Pretty Little Liars Season 3 Finale Review: AlreAdy AscertAined Answers AbrAcAdAbrA

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Pretty Little Liars S03E24: "A dAngerous gAme"

Did you get the feeling that this finale was mostly for the people who hadn't caught on by now?

All these reveals started happening and I got this strange yet familiar feeling, this satisfaction mixed with frustration. I would never compare the quality of these two shows but it reminded me of Lost, how I got answers to questions I already basically knew the answers to while collecting more questions like trading cards.

But before we get into that, let's handle some business. Like how Spencer's arc basically belly-flopped. Bad Spencer showed so much promise! Let's reminisce about good ol' days when she tried to seduce Andrew because she could or when she finally had the ovaries to choke Mona in front of witnesses. That Spencer evaporated too quickly and left behind a sad, sickly version of the toughest Liar this side of Hanna. You could only pray she would rebuild herself and take down the A Team while she was on the inside. Instead, it turned out she was just being a silly little girl.

Maybe that's what we should've expected. Maybe it's giving the Liars superpowers (despite how often they show incredible weakness of both spirit and deduction) to think that one of them would mount a full-scale assault on the A Team if only she could get mad enough. If only one of them could Hulk out. But then they do stuff like Aria did last week, when she realized that "someone else" picking up Malcolm could only be A and clammed up like doofus. Spencer was our last hope for that kind of calculated attack. But, instead, we got her sappiest and had to rely on the Other Liars Brain Trust for ideas.

Spencer's plan is basically indefensible. I understand she was a broken woman and Mona dangled a carrot for her, but nothing in Troian Bellisario's hard-as-nails performances indicated that she was so malleable that she would surrender her friends so she could have her boyfriend back. The show has been trying to subtly hint at the Faustian deal for a few episodes now, but I don't buy Spencer tossing her sisters-in-arms, the only true friends she could trust and count on, just so she could maybe possibly Mona-lies-a-lot-but-you're-saying-there's-a-chance see Toby again. Hoes before bros. Chicks before dicks. There's no version of that that isn't offensive to women, is there? Sisters before misters? That's awful.

Ezra and Aria talk about his interview at Rosewood

Lucky for Spencer, the Other Liars Brain Trust put together a foolish little plan to trap Spencer. It was almost impressive how quickly they put together that Spencer must be A. In fact, I'm pretty sure she'd be hurt to hear Aria find that spot on the Jump to Conclusions mat so soon. But not only did they figure out she was A, they immediately undercut the theory by taking it to their logical conclusion: that Spencer must be held hostage by Mona for something.

I know these episodes were shot a long time ago (and may just be lifting from the book series), but I like the idea that the PLL is playing with fan theories, that Red Coat could be any blonde on the show, from CeCe to even Hanna. What the Other Liars surmised from Spencer following Red Coat, though, was just about silly—and there's a good reason that the bathroom scene, once we came back from break, felt like it was on fast forward.

All of their evidence for being able to trust their clique and their strategizing of each other's motivations was almost a farce. "Let's just get through this real quick before anyone notices." Spencer following Red Coat means nothing. It doesn't mean that she doesn't know Red Coat. It could just mean that she thought Red Coat was there and they could hang. Nothing was proved by the trap. And then Spencer sending Hanna the picture so she could show it to Malcolm and then they would know that Spencer was innocent? Tomfoolery. Shenanigans. Hogwash.

But Spencer's time as A did shed light on things you already knew were there in the dark but that you were still feeling around for. Toby never died (soap opera rules, kids). Toby had been doing this for Spencer all along (maybe). Mona was the Hand of the Red Coat (despite never actually knowing who she is). And Spencer was not going to pass up a chance to get down on some brooding make-up sex.

Toby and Spencer make up

We had to endure another scheme from the Other Liars Brain Trust (which was basically to corner Mona and say, "Ha! Gotcha!"), but it elicited more answers we already knew but didn't know know. Mona's just as trapped as everyone else. Red Coat looks just like Ali. And the mystery surrounding all of this is looking more and more pointless and purely for theater's sake. When Mona yelled out,"You don't see!" when the Liars surprised her, whose fault was that, really? Why was there so much secrecy for something that means nothing? That's my only real question. Everything else is just petty details.

Now the only meaning to anything seems to be contained in the remains of the NAT club plus Jenna (remember her?), Melissa, and Shana. Wilden being spirited away by these lady agents. A stuff still happening even though Mona and Toby are now, officially, inducted back into the Liars clique. Who are the "bitches" that Melissa keeps referring to? Our Liars? Why do our protagonists only flash back to the times where they were subject to Alison or only subtly cold to others, and not to the time where they gained a reputation? Our narrative perspective is unreliable.

In any case, you might have come away thinking you got some answers, but my guess is that you are just as enlightened as you were when you started the episode. The cliffhanger just before the credits may have left you wondering something, but mostly you're just getting pulled through because of this mysterious superstructure. Most of what you thought has just been confirmed. Now you're left with the question, "So why are we here?"

Not a terrible episode of PLL, but not a surprising or revealing one, either.

The Liars and Mona discover whats in Wildens trunk


NOTES

– Ezria didn't really put up too much of a fight for their relationship on either side. Aria has said she doesn't want what they have post-Malcolm for two episodes and Ezra pretty much said, "Yeah, okay. I'm going to take this job, then." They made sure to put a button the break-up by matching the kiss in the stairwell with the one that began their relationship but, as far as how important this relationship is to so many people, it was a fairly anticlimactic separation. He probably doesn't want to be tied down anyway now that he has a whole new crop of young ladies at his disposal. Welcome back to Rosewood High, Teach!

– It's important to note that A Farewell to Arms was mentioned, as was the quote, "All things truly wicked start from innocence." Hemingway is known for employing an unreliable narrator who only gives credence to things seen and heard, and not necessarily to gossip or assumption. Frederic Henry is a boozer and an admitted liar, but we're left to have to trust his account of how things are perceived. When examining the mystery of "Why are we here?" we have to also assume that our narrative perspective (primarily via the Liars) is just as unreliable. That selective memory is the only thing keeping them innocent.

– I haven't read the books. Some of you have, and I appreciate that (most of) you have kept the conversation here to just the show without tying in the direction of the book series with regard to how the television show is shaping up. But it seems like the first Halloween special ("The First Secret") basically told us who we need to look out for. Even at the time the episode aired I was uncertain that it was canon, because it revealed so much. But the girl who "looks like Ali" might be the sister in Ali's ghost story. I just want to throw that theory out there in case anyone rebukes the people addressing it as something that happens in the book. We poor souls who've only watched the series have had a whiff of that future ourselves.

– Shana was probably just consoling Jenna at that picnic table, but she seems to exude sex; pretty much every time she's around any girl it looks like she's flirting. Paige, Emily, Jenna, even Hanna (though Hanna claims Shana was never attracted to her). If Shana isn't on a mission from A, it's probably a mission to entice a bunch of young women to at least consider a trip to Girlytown.

– The babysitting interview. Why must Ezra make everything in life so very awkward? Suddenly he can't catch a joke now? He probably would've gotten it if Hanna was a sophomore. I'm just saying.

– Hey, do you guys remember Duncan Albert, the guy who flew Alison from Hilton Head to Philadelphia? Whatever happened to that guy?

– Sorry, internet. You're not going to fool me into thinking that the Ezria hand touch scenes are anything nearly as powerful as the Mad Men ones. Don't be ridiculous.

Don Draper removing Peggy Olsens hand in The Smoke Gets In Your Eyes Mad Men Don Draper grabbing Peggy Olsens hand in The Suitcase Mad Men

– What do you think the macguffin in the trunk could be?

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