By Chelsea Hensley
I’m trying to describe how I feel about Pretty Little Liars, and there almost seem to be no words adequate enough to explain it. It’s an absolute mess of a show, and anyone who’s watched it will agree. It gave up on being a satisfying mystery a long time ago, instead committing itself to stacking twist on top of twist on top of twist. If you can accept that this is the show’s main goal, then you can accept pretty much anything it throws at you, including the knowledge that you’ll never be totally satisfied with the conclusions it offers. I went into this finale, as did plenty of other people, knowing that A.D’s identity would likely be more of a soap opera than anything.
And we weren’t wrong, but I was pleasantly surprised by how satisfied I was with the explanation.
Let me say: Spencer having a twin is ridiculous. It’s totally absurd. But PLL works really hard — harder than it’s ever worked, I’d argue — to make it make sense. It’s the kind of ridiculous that Marlene King obviously thought about for awhile, and it shapes up to be the best A reveal we’ve had since Mona (and series author Sara Shepard gets the credit for that one). The story behind Alex Drake is mostly well-thought out and doesn’t have the same slapdash feel of other revelations. (The worst part is Charlotte, appearing in flashback in a hilarious outfit entirely made up of hat and fur).
At some point, Wren (confirmed this episode to be actual dirt) stumbled upon Alex at a bar in London and told her about the sister she never knew, including Charlotte. Alex, with her hard knock life, adored her psychotic sister and embarked on her revenge quest after her death, becoming obsessed and enamored with the Liars (and Toby) in the process. So there’s Alex, slipping into Spencer’s shoes several times, to have sex with Toby, to comfort a traumatized and kidnapped Hanna, and to just be extra. Though the game is over, Alex isn’t satisfied with her life back in London and decides she’d be happier as Spencer, kidnapping her and locking her in a “do-it-yourself dungeon”.
It’s ridiculous, but I’m not mad about it. Especially since it gave Troian Bellisario (my favorite PLL actress) a great finale, on top of some already great final episodes. Alex is in direct contrast with Spencer’s buttoned-up persona, and while the accent helps set them apart, Bellisario manages to build up Alex in a fairly tiny window of time, giving her a personality that goes beyond being a sad, mentally unbalanced stalker and murderer. She’s that too, but it’s a lot of fun to watch her be that way, especially once she starts walking around with an ax as she looks for an escaped Ezra (snatched the night before his wedding) and Spencer. We even get that typical “which Spencer is the right Spencer?” moment, which ended up being not-as-climactic as I wanted but was okay I guess.
All of Spencer’s great material makes it all the more irksome that the other Liars got so little to work with. The finale does its best to give them a little something, but it’s sad indeed. It returns to the tried-and-true formula of Hanna taking responsibility for Mona (against everyone’s wishes), but Emily’s still saddled with the unworthy Addison as a foil for no other reason than to treat us to a lame (but well-meaning) final scene of the whole cycle repeating itself with another group of girls. I resent we had to see Addison again, but I’m leaning toward forgiving it since it made it possible for Jenna to remind us she “can smell a bitch a mile away” and eventually be the one to figure out that Spencer isn’t Spencer. It’s because the episode, even at two-hours, has to devote so much time to explaining Alex’s origins and motives, that the other Liars get shafted. They’re entirely removed from the mystery and do little work to solve it themselves (that’s mainly Mona and Jenna), only coming back into the fold when they infiltrate Alex’s dollhouse.
But we didn’t tune into the finale just for an answer to A.D — but also to see our Liars get their happy endings, and despite some missteps here and there (Spaleb), adulthood looks pretty good on this show. By episode’s end, Hanna’s pregnant, Emily and Alison are engaged, Aria and Ezra are married (and will soon begin the adoption process), and Spencer’s cozying up to Toby again. There are still some plot holes (probably plenty that we, and the writers, have forgotten about, but I’m done asking questions or pointing out the still-present plot holes. (I’m more curious about why Emily and Alison’s (and Wren’s) babies are so white when they’re biologically half-Emily.) It’s more important that the Liars have finally broken free of A and are on their way to the normal, happy lives they deserve.
But of course, that can’t be true of everyone. Like Mona, who’s taken on the task of guarding Alex and Mary. When she called “the police,” she was actually calling a secret boyfriend who helped her stash the mother-daughter duo in a dollhouse of her own. We can at least be confident that the more-competent-than-most Mona will ensure they’ll stay locked up for a long while, or at least until a reunion episode that’ll air on Halloween in five years.
- Who did Sasha Pieterse piss off in the costume department that they continue to dress her in such unflattering outfits and do her hair so poorly?
- I’m not the biggest Toby fan, I admit, but he was wasted in this final episode, and while I’m irked that not a single Liar could manage to form a lasting romantic attachment to someone they didn’t know in high school, Spencer and Toby do romance really well (and their love scenes aren’t nearly as cringey as everyone else’s, I’m looking at you Aria and Ezra).
Chelsea A. Hensley is a writer and blogger who recently received a BA in English from the University of Missouri. Besides television, she also loves chocolate chip cookies, puppies, and Dragon Age. In between episodes of her favorite shows, Chelsea’s hard at work on a young adult novel. You can read more of her writing on The Chelsea Review and follow her on Twitter @ChelseaBigBang.
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