Pretty Little Liars / Screen

Pretty Little Liars unmasks an A in “EscApe from New York”

The last time we saw the Liars there was a bunch of screaming on a rooftop (like a lot, the last few minutes of the finale were very, very loud) as the girls, reunited with Ali, were chased by a gun-wielding A only to be sort of-rescued by Ezra, who got shot for his efforts, after revealing that he knows who A is. The premiere “EscApe from New York” plays as more of a second-hour of a finale than a premiere, with Ezra being taken to the hospital in an ambulance (on top of which A is riding because….okay). As far as premiere’s go, it’s not PLL‘s strongest. The beginning is dominated by a “plan” the girls have to unmask A and keep “the bitch” away from Ezra, recovering at the hospital.

These opening moments are when the show’s limitations become most visible as its clearly trying to do something bigger but manages to turn a lot of big moments into lame ones.  Alison walking the streets with A following her is suitably suspenseful, as is when she attempts to hide herself on a playground. When A finds her and asks “Do you want to play?” it works but gets bogged down in the weird flash mob of alternate A’s and cheesy voices.

From here the episode picks up considerably, settling into PLL‘s usual groove of distrust and shadowy machinations. Back in Rosewood the Hastings family is dealing with the news of Ali being alive and Melissa’s secret. Or rather, Peter’s dealing with it. Drunken and refusing to allow Melissa to tell Holbrook or Veronica the truth, it must be something pretty bad. It’s also probably illegal. But while Melissa’s genuinely upset about the other girl buried in Ali’s grave, she’s got no sympathy to spare for Ali who she views as the cause for everyone’s problems, including Spencer’s.

And Melissa’s not wrong. Ali’s a horrible person, and she may have turned over a new leaf after being terrorized for so long, but there’s no reason all of her victims should feel the need to forgive her for it. That’s why Mona gathering everyone together (including Lucas, Paige and Melissa) isn’t strange. It’s not even surprising, nor is it upsetting. Ali treated all those people terribly, and it would make less sense if none of them were angrier to hear that she’s alive and well and presumably headed back to Rosewood at some point.

And for all its difficulties with rounding up its mysteries, PLL manages a decent one by making Shana the A who’s been following them, turning up at the theater and holding them all at gunpoint. Shana’s another character the show’s seemed to have no idea what they’re doing with, another cog in its mystery machine that doesn’t really connect to anything else. Her death is disappointing (because I wanted a black actress to actually last on this show), but it fits well into the theme of Ali’s homecoming not going to be at all smooth. Shana actually was Ali’s friend at one point, until her relationship with Jenna and knowledge of Ali’s horrible treatment of her (like when Ali referred to blinding Jenna as a “happy accident”) made her want justice, which equated to wanting Ali dead.

It’s a better idea than PLL‘s had before. The next best thing was when they’d presented A as an entitled and possesive Ezra (which could have been a very valid and interesting critique), and if the show sees this through this could be equally effective. The undercurrent of distrust running throughout the girl’s interactions with Ali this episode indicate that it might have a better handle on it than last season, even setting up Ali needing to really account for her former behavior (though I doubt a heartfelt apology will really suffice to neutralize the hatred of Mona’s army).

The girls all have their moments of questioning Ali’s secret-keeping habits, unwilling to fall back into the old routine of Ali keeping vital information from them. This episode its Cece, who turns to Ali for help after she escapes Rosewood police (because they are truly incompetent) to whom Ali gives her passport so she can escape to repay her for all the good she’s done for Ali which includes killing Wilden and helping Ali rescue Emily from that box she almost got sawed to death in back in Rosewood.

Bringing Ali back into the fold is a daring choice for the show, one that could go well if it holds onto the fact that there’s little reason for anyone to be over the moon about her being alive or at least that there are a lot of valid reasons people have for wishing she’d stayed dead. When we flash back to Ali’s relationship with Ezra (which is awkward and should stop happening), Ali imagines being an actress. It’s a pretty good career choice for her, a girl whose spent her life lying to other people (she even admires Ezra not for his poor guy routine but for his ability to lie so well). And Ali’s always wanted the fans and the followers actors have, but she’s never really valued friends. It makes Shana’s betrayal more powerful, since Ali really did think that she was a friend, but Ali’s past misdeeds turned her against her.

And in the trend of these girls being bad at decision making, they leave Shana’s dead body for the police to find. Why this happened is beyond me, since they make it very clear that Aria did what she had to do to save them. And with them believing Shana to be the last A they’ll have to deal with, running out of there just seems stupid to run away and create another secret for themselves. But if they hadn’t done it, what terrible mistake is the inevitable new A going to taunt them with?

Stray Observations

  • Ali asks Aria if Ezra still has a chance with her, and it’s a stupid question because we all know he does. It’s hardly believable that anyone would be okay with their boyfriend betraying them as thoroughly as Ezra did Aria, but this is Pretty Little Liars, and it doesn’t care about portraying their romantic relationships with much mutual respect and caring.
  • It’s so weird to see people carrying guns on this show.
  • Maybe Pretty Little Liars should leave the surgery scenes to Grey’s Anatomy and you know, more capable shows because Ezra in surgery was just awkward.
  • Spencer: “When was the last time you guys had a hobby?” That’s true. None of them does anything anymore. I mean, Emily still swims, but the rest of them don’t do anything except try not to be killed.
  • Why did Ali slam the stage door and then ask Emily not to wake the other girls?
  • Why is everyone suddenly acting like Ezra being from a rich family should be common knowledge? Like it was some easily searchable information. If that was the case

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