Hanna and Emily were the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of "Free Fall," except without any of the subtlety or the subterfuge.
They were two fools going through the motions of larger conspiracies, perfectly willing to be pawns in games about which they knew nothing. Last episode, strung-out Spencer had them hardcore convinced that Ezra was A, and that they had to tell Aria what's been obvious to us for years: Dating her teacher is not a good idea. Mind you, the condemning evidence wasn't about the nature of Aria's relationship with her trusted instructor, but that he's probably a stalker, a criminal liar, and party to every terrible thing that's happened to the girls in the past couple years. What Spencer, Hanna, and Emily have come to terms with is that Ezra is the manipulative, evil genius who's been finding ways into their homes, into their phones, into their private dominions with ever-increasing brilliance to get them accused of everything from shoplifting to murder.
And just episode later (the next day in story time), Ezra flipped them via Aria to turn on Spencer. After Spencer laid out all the terrible evidence against Fitz and created a compelling case, he basically said, "No way, man. She's on druuuuuuuugs." And, just like that, Hanna and Emily went from steeling themselves for whatever fallout was going to occur after they told Aria the love of her life is the curator of their misery to "Hey, Spence, I know you figured out the mysterious doom that's crushing our lives, but you look like you need a nap. so we're staging an intervention instead."
SPENCER: Where'd you get an opinion about this?
SPENCER: You mean the guy I just accused of being A?
ARIA: Yeah, that guy.
SPENCER: The guy that we decided was the living worst?
EMILY: I guess?
HANNA: Who has pie?
SPENCER: Okay, great.
Jellyfish. Wafflers. Cowards. Spencer gives props to Ezra for being brilliant but, really, it's that her closest friends are wishiest and the washiest. Maybe they're not Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Maybe they're like Scooby and Shaggy except they're both Shaggy, because at least Scooby can be plied with treats into being substantive. They were funny together, though. Hanna with her nervous snacking and blunt outbursts complementing Emily with her... straight man act. There's got to be a better way to phrase that.
It's clear their schtick was comic relief for the individual unraveling of Sparia. As Spencer shuffled around in give-ups and other people's clothes during her Adderall lulls and #AriaFindsOut, there was a need for some levity. Giving Hanna concerns like string cheese and the creepy aspects of reptiles kept things light.
Speaking of light, Spencer's life is basically a deep pit in space where not even light can escape. Her unraveling is interesting for a lot of reasons, but the circumstances around her latest setback are compelling because they're all her fault. Usually it's A pulling the strings so the girls will end up in trouble. But Spencer decided to take the pills. Spencer called the doctor's office for more. And Spencer wrapped herself in a blanket burrito of lies so tight, she didn't give herself any wiggle room. Mama Hastings found out because the doctor's office rang. It wasn't A. It was Spencer's own sloppiness combined with her blind pursuit of A. Rookie mistakes. You hate to see them happen.
A doesn't even have to do anything for these girls to bring themselves to ruin. That they've lost their personalities—and, honestly, their grip on life—in light of being tortured has bred self-destructive streaks in all of them. Spencer is popping pills to track down their bully. Emily's swimming around trying to get Ali back in her life, even though Ali was possibly the worst thing to happen to her. Hanna's eyeing smushed french fries. They're a mess.
The most important self-destruction of "Free Fall," however, was Aria's shattered blissful ignorance. It took her nearly four seasons, but she finally learned at least half of the truth we all suspected, that Ezra is the creepiest creep who ever creeped. There was no full admission of him being EzrA, nor of his involvement in any A-like activities (though he knew about the circumstances of Spencer's Radley stay), but he did cop to dating Ali when she was, at the oldest, 15, and he was 22 because she "lied about her age." I don't think her tween looks would've be enough to waive asking for ID before taking her back to Sacred Ground. But that wasn't even the dirtiest part.
No, the dirtiest part of the EzrA indictment was that he knew Aria and Co. before teaching at Rosewood High, and, therefore, intentionally found a way into Aria's skinny jeans for reasons less romantic than whatever "B-26" was trying to convey. Yes, Ezra being a member of the A team means that he watches the Liars in all aspects of their lives, stalks them, punishes them, and contributes pithy threats to their walls and teeth. None of that was confirmed this week (that he's doing all that for A, anyway), but the crushing blow to Ezria has nothing to do with how deep Ezra is within the bullying network. Everything is based on the idea that, when Ezra met Aria, it was star cross'd love at first sight. There are obstacles and ethical issues and challenges, but that's how strong their bond is. They were two strangers who knew nothing of each other and immediately knew everything.
The only solid truth we got from "Free Fall" was that he saw Aria in a bar, he knew who she was, how young she was, and still tried to seduce her. He even admitted to expressly applying for a teaching job at Rosewood High to be closer to his "subject," Alison. He knew full well that he was trying to unbutton the blouse of a future student.
There can't be a way to come back from that, right? There's no way on this earth or whatever planet like ours that Rosewood is supposed to exist on that a woman can forgive being taken advantage of in such a profound way. And that profound way may only scratch the surface of how awful Ezra truly might be. No matter how many times he pleads the case that falling in love with her was real and that he didn't expect this blah blah blah, there's no way Ezria can ever recover. Right?
Kudos to PLL for not backing down on Ezra's creepiness. There was a way out, a door left ajar, and the writers didn't backpedal their way through it. Instead we're left with a couple of shattered souls—she who found everything out and she who was told everything—dealing with the aftermath of their blind obsessions. And while Spencer and Aria curl up on their beds in fetal positions, don't forget to check out Emily and Hanna's two-woman show where Emily orders meals and Hanna steals her string cheese. It's a riot!
– Throughout the last few episodes, PLL's production and post-production staff has flexed some strange artsy muscle. Last week's noir episode aside, the two episodes that bookended it were chock full of curious camera angles and odd sound effects. In some cases these creative decisions have done a great job of indicating Spencer's fragile state (see her waking up at Fitz's desk), while others have just been weird (like the non-diegetic wind sound that blew through Spencer's kitchen before she called the doctor one more time). The entire conversation between Aria and Ezra when Aria realized there might be something to wild-eyed Spencer's theory was full of unnerving close-ups. Keep an eye out for some of the choices they're making with this show. It's kind of in an awkward phase.
– "Did you have an accident?" Emily Fields, ladies and gentlemen.
– "I can write you a late pass." UGH. Gross, Ezra. That's probably their dirty talk, too.
– What was up with Toby this episode? He was more forlorn-looking than usual. Maybe PLL has just bought into the whole #BooRadleyVanCullen thing and decided he needed to look more wistful.
– "OH MY GOD THIS IS BRILLIANT." Spencer doing the crisis version of slow-clapping her adversary was my favorite line of the episode. That A capped everything off with Wren's prescription pad was tres magnifique.
– Mike hoped that Mona would drop him an L-bomb. What the damn hell? What is wrong with teenage boys? They're either too brash and bro-y, or they're asking you to tell them you love them. I guess neediness runs in the family.
– I guess Mike doesn't know how Ezra and Mona are in cahoots, since she used that omnipresent "I need to get a reading assignment" excuse to talk to him. Sorry if you had him as a Hoodie in a pool.
– Aria tried seven times to get into the password-protected cabin with some pretty bland English-teacher-y names: "Shakespeare," "Wordsworth," and "Dickinson" were all among her attempts. Apparently, Ezra has only read books he's assigned for sophomore lit.
– The winning password, B26, was a reference to the hack free verse poem he wrote "for Aria" near the beginning of their relationship called "B-26"—as in the number Fitz punched into the jukebox to play The Fray. Ah, young love.
– The manuscript about Alison was—well, I'm just saying there's a reason that Fitz teaches.
– If you intend to read an entire, unbound manuscript, don't take it out of your purse and hold it over the edge of a rickety, rusted ski lift where doom waits for the pages. Such an Aria thing to do.
– I usually don't credit (or debit) PLL's actors too much for their performances since it takes more than the actor in front of the camera to make a character come to life. But Troian Bellisario and Lucy Hale did an excellent job in their tailspins. Watching Hale cry is almost as awkward as watching Claire Danes break down, but that scene with her lying in bed, holding her stomach while recalling how often she left him do non-teachery stuff to her— oof. And, of course, Bellisario crushed it for another week. I really, really want Spencer to just take a nap.
– Your Moment of A: Gloved hands pick up the lost manuscript from the ground below the ski lift. Ezra? Someone else? I can't even venture a guess anymore.
What'd you think of "Free Fall"?
AIRED ON 7/19/2016
Season 7 : Episode 5
AIRS ON 8/2/2016
Season 7 : Episode 6