Pretty Little Liars' Summer Finale: Something Old, Something New

Pretty Little Liars

Leave it to Pretty Little Liars to knock one out of the park just before going on hiatus. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised: This is a show that does finales well, so Tuesday night's conclusion to the first half of the second season was bound to be a doozy. While it didn’t exactly tie up any loose ends, the episode was full of breakdowns, confrontations, and—oh, yes—big secrets.

For me, the real success of Pretty Little Liars’ summer finale was that it regained the feel of the solid first season while still moving the plot forward. It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed Season 2—it’s more that the series has been forced to drag its stylish heels a bit. Only in the last few episodes have we gotten a real sense of where this is going. But the finale earned bonus points for bringing back sleazy Detective Wilden, the tough cop who abused his power to make his way into Ashley’s bedroom last season. It also looks like we’ll be seeing more of Maya, who is frankly just more interesting than any of the other girls Emily’s been dating, and Wren, who kissed Spencer approximately two minutes after she broke up with Toby.

The episode featured a great self-contained story (insofar as any story on this show can be self-contained), with A screwing with each of the liars in supremely sadistic ways. As Spencer pointed out, A is the ultimate frenemy, forcing the girls to get what they want even though it’s bound to bite them in the ass. I love the idea that A’s plans are really just a twisted reflection of our heroes’ desires.

Aria was forced to confront Jackie with her plagiarism—which is actually, you know, fair. But by cornering Ezra’s ex-fiancee, Aria revealed Jackie’s true colors. Surprise, she’s kind of a villain! On any other show—True Blood, for example—I’d say the writers were overdoing it with antagonists. But Pretty Little Liars thrives on the conflict between the core four and everyone around them. Now that Jackie is threatening to expose Ezra’s student-teacher romance, it looks like Aria might have to bend to her will. Especially since Ella has been thrown off the scent by her belief that Ezra and Spencer are the real taboo couple.

Spencer was told to keep Toby safe, so she dumped him. I doubt this will last, and it seemed pretty contrived. But hey, whatever it takes to bring Wren the pretty Brit back into the picture.

In my mind, Hanna had it the worst, as she was compelled to ruin her dad’s wedding. I don’t know why she waited until the ceremony was actually taking place, but it was bound to be horrible regardless. And yes, it was awful to watch, though her revelation that her dad and mom slept together (er, recently) is at least partly her dad’s responsibility. You don’t get to dabble in ex sex when you’re about to get married, Mr. Marin.

But okay, perhaps Emily actually had it the worst, since A almost killed her. Whatever. She got a nifty hallucination, featuring the most compelling return of Alison yet. “Two can only keep a secret if one of them is dead,” Ali said, alluding to Pretty Little Liars’ opening titles. And then she planted one on Emily, who's been getting a whole lot of action this week! I’m mixed on Alison flashbacks, because they generally don’t give us much new information, but I loved the way she appeared in the finale. There is something more to her than manipulative sociopath, and maybe she did actually have feelings for Emily at some point. Or perhaps Emily just has a vivid, car exhaust-inspired imagination.

And I still haven’t touched on the elephant in the room: the reveal that Jenna and Garrett almost definitely had something to do with Alison’s murder. At the very least, they know who did it, and tried to trick Jason into thinking he was guilty. To be fair, Pretty Little Liars is all about false leads, and the show could just be screwing with us. But I think it’s about time we got a clearer sense of who the real villains are, and Jenna and Garrett are as good an answer as any. I thought Jenna’s “She deserved to die like that” line was particularly chilling. Was the “surprise” obvious? Sure—it’s not like we thought these two were up to anything good. But there are still other players involved, and more potential for complications on the horizon.

Any guesses as to who “pretty eyes” is? Because while Jenna and Garrett were involved in Ali’s death, they’re not the ones who kidnapped Dr. Sullivan. I can think of lots of pretty-eyed characters on this show, but I want to hear what you think. One of us is bound to unmask A. Maybe.

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