After the delirious season finale, I’m not sure what I expected of Pretty Little Liars‘s return. Not very much considering its promise to reveal A only ended up revealing some dude none of us had ever heard of. ABC Family says this is the #SummerofAnswers but we all know that’s not true, but we’ll all watch anyway and try to figure out the dumb clues that lead nowhere. In that way at least, this show is genius. I’ll roll my eyes when the Liars scream and don’t attempt to fight back when Charles approaches them and wonder why they don’t actually try sometimes. Sure they’re dehydrated and likely hungry, but the show’s never been good about allowing the girls to fight back physically (or much at all really). They’re perpetual victims, even when they’re trying not to be, and whatever triumphs they manage are often accidental and very shortlived.
Even in an episode that has the Liars escaping Charles, we know that this isn’t the end. Not only because it’s the season premiere but also because that’s just how the show works. For all of the show’s shocks, it remains formulaic. It’s upped its game recently, but only by upping the level of torture thrown at its main characters. Murder was always part of the show’s landscape, since we started with Alison being presumed dead, but it’s become much bloodier with each passing season, and “Game On, Charles” doesn’t even detail the trauma inflicted on the Liars while being held captive. But we can imagine (even without the inevitable flashbacks) that it was truly horrible, with Mona confined to a hole and fearing for her life and the others being confined to their rooms, though apparently getting makeovers while they’re in there. The psychological torture of being locked in a dollhouse and treated like someone’s toy is horrifying enough, and the glimpses we had in the finale and in the premiere are enough to confirm that Charles is more sadistic and dangerous than any of the other iterations of A.
When we reunite with the Liars, it’s after they’ve escaped, and they’re punished for their attempt with days out in the rain and cold without food or water, and when Charles finally unlocks the doors, the girls are forced to return to their prison or waste away in the wilderness. It’s especially dark to see them forced to willingly return to Charles’ lair, because they have nowhere else to go and for the weeks afterward must endure Charles’ punishments. When we next see them it’s been a month since their disappearance. The conviction against Alison has been overturned with Mona being proven to still be alive, and Andrew Campbell is the prime suspect in the girls’ abductions. Alison, sporting a cute but very middle aged mom haircut, teams up with Ezra and Caleb to find the Liars and bring them home.
I suppose it’s admirable to see Caleb, Ezra, Toby and Alison working together to save the Liars. The Rosewood police certainly can’t do it, as incompetent as they are. There’s really no excuse for how badly they do their jobs, which is on display once again as they put Alison into a closet (but let her dad and brother just fend for themselves I guess) and then she runs off to rescue her friends. On one hand this could be intentional to further highlight how at a loss these girls are, how they aren’t going to find any help other than each other. Even their parents are absent, though Ashley’s mentioned as being devastated and even hospitalized following Hanna’s abduction). The only people who are going to save the Liars are themselves.
Hell not even their friends can help them. Despite the plans put into motion by Caleb and Ezra, it goes badly fast. The tracking device in Alison’s boot is rendered moot when Alison is forced to change her clothes, and even when Ezra and Caleb find Alison none of them realizes how close they are to Charles’ lair until they smell the smoke from the Liars’ fire.
Which is a cool idea until you realize that the Liars nearly kill themselves putting it into motion. They clearly know that Charles is one messed up individual, one who has a “soul” (okay, sure) but also contents himself with tormenting teenage girls. The fire they set, to burn everything Charles holds dear (whatever Dilaurentis memories he’s managed to cling to) rages out of control, and I’m still not sure how they were able to get out of there. Even though they succeed in rescuing Mona, why were the doors suddenly just unlocked? But whatever, let’s not ask questions.
Whatever we thought the premiere might do as far as further illuminating Charles didn’t happen. He’s still mysterious aside from the fact that we know he’s a DiLauarentis (which we already knew) and for some reason is just very obsessed with his sister and her friends. He’s ready to get rid of Mona when he’s close to getting his hands on the real Alison. But for some reason he snatched Sara Harvey, first mentioned in “Who’s In the Box?” eons ago, (now her friends are going to have a hard time dealing with her return), and in true PLL fashion neither I nor any of the people I was watching the premiere with remembered who she was. She’s just another cog in the PLL machine, and by this time they’re all insignificant and blur together, but then we all come back to see how they come together to make no sense.
I realize that when you read this review it actually sounds like I hate this show. But I don’t. It’s silly and often illogical, but it has some great characters at the center of it, and they manage to shine despite whatever murky mythology the show drowns them in. The girls that propel this show forward are what make the show what it is, even moreso than the revolving door of menaces that they face or their well-meaning but boring love interests. The Pretty Little Liars really are the show, and i’m willing to follow them anywhere. No matter how ridiculous.
- Hanna: “I was saying that facetiously.”
Mona: “Wow, that’s an eleven-letter word, Hanna.”
- So what were those morgue photos for exactly?
- Radley got shut down. Well, at least Rosewood does learn sometimes. Hopefully we’ll never have to hear about it again.
- I was sure Sara was going to end up being Bethany Young after all. I did briefly consider her being that girl who went missing but I couldn’t remember her name, and I also wondered why the show would bother linking her