Pretty Little Liars Season 4 Summer Finale Review: World War A Begins?

By Nick Campbell

Aug 28, 2013

Pretty Little Liars S04E12: "Now You See Me, Now You Don't"

When I think of all the problems with Lost, the most troubling to me was always the magic.

Note: I'll try not to be spoilery but if you haven't watched Lost and you're particularly sensitive, maybe skip the next paragraph.

Throughout the entire series there was this thread, this belief that everything that happened on the island would be explained through some kind of science or coincidence. Disease warded off by electromagnetism, the numbers being randomly allotted to a hatch (and then manipulatively placed in the lottery to attract a certain person), the hand of a multinational conglomerate pulling the strings on people like they were puppets. That everything was grounded in a believable, tangible, if slightly eccentric universe.

Pretty Little Liars has the same thread of plausible deniability. A is everywhere, sees everything, has a handle on all sorts of information, and seems to have all these tightly wrapped presents for the Liars and, at the end, you want to believe that everything is science, that there's a reason for it all. Despite all the loopy goofiness, you want to believe there's some sort of grounded reality that allows A to be omniscient and still have the time to be crafty.

The Liars took a step in that direction by the end of the episode by finding A's Ravenswood lair with everything mapped out from the beginning of the episode and a computer surveillance system that's like a mini NORAD. It's a lot cleaner than I expected as I thought A would live more like Mona's version in the hotel room: walls stacked with crazy photos and doll parts. But it was less John Doe from Seven and more fitting to the human that the show is accusing of being A.

You may expect some "told ya so" grandstanding and, believe me, I considered just posting a series of GIFs with Grace from Will & Grace and Dr. Reed from Scrubs doing their "told ya so" dances. Ezra is a creep, has always been a creep, and being associated with A has not only been my theory but a popular one since at least Season 3. The Halloween special where Ezra just showed up on the train even though no one was being let on was the biggest clue. Huh. Maybe that's why Aria never seems to feel the brunt of A's wrath.

And even though I stood up and yelled "VINDICATION" when I saw Ezra slamming that armoire door in his shrine of his pedo-ness (I guess that could just be pedophilia), there's still an itch in the back of my mind that tells me that's not how this show works. You can't be presented with obvious evidence and believe that to be the whole or even a partial truth. Ashley didn't kill Wilden despite all the evidence that pointed to her. Melissa isn't A despite every fiber of your being telling you she's a baddy. And, yes, Cece did turn out to be Red Coat (or Red COAT as Emily likes to say) but there's also more than one and one of them could be, may be, Alison.

And then comes the magic. I get that Ravenswood is going to be a series that has a little bit of the supernatural in there and it appears that Carla Grunwald is going to play a major role in it, but her "intuition" being the thing that saved Alison from being buried alive smells like a deus ex machina to me. It's not cork-in-the-earth bad but it's weird that they would let that happen, that they would weave this supernatural element into Pretty Little Liars itself after the show went out of its way to demonstrate how A is able to surveil everything and afford it. Until Grunwald is shown to be paid off to create a tall tale around how Alison escaped her dirt nap to hide the real story, we have to believe that a psychic knew trouble was afoot, knew where to look, and was able to help just in time. Rubs you the wrong way, doesn't it?

But all of that is secondary to the answers we've been waiting for, which are delivered in our modern-day conception of how these kinds of shows–ones that give the audience limited omniscience and (mostly) tell the story by only what the protagonists themselves can see and hear–work. It's like the show gets off on being withholding.

How that goes is that you are given the answers you already suspect but don't outright know while new questions are developed. You get that CeCe is a Red Coat, something they've been hollering about all season, but then why would Alison be the other Red Coat? Ezra is exponentially more pedo and creepy (allegedly) than we ever gave him credit for while he was part of Ezria but did he ever wear board shorts (I tend to think he was born in wearing a douchy vest)? A is definitely more than a few disgruntled teens and has funding as a corporation but how far down does the rabbit hole go? How many people are on the payroll?

Granted, the Season of Answers is far from over as we still have the Halloween special and Season 4.5 next year but you have to admit the show has made a few strides in showing the audience some things they have been suspecting in order to win them back. The carrot has been dangling for so long, long enough that I've heard a lot of sentiment about people giving up on the show because the twists and turns aren't providing enough information. If it's true, Ezra as a major part (possibly a benefactor, maybe more) of the A syndicate is probably the biggest get of the series after confirmation of Ali's being alive.

Are you not entertained?


— Magic 8 Balls? Specially-made children's coffin? Saw magic trick? I mean, none of those things are especially easy to make. That workshop Emily stumbled on a while back has been working overtime for these little tricks. Maybe making some money on the side selling to other wannabe omniscient cyber-bullies?

— The literature reference for the episode was one of the more heavy-handed ones as Fitz discussed The Tempest and the concept of love-at-first-sight, the only defense Ezra had to still be pursuing Aria. It's not that he's a creep. He's subject to the universe, fates brought she and him together, their souls are uncontrollably connected to each other in spite of their age difference and positions in life (as teacher and student). That's it! "Oh, also, Aria, I've been spying on you and your friends during all your private moments and keeping a tally of everything you've done. Now let's talk about poetry and crap."

— Jake looks as bored with this old movie as we are with Jake. Seriously, if he doesn't end up being part of something like an undercover sting attempting to take A down for racketeering, what was the point?

— Caleb is the only honestly good person left in Rosewood. It's a good thing he's ducking out. Peace, Rosewood. I'm hopping on this metaphor for show transition!

— I'm not sure if the "game" A was playing was half-assed or if it was just thwarted by the Other Red Coat. But it seemed like the first shots of #WorldWarA led nowhere. Emily was kidnapped and put in a box (JUST PUSH THE STOP BUTTON ON THE SAW, YOU NINNIES) but, for the most part, there were a bunch of empty threats. Mona was holed up at a B&B for crying out loud. Granted, that might have been all a season finale had to be in the past but not with these raised stakes. The girls are barely even terrorized by that. You have to come strong or GTFO, A. This is supposed to be a world war.

– So this Jackie isn't the same Jackie that used to be engaged to Ezra?

— If I ever have to see Toby with a sad box of memories again, it'll be too soon. I care more about Toby's doo rag than this mother storyline. Maybe you should bring that back, Tobes. Go hard.

— A upgraded the message from "Kisses" to "Kisses Bitches"–which I assume is like yelling "Checkmate!" in mean-girl speak.

— Significant Other montage has all of the Liars being protected by their SO, curled up into their chests except for Aria with Ezra because, you know, he's straight up the Devil. But Aria did kiss him for a short-lived electric charge for the Ezria 'shippers. You poor bastards.

— The mime magician in Ravenswood goes by the name of Charlemagne, an interesting choice given Charlemagne is more famous for his conquering and ruling the Holy Roman Empire than for his modified Aztec Tomb trick. I'd also like to point out that Charlemagne, in the original French deck of cards (the one that your Bicycle deck is based on), is represented by the King of Hearts (remember the Queen of Hearts costume?) and is also known by the moniker, based on the position of his sword, as the "Suicide King." Where was Ezra when the girls were taking in the magic show?

— I love that the colors immediately saturate once we're in Ravenswood. Also: Ravenswood is the creepiest. "Hey, all of the town. What should we do to celebrate things?" "Maybe a party where it looks like we're all participating in some Jack the Ripper cosplay?" "Done!"

— "I don't do boxes." That's fair, Aria. Love your karate kick, too, bee tee dubs.

— How does no one check to see if CeCe is dead before sobbing and trying to call the police? There's a reason why you keep being tortured by A. Collectively, you're the biggest marks in Pennsylvania. Spencer can't think for all of you. Also: I love that Aria makes the decision that they have to crash the party once she sees the opportunity to buy some slutty turn-of-the-century clothes in a window.

— Your Moment of A: To continue this #WorldWarA theme, we're starting with some WWI costumes. Mustard gas not included. Probably.

  • Comments (230)
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  • hellythomas Sep 27, 2013

    anyone else think the mime-magician looked kind of like Alison? Hard to tell under the makeup but also when he/she/it stood next to Aria they were similar height, and we all know Aria's a short-ass so maybe it was a girl?

  • ark1317 Sep 07, 2013

    I was wondering... if Ezra is indeed EzrA, why would Cece spy on him and Aria in his apartment?

  • ark1317 Sep 05, 2013

    I stopped hoping for answers so long ago... the reveals and confirms were nice, even if most of them were public knowledge..

  • mrramirez26 Sep 05, 2013

    Also, the fact that CeCe was/is Red Coat. I bet on that all throughout the season, but was expecting a real answer along with the official reveal. No, actually, I've been waiting on a reasonable explanation ever since the Season 3 finale; but we all know that didn't happen. Come on, show, give me details! Details, I say!!

  • mrramirez26 Sep 05, 2013

    I was hoping for better, more definitive answers from this episode...especially considering it's the last episode for awhile (at least till Oct 22; the special 2 hr Halloween presentation. Which I must admit, I'm excited about)...but I was left underwhelmed. I was expecting Aria to be the "Liar who disappeared" not Emily. (This might also be because I find Aria more interesting than Emily.) And "Ezra as A"...there's more to the story I'm sure, but I don't know if I want to stick around to find out. At this point, I just watch to find out what happens - the show is pretty much bonkers now.

  • XristinakaiGi Sep 03, 2013

    where's the doll house and the five dolls looking like liars and Mona we have seen before?in another lair?and if there is another lair which one is A's?Are we sure that A and the guy that's looking for Ali is the same person?Cause if he is using the liars to find Ali why bother ruining their lives?

  • bbyxitsxstela Aug 31, 2013 <-- I think everyone needs to read this.

  • bbyxitsxstela Sep 08, 2013

    This comment has been removed.

  • vespa4 Sep 01, 2013

    Holy crap, never been a big fan of Toby, couldn't figure out why, but now I see that its because he's an emotionally abusive ARSEHOLE! Jesus, I remember thinking it was dodgy the way Spencer just took him back after the whole "fake death and finding out he was part of A" thing, just because she immediately took his word for it when he said "I was doing it for you" despite the fact that made NO sense! I was also annoyed when the other three girls didn't try and warn Spencer to be more careful around him after this, considering that when they thought Paige was dodgy (a conclusion they came to with far less evidence), they spent a lot of time and effort trying to ensure Emily was safe from her. But eventually I got over it, but now I''m mad all over again!
    ...Ugh, fuckin' Toby.

  • bbyxitsxstela Sep 08, 2013

    ^Ikr his character makes me so mad. But a lot more people are starting to think he's abusive so maybe Marlene will boot Spoby (hopefully).

  • vespa4 Sep 10, 2013

    It'd be good if they made it an actual story-line, and then maybe they could make Toby part of A after all since it actually makes sense that he would be

  • bbyxitsxstela Sep 14, 2013

    ^ yeah, I can't believe Marlene chickened out of a super interesting storyline just to please the shippers...AGAIN.

  • vespa4 Aug 31, 2013

    Wasn't blown away, but glad Ezra's part of A!
    Also, the scene with Emily and Paige in her bedroom made me think, has Emily had sex yet? she's had 3 long-term relationships, but all the other girls had a hideous cheesy montage of their first times, but whether or not Emily has is never really referenced. Like when Paige was planning what their university dorm would look like and she had separate beds in there...? Just wondering.

  • dude19 Aug 30, 2013

    I made sure to check and the actress that played Jackie in this episode was not Paloma Guzman who played Ezra's Jackie but an actress named Chantal Thuy. It seems rather odd they'd give a character the same name and then cast an actress who looks strikingly similar. I was thrown for a loop during that whole scene. Also, if she was really concerned about Mona skipping out on her own party, why would she jerk them around with that French bull?

  • alcalde Aug 07, 2014

    &Also;, if she was really concerned about Mona skipping out on her own party, why
    &would; she jerk them around with that French bull?

    You've never been around language club geeks, have you? That's like asking a Star Wars geek why they're swinging the loaf of Italian bread around and making lightsaber sounds. It's part of who they are.

  • your_sunny Aug 30, 2013

    I'm actually pretty sure they will duck out of the whole Ezra-is-part-of-A thing. My money is on this spin: He followed the girls because for a while he has been suspecting that they were being taunted by someone like Mona's A. When he walked into the lair he saw the extent to which he was right and it made him angry that someone was hurting his precious Aria and that she and the other liars hadn't told him, even though he'd asked on more than one occasion.
    Offending Ezria shippers by making Ezra A is way too bold a move and would probably cost the show a lot of viewers soon enough.

  • DoesNotEqual Sep 02, 2013

    Also, Ezra's life has been a fairly open book. He teaches, advises, had a kid for a while. Aria used to visit him a lot. He's often a chaperone. I also wonder where he'd get that kind of money, since he supposedly cut himself off from his family's fortune.

  • alcalde Aug 07, 2014

    He did have that stack of money one time, which he claimed was from selling a family car....

  • SesseKitty Sep 02, 2013

    Yeah, this was my thought too. I'd be all for Ezra being a creep but I really think he was just angry because A was back. He was asking about it from Emily earlier and you all know how good of a liar she is. So I'd bet my money on Ezra not actually being on the A team.

  • vespa4 Aug 31, 2013

    Oh god, I hope they don't pussy out of the whole thing, I felt so cheated with the whole "I was doing it to protect you!" crap they did with Toby, when it made sense that he'd be in on it. Also it didn't make sense that he was doing it to protect Spencer because why would Team A let him join, their supposed to be all intelligent, but then let anyone join randomly, even if they have a close personal relationship with one of the liars (or even one of the liars themselves, sorry but that "Spencer is A" storyline was even worse!)

  • dude19 Aug 30, 2013

    I know they can't be trusted but the writers said that Ezra is definitely involved in the A scheme somehow. My money is on an evil twin and/or Jekyll and Hyde split personality. He does love his literary metaphors.

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