Over the last few months, I’ve been playing catch up on Pretty Little Liars, got through Season 5 just in time for the start of Season 6, and was able to watch live as we all found out the true identity of the Liar’s long-game tormentor, A. I actually watched this show live when it first started six years ago, but stopped before the first season ended. Why did I stop? Why did I start up again? What do I think about the latest but oddly not quite final plot twist? Let’s dive in. Expect spoilers.
When I first watched the show, it was another fun series that promised intrigue, mystery, and snark, and I was already falling out of love with Gossip Girl in its college years and increasingly poorly executed love stories of bad decisions. My roommate at the time and I tuned in but soon felt the show didn’t quite deliver on the scandals it kept promising. Sure, Aria was making out with her teacher, but since that story was there from the get-go and the ‘keep it on the DL/we need to end this/no I love you too much’ cycle quickly got repetitive, it wasn’t enough to hold my interest at the time. Plus, while A was intriguing, s/he hadn’t yet done much to truly cross any lines. A did keep me interested enough in reading spoilers over the years, however, and when some friends of mine turned out to be big fans of the show, I decided to go back and give it another shot.
Maybe two months later, I had blitzed through the first four seasons, crammed Season 5 into a month to a few weeks, and was on the live-watching train for Season 6.
Let’s get a few obviously ridiculous things out of the way first:
- The timeline makes no sense. Two and half seasons were somehow packed into a month and a half, at most, which doesn’t hold up even if every day we saw was sequential in that time.
- A’s resources don’t hold up. No matter how much money you’ve managed to raise (and they made a brief mention of why this was in the 6A finale), the things A has done with that money without notice make no sense. There would still be a paper trail that could be followed, if the cops/FBI managed to actually find it.
- The Rosewood Police absolutely suck at their jobs.
That last one is something I could get into for a whole new Thursday Tropes post, and maybe I will, but that’s for another blog post.
Verdict? I really like Pretty Little Liars! As at least one article I recently read pointed out, they’ve managed to keep a single mystery going for six seasons. That’s unheard of! No one manages to do that, especially to keep the mystery feeling fresh enough and also provide enough twists and turns that it’s still truly a mystery. Now, not all of those twists and turns made sense–getting a phone number from the Tippi the Parrot immediately comes to mind–but they stayed pretty fresh with it. The conflicts between the Liars, their parents, their significant others, all helped enhance it. These girls aren’t idiots, but they still constantly make mistakes, often because they’re being fed misinformation for that very purpose. But they act on that information, which is another great aspect of this show: four teenage girls who are actively taking part in their own story and making things happen. While they have needed rescuing on occasion, and they don’t act as islands but work best as a team, that these girls rarely need true rescuing and often even do the rescuing themselves is fantastic to see. They’re active heroines, and while they should probably have been wiser about believing everything they learn and hear by the Season 6A finale, they investigate, they learn, they take action. They even set up some great fake-outs of their own for A over the years, although none of those quite worked out. I would have loved if the 6A finale had involved the girls getting the best of A for once, even just a little bit.
I also love that the Liars get their hands dirty and the writers aren’t afraid to keep doing it. Two of them have killed people (in self defense); one of them was believably convicted of murder (even if falsely accused, it was still believable that she could have done it); one has recurring addiction issues. And none of these things just disappeared after they came up and were then resolved–they are actions and traits that have had lasting impact on who these girls are and the decisions they’ve made in the future. Too many teen shows let things that should have serious consequences fade away and never be mentioned again once that’s happened (*cough* Glee *cough*), and it’s refreshing to see a show that embraces the flaws and misdeeds of its main cast so thoroughly.
Okay last chance to bail before I get REALLY spoiler-y.
Alright, let’s talk mid-Season 6/Season 6A finale. This was almost entirely an info dump, but it was a really compelling one. There weren’t that many people whom we already knew who could feasibly be A, and the choice to go with CeCe Drake is the best one they could’ve made. I suspected it would be her earlier in the season, but heard a recent well thought out theory about it being Wren, which could also have worked quite well. But in the end, CeCe is someone we know that Alison knew, whereas from what we can tell Wren and Alison have never met. With him, there would’ve been even more surprises and tenuous connections to make. CeCe on the other hand has connections to the DiLaurentis family already…some of them ickier than others, now that we know the full truth.
There’s concern of her falling into the “Psycho Tranny” trope, and that’s warranted. Recognizing that I’m coming from a privileged point of view on that, I think the writers did a good job of separating CeCe being trans from CeCe’s very evident psychological issues. The actress, Vanessa Ray, did a fantastic job with her role, in general and especially in this episode. It would’ve been easy for all that dialogue and information to fall flat and be very dry, but she kept it dynamic without getting melodramatic, aided greatly by the actor(s) playing young Charles. (The adorable boy who hung out with the murderous Bethany on the roof, Dylan Garza, really stands out. He was just darling!) CeCe’s story, while not entirely excusing her for everything she’s done to these girls, did genuinely bring the character of A a lot of sympathy–rejected utterly by her father, partially by mother, used and blamed for things Bethany did, spending her life in a mental institution (and as we’ve seen, a quite imperfect one at that). In many ways, it’s understandable why she acted out in such extreme ways. And I do understandable over forgivable, because those are different things. My personal bent is that some of the things the Liars said to CeCe to keep her from jumping was with the express intent of achieving that goal, because after Hanna’s half-season of stark bitterness and anger, it’s very difficult to see her forgiving CeCe, for one example.
It’s a reveal that would never satisfy everyone. But I think they did a solid job, personally, and I hope we see more of the outcome of this in Seasons 6B and 7.
Also, I wish we’d gotten to see Spencer rapid-fire defusing that bomb. How badass is she? I love Spencer. I look forward to more of her and her new sensible bangs.
And now, Pretty Little Liars eschews trying to do the dance of the college years in favor of jumping ahead past all that and into some new mysteries (and old ones that are yet unsolved). I think this is a great move–this show’s strength has often ridden on it’s compelling flashbacks, and they can make a whole slew of new ones now, in addition to trying to find contrived ways to keep the girls sharing screen time with each other and the supporting cast, while also trying to keep some realism with having them branch out to meet and connect with new people. Good work so far, PLL, you have seeriously up’d your scandalous game from Season 1, and I’ll be happily tuning in to see what happens next.