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Pretty Little Liars S04E13: "Grave New World"

Who are these girls who buy fresh new hats and just ditch them willy nilly?

It'd be one thing if the toppers were free baseballs caps they got from a career fair or something. But they seemed to be decently made, lady-like accessories and Emily literally just ditched hers in a crypt. Aria, I guess, mindlessly forgot hers after being grabbed by the ankle in the graveyard. Spencer's was blown away in the weird Ravenswood dungeon wind tunnel (where all the city's swan statues go to die). And Hanna just dropped hers on the ground. She heard a squeak, she covered her head, and then let it fall. Right next to the blood/lipstick/"rusty water"-scrawled message of "Help Me" on the wall.

I'm just saying that getting a period costume on the night of the town's masquerade from what must be Ravenwood's only period-costumery shoppe couldn't have been cheap. And they were just tossing their hats aside like they were orphaned boys with hacker skills.


Did you get that feeling about Caleb? That he was tossed aside flippantly? Anyone who's paid attention to Ravenswood news from the beginning knew that there was going to be a time when Caleb would transition to the washed-out colors of Rosewood's sister city. But did you feel like it was going to be so easy?

PLL has spent so much time making Hanna and Caleb work that the show kind of set itself up for failure. Where Toby has been a hoodie, Ezra might be A, and Paige is trying to make everyone forget about all the times she was a jackass to Emily, Caleb gracefully shifted from the brooding cyber-hatchetman for the A team to the brooding but head-over-heels romantic who was willing to serve the highest of maintenances. We understand Hanna and Caleb. These are two people who seem to understand each other. And then she was like, "You should totes hang out here with this girl who looked willing to seduce some corn chips."


PLL's Halloween special this year decided to sacrifice its yearly divulging of secrets to set up the winter season and give us the hard sell for Ravenswood. Sure, we got some more looks at Ezra ramping up his creepiness factor and an actual walking and talking Alison, and those things are certainly important. But we should make no mistake about the point of this special being for PLL to give Ravenswood the best possible lead-in. Shay Mitchell might as well have winked at the camera and said, "Tonight at 9pm. I'll be tuning in."

So while the Liars whisked themselves around a town they'll probably never go to again (outside the occasional cameo appearance—Ravenswood does have a fancy costume store after all), with a storyline centered on finding Alison and creating false stakes, Caleb and Miranda (the orphan girl who was really in the mood for some chips) got to create some exposition for us on the bus where she'd pry hard into Caleb's life and speak flippantly about the death of her parents, but then recoil when someone actually askd her a question about herself. Maybe back-and-forth is something they don't deal with very well in Scranton. I mean, Michael Scott was never really known for being a conversationalist.

But they did start talking and that creepy feeling started to come over you that you were seeing the show attempt to manipulate you. Caleb and Miranda share a bond in being abandoned by their parents (in one form or another), bounced around the system, and, subsequently, growing up to be intolerable loners. Miranda's pretty in a different way than Hanna, but she still has that quality that all women on this show seem to possess: the intoxicating aroma of needing to be saved.


And that's when I felt slightly confused. I know we're going to have to let go of Hanna and Caleb at some point because there's just too much overhead in trying to maintain their relationship across two writers' rooms. We've seen a little bit of that set-up in the closing episodes of PLL's summer season, when that kid with the shaved head tried to sample some of Hanna's jelly but she made sure to let him know that he wasn't ready. Caleb and Miranda hitting it off and connecting only makes us sure that we're eventually heading for a (mutual?) break-up between Hanna and Caleb so these crazy kids can bone down within their respective city limits.

But the kiss and the reason for leaving Caleb in Ravenswood was heartbreakingly shallow, dull, and ham-fisted. Ditching Caleb so that he can help Miranda find her uncle, even if the pretense was that it was only for a night, was a disappointing farewell. Nothing drawn-out, no real intrigue between them, nothing more than a long kiss goodnight, one that was long enough to maintain that this is the end but short enough (and not scored enough) to make you question whether that was actually what they were doing. And then they parted ways and Caleb walked with Miranda into the foggy abyss. And Hanna had to catch a ride with a baby-faced villain.

The Liars accomplished so very little while running underneath the streets of Ravenswood and the Clue mansion other than subjecting themselves to manufactured action beats, the most egregious being that busted window would-be guillotine. Spencer did find the Colonel Doughboy in the Conservatory with the Garden Shears and almost unmasked him (more than she ever did when she thought Toby was dead) just before knocking herself out. And Ezra keeping his hand in his pocket so that he wouldn't reveal a cut seems to be more of that vague pointing to Ezra being A. But, then again, maybe he thought keeping his hand in his pocket was making him a cool dude.


Ezra being a creepster is nothing new to the show, so the big reveal was Alison confirming the thing that we all already knew: the absence of a body means "alive until proven otherwise." Unless PLL decides to dial it back come winter, we actually, honestly saw Alison in the flesh. No fever dreams or smoke inhalation to blame it on—just a girl standing in front some other girls, wearing a red coat. The elaborate hoax of Ali's death, if we can believe everything as we saw it, is basically confirmed as a way to huckster Ezra into believing she's gone. That may be the most surprising part about Alison's string of non-information: It wasn't to just one person in private, there wasn't any condition where what they saw could be questioned, and there doesn't seem to be any way they can backpedal out of this. The girls know Alison is alive. We live in a confirmed Alison universe.

While we can usually expect the Halloween special to provide inalienable answers about the show, no matter how large-scale the reveal is (remember "The First Secret" and laying out the original A Team?), it's hard to deny the importance of Alison finally revealing that she's not buried in the dirt. It's an entire plot point resolved. The search for Alison's killer is over if there's no actual killer. Now we can focus on how she pulled the whole thing off. That being said, PLL did all that in ten minutes. The rest of the episode was about showing off Shay Mitchell and Ashley Benson's cleavage and drilling into our heads that we should stick around for Ravenswood. We can't really say it was a disappointing outing for the Liars because of the ending, but it was almost a cheap trick to salvage a series full of weak events by pulling the Alison trump card.


NOTES

– "What kind of town throws a party in a graveyard?" Every city I've lived in. Does your local village do movies in its historic cemetery, too? We're all Ravenswood.

– Emily and Hanna wore dresses that were basically made possible by fashion tape and a prayer. Aria was a little more modest (actually, pretty quotidian for her—that might've just been something old that she had lying in the back of her closet). But Spencer was straight-up Victorian. Walking around town, people must've asked where these women of the night picked up the teetotaler.


– It's one thing when these girls split up on purpose to investigate creepy stuff and get themselves into trouble individually because they can't stay in a group. But now they're just splitting up because they seem too silly to stay together. Seriously, Hanna. Where are you going? And of course Grunwald would single out Emily. Stop being the weakest link.

– "One of you has been touched by the one Alison fears most." Does Grunwald mean Leah, the bride that grabbed Aria in the graveyard, or the Doughboy who attacked Spencer in the conservatory? Or is that Grunwald's gross (but not inaccurate) way of describing Ezria?

– Aria: "You just happen to be the sporty one.' Yes, Emily would be Sporty Spice. Or maybe Baby Spice, since she's a baby so often. Aria would be Posh. Spencer would have to be Scary. Does that mean Hanna is Ginger? Is Hanna the slutty one? Maybe it's not so easy to pin Spice Girls to the Liars. It's so much easier with Lost characters.

– Hanna apparently has a problem with little people.

– "Remember what I told you at the hospital." Alison reminded Hanna that they had a talk there, but she didn't really say much other than the Liars knowing more collectively about that night than they realize and one really big lie is better than a hard truth. Also that A is annoying. Which is true.


– The Ravenswood stuff. I understand the need for Pretty Little Liars to set up the Ravenwood plot by incorporating the supernatural business the series will focus on, but I'll be glad to see the impossible things that happen on PLL return to being attributed to money and blackmail rather than the paranormal. Grunwald's intuition was a little too much for me. Though, color me intrigued about the people who are supposed to be dead in that town. Like Caleb on that gravestone. Does he not remember taking that picture? Do the pictures age with them? Why doesn't Ravenswood have any lights? Why did the creepy guy on the bus get off so early if they were all actually going to the same place? Is he magic? How much magic will I have to deal with on the new show? Tell me all your secrets, Ravenswood! I demand to know your answers!


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 3/24/2015

Season 5 : Episode 25

Next Episode

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Season 6 : Episode 1

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