Pretty Little Liars / Screen

Pretty Little Liars is better with character than its circular plotting in “Thrown From the Ride’

Should Alison stay in Rosewood?

The obvious answer is no. There’s not a lot for her there which “Thrown From the Ride” goes out of its way to explain from the Liars keeping her at arms length to Mona’s army hoping to run her out of town to the many questions being asked about what happened to her. For the moment, A’s gone so it’s the perfect time for all the Liars to try and start anew, though none of them are doing so very well. Ali moving to her dad’s house and starting over at a new school would probably be the best thing for everyone, but Alison’s not interested, adamant about staying with her friends. But are they her friends?

It’s not debatable that the Liars care about Ali, but now that the immediate danger has passed, none of them are eager to interact with her. Part of this is due to their minds being occupied by their own issues like Spencer suspecting her father of murdering Jessica, Aria still being consumed by guilt over Shana’s death, Hanna trying to figure out her identity and Emily throwing herself into Sydney’s training. But for a group of girls that’s done a pretty decent job of juggling their respective dramas over the years, there’s something intentional in how they ignore Alison’s calls and avoid seeing her even as Alison names the girls as her chief reason for wanting to stay in Rosewood.

Though it floats right on by Alison, the Liars are keeping their distance because they’re trying not to be caught up in her new lie. They ignore questions asked at school in the hopes of not digging themselves any deeper, but Alison being forced to undergo a medical exam makes her dig her heels in on her story, passing around a recording for the Liars to memorize. Though Emily says they wanted Alison back all along, I don’t buy it. Since Alison’s been gone, the girls have unraveled the mystery and also gradually gotten over her memory themselves, coming to terms with the way that she treated them. With Alison apparently out of danger, the girls don’t have as large of an incentive to stand by her especially when it’s going to do them more harm than good. But none of them are telling Alison that, or even trying to really.

Aria has the best excuse for staying away, becoming obsessed with a video taken at Shana’s funeral as her guilt becomes even more consuming. Though Shana’s death is still a sore spot on my PLL viewing, the show’s doing a decent job of handling Aria’s response to her role in it. Bringing up Emily’s own encounter with Nate was a good way of keeping up with continuity and revisiting Emily’s own experience with taking a life, even in self-defense. Including Ezra and trying to have him make up for his own crappy behavior in the process? Not so much.

Spencer’s trying to figure out if Peter killed Jessica in another go around the wheel of the Hastings Being Suspicious but Ultimately Innocent. With Veronica also concerned, Spencer finding recently purchased rat poison in the shed and later, heart medication that could have stopped Jessica’s heart as the toxicology report states, Spencer’s convinced Peter killed Jessica to keep her from implicating Spencer in Alison’s “death”. This wouldn’t be a bad storyline if it felt like it had any legs. The show’s already made certain that we know Melissa’s the one hiding something, and after all the seasons watching Spencer suspect various family members of wrongdoing, there’s no more tension that can be squeezed from it. The episode ending suggestion that Peter did something to Veronica to get her and her suspicions out of the way doesn’t feel important, just another red herring for the show to play with and eventually discard.

It’s Hanna and Emily with the shaky reasonings for staying clear of Alison. After her revelation last week that she has no idea who she is, Hanna’s hair is newly, and badly, dyed and she’s back to stealing (though now she’s stealing things that she apparently doesn’t even like all that much?). She’s the only one to come when Alison calls, looking for someone to be at her side during her medical exam, and she’s irritated by Alison’s plans to deepen their lie by memorizing Alison’s recording but goes along with it anyway. Emily’s only training Sydney and hanging out with Paige (but only as friends), her absence from Alison’s life perhaps most conspicuous because of Emily being the most ardent in her wishes that Alison come back and any lingering feelings she has for her.

In another corner of Rosewood, Mona’s planning on going ahead with her plans if Alison does indeed return to Rosewood, and she’s prepared to go it alone if she has to. Paige still refuses to be involved and warns Emily about it (but still refusing to name the names of the people “preparing” for Alison’s return to school), and Lucas is being swayed by Alison’s abduction story. But that’s not likely to last once Mona makes good on her promise to prove that Alison’s lying. Whether or not that proof will be provided for Lucas’ eyes only, or made into a public spectacle can’t be determined yet but if Mona was looking to cause maximum damage then telling the entire town would be her best bet.

Though Alison shrugs off Emily’s concerns about her returning to school, certain that all they need to get by is just sticking together, she’s still keeping secrets of her own, refusing to share the origin of a mysterious scar when Hanna asks. And as she scrolls through a thread devoted to people being happy about her death, it finally occurs to her that there are few people who are happy to have her back. Her mom’s dead after having watched someone “kill” her and burying her to hide it, Jason’s in the wind, the only friends she has are ignoring her, and there’s an abundance of people who are actually upset about her return.  There wouldn’t be much of a show if Ali upped and disappeared again, but “Thrown From the Ride” does an adequate job with the reality of Alison’s return and how hard her transition back is going to be even though it falls into PLL‘s usual trap of having better character development than plotting.

Stray Observations

  • Apologies for the lateness of this review. I had to go away for a few days.

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