Pretty Little Liars "March of Crimes" Review: A Very Short Engagement

Pretty Little Liars S05E09: "March of Crimes"

Adult drama is so limited on this show that when it arises, it kind of demands a bit of attention. While there's always some drama involving the grown-ups, it generally exists within the framework of how it affects one Liar, all the Liars, or the conspiracy against the Liars. Mama and Papa Hastings are estranged, but that's still tied to the dark puzzle that Spencer spends all her waking—and, I’m sure, sleeping—hours trying to solve (just like when you donate your downtime computer-processing power to SETI@home, Spencer maximizes her subconscious). Almost anything that happens to the elder Fields happens because A drives a car through their house or because someone is Spider-Man-scaling a school. But these Montgomerys are doing something different.

"March of Crimes" contained a full-on scene with just grown-ups! No kids struggling their way through a weak-sauce lie! No police trying to get an of-age individual to crack on how terrible his or her usually unattended children are! Just two people dealing with something that happens in life and addressing the complicated emotions that typically accompany a divorce, a break-up, and/or simply being of a certain age while being alone.


It was sweet to see Byron console Ella after she suffered the painful end to her engagement. Even better, it was great to see them come together without any sort of romantic wink toward the audience or them stacking meaning onto their hug beyond, "These are two people who respect each other, love each other, and just want each other to be happy." It was almost refreshing to see something like that play out that wasn’t hyperbolic or fraught with four-and-a-half seasons' worth of paranoid mythology. Zack is a sleezeball, but as far as Ella is concerned, that’s something she already knew in the back of her mind and ignored during their whirlwind romance. Byron and Ella had a scene together that was real and filled with heart. In fact, for a second there I almost forget about the two separate syndicates of masked bullies that are chasing their daughter and her friends.

Of course, it was one of the many external forces of magic surveillance in the Liars’ lives that stoked the preexisting younger-girls flames in Zack’s loins. At least that explains his remarkably quick heel-turn last week, when he tried to massage a “yes” out of the small of Hanna’s back and then violated the sanctity of Hanna’s bubble of junk-food loneliness to give her his number. Now the question is why.


What would A have to gain from Zack hitting on Hanna? Did A think Hanna was going to cave and sleep with Zack? Or was it expected that Hanna would be her loose-cannon self and ruin the engagement party? It all seems unlikely. Given everything that's happened, from Hanna having no interest in cheating on Caleb to her being super honest with everyone, and even to Aria’s victim-blaming-turned-predator-investigating reaction, this seems more like someone is trying to out Zack as wrong for the Liars’ circle. And that reeks of Mona.

But, even though there were two guest stars from the dark side, "March of Crimes" wasn't an episode where Mona could pout her lips with intimidation. After so many weeks of Noel Kahn’s deep involvement with Alison’s underground network and Mona’s little birds, he finally showed his face. And I'm a little confused as to why the Liars are still so scared of him and so suspicious.


Maybe there’s been a miscommunication between Pretty Little Liars and myself, but I remember Noel leading the girls to Alison, covering for them with the police after Ezra was shot, and then helping Alison execute her ill-conceived break-in. Other than Mona’s folder with Noel Kahn’s name on it, the Liars seem to have a lot of information on Noel that puts him largely in Alison’s column, and supposedly on their side. Why Emily felt compelled to raid Noel’s car is a little murky, and in hindsight, I've found myself rummaging for dots to connect in order to justify her investigation. I also can’t help but be on Noel’s side; Alison does seem like the type to toss away friends when they’re no longer useful, and taking out an insurance policy like hard evidence that Alison wasn’t kidnapped and being held hostage for two years seems like a logical move for a man in his position... that position being “blackmailed into lackeydom.”

And now we've reached the part where I rail on why the Liars are friends with Alison. Pass over this paragraph if you need to. But Alison’s cavalier attitude about having Noel break into the house in a manipulation play clashed mightily with the needy, apologetic Alison we saw at school the next day. Pretty Little Liars is still failing to find a way to allow its skeptical audience to connect with her character. Is she a woman who sets up grand theater in order to get people to stop asking questions, or is she a truly scared teenage girl who's just trying to do what she has to do in order to stay alive?


Her performance for Jenna (which included, whether it was intentional or not, more emphasis on her scared, quivering voice for the blind girl’s benefit) was followed by what felt more like a conference between competing HBICs (“How did you do it?”), which doesn’t help her case. She’s many things to many people. Her inconsistency, complicated by Pretty Little Liars' history of subterfuge with regard to good characters (Zack, for instance), means that the series isn’t interested in telling us which side she’s on. For now, we're left to do that ourselves and as much evidence as we’ll be provided for one side, we'll be provided for the other.

Speaking of evidence, Tanner was the last important part of "March of Crimes." With Holbrook apparently away at a summer camp for disabled children or whatever magnanimous event he’s rolled up his sleeves for, Tanner was left to ask the very questions that would poke holes in the pile of picked-over trash that Alison calls a story. Things didn’t add up, events seemed too coincidental, and the Liars looked shifty. While the Rosewood Police in the past have been nothing but accommodating to fibbers, fabricators, and fools for high school girls, Tanner doesn’t seem like the type to bend to those kinds of demands—she raises the stakes. There’s someone who can find everything out just by thinking about it for more than five seconds.


As much as we’re supposed to side with Liars and want Tanner to stop interrogating their clique in hopes that one of them will slip, I find myself cheering for the detective to figure out a way to call them all out on the flimsy manipulation and sabotage Alison’s had RPD working on this whole time. Sometimes, you’re just hoping for the truth... and that the confessing kidnapper they caught is just a clever trap for Alison. Or maybe that he was just arrested for his dumb haircut.

”March of Crimes” was not as much of a “s#i*t will go down” outing as we might’ve been led to believe. It was more of a “crap will happen” or a “bull puckeys will occur” kind of episode, maybe a “manure will fly.” It was nice to see Noel Kahn kicking around, and Caleb’s jab to Zack’s stupid face was satisfying. But you can’t have an episode where a house explodes or where Emily shows Alison how Rosewood girls get down between the sheets and then crow about an episode like this. It’s fine, but let’s dial back the Instagram hype.



NOTES

– Hanna: “Even the doorknob smells like her.” Spencer: “Why were you smelling the doorknob?” A fair question. But Ali does seem like the type who would bunt like a cat all over that doorknob. I mean, Ali’s even using Hanna’s moisturizer now? First the bath salts and now this? Come on.

– Where do I get one of those sweet, sweet Rosewood jean jackets like Hanna was wearing?

– Do you think Ashley was more upset with Hanna because she was drinking liquor from a flask or because she wasn’t trying to find the answer to her problems at the bottom a fine Napa Valley vintage?


– “If one of us falls, we all fall. And A wins.” Alison said that with her needy/scared voice. But that kind of sounds like a threat, doesn’t it?

– The swim team coach is the last hope for Rosewood men to not be lechers and creeps. Come on, swim team coach. Don’t be that guy with a peephole into the locker room.

– Who is this Kristine T in Spencer’s phone? Spencer has time for other friends? How. Dare.

 A left Spencer a nice eye chart message (maybe). It might be the weakest A message yet. Although the eye doctor did leave Spencer pretty crazy-looking in her Blue Blockers. She was like the Eradicator or Doc Brown from Back to the Future.


– Emily found out that Sydney was in league with Jenna and everyone puffed up their chests to look more intimidating. Sydney was still riding that "I like girls"/"I just like Emily" line. She basically said that she didn’t expect Emily to be so nice, given all the bad things Jenna says about the Liars. And then Emily basically threatened to pull a Paige and drown her when she least expects it. Emily drove away and Sydney was basically like, “Oh, that’s what Jenna meant about them being horrible.” But what they never really explained was why Sydney and Jenna have to dress alike. Especially if Jenna is blind, who cares?

– Rosewood has a Maggiano’s? Is that why everyone is so slow? Because they’re all coming out of a family-style food coma?

– Hanna pouring out the booze—are we done with Downward Spiral Hanna? Was watching that black-and-white movie on TV rock bottom for her? “Ugh, I’m boring like Aria now. Time to stop dulling myself with vodka.”

– Your Moment of A: A is at the only eye doctor in town, sitting in the waiting room in full Hoodie regalia (hoodie, leather gloves, black headphones for an iPod containing Alison’s fictional kidnapping story). The nurse offered to turn down the air conditioning if the Hoodie was cold, which makes me believe that these people actually are wearing the hoods and gloves all the time. I’m very upset by this.


What did you think of "March of Crimes"?


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Aug 11, 2014
"What's happening to us? Our group is falling apart!" Geez, how was a girl that dumb able to escape from A for multiple years?!

If you are looking for a decent guy in Rosewood, you are gonna have a bad time!
First place of this episode: Noel Kahn, who had nothing better to do than to sit silently in an empty house, hidden under a sheet, to wait for someone he can creep the fuck out of. Cause it's too mainstream to go to people and just ask them about his damn keys or call the police... -.-

Nope, still not trusting this Sydney girl. I thought I read somewhere that she has a boyfriend who should have been introduced this episode, but apparently I was wrong. Or wasn't I? Just saying I'm not trusting this swim coach either. I want him to be good, but c'mon... Sydney is on the swim team... He's the coach of the swim team... Sydney voted for Ems to get the position as co-coach... He just needed to hire her, what he did... Just saying.
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Aug 07, 2014
I'm getting really tired of Ali and her lies and never getting answers, I'd love to see the truth come out this season and then have them move on to something else.

The close up of the eye looking through the hole in the sheet was really creepy.
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Aug 07, 2014
poor ella.
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Aug 07, 2014
Poor Ella, and good for Caleb...!!!

But like i said, this season feels totally different then all before..it feels like they are just making it up as they go, because the story is over...they storyline was, to fine Ali, they did....so now we are going all the way back to the start, where Ali was playing everybody ( which she still does) and the girls can't do anything about it...
it is getting lenghty and boring to watch...
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Aug 07, 2014
I think it's less "can't do anything about it" than "aren't willing to do anything about it". Beside Hanna nobody has the will or courage to stand up to Ali. Even when they see she is again playing a game only she knows the rules and goal they go along. They see they are being played and used yet are willing to do what Ali expects them to do. Expects, mind you, not asks. Ali just decides to do something, does it and rest of liars just do what Ali expects them to do. She doesn't even have a courtesy to give them a heads up before doing something drastic, like whole kidnapping story.

As I said, I expected at least Spencer to put her foot down and demand some answers. Every liar had to deal with fallout from Ali's mess(es), they realised Ali was using them yet they say nothing.
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Aug 12, 2014
Yes i totally agree...and it is becoming very annoying!!!
The funny thing is, that from the one who you would expect to do any bidding of Ali, Hannah is the one who is going up against her in a sorta way....God..i always thought that Ali was annoying even if she was not in the show all the time, but now aaaargghhh...
and you know what the thing is, i have been watching from the beginning...it would be weird to just stop watching, as we like to know how all this will end...but if they decide to make another season...i am out...can't watch this cat and mouse game anymore...!!
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Aug 12, 2014
I didn't expect Hannah to show most resistance. My money was always on Spencer as she is the smartest of the group and tries to think few steps ahead. Hannah was always...... odd girl out.

One thing that always bugged me is that in past season whenever it seemed like liars solved something that shadowy person in the end had two new things in store to throw at them. It's same now. OK, Ali is back but whole new set of troubles appeared. As if whoever was doing it was always 2 or 3 steps ahead, had intimate knowledge about them and was able to anticipate every move they made before they even thought about making it. Sure, it's fine drama and suspense at the beginning but after a while it starts to look like God-powers.

And I'm same with watching. I've been watching this since beginning and am thinking that if I've watched this far in I might as well go on.
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Aug 19, 2014
That's the worst part...because we have been watching from the beginning, it would be weird to just stop...but i have a feeling we will get another season with the same "crap" as this season...Ali still playing her games and the girls follow her or are against her...

Remember the first episode of the series...when the girls were surrounded with a whole bunch of A dressed people...and when Mona had a meeting, there was also a whole bunch of people...so i think there are a lot of people watching them all the time...really all the time...

You know what it is, they can continue like this for 5 more seasons and still not show us who the real A was..so how long does this going to go on....
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Aug 07, 2014
Who is over Ali being back?
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Aug 07, 2014
One thing that bugs me is that liars are all expressing their doubts about Ali but when she calls they all respond and come running. Even in previous seasons they started to say she wasn't the nicest person around and was playing them as well as being their friend. But now when she calls they all come running and when Hanna is less then eager to play along she comes of as bad friend.

When Ali dropped the bomb about kidnapping they expressed little doubts about it. And now when Ali goes "If one falls we all fall" I expected at least Spencer to say "Yes, but you set us up for fall with your story to begin with". Honestly, when Ali starts with her usual drama and games all roll their eyes but not only go along with it they don't even say to her it may not be best thing to be doing.

It's also telling how smoothly Ali just slipped back in leader position, telling everybody what needs to be done without even the courtesy of telling what her whole plan is.
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Aug 07, 2014
Did anyone see who was with Ali in the photos Noel had from when Ali was supposedly dead? Could it have been the guy in the interrogation room?(potentially dressed in camo??)
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Aug 07, 2014
I thought that, but I wasn't sure
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Aug 07, 2014
I've been feeling increasingly frustrated this season. I do like the dynamic that Ali being back has created. The episodes have seen much more character driven than necessarily -A driven and I've always liked it when they step back to show how messed up these girls can be after everything that's happened.

However, Ali herself is so frustrating. I understand the back and forth since we aren't even supposed to be sure what exactly is going on in her head. I can also understand the hesitation of the other girls as far as Noel is concerned given their history. But, for once, I'd like someone to be strictly black or white or not have a completely personality change overnight.
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Aug 06, 2014
This show is getting insanely ridiculous. Listen, I usually don't complain (that much) at this show since it's just mindless fun, but... WHY would Sydney wear the exact same outfit as Jenna?! Down to the SUNGLASSES?! The best thing for the show to do right now is to reveal A at the midseason finale, have the time jump they've been teasing, and start a new mystery. The current mystery have been stretched way too far.
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Aug 06, 2014
I'm sick of Alison acting bipolar just because the writers want to confuse the audience. It's ridiculous. MAKE UP YOUR DAMN MIND - EITHER SHE'S GOOD OR SHE'S FAKING IT (pun intended) ... just enough of this split personality bullshit. I'm so annoyed.

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Aug 06, 2014
"I also can’t help but be on Noel’s side"
------

Why does that not surprise me at all?
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Aug 08, 2014
Nick and I are friends, so of cour...oh, right. That Noel.
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Aug 06, 2014
Because it seems pretty obvious that Alison is blackmailing him into helping her.. remember at the end of last season her saying he had his own secrets he doesn't want to get out as the reason he was helping her.
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Aug 06, 2014
Hanna continues to be awesome, and Ashley Benson really gave it socks this week. The crying voice? Aw man, my heart broke for her right there!
It was nice of Caleb to stand up for her, and sock yer man in the jaw; I hope this is the start of the two of them being amazing again and not just really good looking teenaged alcho's.
Alison really is the absolute worst person ever, isn't she. If the show wants us to feel sorry for her, I am not buying it. I'm confused by the Noel Kahn connection. Where has he been for the last ... ages? It does seem to me that he's only helping Ali because she has something on him, I doubt he has the capacity to feel anything for anyone.
Toby doesn't need to join Rosewood PD with Tanner around, she can single handedly solve all their cases swiftly and justly without any help from the other pedo's/crooked cops/idiots on the force.
Don't worry, Spencer missed that call from Kristine T. Most likely she was another "study buddy" looking to see if Spence needed a fix. There's no way Spence has time for anyone other than Ali and the Liars. Sure she only has time for Toby every month or so!
A really does wander round Rosewood in full hoodie and black gloves getup. That is not only disappointing in that is shows that A is almost as dumb as the Rosewood PD, the liars, and the entire population of Rosewood. Open your eyes people!!!!

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Aug 06, 2014
In my opinion, Noel is a double agent like Shana. However, I can't figure out for who yet. Obviously, he's on Alison's side, to a point. My guess is that he's the one who showed up to Mona, Jenna, and Sydney's outdoor soiree. I also think that part of the New York A-line was setup by Noel and Ali. I mean, if she can get him to don the hoodie, wield a butcher's knife, and scare the crap out of Mrs. Marin, then what else has he done for her?
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Aug 06, 2014
I wonder if the show is using Noel's relationship with Ali as some mirror for the girls' relationship with her. I mean, he is making insurance against her in case she screws him. That is dark! No one can be friends with someone they can't trust.
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Aug 06, 2014
That's mostly the point with Noel and Ali's relationship. They aren't friends. She has something on him that he's not ready to have revealed. So this "insurance" is guaranteed mutual destruction. With Spencer and Noel basically going into a pact together (almost a blood oath with Noel's injury), they both have evidence in case Ali tries anything rogue.

Now. Does Noel have any fond feelings for Alison after spiriting her around? Or is his connection to her purely because of what she could do to him if he betrayed her? If it's the latter (which is what I suspect), Noel's entering into a cold war, one that could allow him to extricate himself from being her lackey. It's an interesting dynamic. Is Ali's network just a bunch of people that Ali holds secrets on? Or do they actually like her?
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Aug 07, 2014
And this is why the audience is having such a hard time believing her "sob stories" because, right now, they're just stories. We've now seen evidence against what she's said and we've seen actual fabrication. I don't mind that they're going down this road, but I hope that the writer's intent wasn't to have the audience fall in line with the Liars because Alison's current storyline is far from redemptive. It's very "Peter and the Wolf" and I'm just wondering how many times Ali will cry "Wolf!" before we actually feel like believing her.
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Aug 06, 2014
I don't thin Alison acually cares about anyone. She just uses people like dolls and tossess them aside after they have served their purpose.
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Aug 06, 2014
Last season, I was becoming fairly resolute that I was done with this show. Like Glee, I was agitated more often than not. Then the whole Ezra may be A thing happened and I found myself intrigued (and oh how I wished they stuck with that, but maybe they saw on Agents of Shield that Skye wasn't having any of Ward and don't have enough info on Tom (Blacklist) or Paul (Orphan Black)) and it was like the air being let out of the balloon.

I am back in that place again. I will probably continue with it for the summer but I think it conflicts with a few things time wise, but I don't really care anymore. Like when Alison said A wins, I sensed Spencer was having my same reaction - well let A win then. I didn't think about it that way, but you are probably right that Mona is behind the whole Hanna thing and likely got the bonus she wasn't counting on of Spencer confronting Caleb and Caleb remembering, oh yeah, I'm one of the good guys, but the point I thought was to re-solidify the liars together and against Alison and this puts Aria probably to a default in Hanna's camp. Aria will probably listen more to Hanna's legit issues about Alison and combined with her own desire to basically confess and Spencer's having it up to here with it all because her family is going through their own shit - well, I bet Mona's plan is almost complete. And honestly, I am fine with it.

I also don't really get why we are frightened of Noel. But that may be because I watched DWTS and Brett Daughtery is actually a sweetheart and the girls all appeared to do more than their ABC obligation appearance as guests.
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Aug 06, 2014
Why the hell were Jenna and Sydney dressed alike? It seriously bugs me that, that was never explained and no one seemed to notice. Did they think they'd be more inconspicuous if they looked like they belonged to some blind person cult?
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Aug 06, 2014
I think it was the writers trying to play off of the twin theories that many viewers have.
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Aug 06, 2014
Does anyone else think that the guy in the interrogation room looks like Zachary Knighton?
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Aug 06, 2014
He has his hair cut
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Aug 06, 2014
Maybe the first time I actually liked something Emily did: she sounded SCARY when she threatened Sydney! Though I don't think that threat was justified. Sounded very possessive, as if Sydney could have no other friends than her. But okay, Sydney kinda confessed she only became friends with Emily to sort of keep an eye on her.
And I keep liking Scary Spencer. Though I also think that that wasn't totally justified (well, okay, Noel was kinda attacking her, but still). They DID steal Noels insurance against Ali, but in his turn, he stole it from Jenna, so they're all just thieves.
Weird show that keep getting weirder, logic keeps disappearing. I agree I would LOVE to see Tanner finding out the truth, I bet the Liars would all be SO relieved after that.
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Aug 06, 2014
So wait, this new girl Sydney, presumably, got her parents to move from Philadelphia to Rosewood (or to just send her to school in Rosewood), all because a blind girl she helped years ago reached out to her, out of the blue, and asked her to spy on/harass a group of girls she had never met? Even by PLL logic this is a bit far-fetched.
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Aug 06, 2014
I don't think that will turn out to be the real story. I think we will find out that the two of them are actually related.
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Aug 06, 2014
I hope that is the case, if not that would just be silly. But wouldn't Toby know who Sydney is then?
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Aug 06, 2014
I think Toby is too busy doing..whatever boring thing he is doing. Like he is barely there
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Aug 06, 2014
Was Noel guy still in HS, he looks 30.
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Aug 06, 2014
Loved this episode glad to see the liars getting back to themselves. So its either mona, A- or nole, behind the guy confessing because Alison looks clueless. They would have to have something pretty bad on him to get him to confess to a fake kidnapping.
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