Pretty Little Liars "Unbridled" Review: Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bully
There is a time and a place for in media res. This was not a great example of it.
"Unbridled" opened with the scene from the episode promo: Spencer running through the woods in a wedding dress, chasing a shadow. She fell down. She got all muddy. She found a bear trap (???). And then we jumped back in time to see how we got there.
As a plot device, it signaled that this opening scene would be the climax of the episode, that everything the Liars had done and were about to do would lead to the chase through the trees. Previewing the scene theoretically should've paid off once Pretty Little Liars told the story of how it came to pass. But in the end, "how it came to pass" didn't have much to do with Spencer's decision to shirk her runway duties and get her train caught in what I can only assume was Roadrunner territory, since the woods behind the DiLaurentis house are apparently full of traps typically set by Wile E. Coyote.
But my problem isn't the bear trap. My problem is that all the moments of "Unbridled" didn't point Spencer in the direction of that long-haired shade in the pale moonlight. I mean, yeah, the episode maintained the determinist attitude where everything we do is building to the next thing, but from a narrative perspective, Spencer's sprint through the woods was happenstance. And worse, it ultimately led to nothing more than the discovery that her bodice had bones in it (how did that go unnoticed when she was putting it on?). She thought she was chasing Ali but she wasn't. She didn't even catch anyone. The only information she really ended up with was that Mrs. D handed a bag to someone. For an event that "Unbridled" pushed on us so much, it was weird that whatever the Other Liars Brain Trust was doing was actually a little more satisfying.
It was Emily's turn to be sleuthy this week as she made phone calls and did some investigating via iPad (Emily may be the poorest Liar in Rosewood, what with an ailing father who admittedly doesn't make so much and an absent mother, but she certainly has the funds to get herself that Retina). She and Hanna seemed to reprise their comedy duo role, particularly while searching Ali's room in those dresses. But then they stumbled on a collage that led them to the password to an email account. I was slightly confused as to why they needed to log into an email account in order to send an email to another account; seems like they could've cut out the middle man on that one.
Regardless, the important outcome of "Unbridled" was the phone call from Alison, asking for them to find her so they can talk. All the Liars. It seems odd that Alison is doing such an about-face on meeting with the girls, given that just a few weeks ago, Ali was completely frightened that Spencer was poking around. She was trying to convince Emily that one or some of the Liars couldn't be trusted. And now it's okay for all of them to swing by her secret lair? Sounds like a trap or poor plotsmanship.
The thing is, "Unbridled" completed an unfortunate journey for Emily that started in the first week of Season 4B. Em spent an emotional moment with Paige, working through her feelings about Alison and determining it was time to move on, that the memory that haunted her was no longer a reality, whether Ali was dead or alive. That staunch promise to herself was effectively wrecked within a few weeks, when our favorite blond cherub mastermind paid our gullible friend Emily a visit. Suddenly, Em was deep in Ali's pocket, and she left Paige in the cold.
It's hard for me to agree with the rationality of a young lady who tried to drown someone, but Paige has been pretty right for the last few weeks, and mostly because she's regurgitating what Emily was trying to tell herself. Ali is dangerous, Ali is a liar, Ali is manipulative. From Paige's perspective, dropping an anonymous tip to investigators honestly seems like the best idea any of the Liars has come up with in a while. When Emily got all indignant about basically posting a sign for Ali Hunting Season, Paige countered with what should've been a logical statement: "Let the police protect her." Now, in any other city, in any other time period, that would've been a fine idea. But here in Rosewood, every officer is either corrupt or incompetent, so (1) there's no guarantee that you wouldn't be putting that task in the hands of someone who was actually going after Alison, and (2) you could draw a map directly to Alison's horrifying living accommodations and the Rosewood PD would still end up in Chillicothe, Ohio, trying to find their perp. No, they wouldn't even know they weren't looking for a perp. The Rosewood PD is only a tad smarter than Princess Bubblegum's Banana Guards.
How this (supposedly) ended for Emily was that she chose Alison over Paige. She claimed that she can't trust Paige anymore after that violation, and effectively parted ways. Her pathetic decision to chase the girl who jerked her around for years instead of staying with the girl the who only tried to drown her once is just one item in a litany of PLL's recent ill-fated romances. Aria is recovering from Fitz. Spencer's boyfriend has apparently absconded to England and sent back a letter that hopefully we'll be able to see the contents of in the near future. And Hanna has her man-shaped yo-yo that she's at least slightly into right now.
The girls are at a crossroads in their lives. So much of who they are and what has happened to them is wrapped up in Alison's mystique. Seeing her on her own turf, presumably for a meeting where Alison just sits in a rocking chair and spills about everything, is important for the audience in a narrative way, but it's also important for the Liars to confront the thing that's cursed their lives. Because, despite their individual histories with this master manipulator and the fact that their soul-crushing bully is heavily invested in what Alison does, all of these girls continue to want Alison to come back home.
It doesn't add up. While the cliffhanger of "Unbridled" was that there was someone else present at the secret lair whose identity was left unknown, my real interest is in how this clique is going to a react to being around Alison again. Is it just like old times? Have they changed? Has she changed? Do the Liars actually want Alison to come home? And what version of the truth will they get out of their naturally ambiguous and vague former friend? Sure, supposedly #AliTellsAll next week, but is that enough for the Liars to band together on Ali's behalf?
– Interesting thing about the notes Spencer found this week: None of them were signed. The photobooth film with the message "You know me, Spencer. You killed me," didn't have a "Kisses, -A" at the bottom and neither did the message slipped into her bone bodice. Either A's been in a hurry lately or we're dealing with a third author (one who just signs "-A", one who signs "Kisses, -A," and a third who dispenses with the valedictory).
– Welcome back, Jason. We've missed your subtle character around here. Helping Mom with some of her activities? That's cool. Oh, and bye, Dean. I know that you falling asleep on Spencer's butt was (probably) innocent, but Not Rish was not wrong to let you go. Also: Was Dean introduced purely as someone who would know that Jason wasn't at rehab? Seems like an awfully roundabout way to hit that plot point. Maybe it was just so Veronica could hit that line about listening to her husband to "hire the 60-year-old Scottish woman with diaper breath." I'm assuming she wasn't talking about clean diapers.
– I actually respected Travis a lot more when he was playing hard to get at the beginning. Now he's just under Hanna's spell like a confident, manly version of Lucas. Although, now that it looks like they're getting hot and heavy, the return of Caleb in three... two...
– Mrs. D could've had a worse explanation for who A is. If I didn't have omniscient third-person for Spencer, I totally would've believed that. But does that mean Mrs. D has to be so dang creepy all the time? It's like she spent time in Mystic Falls learning the craft. Or The Craft, even.
– Zack not falling asleep until he talks to Ella despite it being 3am where he is. Gah-ross. Y'all are adults. Pull it together.
– Speaking of Ella, welcome back, Ella! It was nice to see some of the Rosewood wives dipping back in to check up on their daughters barely holding on. We were missing the Fields, but they've already put in their time, what with them Spider-Manning up a wall to save Emily and watching cars crash into their living room.
– I like Holbrook lately. Detective Nice Guy was firm yet respectful, telling Mrs. D about exhuming whoever is in Ali's grave and casually reminding the Liars of the spectre of the law that's hanging over them. It's so nice not to have a pedo detective running around town.
– When talking about Spencer during the days of her first drug dalliance and that fateful summer, Veronica used "evil twin" language, a loaded phrase in the Pretty Little Liars universe. Coincidence? Reference to the books? Or is it foreshadowing?
– Must Ali always pick the grossest of places to stay when she's on the run?
– It's really troublesome how Ella tried to frame Aria's break-up with Ezra as being akin to her separation from Byron. Not that Ella the character should know the whole story, but Aria forgetting about Fitz is more than just a starting over/there are more fish in the sea opportunity. The show seemed to frame it like this is some break-up of star-cross'd lovers, but he was a creeper who spied on Aria's every move and manipulated his way into the lives of the Liars. This divorcee relating what is happening under her infrequent watch to this higher-level betrayal makes everything about her seem small and petty.
– Your Moment of A: Hoodie finds CeCe Drake at the Red Finch Inn and calls the Rosewood PD to report it. Seriously, what are those jerks doing all day? I know I just said I like Holbrook but he's basically a rotting extension of a dead body. Also: A like butterscotches. Have we considered that A is that 60-year-old Scottish woman with the diaper breath?
What'd you think of "Unbridled"?
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