Pretty Little Liars ‘Unbridled’ Review

How many episodes of Pretty Little Liars can be considered filler? It’s a question I’ve been asking myself since it’s hard to determine how individual episodes stack up since they’re often pretty insignificant when it comes to the story’s main arc. It can be considered both a strength and a weakness that PLL can throw a million things at a respective episodes, made up of tiny moments of semi-explanation for past events and random dramatics and building up a suspect who probably isn’t actually the one at fault. But you won’t know any of this until later, when the show finally decides to give you answers and then you can determine which episodes meant absolutely nothing, and this week’s “Unbridled” may end up being one of them.

It went full force into establishing Jessica DiLaurentis as a villian, targeting Spencer for what she may or may not have done to Ali the night she “died”. This worked seasons ago, when PLL hadn’t built up its reputation for throwing loads of evidence at a particular person and then topping it all off with a convenient and barely-plausible explanation that cleared them of wrongdoing. But now that we’re at the end of season four, it’s lost its charm so while this episode didn’t deliver any definite answers on Jessica or her intentions, it’s hard to feel much about it with the possibility of this all turning out to be another one of the show’s red herrings.

“Unbridled” is largely Spencer’s story as her suspicions that Jessica hates her were confirmed by Jason, out of rehab and back to support his mother. In a (badly styled) flashback to when Ali was receiving her own threatening messages from A, Jessica suspected Spencer was the sender, spurred along by her jealousy of Ali and hatred of the Dilaurentis family. Spencer and Ali always had the most combative of the Liars’ relationships since Spencer had more of the willpower than the others to stand against Ali’s tyranny, but Spencer’s hardly seemed to hate Ali enough in present day to even consider wanting her dead. Despite Ali’s treatment of all of them, they’ve been remarkably kind about their memories of her.  But there were Spencer’s memories of attacking Ali with a shovel to consider.

Spencer’s drug problem is more of a convenient plot point than anything else, and though Troian Bellisario has committed fully to the material it’s not very engaging when, just like I doubt Jessica’s A, I doubt Spencer actually tried to kill Ali. The so-called “evil twin” that plagued the Hastings family when Spencer dealt with her addiction the first time isn’t one that’s been seen this time around (besides like, two frustrated outbursts).And Spencer’s recovery has also been nipped in the bud with Dean’s firing after Veronica caught him sleeping on Spencer after reading to her and kicked him to the curb for his inappropriate behavior. Let’s take a moment to marvel at a parent on this show actually reacting appropriately to the perceived advances of an older man on a high school girl, and let’s also marvel at how it’s the one time there’s nothing inappropriate happening between an older man and a high school girl.

The episode began in media res, with Spencer running through the woods in her wedding dress and pursuing a hooded figure after witnessing Jessica passing a bag (presumably full of clothes she’d bought for Ali) to said hooded figure. It ended up being a lame climax with it ending with Spencer’s veil being caught in a trap and her running back to the house. But it wasn’t the real climax since that apparently came with the girls making contact with Ali in some convoluted manner and getting an address where they could meet and talk with her. When they went there, they didn’t find Ali but someone else they know cuing Spencer’s demand to know why they’re there (a departure from the show’s preferred simultaneous gasp), but we won’t find out who it was until next week’s finale.

The only way any of this could be interesting is if Pretty Little Liars stuck to its guns, made Jessica some kind of creepy someone, made Spencer actually guilty of attacking someone, etc. Actually, Spencer losing it and killing someone can probably be left alone since her being an attempted murderer probably isn’t the best way for this whole thing to wrap up, but I’d like this season to finish strongly and actually explain some things about its main mystery especially if it’s so intent on asking a bunch of new questions all the time. With the finale being titled “A is For Answers” hopefully we’ll actually, you know, get some.

Stray Observations

  • Paige and Emily broke up. Since they stopped being interesting a while ago, it’s a relief to see them come to an end, but it’s annoying that the cause appears less to be that Paige betrayed Emily’s trust but more that Emily still has feelings for Ali. Ali’s treatment of Emily in the past still hasn’t been examined or given the attention it deserved, and Ali hasn’t even given Emily a legitimate apology for it so watching Emily dive headfirst into fighting on Ali’s behalf is frustrating. So far the show has dropped the ball with really holding Ali accountable, especially when it comes to Emily, but maybe Ali finally being face-to-face with all the girls next week will make up for it. 
  • Hanna and Travis hit a rough patch that eventually evened out, leading to a kiss. I’m worried Caleb will come back and wreck their cuteness. It’s also nice that Travis is played by an actor whose attempts at emoting don’t make me cringe like Tyler Blackburn’s did.
  • Ella returned from Vienna, and it was nice to see her again. Though I wish Aria had told her the details of what Ezra had done, it was nice to watch Ella promise Aria that her broken heart would eventually mend, just as it did for Ella after she and Byron split. But while Ella found happiness with Zack (and he even wants to put a ring on it!) there’s no promise the show’sever going to let Aria branch away from Ezra.
  • I don’t know what Jessica was talking about because Ali’s room does look like a guest room.
  • So Jason lied about being in rehab? I wish he’d actually been there since this is just another thing we’re going to have to keep track of, and I didn’t even remember Emily and Jason having that thing in the elevator where they almost died. But I appreciate PLL tying up loose ends by blaming it on Wilden though I wonder what this show would look like if it managed to streamline its mysteries so all these ends weren’t left dangling in the first place.

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