Pretty Little Liars "A Is for Answers" Review: But No Answers on A

By Nick Campbell

Mar 19, 2014

Pretty Little Liars S05E24: "A Is for Answers"


Once upon a time, there was this video game that had this crazy story set in a huge world, just gigantic in scope. But the production ran out of money and, in order to keep the project on-budget, the creators had the characters literally sit in rocking chairs and tell parts of the story they didn't have the money to make. Ten straight minutes of flipping through text boxes watching nothing more than a 32-bit dude in a ponytail tell you what's happening.

That old familiar feeling of mashing the X button to get through the the scenes faster crept up on me while watching "A Is for Answers," as Alison literally sat in a chair for most of the episode and provided the backstory we've been missing. But, instead of it being because Pretty Little Liars ran out of money, I have a feeling that this episode full of flashbacks was fueled by recent backlash toward the show.


We've been burned before. The mightiest example of a series ending before we got the answers we craved is Lost. Indeed, there were definitely times where I kind of wished someone would've just sat Jacob down and played Third Degree; Sawyer would definitely have gotten the identity of who was in the outrigger out of him. But the going accusation at the time was that Lost's creative team didn't know what they were doing, that they were drowning in story and had no idea how they wanted to end it. That there was no plan. That they were just making things up as they went along. And that eventually, they just slapped together an ending.

I don't believe that's the case (call me an optimist), but I don't think the fine people behind Pretty Little Liars like being the subject of similar assumptions. So they struck a compromise with the audience: We'll give you a taste of the good stuff if you let us keep A a secret. Because, honestly, how much life does the show have once the Liars figure out who A is? Half a season? An episode?


Watching the girls sit Ali down and coax her to tell them a story wasn't as frustratingly meta as that video game. After all, what would you have done if your presumed-dead-but-actually-just-disappeared friend reemerged and stuck around long enough to give you every answer she possibly could? It's just too bad a lot of what she said was stuff we already knew, even if we hadn't pieced it together on a timeline yet.

But we did learn a good number of things that we didn't know before: All those Alison appearances were NOT weird dreams (candy striper in Hanna's hospital room, at the fiery lodge, etc); Ali was the one who pushed Ian off the belfry (but didn't kill him); Spencer didn't LUX shovel anyone; Mrs. D is the one who buried Alison alive; and Mona is the one who helped Alison disappear. Oh, and Mona is real crazy. Like, real real crazy. Like, I don't know what's holding Mona in check from rising to supervillain status and developing her own weather machine, but I feel like it's that Hanna took her shopping and everyone in Rosewood should thank their lucky stars that those two girls shared some retail therapy because otherwise, Mona would be their evil overlord. Everyone in Rosewood must eat a dozen cupcakes in one sitting!


Anyway. If the members of the audience are stockholders in the business of Pretty Little Liars, they finally got a decent share of dividends this week, and I. Marlene King and Co. get to keep pushing forward. Answers like full-size candy bars. Mostly, anyway. But, then, there were those last five minutes.

After nearly an entire hour of establishing Alison as both a victim and a power player, after kicking off what will probably be a long process of restoring Ali's capital after witnessing her be horrible to people in everyone's flashbacks for four years, after stretching the Liars to their limits all these seasons later, Pretty Little Liars reduced the ladies to a bunch of shrieking little girls once A came to find them.

The actors who play the Liars are all in their mid- to late-20s now, so it's easy to forget that they're all supposed to still be minors. But we've watched all of them at some point or another grow a pair of ovaries and take care of business when they need to. The Liars have never been more impotent than they were at the end of "A Is for Answers." Let's walk through it.


For our purposes, we're going to call their attacker A, even though s/he was dressed as a Hoodie with a mask (so it could've still just been an underling). A attacked through the plate glass window with a gun and the girls screamed and ran up the fire escape. The roof had no exits (Em is probably the only one who could jump, Wonder Woman-like, from rooftop to rooftop), but it did only have two entrances: the one that Ezra would emerge from (why was he there? Was he peeping?) and the one A crashed through. No one decided to man the doors and tackle A upon A reaching the rooftop, which seems like a total Spencer or Hanna thing to do—take A down and then either let Aria kick-punch him/her or just let Emily use her sixth sense to find a dangerous weapon within a ten-foot radius and do some dirty work.

There wasn't any of that, though. Sisters were not doing it for themselves. Instead, they waited impatiently for A to arrive, only to find the baseball-hatted Ezra arriving first. He wrestled A for the gun while the Liars looked on and shrieked some more and waited for the man to save them. The gun fell Hanna's way and she picked it up. Suddenly, I felt like they could be empowered again.

Nope. Despite some pretty convincing demands that A take off the mask (as the episode promo sold us on), A merely acted like the veil was being lifted, said "Psych!" and then leaped over the gap to the other building. Hanna with the gun just watched as A jumped, climbed over the ledge on the other side, landed on top of the building, stood there and looked at the girls, and then casually, casually, exited through the door.


Maybe that's overly harsh on Hanna, expecting her to pull the trigger of a weapon she has no experience firing, especially since there's no backstory as to her being familiar with guns in any way that doesn't include burying them behind sorority houses. But watching A pretend like the mask was about to come off and then turning to dive across the buildings made me laugh out loud. It would've been one thing if the police had shown up and distracted everyone. But A just ditched them right in front of their eyes. The relaxed saunter inside was especially ridiculous, and made every one of those Liars look useless.

And they looked even more useless as they realized Ezra's pensive look wasn't because he was being all emo, but because he'd been shot. He milked it, apologizing as he fell unconscious, and the girls all had to scream for help because Noel took their phones away. They were impotent. They were helpless. They were exactly where they were before except now they had even more dangerous A bait hanging out with them. Yay?

It was disappointing to see such a weak ending to an episode that was essentially created for fan service. I know a lot of people will feel cheated because A wasn't unmasked, but the episode was truly dedicated to providing clarification, if not answers, to many a question. At the very least, it cleared up the timeline and helped narrow down the field as to who A is. The problem with a show like this is that there's a general impatience with knowing the answers, and that frustration often gets conflated with a malaise concerning the show in general. Pretty Little Liars isn't perfect. God help us, we can enumerate the actual problems with the series for hours. But how it reveals the core tenet of the show isn't one of them. Someday, Pretty Little Liars will get to the point like Bones or Chuck did, where the main serial conceit will wear itself out so much that A will have to be unmasked because that premise gets old. But not just yet.



NOTES

– Spencer being mesmerized by Newton's Cradle might be the best metaphor of the episode. That Aria was annoyed by it makes it even better.

– The ticking time bomb seemed unnecessary. Obviously, the girls were going to try to get everything they could from Ali immediately. It's not like they were going to be all, "Oh, good to see you. Glad you're safe for now. Oh, don't worry about the details that've been ruining our life for years. We can go over that stuff at brunch tomorrow."

– So Noel wasn't working with NAT or A. He was just a jerk the whole time. If Ali likes the Liars (generally) and has no reason to distrust them (Spencer, for instance, did not take Ali out with a shovel), why do all the people who supposedly help Ali treat the Liars like dog crap?

– "Did you get lucky or did someone turn me in?" You signed your own name on a hotel ledger, CeCe. This one's on you and your terrible on-the-run skills. Not even an obscure Nabokov character name? Rookie mistake. Related: It took me a while to believe it but that actually was Vanessa Ray playing CeCe. It's just been so long that I didn't recognize her. We're going to call that Mike Syndrome.


– So Melissa knows who killed "that girl" on the night of Alison's disappearance. Papa Hastings seems summarily appalled. And this is a man who's had to put up with a lot of appalling things. Like Toby's slicked nude form mere feet from his daughter.


– Mrs. D is the one who buried Ali alive to save... someone. I mean, unless Mrs. D is able to Spider-Man across rooftops, she's probably not A, but that's some hysterical ish to bury your own daughter without even checking for signs of life. Not even, like, a mirror under the nose to see if it fogs up? I can see why Ali might not be terribly surprised that the Liars suspect Mrs. D of being capable of terrible things. I mean, if she's going to protect someone by hiding her own daughter in the backyard, it's got to be Jason, right?


– Ezra seemed really upset that Ali lied about her age (even though there was no funny business—Alison had a lot of relationships where they apparently didn't "do anything"). He specifically mentioned in the flashback how angry he was that she was in high school. I guess she broke the seal, so Ezra justified, "Well, I already dated one high school girl. I guess that's who I am now. Bring on the underaged babes!"


– Detective Holbrook has been watching too much Colombo. His "just one more thing" game needs work.

 Mona, you really shouldn't've let Ali fall asleep after she got knocked in the head so hard. That's super bad for you.

 It's unfortunate how much the producers tried to tie Ravenswood into Pretty Little Liars. I understand the move and the risk/reward, but now Grunwald psychically knowing where Alison was buried so she could be pulled out of the ground is forever part of the backstory. It's a dash of magic that is going to forever haunt the show.

 Your Moment of A: A Hoodie dragging Mrs. D through the backyard and burying her (presumably) alive. Seems more like revenge against Jessica than an A calling card. Whose side are you on, A? Maybe A will join the clique soon, too, after revealing that A is being tortured by, you know, B. Sorry, guys. It's been four seasons and I don't think I've ever made that joke. Thanks for reading and making Season 4 fun! See you in June!


What'd you think of the finale? Were the "answers" satisfying enough for your liking?


  • Comments (161)
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  • virgo091085 May 31, 2014

    it seems like the early seasons allow the side stories to be more interesting and entertaining; so not every second had to literally be about discussing or hunting A. i think the show needs to figure out how to get back to that better balance.

  • esraronaldomahmoud Apr 19, 2014


    with subtitles:)

  • esraronaldomahmoud Apr 19, 2014

    where can I watch season 4 free:)?

  • itsmemadie01 Apr 11, 2014

    Ezra was in college and said no to Ali but did hankypanky with Aria while working as a teacher? Please don't bring him back if he is not A.

  • YasminRodrigu1 Mar 26, 2014

    Am I the only one who thinks that Ezra had more than enough time to say "Hey! I know who you are! You're _____!" It's seriously upsetting, but it's part of the show so, eh, what can we do? Wait for June, I guess.

  • nataliascurtu1 Mar 22, 2014

    Ugh. The only reason a mother would cover her daugther's murder is to protect another child of hers.
    But given that they are gonna make a whole new season, this might actually turn into an absurd, very long and boring mess. I'm done watching this.

  • katerinananai Mar 27, 2014

    what if mrs.D has a twin sister that has nothing to do with A?i think who ever tried to kill alison that night is not A!!!

  • mk962247 Mar 23, 2014

    first inkling I had that this show would turn into a hot mess was when Mona was allowed to go back to school with the girls after season 2 finale & when she even had the same classes with them after trying to murder them LOL...but kept watching the guilty pleasure...then Toby reveal turned out to be a red herring...okay still gave another shot...Ezra reveal revived the show...him being A made the pedo relationship with Aria and Ezra seem plausible but of course they pulled a gossip girl and he was trying to write a "true crime novel" -_- ...then the S4 finale (already gave my opinion about it) Ultimately, I will now leave this show to the youngsters that have the time to invest in a non-sensible series. I am glad that so many others have had there "aha" moment with this series! Deuces.

  • nataliascurtu1 Mar 23, 2014

    Agree, nothing makes sense any more, plus i don't get it why they idealize the teacher-minor student relationship? Ezra should have been A fo so many reasons, but mainly to somehow show that this kind of "relationship" would end badly.
    Maybe they had this in mind before the network ordered another season, and what's the point of it if everybody knows who's A?

  • dewdropvelvet Jun 10, 2014

    I would still watch if I knew who A was. It would be fun if we knew but the girls didn't. I don't know for sure, but they have a great cast, and I think it would still be interesting if we knew everything- as long as it made sense. I mean, people are going to be rewatching this when it's over, and they'll be able to just ask somebody who A is! So for posteritys sake, they better make it good, and worth watching even if you know who A is.

  • katerinananai Mar 21, 2014

    finally we got some answers !!!! Awesome episode and it's the only season that we have no idea who A could be ( except jason , which is too obvious to be real ) ... The only thing I didn't like was that the writers tried to redim ezra's being a pedophile. So ezra tells no to allison ... He refuses to have a relationship with her because she is underaged but with Aria , does the exact opposite . He approaches even though he knows who she is and how old she is in order to write a book ??? they had sex since the day 1 for gs!!! That was a really shity ! And they are going 2 be back 2gether the guy is a psycho !!!

  • SesseKitty Mar 21, 2014

    Unless Mr. DiLaurentis has another love child, the "killer" (one smacking Alison in the head with a rock) has to be Jason. Sorry, she would not cover for anyone else and bury her daughter for it. Or she is insane. Honestly, it could only be another child. BUT, the one that hit Allison on the head doesn't have to be A.

    I liked the reveals of this episode but agree that the ending was very weak. "I know who you are!" Well, Ezra, how about finishing with a name before you tussle yourself to death with the bad guy whose identity no one else knows? And Hanna not shooting? Was she the same girl we saw in that noir episode? Hanna has more sass than that. She could have at least tried to shoot and missed. I get they still want to hide the identity but the way they did it here was stupid.

    Melissa is pretty disgusting by the way. They're giving hard time for Spencer for some silly pills but Melissa has done so many bad things that it's revolting already. She doesn't need to have killed the girl but she is involved in that too, blegh.

  • alcalde Oct 30, 2014

    &Unless; Mr. DiLaurentis has another love child, the "killer" (one smacking Alison in the
    &head; with a rock) has to be Jason.

    It might not be a love child, it might be a lovER - perhaps Mr. Hastings?

  • MisterKez Mar 21, 2014

    What was in that letter from Toby?
    When did Toby say that he was going to London and why?
    Ali was trying to prove that people were not sending her the hateful text messages. That does not vindicate her in my eyes. She is still a hateful bitch. I do not understand why they would want her back. Let her hour run out then say "We tried. So sorry we couldn't solve your little mystery. Bye bye now"

    Most of this episode was a rehash of the first 4 seasons. Not much new happened except the two lawyers got played by the cops. Ezra is gut shot, so Aria will get back with him out of sympathy. Mrs. D. may or may not be dead. Jason is MIA and the only one I can think of that Mrs. D. would cover for hitting Ali with the rock. I knew that the hoodie person was faking taking off the mask. Ezra supposedly knows who it is, but is somewhere in limbo. This is taking way too long to solve. How many years have passed in the show since this began? 2? 3? 10? At least Caleb is coming back in June, so now we get Hanna, Caleb and Travis love triangle.

  • Neolucifer999 Mar 21, 2014

    What frustrates me the most here , is how the episode tried so far to make Ezra some hero , instead of the creep he actually is

  • tamelarush37 Mar 21, 2014

    I completely understand why Aria hates Ezra right now. I would too. But I don't think Ezra is a creep. I think his "heroism" is because he's trying to make up for hurting Aria and he genuinely cares for her and the other PLLs

  • NicholasCampb Mar 21, 2014

    Ezra being a creep and Ezra trying to make amends with Aria are not mutually exclusive. It's admirable that he is trying so hard but he did knowingly hook up with a student and keep surveillance on teenagers for years, even after he "fell in love" with one. He also tried to sway her against her friends by maintaining he should come before them. I don't deny that the character honestly cares for her, but let's not become Ezra apologists.

  • tamelarush37 Mar 21, 2014

    I don't think he's a creep. His survaliance was for a book, in which he had a publisher and in public places in the same way as other investigative reporters do for a story. I heard there is a at least 1 survaliance camera for every block in Manhattan. I don't know if this is right or wrong but it is our life now days and Ezrias surveliience doesn't seem like that big of a thing relatively speaking.

  • Neolucifer999 Mar 21, 2014

    I dont see how any part of what you describe isnt creepy . That's stalker and paparazzi behavior . So he does care , and did something actually heroic ok , but that's something else not mutually exclusive with him worming his way into their life for all the wrong reasons , and getting in on in a vile fashion .

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