Pretty Little Liars / Screen

Pretty Little Liars: “FrAmed”

No promises yet, but I’m leaning toward no longer reviewing Pretty Little Liars after the summer finale. Not because I don’t enjoy the show, which I do. It’s been a consistent favorite of mine, even with the myriad of complaints I have about it. It is those complaints that have led me to decide to have this last batch of episodes be my last. The show is set in its ways, and much of its aesthetic is rooted in the nonsensical and frustrating elements that make up so much of the show’s identity. And whatever positive episodes the show churns out, however much I love the girls at the center, there’s only so much I can say

Anyway, onward.

“FrAmed” picks up after the Liars’ encounter with Charles, the police looking to finally apprehend Charles, Hanna and Spencer looking to figure out the deal with Hanna’s sudden scholarship, and the whole gang coming together to see Aria’s work on display. It’s an episode that proceeds mostly as one would expect. The new guy in Aria’s orbit isn’t what he seems, Charles makes creepy threats against the girls, the police are inefficient, and there’s tension among the main group regarding their differing feelings on Charles.

Alison, continually out of the loop, spends most of the episode in her own storyline. Despite Alison rushing to the Liars’ rescue and telling them everything she can about her family’s twisted history, Hanna’s still not pleased with Alison attempting to see the best in her family. It’s not absurd that Hanna, or anyone else, be put off by Alison being uncertain about Charles’ guilt. But Hanna also reached out to Mona when she was in Radley and insisted on trying to find something redeemable in her. So Alison having some trouble reconciling her lone memory of her brother with who he is now isn’t all that strange either.

So apparently on the outs with her friends, Alison spends the rest of the episode with Lorenzo. Her trying out domesticity is a new look on her as she cares for him while he’s injured, but this angelic Alison was never going to last. She’s got an arsenal of weapons at her disposal and with her family, her friends and herself under attack, of course she would use them. Naturally her borrowing of Lorenzo’s ID card and trip to the police station only serves to get Lorenzo in trouble and wreck their budding relationship. Their flirtation, while cute at the start, doesn’t feel as important as this episode makes it out to be, but Lorenzo is the first genuine romantic possibility Alison’s had. Her romances are widely linked to her attempts at self-preservation or pure manipulation. And this relationship too falls victim to those same impulses. The intention is different, and Alison’s contrite over the trouble she’s caused him, but she’s also unapologetic in how it benefited her to go. She knew he wouldn’t let her go or share any other information with her so she took it into her own hands. I’m not sure what that trip actually accomplished, aside from only making her worry more about the possibility of Charles being killed when the police apprehend him, but it was only a matter of time before we saw a glimmer of the Alison we once knew and hated.

On the other side of town, Hanna and Spencer investigate the Carissimmi Group, finding their way into a meeting with Rhys Matthews, a man who looks freakishly like Jason Dilaurentis. Besides their uncanny resemblance, Rhys doesn’t work very hard to not sound suspicious. He can’t introduce Hanna and Spencer to his employer and can only say the scholarship recipients are carefully chosen. Then he pops up outside the gallery, right after Charles morbid addition to the display, and the girls follow him to an abandoned doll factory where he’s eventually joined by Clark.

I’d almost forgotten about the photos Charles had taken of the Liars, lying naked on slabs in the dollhouse. Having them turn up now is suitably surprising, and also notably traumatizing for the girls. Aria’s big night is ruined as Charles proves he (along with accomplice Red Coat) can reach them regardless of any measures police put in place. That’s nothing surprising considering Rosewood PD’s lacking abilities, though PLL tries to make it more interesting (but fails some) by announcing Charles’ new vendetta against Tanner for rescuing the girls.

Lucy Hale has a nice scene outside the gallery with Ezra as she explains what is was like to wake up on that table where the pictures were taken. Though Ezra’s there, it’s not treated as a romantic moment between the two of them but more of Aria confiding in someone she trusts about her state of mind. And Ezra isn’t annoying at all as he listens to her. It’s moments like this that elevate the show past its murky mysteries and revolving door of suspects. As we reach the halfway point of the season, and the summer finale, the affects of what the girls have been through are what’s going to define the rest of the series. I don’t expect it to hold up as well as it should, since PLL greatly enjoys its ridiculous mysteries, but the moments it does make for emotional and satisfying viewing.

The episode takes an intriguing turn with Ella turning to Ashley for help in helping their girls. The Pretty Little Parents being excluded from the show’s greater arcs is nothing new. They’ve received greater attention with recent events, but still only come and go occasionally. Emily’s mom has all but disappeared, and this is only our second sighting of Ella. Regardless, having the two women sit down to discuss what’s happened and express their fears means that we won’t be watching the Liars run rampant and put themselves at risk constantly. Ella and Byron’s uncertainty is treated as something of a nuisance instead of realistic response to their daughter’s torment, and it’ll be interesting to watch the parents insist on involving themsleves in securing their daughters’ safety.

Stray Observations

  • You know what? I refuse to believe Hanna got into college.
  • The girls probably won’t be allowed to go to prom because of safety issues. Aria asking Emily to be her prom date was super cute, but of course Emily’s going to try to go with Sara. I’m glad Aria at least mentions that Sara probably hasn’t even had a first date yet much less a prom. Constantly disappointed that no one actually pays as much attention to that as they should.
  • Aria’s planning on going to prom solo, but I don’t think the show has ever allowed any of the girls to attend a dance on their own. And her asking Ezra is cringeworthy for one because it’s Ezra. And also because Ezra used to teach there.
  • Ezra’s considering Habitat for Humanity, and he should go so I won’t have to see him anymore.

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