Picture it: Rosewood, 2014. A young girl with rosy cheeks and a terrible wig wandered through the woods with a plane ticket and some threats for a young man with a swoop of hair that rivaled her wig in terribleness. What a match they were. They reminisced, they scowled, they left each other with parting shots and a window sticker of what I think was Teddy Roosevelt in a straw hat playing the drums. That young man was Cyrus Petrillo. And that young girl is about to have her cord cut.
Quite the scenario that seems to be playing out as if it ever could. After two years and four and a half seasons of sliding the puzzle pieces around and trying to deduce her way out of being bullied, Spencer has come up with the brilliant plan of telling the truth. Just stop lying and tell the truth. Yeah, Shana is dead but that was because it was out of self defense. They honestly didn’t know Alison was alive until that fateful night when Pretty Little Liars tried to shill the heck out of the doomed Ravenswood. And almost everything those girls have done that was against the law has been in service of avoiding the wrath of extortion and bullying. I don’t know if Tanner will see them eye-to-eye on that last one but there are, indeed, bigger fish to fry.
Telling the truth is something we’ve talked about here before, how the girls can beat their bullies to the punch and take away all A’s ammo just by coming clean about everything. “The truth shall set you free” is the pithy way to say it. Although A specifically told them it won’t. But why would A give the victims good advice? It seems so thought out, reasoned, a moral to end this narrative. Stop it with the subterfuge and the secrets and everything else will work itself out. There’s just one problem and they put it in Aria’s mouth: “The truth doesn’t amount to much when it comes from a bunch of liars.”
Ladies and gentlemen, the premise of Pretty Little Liars.
Let’s unpack that a bit, shall we? Particularly in light of what our gal Alison is up to.
Superficially, it means exactly what Aria said: They are all renowned and suspicious secret-keepers so who will trust their story? They may be bringing evidence but none of it absolves them of being involved from the beginning. Maybe they just team up the Convincing One with the One That’s Hardest to Disappoint (Because of It’s About the Eyes) and win Tanner over with sheer charisma. Let’s say that was a possibility.
The deeper, darker theme in Aria astute observation is that there’s a reason why they’re lying, like, all the time. There’s a reason why we have to watch Aria and Emily maunder their way through fields of bull crap in order to get to some uninspired invention for their weird behavior. It’s the same reason that Spencer needed to pop pills to piece together puzzles and why Hanna finds herself hopping from one kind of binge to another. A makes them lie. And whenever A makes them lie, A has dirt on them. Alison, being back in town, had the biggest secret of all and A made her tell the most incriminating lie in the show to date. It’s how this machine keeps operating.
What I’m saying is that even if they tell the truth, A has demonstrated the forethought to make them pay for that indiscretion, the advanced chess move if you will. The problem the Liars have always had is that they can’t see the board. It’s all Spencer so desperately wants is to, just for a brief, shining moment, look at the board and the pieces and to see what moves are out there while the other Liars are just constantly reacting. For her, telling the truth is like clearing the board, flipping it over like a four-hour game of Monopoly because you know you can’t win. Spencer doesn’t think she can win this game because she can’t see the other pieces. It’s not like they’re playing Battleship.
It would've been way more fun if they were playing Hungry Hungry Hippos.
But they weren't playing with marble-eating ungulates, they were playing the King’s Game and Spencer has been given options. Her plan to tell the truth is flipping the board but Melissa is giving her an out. She can just push away from the table and go find another game. Travel through so many ports of call that A can’t find them. She can make the most of that gap year with what I suppose is an endless supply of capital coming from the zero cases the Hastings adults have been working on lately. It doesn’t seem like a terrible plan as long as Melissa isn’t A. Otherwise it’s definitely a terrible plan.
So does Spencer play the game? Does she flip the board, or does she walk away? Well, with Ali skulking around the woods in her bad wig, it’s going to have to be the former, at least for now.
It should have been assumed that Ali would come up with a plan with two years to think about coming back to Rosewood and out-manipulating her manipulator. The reason why she hasn’t let her compatriots in on her plan is the biggest mystery, however. We again wrestle with the show never making the decision for us on how we’re supposed to feel about Alison, for which I commend them and curse them.
We saw the flashbacks of her with Cyrus the Future Kidnapper during her lost years, and how he stabbed her and took her stuff, but, if bringing him back to Rosewood was all part of Alison’s plan, how reliable is she as a narrator? Was what we saw in the flashbacks actually true or part of how she’s able to lie so effectively (by making herself believe it’s true)? Whatever the case may be, her overarching plan to keep herself (and possibly her friends) out of trouble is surely going to interfere with Spencer’s plan to come clean. And her secret-secrets are only driving a bigger wedge between her and the other Liars. I would venture to say it’s doing a number between her and the audience, too. Here’s hoping it all pays off.
Just two weeks until the #FAtalFinale (what a hashtag) and we have quite the climax building. As the Liars are now completely disillusioned by Alison and her game escalation, all of them ready to cut the cord (they even said the words!). The Dark Ali (get it? Because Vivian Darkbloom wears that wig? They kill me) clearly has something cooking. And then there’s Mona trying to figure everything out, too. Please. Please can we just get an episode where Spencer and Mona just sit in a room together and work the whole thing out? Let the other Liars flit around with their S.O. business for a while as Spencer retreats to Mona’s newest Mona Cave and they lift themselves up high enough to see the board. I think that’ll make everyone oh so happy.
– I suppose it makes sense that Mr. D was dead-set on getting Alison to identify Cyrus as the kidnapper so that his daughter would finally feel safe. However, it seemed shady that no one put it together that he corroborated Alison’s story, even though Tanner didn’t think Alison's story was true and there was no other evidence available against him other than Alison saying, “Yeah, that’s the guy.” I feel like there’s an amendment against this. Like, in the first ten or so.
— The Montgomery women are having a lot of trust issues lately. One with a man who is disturbingly into underaged girls. And then Ella with her ex-fiancee. ZING! Oh man, I feel like it’s been a while since I called Ezra a creep. But he’s not helping himself any by lying to Aria (even if him talking to Alison was spur of the moment) when he’s still in the doghouse for that whole two-years-of-surveillance thing. Also: weird exchange between Ezra and Ali, right?
— #Haleb are starting to finally get it together, particularly in respect to Caleb’s diet. That brownie thing was one of the saddest cries for help I’ve seen on this show.
— Spencer on Hanna trying to jog away from her: “I’m faster than you and I have a car!”
— How about Janel Parrish and her pipes? How about Hanna is at all interested in singing?
— Why was that painting in the funeral home in Ali’s Basement of Bad Memories? I mean, it makes sense for weird paintings to be in funeral homes. If television has taught me anything, funeral homes are dens of macabre humor and dysfunctional families so the painting makes sense there. But the basement of one of Rosewood’s many abandoned industrial buildings? What?
– Spencer and her puzzling snacks:
– Hanna to Mona: “Ali brings out the A in you.”
– Two consecutive weeks of Emily telling someone off. It's almost like she has backbone or something.
– This shot of Aria and a pig puppet was included with the promotional photos for this episode. It's up to you to make sense of it.
– Melissa is going to record a confession of sorts for Spencer? At least we have that to look forward to.
– Your Moment of A: A folds clothes (several hoodies and that ever-present candy-striper uniform) while watching a dog show. Anonymous bullies: They’re just like us!
What'd you think of "A Dark Ali"?