Pretty Little Liars' Mid-season Premiere: Everyone With a Penis Is a Suspect. Again.

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Pretty Little Liars S03E14: "She's Better Now"

Once upon a time, in the 1980s, there was a show about a group of crazy people that doled out justice by moonlight. It was called Night Court. And there was one guy, the judge's stepfather, a former patient at a psych ward, who would smirk and occasionally quip in a trademark catch phrase, "But I'm feeling much better now" while staring down his audience with crazy eyes and an unsettling smirk. He and Mona have about the same amount of credibility.

Even if you don't remember such ancient television history, there's no way you can believe what Mona has to say about anything. You've seen too much: how she's manipulated our favorite Liars, how she's broken out of Radley to carry out plots, how she's party to bullying everyone. So when she leaned over Hanna and begged for her "friend" to be in her corner when she returned to civilian life in Rosewood, we knew how creepy and dirty it felt. Because we can't trust Mona as much as Hanna can't trust Mona. And Hanna doesn't even have as much of the story as we do.

That's one of the interesting things that the show has done over the past season or so, particularly with the Halloween offerings. It used to be that our perspective of the show was controlled by the Liars. Everything we knew about A came to us through Liars' eyes only. Outside of an episode tag where someone from the A team would eat French fries with leather gloves while carrying out the build-up to some scheme, we didn't know anything was coming until the texts were sent.

Now we hold just as many secrets as anyone else. We know that Mona was able to escape Radley dressed in a ridiculous nurse's outfit. We know Toby dons the hood. We know who's dealing with stab wounds, exaggerated limps, and sick burns because we see these characters interact with the world behind the Liars' backs just as much as we see what the Liars themselves are doing.

It means that everything Mona does is colored with betrayal. Remember the time, back when we could only suspect Mona was in on the scheme, when A was sending her texts, too? We were able to cultivate some sort of sympathy for her, at least enough to allow her to be part of the Liars' group. Just as her conviction made it so that no one could trust her, our knowledge of her activities while she was there means that we can't trust her either, no matter how many brains get pinned to her locker for sympathy.

That's what makes the video she sent out even more ridiculous. Even without any information on Mona's plots, that video should not garner any sympathy from her peers. I can't imagine the cruelest members of our society, teenagers, giving Mona the old upper-arm squeeze because her teary video made their hearts grow three sizes. It should have been autotuned and set on fire by high school trolls. I mean, the whole thing was a sheet and a bad dye job away from the "Leave Britney Alone" video.

But it's the color of betrayal that makes us question why Hanna could be so easily convinced to be Mona's friend and why this video could mean anything to her. It really does feel like Spencer is the only one who honestly cares about what's happening with A right now (that is, until Aria gets her little bundle of joy outside Ezra's apartment). Hanna is kicking it with the ultimate frenemy, Aria is struggling with the fact that every man in her life is a creep show, and Emily is generally only concerned with being on lockdown.

Though Hanna discovered Harold first (another creep show that I only remember from the Lost Woods motel because he told a bunch of teenage girls that people come to his place only if they don't want to be found mwahaha (okay, he didn't have an evil laugh) and she explored with Emily, it was Spencer who was the driving force behind the plan to break in and find out more. Aria would be content to only have Ezra's Alex Mack kid to deal with and live in denial about her dad having motive on Alison. Emily just needed a reason to switch the face plate on her phone with her dad's (done in by the family plan) so it could've been going out to see Paige just as much as it was going to inspect Harold's creepy janitor lair.

It doesn't help Spencer that Toby has returned to being a creep show himself, and so pointed out how she's "obsessed" with this stuff. Now that we know he wears the A hoodie and intends to run Lucas down in blacked-out SUV, he does nothing that doesn't make my skin crawl. The massage in the hot tub? Gross, dude. But he's just one of several men on the show who is either implicated in A's plot or a suspect in Alison's case. After a season where the boys finally enjoyed a break from suspicion, where Toby and Caleb looked like adoring suitors rather than grand manipulators, the pendulum has swung way back toward "everyone with a penis is a suspect."

Which I love, because that means I can say more bad things about Ezra, who I find to be the creepiest of them all. Not only is he a child toucher and all too willing to surrender his life to the most baby-faced of the Liars, he also might be the Harlequin who attacked Paige on the train; as long as he remains in Rosewood, he's still my number-one suspect. Because as much as Toby seducing Spencer while playing for Team A is gross, Ezria as a concept is even grosser, and made worse by the fact that he could be torturing the girls with bitchy, pithy texts.

This winter premiere demonstrated how open the show has become without losing its mystery. We know so much about A but the network is so vast we can't know it all (particularly since it seems to expand willy nilly). And we still don't know who Scarface is. The best part is that, even if everything can't wrap up nicely, no one can get mad. "It's just Pretty Little Liars!" they'll say. "Were you expecting Lost?"


NOTES


– At first glance, a member of the A team riding a skateboard through the empty streets of Rosewood was one of the dumbest things to be soundtracked by creepy music since Melissa chowed down on Spencer's froyo. But then again, when I hear that rumbling behind me (which, because I live in L.A., happens 80 percent of the time I'm outside), it grates on my ears, too. So we'll let this slide.

– Mona baked Hanna some muffins? Uh, those are just breakfast cupcakes, Mona, and remember when you blackmailed her into gorging on those? Seems a bit insensitive if you're trying to at least pretend to make amends.

– Sometimes I forget that Caleb and Lucas are/were friends and that Caleb is probably doing some dirty work for the A team, just like the Liars use him in their need for hackery. And he gets used like that because he didn't have a dad. Way to bring it up, Aria!

– Why did Aria hang Ezra's race necklace (???) from her bed frame and stare at it like a power crystal or something? "O, wise medallion! Is my dad a creepster like every other dude in Rosewood?" You don't need your weirdo boyfriend's trinket to tell you the answer to that.

– Dear Alison, when extorting someone and threatening to crush their comfortable, very grown-up existence, maybe don't use the word "nanna." It's just a touch infantilizing.

– The Liars seem to let boyfriends slide a lot when it comes to appearing in places where they shouldn't. Ezra on the train, "Uh, so, they just let me on even though the whole thing is locked down!" Now Toby in the basement, "I finished the race in, like, half the time it took you jerks even though Spencer and I ran the same time just yesterday and and I showered and changed and saw you guys coming down here so I— forget it, I'm guilty."

– During the episode, Mona tweeted from her @MonaVanderwaal account in her Mona Code. The message: "Want more of my video go to denoflies .com" ... which sends you to the video that wooed a high school. And some stuff at the end that I would imagine didn't make its rounds to the Rosewood youth. Spoiler: It's just more suggestions that she has a partner who came up with the idea of making Mona appeal for sympathy. Vivian? Jason? Herself? Nah, if this is Arkham Asylum, she's not Two-Face. Nothing earth shattering here.


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