital, Emily is shocked to see just how badly Alison is doing. Rollins tells her that Alison has had a complete psychotic break, probably brought on by guilt. “Like the guilt you’d have over murdering someone or the guilt you’d have over blinding someone or the guilt you’d have over faking your own death or the guilt you’d have over leading on your lesbian best friend or the guilt you’d have over blackmailing your friends? I’m really going to need you to narrow down the things Ali might be guilty about.”

Rollins runs into Alison’s room to drug her up, at which point Alison punches him directly in the face. Just like when Emily punched Sara Harvey, this is a scene I’m going to need to watch in slow motion over and over and over again. Take that, Rollins! I can’t tell if your American accent or British accent is the less convincing one. You look like a robot slowly learning what it means to be human by following around a bunch of investment bankers. I hate Rollins. 

Later, Emily returns to try to talk to a drugged-up Ali, who babbles on about needing help and says, “God forgive me.” For some reason, delusional ramblings convince Emily that Alison is 100% guilty. 

While Emily is taking every drugged thing Alison says as evidence of guilt, Aria and Ezra are sneaking into Alison’s place and getting locked into closets together. Even when these two go snooping, they’re the worst. They find out nothing of interest, but we do get to see that Rollins has a go bag full of 1800’s Jack the Ripper medical equipment for some reason. “Tarry-ho, good chap, you never know when you’ll have to saw someone’s leg off using only a bone saw and a spot of tea.”

Emily is the next person to break into Alison’s house, and instead of riffling through Ali’s underwear drawer (as was Aria’s instinct), Emily just wanders around Alison’s room listening to the Emison Greatest Hits Collection. It caps off their late night hookup scored to “Every Breath You Take,” the world’s most romantic song about stalking. It’s at this moment that Emily finds Alison’s red jacket in a pile of clothes Ali was going to donate to Goodwill.

Later, after stopping for a cappuccino and lemon cake with Sabrina (not too worried about that time clock on Hanna, I guess?), Emily comes clean to the rest of the liars. At no point does anyone note any blood or anything else murder-y about the sweater. 

“Alison has a red jacket! Burn the witch!” Now would be a good time for Toby’s police detective skills to come into play, but apparently he used up his one day of police training on lock picking.

Caleb, at this point an unhinged lunatic, takes off with the jacket and leaves it at the Lost Woods hotel with a note to ‘AD’ that Alison is the killer. Clearly, Rollins got the text because he turns from caring, romantic American husband to stone-cold British Jack the Ripper right in front of Alison’s eyes as he pumps her full of drugs. “Just like you, Alison, karma can be such a bitch.”

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Who is Mary Drake?

While Aria is getting distracted by music and Emily is getting distracted by lemon cakes, the dream team of Spencer, Mona, Caleb and Toby are on the the scent of Mary Drake. This means breaking down into pairs, with Hanna’s exes, Caleb and Mona, working together to track Mary’s moves while exes Spencer and Toby try to figure out what might be hidden in the Lost Woods. It turns out that it’s just a lot of books in French and German, since Mary Drake is very well-traveled. She did, however, show up in Philly just a week before Charlotte was murdered, which seems pretty suspicious. 

Spencer and Toby bond over lock picking and language apps while Caleb and Mona bond over mutual hatred, the proper way to dispose of a dead body and cell phone technobabble. Man, being friends with Mona seems so awesome. 

Later, Mary Drake stops by Spencer’s house to have a very, very uncomfortable cup of tea with her. She notes that Spencer and Melissa look like twins, and the twin truthers in the Pretty Little Liars audience perk up their ears and start crafting their theories. 

Mary Drake says several times in a heavy-handed way that she knows Spencer’s parents, which makes me wonder if Peter Hastings has sired yet another DiLaurentis child. Spencer wonders why her parents wouldn’t have mentioned her, but Mary points out that the Hastings family and secrets go together like masks on top of doll faces.

We learn that Mary and Jessica didn’t get along very well, since Jessica “poisoned” everyone against her. Later, Spencer info-dumps that Mary was institutionalized after a child died under her babysitting care. After that, she was in and out of Radley for years, until she disappeared to Europe. This info dump happens so quickly towards the end of the episode that I’m unsure how or when Spencer learned this information. It definitely gets overshadowed by the “red coat” of it all.

Hanna Saves Her Damn Self

While the rest of the girls are putting together clues, Hanna spends the entire episode in the middle of Hostel: Rosewood Edition. Dressed in only a tank top and underwear, Hanna is sprayed with a hose and left to freeze in a run-down shack. 

The scenes with Hanna in captivity, including a scene shot entirely in green-tinged night vision, are so creepy and claustrophobic. Ashley Benson does a great job really taking you into the terror and hopelessness that Hanna must be feeling. 

Since this is Pretty Little Liars, soon Hanna is talking to a helpful hallucination (or possibly just someone else with a really life-like mask?). “Spencer” and Hanna have a heart-to-heart where Hanna says that she’s glad she doesn’t know who really killed Charlotte because she would have totally given them up by now. “Spencer” seems to react to this information, which makes me wonder if this was really a dream after all. 

“Spencer” tells Hanna not to give up and that if there was a way in, there must be a way out. Hanna asks “Spencer” to stay with her and she says, “Always.” 

With the Spencer/Caleb/Hanna triangle still very much in play, now is definitely an important moment for the show to underline just how much is at stake with this triangle. Spencer and Hanna’s friendship is so important that it gets her through this ordeal and out the other side, and the show smartly highlights their relationship right at the moment it’s most at risk. 

And it’s a real good thing that Hanna decides to just woman up and save herself because half the liars get distracted by shiny objects and wander off the case in this episode. First, Emily spends some time getting a cappuccino with Sabrina while the clock is ticking down on Hanna. 

Then Aria goes to a local bar to see if she can find a guy with an accent, only to get distracted by a 12-year-old putting “B26” on the jukebox. She immediately drops her task, again as the clock is counting down on Hanna, to go hook up with Ezra again.

I’m not saying Hanna has bad friends, but I think if my choices were waiting for the liars to save me or running into the street in my underwear, I would have made Hanna’s choice as well. Unfortunately, the car that stops for Hanna is none other than Mary Drake’s. Uh-oh. 

What did you think of the premiere? Do you think that Ali killed Charlotte? What will Mary do with Hanna? How are Mary and Rollins working together? Who is ‘AD’? What’s up with Emoji ‘A’? Share your theories in the comments!

Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesday at 8pm on Freeform.

(Image courtesy of Freeform)

Morgan Glennon

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV