In the series finale of Pretty Little Liars, we discover the true identity of A.D., and it both makes perfect sense and no sense at all. So, basically, Pretty Little Liars is Pretty Little Liars right to the end — a show where birds sing clues and snakes are thwarted by mannequin legs, and teen girls pilot airplanes with masks of their faces over their own faces. On Pretty Little Liars, things make perfect sense and no sense at all simultaneously almost all of the time.
“Till Death Do Us Part” is not the greatest series finale, but it delivers on over-the-top action, nice emotional moments and one of the best final characters moments I could have ever imagined. Mona Vanderwaal is the hero we needed but never deserved.
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An Imperfect Finale for a Great Show
There have always been two Pretty Little Liars: the insane horror murder mystery and the teen soap chasing the next hashtag couple portmanteau. The finale delivers on both of these fronts and creates a sort of “your mileage may vary” Frankenstein in the process. As someone who has never been a huge fan of the relationships on the show (unless we’re talking about the liars’ relationships to each other), I can take or leave the romance-heavy first half of the episode.
The bonkers reveals in the second half, however, commit in a way that I respect even if I’m not in love with every revelation. To wit: Jenna, Noel, Sydney and Sara’s role in the plot is info-dumped in the space of about one minute. I’m pretty sure the direction doesn’t even allow acting powerhouse Troian Bellisario to take a breath, lest you think too hard about what she’s saying and start asking follow-up questions.
Questions like, “Wait, what?” Or “But you never explained why Sara Harvey was working with Charlotte in the first place?” Or “Wait, seriously, what?” Questions like, “Who killed Sara then? Alex Drake?” Or “Why exactly were Jenna and Noel trying to kill the liars?” And “Honestly, how charismatic was Charlotte? Was she like a cult leader or something?”
To a certain extent, you just have to turn off your brain and enjoy the ride. What is disappointing is that the show has two whole hours for their series finale and chooses to spend half of it on marital problems, Rosewood After Dark sex scenes and a horse ex machina.
The reveal of Charlotte as ‘A’ was rushed because it was an hour. This reveal still feels rushed at two hours, possibly because we spend a chunk of the episode watching Ella and Diane Fitz argue over cocktail wieners.
There’s enough time to answer all these questions in a way that makes sense. That’s just not the direction that Liars ultimately decides to go. Much like how the wine moms escaped that basement, there are just some mysteries in Rosewood that are unknowable.
This show goes out unapologetically as itself: wonderful, terrible, campy, crazy, amazing, full of shipper fan service and, most important, with some of the most active, dynamic and well-rounded female characters and friendships on television.
Over the course of seven seasons, Pretty Little Liars was the best show on television and it was a messy train wreck. Somehow, this finale manages to be both and, in its way, accurately reflects the tenure of the show. It’s the best of Pretty Little Liars, it’s the worst of Pretty Little Liars. I feel like quoting Dickens would be something Spencer Hastings would appreciate.
No matter what, I’m going to miss this show and these characters.
So Who is A.D. Anyway?
Sure, I could try to recap this episode in chronological order, but does anyone really want to read a paragraph about the Emison twins or the Montgomery/Fitzgerald cocktail wiener feud? No, let’s get to the wackiest stuff first.
So who is A.D. anyway? For everyone who had their money on the “Twincer” theory that Spencer had a long-lost evil twin, congratulations! Meet me at the Rosewood bell tower at midnight to receive your prize.
Halfway through the episode, Spencer pops out of the shower to find Mona in a black hoodie. “Oh, come on, not again,” she says right before Mona punches her unconscious. When she wakes up, she’s in a weird underground bunker. If you feel like you’ve seen all this before, it’s probably because you have. It’s like Pretty Little Liars‘ greatest hits: the remix!
Spencer looks into the glass at her own reflection, which … begins to move of its own accord. Has Spencer been speeding again? Nope, it turns out that A.D. is her evil twin, Alex Drake. And she’s British because why not?
That’s correct. There is now an active count of the number of evil twins on this show, and that number is higher than one. Somewhere, a telenovela is watching this going, “This all seems a bit much.”
It turns out that Mary Drake had another baby in Radley that the Hastings never knew about, and that baby she sold for travel money. That’s dark as hell. “Sorry, honey. I could have given you to a good home, but Momma really wanted to take a lover in Peru. You understand, right?”
One day, Wren stumbled into a bar in London to see Alex Drake, who I can only assume was an underage bartender, slinging drinks. He told her all about how she looked just like Spencer, and they began to put the pieces together. Alex Drake has a whole Sarah Manning from Orphan Black vibe going on, very rough around the edges and nothing like Spencer.
She and Wren also fell in love because sure. Wren was always angling for an underage girl to call his own; having her be a Hastings would probably be a win/win.
Later, Wren introduced Alex to Charlotte, and the two half-sisters became fast friends. Charlotte met Archer Dunhill on the plane over to Europe, and the two also fell in love. For a time, the four of them would go on fun double dates, where I can only assume they plotted world destruction and swapped questionable accents like CeCe and Alison used to swap personalities.
But Charlotte couldn’t let go of the game, so she left to go back and play with her dolls, leaving Alex a Patsy Cline album. The fact that they felt the need to resolve the Patsy Cline mystery but not whatever was going on with Sara Harvey is certainly … a choice. Because that was one of the burning mysteries we needed answered: song selection.
When Charlotte never came back, Alex finally came to Rosewood to pick up the game where she left off. Alex was behind the board game and all the A.D. stuff. She blackmailed Sydney since she knew she was stealing from the bank she was working for. Noel, Jenna and Sara were all looking for Charlotte’s hidden treasure like she was secretly a leprechaun. Sara thought it was beneath the Radley, but really that treasure was just the file on Mary Drake. Meanwhile, Alex offered to pay for Jenna’s surgery so she would do her bidding in return.
Again, this info dump occurs over the course of, if I’m being generous, 90 seconds. I feel like I could have used a lot more context for all of this, but that’s what we get.The sex scene montage was longer than this explanation of multiple hanging plot threads.
Alex and Wren were in love, until her obsession with Spencer’s happy life took over. She decided to go and take over Spencer’s life, like she’s been doing in bits and pieces throughout season 6B and season 7. We see flashbacks to the moments we thought it was Spencer but it was really Alex, including several sex scenes with Toby. Wren really gets the short end of all the straws in this finale.
Alex explains to Spencer that she forced Wren to shoot her in the shoulder so she could really be just like Spencer. Then she melted Wren down into an eternity stone because diamonds are forever, baby. RIP Wren. There’s only so many British accents the finale can take, and Twincer’s has already eaten all of the scenery.
Also, inexplicably, Alex had fallen in love with Toby because, again … sure. Just go with it. It’ll hurt your brain more if you struggle. Just let the undertow of this episode carry you out to sea.
As far as motivations go, they do a somewhat decent job giving Alex a backstory and motivation that make some degree of sense, though the tragic backstory element definitely feels familiar when you consider Charlotte’s tragic backstory was also info dumped on us the same way.
Mary Drake feels bad for selling her baby to take lovers in Peru and also about how she’s not letting Spencer out of her prison. But not like … that bad.
Spencer grabs a bobby pin out of Mary Drake’s hair and then is shocked to see Ezra in the cell across from her. “Spencer, you have to get me out of here before I’m turned into an infinity stone for Aria.” I mean, diamonds are forever, Ezra.
Mary tries to talk Alex out of killing everyone, but Alex is feeling pretty good about her “axing everyone in the face” plan.
Meanwhile, Spencer picks the lock, allowing her and Ezra to flee the bunker just to discover they’re in another bunker. It’s like a Russian nesting doll of bunkers. It’s bunkers all the way down.
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The Downfall of Alex Drake
Unfortunately, Alex shows her hand when Spencer’s prized horse turns on her and makes Toby suspicious. It’s discovery by horse ex machina!
Later, Jenna sniffs Alex and is like, “You smell like bangers and mash, with an undercurrent of crazy. Spencer usually smells like old books and Adderall, with an undercurrent of sexual frustration. Something is wrong.” She calls Toby to tell him that Spencer smells wrong, and Toby goes over to the liars’ huddle to pass along this information.
Why are the liars all together? It’s because Ezra was a no-show on Aria’s wedding day, which actually seems pretty realistic. Aria thinks it’s because of the fight they had over her not being able to have children, knowing about it for possibly months, and not informing him.
Alex pops into Spencer’s life to be a bridesmaid in her wedding, even though she know she kidnapped the groom. That’s cold. She also sleeps in bed with the liars and the mournful Aria saying, “I think you’ll be my favorite.” Team Sparia lives on, even when it’s team Evil Twinia.
If it was me, I would have started by searching the local high schools, but Caleb is looking at Ezra’s charge accounts. It’s suspicious that he’s had no activity, didn’t take his bag and also booked a hot air balloon tour for the day after the wedding he ditched. Ezra, unreliable? I shudder to think!
With the book Spencer gave Toby before he went out of town not filled with notes, the liars immediately jump to the evil twin conclusion so fast that it will make your head spin. Oh, so now they’re good at figuring out mysteries?
Mona shows up at this moment, since she bugged their room and heard the evil twin theory. She tells the angry group that Wren was going to kill her at Welby, but she agreed to play the game. This time, however, she plays it to her own ends. She immediately has the coordinates for Alex’s evil lair, and the whole team shows up just as Alex is trying to murder Spencer with an ax.
Toby has a gun pointed at the twins, and they both plead their innocence. But only the real Spencer can recite poetry in French, so Toby grabs Alex and the day is saved. Ezra is bonked on the head but not turned into a diamond necklace full of ashes, which is honestly a bummer. Mary Drake is also captured not far from the bunker.
It should be said that Troian Bellisario is absolutely phenomenal in this episode. It’s a tough trick to play two different characters that feel like two separate people, but she really pulls it off. The accent might have been rough in spots, but if you were going to have someone give an hour-long evil monologue, Troian is a solid choice.
I could have watched another hour of Spencer and Alex arguing, snipping and trying to ax-murder each other. Spin-off? We could call it Sister/Sister!
Weddings and Babies, Oh My!
It’s one year later, and all of the girls have moved on with their lives, although most of them have stayed in Rosewood. Emily and Alison are still working in Rosewood high and still dealing with the evil that is Addison, this time with an assist from Jenna, who also works at the school. They also have twins named Lily and Grace. Later, Alison proposes to Emily because she loved her even when Alison was a terrible person.
Hanna and Caleb are already having marital problems, mostly because Caleb wants to get out of Rosewood with all their app and clothing money, and Hanna wants to stick around for Mona. Caleb also doesn’t love that Mona is staying with them while they’re trying to have a baby.
Ezra and Aria are finally going to get married, and their book about poor Nicole is looking to be optioned as a movie. The lead-up to the Ezria wedding is where most of this finale takes place, and it feels apropos that the celebration of this terrible relationship be the setting for the finale’s horror story.
For some reason, even though I doubt any of the characters are even 25 yet, all of them are either getting married, having babies or trying to have babies. I’m not saying it’s unrealistic to have children in your 20s. I’m just saying it’s unrealistic for all of the girls to want to have kids this early.
The finale is so overwhelming “happily ever after” but assumes that the only way to have a happily ever after is to get married and have kids. For a show that has usually done right by its female characters, it feels pretty regressive. It’s 2017, not 1950.
Aria and Ezra do eventually get married, even though there are many fights over party food first. Byron gives his approval to Ezra in the most underhanded way possible, which somehow reminds you how terrible both those characters are.
The wine moms get drunk again and speak of their pack to never mention how they got out of that basement. Since we haven’t seen Kenneth DiLaurentis since, I’m going to assume murder and cannibalism were involved.
There’s also a substantial portion of the episode where all of our main couples just pork each other. Cool. Glad we spent valuable screen time on that. We also find out from Alex that Wren is the Emison baby’s father, which is pretty twisted and dark considering she killed him.
After everything with Alex, Aria and Ezra finally get married, with a cameo by creator Marlene King. We find out that Toby is staying in town but, more importantly for my sanity, Spencer is at least currently single and going to law school. So at least someone isn’t entirely paired up at the end. Hanna just found out she’s pregnant, and Aria reveals that she and Ezra are going to look into adopting after they get back from their honeymoon. Everything’s coming up babies.
They’re all crying as Alison admits that even though they’ll see each other soon, it feels like the end of something. We leave our favorite liars all hugging in the center of town, happy and healthy with their friendship just as strong as ever.
Of course, there are two more codas before the end. In the best one, we find Mona working at a doll shop in Paris. In the basement of the doll shop is her own personal dollhouse, where she’s keeping and playing with Alex and Mary Drake. It’s a spot-on perfect ending for her character. She finally won the game.
Finally, the high school girls from Rosewood are sleeping in a barn when they wake up during a storm. It looks like Addison has gone missing, and one of them heard a scream. It looks like the circle won’t be unbroken after all.
And that’s it! The final episode of Pretty Little Liars. I’ve been recapping this show since season 3, so that’s five years of crazy twists and turns. Thanks to everyone who has been reading this whole time. There have been ups and downs, but I’m going to miss the liars and this show so very much.
What did you think of the series finale? What did you think of the A.D. reveal? And what did you think about where all the liars ended up? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
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(Image courtesy of Freeform)
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV