And you didn't think the plot could thicken.
I mean, the plot is already stupid thick. From the myriad organizations that are out to either exploit or exact revenge on our Liars to the highly suspect authority figures creeping around Rosewood, everything is dangerous. It's no wonder Emily, as Paige put it, is numb to the danger that constantly swirls around her. I'm numb to it just watching.
It wasn't until this week that I realized how much I'd been so lulled to sleep by the formula of the show that I didn't realize what it'd been sneaking in. Last week, we talked about how our perspective has shifted from seeing things through the eyes of the Liars, our perceived victims, to expand to the "A Team" (or "A Army," as they were termed in this episode) so we can see what they're up to when the Liars aren't looking. What at first seemed like a careless erosion of narrative mode seems a little more calculated. Or at least that's what I'm telling myself.
Last week we also talked about how the boys appeared more victimized, scaredy-cats the whole lot of them. But with two conversations, we see why the expanded point-of-view makes sense. There are more victims.
We learned some information that we didn't know before, like how Byron didn't do anything wrong (probably) and how Meredith is straight-up cray and how Ella might be a bad mother (just check up on the sick kid—just once), a lot of the information we already knew and we just had confirmed. We know Mona and Toby weren't the only ones on the A Team and that they were under the thumb of someone else (probably since the first Halloween special but definitely since the end of Season 2, when a presumed "Vivian Darkbloom" visited Mona at Radley). But hearing their conversation gave us confirmation that they might be bad off, too. They are victims of a different sort: Mona is forever cursed with being the fall girl of the A Team and Toby has to deal with being a hood while being with Spencer.
"They need to understand that she's in charge," Mona said. At first that felt like she and Toby had some scheme to demonstrate themselves as just hatchet men for a mightier, more evil commander and that they're just as put upon as the Liars. Spencer's "minions" is a good term for them: They're underlings for a despicable person who holds something over them. After watching the episode, it probably refers to A finally getting proactive again instead of sitting back and phoning it in. Literally.
But I can't shake the feeling that the Eyes of A (from which we saw more shots than usual this episode) purposely didn't warn Toby about Spencer being around. A was only able to bust up those two through threats for a short amount of time. The surefire way to punish Spencer is to show him as her greatest enemy. That was a broken woman we saw slide down his front door. Though we didn't see Toby for long after the discovery to see where his head is at, you have to wonder if that was an A two-fer there. Shatter the world of two kids with one ill-advised B & E.
Last week's female stoicism also eroded in Aria's basement as she, Emily, and Hanna waited to brain Byron with a lead pipe and a golf club. Aria "Thank the space baby she's not pregnant with a creepster!" Montgomery has spent the last couple episodes sick and drugged by a mad woman, a handsome villain with a methodical and diabolical plan for the Montgomery house. It only further proves my point that Radley is Arkham Asylum and Rosewood is the stomping ground for crazed nemeses and baroque schemes. How else can you explain Mona sipping wine like she just outwitted The Batman?
With Aria shaken by being held captive for days on end, Hanna shaken by being the victim of the first A attack in some time (not counting the Mona fire, which might have been well-intentioned), and Emily living a life of being so shaken that she's nonplussed, the Liars went from cocky to literally backed into a corner with crazed celerity. They went from focusing all their attention on Mona to suspecting everything around them again: Byron, Meredith, now Toby. Hanna is even dubious about what Caleb's up to, though not in it harming her so much as it harming him. It puts everyone back on edge and makes us remember that, even though A maybe seems like she's going to sleep on you, there's still some punch left in her and that uppercut can come at any time.
I feel rope-a-doped. This was an important episode for the series to set up the season to come. Everyone in this town is about officially implicated except Andrew from the academic decathalon and Ella. And maybe she would be, too, IF SHE'D VISIT HER SICK DAUGHTER. I mean, seriously, Ella. Take some time out from knocking uglies with the coffeeshop owner and be around for the kid. Mike's weekend, my butt. This whole show would be moot with some parental supervision.
– "Fear cuts deeper than a sword." That's from Game of Thrones, though modified slightly. I'm not sure if that was intentional or not, since the line from Book 1 is "fear cuts deeper than swords." It's something 9-year-old Arya Stark learns from her swordfighting teacher. So maybe it's fitting that Mona says that before heading out to battle, muttering what has to be one of A's top five creeds.
– Hey, look, it's Spencer's mom! I like it when Not Mariska Hargitay makes an appearance. It makes me think this case would be solved by SVU in no time. Benson would milk the Liars for information, Stabler would put the squeeze on all the highly suspect dudes in town, Munch would cough up some wit-filled information, and Ice T would try to act his way out of a paper bag. Chung chung!
– When Meredith started acting all shady, did you think, "Oh man. If Meredith is a suspect SHE MUST HAVE A PENIS!" Me, too.
– I'm glad the girls called out how dumb the "faceless" text was. A, if you can't craft a clever threat, don't bother sending one at all. You're better than that.
– I'm glad to see Caleb and Paige are forming a coalition. There's not a schemer among them to combat what equates to manipulative artistry in Rosewood. Maybe Paige could almost drown A if they ever run into her. Team Burgundy Hoodie and Jean Jacket!
– Now all the Liars have had dreams about Alison giving them information, Emily and Aria under duress. I don't have trouble with a subconscious helping a character put the pieces of a mystery together but Alison tends to blur the lines of what a character already knows and what a character would actually learn from Alison being there in front of her. Although she did say "knowledge is king" was said by some old fart. I choose to believe that old fart is Kool Mo Dee.