Pretty Little Liars "Dead to Me" Review: This Spencer Is a Gift

Pretty Little Liars S03E18: "Dead to Me"

This is my favorite Spencer.

In the comments on last week's review, there was some backlash against Spencer's reprioritization of passions as she dealt with her first love being party to her very real enemy. She used to be the person who constantly reminded the Liars that they were responsible for figuring out who killed Ali—the chief instigator for clue-getting capers and the brains to Emily's naivete, Hanna's overwhelming adolescence, and Aria's dead-behind-the-eyes looks. While I think that Pretty Little Liars tends to favor Aria, Spencer is the glue that binds this clique together, making sure they keep their collective eyes on the prize. The prize is besting A, which also means finding Ali's killer.

Her about-face is sudden, but with so many ridiculous things happening on this show (Dr. Sullivan's non-sequitor hypnosis suggestion being one of the more laughable ones this week), I feel it's justified, particularly with someone so obsessive and invested. If it were Paige, it would've been a few weeks of poor Emily. If it were Caleb, Hanna would've written him off and maybe keyed his car. If it were Ezra— let's face it, Aria's time will come. But Spencer's the one who's been thinking about it every day, all the time. Had she the space, there'd be a Homeland-esque corkboard wall with yarn and highlighters and tacks (oh, the tacks!) pinning every man and every slightly suspect lady around a giant question-mark'd face to represent A.

So, finding out the love of her life is a henchman for her Osama bin Laden isn't just devastating in that hard break-up kind of way; the history of betrayal breeds a bitter cold in her veins. It's pulling her outside of A's little box.

When Mona spoke to Spencer about the decathalon, Spencer mentioned that none of this is a game to her. Mona, still in character, brought up Toby cheering for her (I really hope that's not a euphemism) if Spencer couldn't make it to the competition and nailed her on not bringing her A game. The conversation was just barely subtextual because it's becoming clear that Spencer isn't into keeping up appearances anymore. She wasn't trying to maintain the allegory of their conversation. She was directly warning Mona. This isn't a game to Spencer, and when something isn't a game, that means no one has to play by the rules.

Thus far, playing A's game has meant the Liars feeling threatened enough by notes and a seemingly omniscient presence that they can be manipulated into doing things they wouldn't normally do. I phrase it like that because not everything A blackmails the Liars into doing is ethically reprehensible. Ezra should probably know that he has a kid, if for no other reason that he can get the eff off the show for a little bit and take stock of a life that contains a lot of statutory rape.

Although, Ezra's probably just using the excuse so he can find somewhere else to dress up like the Queen of Hearts.

The point is that A is playing a game and the Liars, though constantly resisting A's attempts to control them, end up falling into the traps anyway, just like Aria suggested early on in the episode. But Spencer is repulsed by the game now. Trying to pick up on clues A leaves for you is trifling. What do you do to thwart the person trying to manipulate you with threats of exposing lies? You tell the truth. And you tell the truth (or a version of it, the version you believe) in such a dramatic and inopportune way that you burn everyone around you with how barefaced you are.

I don't know if Pretty Little Liars will continue on this track where Spencer is able to operate outside the reach of the A's long arms, but I hope it does. Nothing-to-lose Spencer is the shot of that the show didn't know it needed. When she opened the door and found ruins, I almost cheered. Because it meant Spencer has absolutely nothing more important in her life than to bring this A syndicate to its knees.

Which may mean bringing Alison to her knees (PHRASING). For the first time since Season 1 (correct me if I'm wrong), someone brought up the idea that Ali might not only be alive, she might also be the one in charge of the A team. I've been loyal to the soap-opera rule that, unless the audience sees a body, the character in question is not necessarily deceased. While we have a long way to go before proving Alison is the woman in the red coat, she seemed to be everywhere else in the episode.

Obviously she was in Emily's vision during her time at the Circus of Psychiatry ("So you see the weapon—now cluck like a chicken!") but I saw her more in the Caleb/Jamie storyline. Caleb visiting his childhood home provided very little for me. I know the big win for the story is that Caleb might know who his father is, an absence he's been whining about more often than Art Alexakis from Everclear. But Jamie being his father doesn't add anything to Caleb for me, doesn't make me like him more or make me interested in his backstory.

What it does do is connect the story of an absentee father who watched over his son in secret to the story of a possibly living Alison Di Laurentis. Hanna and Jamie batted around the idea of a person disappearing but not being able to come back because lives move on. Alison was a shepherdess to the Liars in life, except instead of keeping them alive and leading them to greener pastures, she used them to cut her teeth on elaborate mind games and tarnished their reputations with a history of manipulation and general horribleness to her common man.

If Alison isn't dead and she has been watching her friends from afar, she's watched them hold onto her memory but move forward with their lives. Emily, Aria, and Hanna maintain their position that "Ali was our friend" without further examination into whether or not that's true. Spencer, in light of Toby's betrayal, is more like Caleb. She only remembers the bad times and the abandonment. With Toby involved in all this, it makes her question everything she's been obsessed over.

I hope the show maintains this thread and keeps Spencer on the fringe of A's game, if only because everyone else's storylines right now are so dull.



NOTES


– "Are her bones holy relics?" Spencer, while being the one who maintained the hunt for Ali's killer and the attempt to thwart A, has never really gotten along with Ali. It's interesting for her and the rest of the Liars to diverge so much. Emily (who crushed on her), Aria (who shared terrible secrets with her), and Hanna (who worshipped her popularity) do, in fact, treat Alison like a fallen messiah sometimes.

– Wes, though smarmy at times, doesn't seem nearly as creepy as the rest of Rosewood (and certainly not as creepy as his brother). That makes the number of boys in town who aren't total creepshows two: Wes and the guy who showed compassion for Spencer when Mona won emperor of the decathalon.

– Dr. Sullivan's non-sequitur, from Emily pouring her heart out about the feeling of killing a person to the question of hypnotherapy, was hilarious. "So I plunged the knife in and I could feel the life drain out of him—" "Hey, do you like pie? I was just thinking of pie." How about listening instead of suggesting kooky ways to have Emily provide exactly the same information she's giving you now?

– Also: of COURSE Emily is suggestive enough to be hypnotized. And then suggestive enough to conflate what happened on "that night" with her idea of how Alison was murdered. Emily killing Alison almost made her interesting for a brief shining moment.

– Is Caleb so messed up that he would destroy a baby picture of himself? Who tears up baby pictures? Why would you be afraid that he would do that?

– I'm not sure I understand the implications of Spencer carving a name onto Toby's mother's tomb. Because he's next? Because she wants to get him into some kind of trouble and everyone would assume Toby wrote his own name? Am I missing a necessary literary illusion here?

– The writers made a big deal about asking for ID when the hoodie was trying to buy booze, so I guess they're cramming down our throats that one of these hoodies is a grown-up (or has a fake ID). You have to assume this one is Ezra, right?

Comments (57)
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"Had she the space, there'd be a Homeland-esque corkboard wall with yarn and highlighters and tacks (oh, the tacks!) pinning every man and every slightly suspect lady around a giant question-mark'd face to represent A. "

DEF. MORE WIRE-ESQUE THAN HOMELAND ESQUE.
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I highly doubt Ali is actually still alive! How likely is it that a body can be found, autopsied, buried, dug up, found again and re-interred without someone doing DNA tests to check if its actually who they think it is!! They would have at least had to check the remains the 2nd time around as the remains would not exactly be recognisable!
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Hi, everyone
I wonder if anyone noticed that at the end of the episode when the hooded dude is buying booze he/she also gets some candy from the jar. I'm sure I've seen some character doing the same thing before, I just cannot recall who or when...
Or maybe that's not even relevant
lol
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Hello everybody,
This is my very first comment and I'm not from english speaking coutry, so please excuse me if I do something wrong.
So now about the series. I really like PLL and it's mysteries. I try sometimes to solve it, but unsuccsesfully always. Maybe you all can help me? I have two questions or observations (I don't know how to name it right):
1) don't you think that we maybe should take notice not the fact about ID, but wallet itself? Haven't we met a person with a wallet like that?
2) and second observation is about episode 16 - why liars were so surprised when Byron told them that he saw Melissa outside Alison's house? It was already stated that what night when Alison died she was there just like Ian, Jason, Jenna and Garrett. What am I missing?
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In the scene at the end, the camera clearly focused on the nametag of the guy in the liquor shop and it read "Kyle". I could be wrong, but didn't the voice that told him to check the ID then call him "Dave"?
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I rewatched the scene where Emily witnesses Alison's grave being dug up, and I noticed strands of long dark hair sticking out from under the black hoodie, which coupled with the small stature of the person suggests it was probably Mona. Also, the face of the blond in the red coat is sort of visible when you pause the scene, it's dark, but to me she doesn't look like any of the characters we've seen on the show so far.
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@Hanna2 it might be a fake ID
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WTF moment - > Emily wearing a Joy Division shirt!

I love and am obsessed w/ Joy Division, but I couldn't help but lol.
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omg so I re-watched the ending and the ID ended with an 'en'. It could be wilden but since wren comes back in the next episode it could be wren.
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Whether it was Wilden or Ezra in the end, i cannot figure out why grown men would terrorize high school girls. I know the town is small and there isnt a lot to do. . but damn. it cant be THAT boring.
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Is there a reason you think Ezra is part of the A team or do you just hate him?
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Toby is dead to her so she wrote his name.
also i think the guy at the end might've been wilden?
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this spencer is awesome because she finally said-out-loud stuff us (as-much-as-we-love-it-and-want-the-show-to-continue-on-indefinitely) fans have been thinking for awhile. Like 'was ali really that great of a friend?'; with all the crap they have been through - forget worshipping ali and let's really FIGHT back against A.
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As for the person of legal age at the end, I figured it was Jason.
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i thought A was going to be different from the books, i hope this all Ali business is to throw us off because if it actually is the twin this is going to suck
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"I'm not sure I understand the implications of Spencer carving a name onto Toby's mother's tomb"
- Kind of obvious, it's the title of the episode. She carved Toby's name right on top of his last name so it kind of was like his full name was on the tombstone symbolizing that Toby was dead to her now.
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Staff
I was hoping it was less obvious.
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Age of consent is 16 in Pennsylvania so Ezra isn't guilty of statutory rape. He is guilty of corruption of a minor though, which is a misdemeanor.
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Because that makes it so much better.
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Also if you think about it being guilty of misdemeanor is kind of better than being guilty of a felony jai-wise, the most you can get for a misdemeanor is 1 year in prison (in nearly all states).
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Wasn't defending anything but if you're going to judge someone for something you should be accurate about it.
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Well, if we want to be really accurate, Aria's already pretty corrupted so, well, I wonder if Ezra would even get that year in prison.
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Not likely, Aria would never testify against him and without testimony they have no case.
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Oh. Good.
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I'm with you on the idea that nothing-to-lose Spencer is a gift. I'm just waiting for her to go batshit crazy so we can watch the fallout. If the writers play this right (they probably won't) it could have the potential for genius... or as genius as PLL can be.
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I figured that uncle Jamie rip the picture to hide the fact he was Caleb 's Father, Ezra is one in the hoodies, I really don't think!! now is Spencer going off the deep end, or going to the Emperor or is she going on the offensive? finally Emily comes to the conclusion that the chick in the red coat is the ringer leader , mow IMO that makes that person the true "A" Emily recalled that the person was a woman and blonde, so if my memories are correct we have only seen three, ALI, CECE AND HANNAH unless a wig is involved, and if that is the case then my point is useless!!
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Can we just talk about the private investigator? Everything he said was so weirdly philosophical and cryptic it almost seemed like he could be a figment of Spencer's imagination.
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Toby bought the flowers and put them there for his Mother before he just picked up and left without a trace. She expected him to be in that apartment pulling at the petals sobbing listening to Taylor Swift? I dunno.
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She said that Toby made a promise to her once, that if the ever had the urge to up and leave that they would go together (remember she told him about the time she ran-away and came back and her parents didn't even know she was missing). I'm guessing the empty room signified to her that their whole relationship was a lie.
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I think A isn't always a bad influence on the girls I mean how quickly did Hanna solve the case on Caleb's missing dad, yeah I mean sure it was kinda obvious but she totally looked at crime scene like a pro that bent picture, that ring… season 1 Hanna would probably work this case if at all in three four episodes tops. Sometimes a little A can be good for you.
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Spencer wrote Toby's name on the grave because she means that he is dead to her
and also all of your Ezra talk is really funny
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I think Spencer carving Toby's name into his mother's tomb just means he's dead to her. She opened that door and nothing was there so she's gonna try and move on. She's still gonna be craycray but she's not gonna hold on to the hope that he really loved her anymore.
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It was metaphorical, her carving his name into the grave. Toby is dead to her, and that is his resting place.
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I've always seen Spencer as the one really fighting to end this 'A' menace. The other liars don't seem to care all that much until 'A' pops up again and infringes on their lives. Otherwise, they seem to be doing pretty fine (aside from Aria and her unsettling relationship with Ezra). While I see your point about the show favoring Aria, there's a reason Troian Bellisario's name shows up first in the credits. I really loved your review for this episode. I laughed out loud during that so-called hypnosis when watching with my friends and felt a little bit guilty until I remembered that Emily's much more valuable for her comedic moments than legitimate character moments.
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I think troian's name shows up first in the credit because it's by alphabetic order. but regardless her performance in this episode was brilliant, that scene with mona was my favourite part of this episode, troian deserves an oscar for the look she gave mona when she put her hand on her shoulder. there was so much hate in there, if look could kill mona would be pretty much dead but really dead dead not like alison dead.
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Spencer has always been my favourite but wow crazy Spencer is the best. She's the best thing that's ever happened to the show. Everyone else's storyline sucks right now.
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I read your first line and I didn't read the rest yet, I just scrolled all the way to the bottom because I had to tell you that I COMPLETELY agree!!! This Spencer is so much more fun to watch!!!
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she wrote de name because he's dead for her obviously
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"The writers made a big deal about asking for ID when the hoodie was trying to buy booze, so I guess they're cramming down our throats that one of these hoodies is a grown-up (or has a fake ID)."

Isn't the other way around. Don't people ask minors for ID,not grown ups? Meaning,writers want us to believe that a hoodie is a minor?

I find Ezra's bro as disturbing as Ezra,if not more. Didn't read all comments and this might be little late to ask,but was that Jason that Aria stabbed on that train?
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Touché! Nice catch. Someone in another comment mentioned that maybe the ID wasn't the focus or clue, but that the wallet was. What it looked like, the style, color, what was in it (although of course visibly we weren't shown much) etc.
--SO, I think that could be an excellent point.

Also.. What @mcepin3 said about IDing. Yes @rada_radz , they are supposed to check all IDs. Actually, I take that back, I know some places around here, I've seen signs saying, "we card all, under 40" or something to that extent. And I believe other times, I've seen signs that say they card ALL.
-The fact that one man, presumably with higher authority (possibly? For him to be calling the shots to the other) yells over to the clerk at the counter "make sure you see an ID.."
This seems to me to point out that the act of checking the ID wasn't just their normal routine policy.
For one (who was somewhere else off in the store and not in charge of the counter) to yell over to the one that was working the counter... Seems to me that the person buying it looked young, provoking the non-attending clerk to yell over to another to make sure to check this person.
If someone like Wilden came in.. He looks older than 21, still not OLD but, of age atleast. That would seem more routine, and maybe not provoke one to possibly question the age, and to question it enough to remind another to make sure to check.

--Now, after having just finished writing that theory... And using Wilden as an example... Made me think: Wilden is (well WAS) a detective, an "officer of the law" (as he smartassly remarked to Ashley Marin when he pulled her over, and asked for her to step out of the car)
SO, he probably always wears his badge. And even if he doesn't ALL the time, it's a small town and they sure have A LOT OF DRAMA going on there. Of which, he has prominently been shown on TV and in papers as the investigating detective. So one can presume that he could be recognized even without his badge as a cop.
-SO, another theory: maybe the person saw him, a cop, and that thattt was what prompted him to remind the other to check for ID... To make sure they at least abide by their legal duty to make sure they are not selling to minors (the act of checking IDs) at least in front of a cop.

Or shit, maybe the kid working the counter was just new at the job and in training, so the other reminded him... In which, all my points could be completely off base. Ha!

Also note: We already know all the five girls (including Ali) had fake IDs. (Revealed in an Ali flashback) Maya also claimed to have had one, that's he states her mom confiscated while searching her room. And the fact that Maya asks Emily so casually if Emily could get her an ID for their date at that concert, suggests that in fake IDs are somewhat easy to come by and/or more common.
So it seems that the all-knowing-unstoppable-supergenius would be able to score one fairly easily...
My point being, I don't know that the fact that the person had an "ID" can be looked at as a valid "clue" because it easily could have been someone underage, with a fake

Tah-dah!!! Finally done.

Don't know if anyone will actually end up seeing this, or furthermore, actually reading it all the way through. But, oh well 😏

-tootles!
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Actually, I think they just check pretty much anyone's ID, especially if the shop had gotten into trouble for selling alcohol to minors. My ID still gets checked sometimes, even though I'm older than the age limit, so maybe it's someone who looks young. Also, the person was buying whiskey, so that might turn out to be an important detail. I remember Byron and Ezra drinking whiskey together before the falling out.
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Ezra hated whiskey he only drank because he wanted to get on Byron's good side.
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I agree Mini-Ezra is as creepy as original Ezra. I guess it's just a matter of time before he finds his way to Aria's bed.
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I have to say "the new and improved" Spencer is the best thing that happened to PLL in a long time. She's cold blooded and she has nothing to lose.

"A" broke Spencer for good. I think it was her (cause I still think "A" is a girl) greatest mistake which will ultimately bring her down.

IMO Spencer carving Toby's name is message: "You're next/You're dead"

Here is how I think the series should end:

- Spencer is sentenced for life in prison for double murder of Toby and "A" (who IMO is either Ali/Ali's twin or Melissa)

- "A" kills Aria (It's probably the best option for Aria - with her mentality, looks and style of clothing she's on good way to become an addict prostitute)

- Caleb and Hannah (cause now we know Ashley Benson looks gorgeous in overalls) leave Rosewood. They start a new life on a farm.

- Emily disappears without a trace.
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Ashley Benson looks gorgeous in anything, in fariness.
Anybody else thinking that CeCe has something to do with the A team? And the red coat? Vivian Darkbloom?
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"- "A" kills Aria (It's probably the best option for Aria - with her mentality, looks and style of clothing she's on good way to become an addict prostitute)"--

Ha-ha lol. Upvoted just for that ^ :) :)

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same here.
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Okay just wondering if anyone noticed in the picture of Holden the girls saw last week I swear the one guy on the left looked exactly like Ezra. Now I may be going crazy but I swear it was him, meaning he could possibly be involved with Ali.

And I love Spencer so much more than I did before, I think she did what she did to the tomb because she just wanted to hurt the only thing he seemed to still care about (ie the hydrangeas) by ruining the stone.
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It's not him. You can re-watch and pause it on abcfamily and you'll see it is not him.
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Wilden, not Holden.
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The frame of Rosewood in the show is the same one used in The Carrie Diaries to portray their town. I wonder what real life place they filmed to get it.
Also, Spencer has always been my favorite character, but now she's become even more awesome. Judging form next week's promos, Mona better watch out. And I honestly don't understand why they shouldn't have told Jason about his sister's possible pregnancy (although jumping to the conclusion the detective was the father is most definitely gonna bite them in the ass and be proven wrong). I mean yeah, keeping secrets is their thing and they think it keeps them safe, but they've already taken steps to end this whole charade and last week Emily herself said that she wants the case solved. Finally, does anyone else think that the missing autopsy page proves Allison's pregnancy, which is why it was stolen?
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"People lie... Medical records don't..." -Garret

NOW, medical records.. Spencer's mind jumps straight to ask Melissa's or Jenna's...
And she knows that he now has had a fling with both of them. (First with Jenna, who later turned in the page which got us to this in the first place. And then Melissa)
SO, I think it's safe to presume that that was why she first questioned it being about those two.

But, medical records proving something.. Could be a number of things..
First off just DNA---we never did see Ali's body. It can only be hoped that the police confirming the remains were hers was after thorough testing an analysis. But none of that was proved to us or really even mentioned for that matter. Plus, we already know of two corrupt cops I the Rosewood force, who's to say they or someone else meddled with something along the way.

Mrs Hastings did say the judge was supposed to rule in whether the body should be exhumed or not for retesting, of which he was not able to make a ruling on before it was stolen.

Also- I just remember.. What garret said before that..."I didn't kill Alison. And what was snatched from her grave that night coulda proved it.." And then replies later that "people lie... Medical records don't.."

If we are to take what CeCe said to be true.. As far as the story of Ali's possible pregnancy to begin with, and also the timing of it (hoe far along she could have been), and then the comment that if it was early on, a year old decomposing body might not have been able to show whether it not she was in fact ever prego..
Then his comment that what was snatched would not have been able to prove she was pregs. Unless it was a "thing" snatched and not the actual body..

Just some thoughts
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Thats exactly what I thought when Aria asked last week if a pregnancy would show up on an autopsy. I immediatley thought of the missing autopsy page. I thought it was glaringly obvious. But I guess not to the Liars? Why else would it have been stolen? Or was it found and was it the part that said Ali died from blunt force trauma? A beating round the head with a shovel?
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I think page 5 was found because Jenna and Toby turned it in to the police and that's why Garrett was originally arrested.
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"I'm not sure I understand the implications of Spencer carving a name onto Toby's mother's tomb. Because he's next? Because she wants to get him into some kind of trouble and everyone would assume Toby wrote his own name? Am I missing a necessary literary illusion here?" --

I think it means that Toby is now dead to Spencer. That's why she carved his name in there. At least that's my interpretation of it.
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It's mine, too, but I wanted to open it up in case there was something less obvious and cornball. They'd done such a good job with Spencer up to that point and I'd hoped that an action like that would be some sort of literary allusion that I missed. Otherwise it's kind of goofy to me.
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I thought it was great because it told us the way Spencer felt about Toby without her actually saying it. :) :)
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