We need to talk about Hanna.
We're in a Countdown to #Haleb so we can expect some monumental things for Hanna in the coming weeks once her ghost-romancing ex-boyfriend shows up to explain how complicated things were and that we should all just never talk about it again. But this week was a decent-sized breakthrough when it comes to her identity and the effect Planet Alison has had on her orbit. It was the kind of thing I'd hoped we see from Aria since she broke up with Ezra but, to be fair, she's kind of going through her own thing right now, deciding if she's actually a murderess. Well, of things that aren't birds.
Hanna's realization of what Mona did for her stitches together that uncanny audience feeling of Alison and Hanna's similarities and Mona seeking out the meekest of the Liars to be her friend. While we've basically had the idea all along that Hanna and Ali being superficially alike was intentional, we may not have known that it was Mona that put her on the path for that specific purpose of creating a likeness.
Mona was obsessed with being part of the clique and was gripped by Alison just as much as the other Liars, even in her disillusionment of being kept at arm's length by her "loser" monicker. So when Alison left, Mona had a chance to make a new Alison, a better Alison. She had the technology. And that technology turned out to be Spanx.
So the meekest little Liar turned into the better version of Alison: cool, likable, charismatic, and, best of all, tolerant of Mona. But there was a small detail that's missing from all the flashbacks we've seen with Alison and the Liars. We know who Aria was, the pink-streaked rebel, independent and artsy. We know who Spencer was, the overachiever who was bad with people. We even know who Emily was, the squirrelly, closeted athlete. Hanna was nothing but quiet and willing to take the abuse of her peers. It's a hole in the storytelling. They didn't flesh her out despite the fact that she's now a fan favorite. Now they've plugged the hole by detailing that Hanna doesn't really know either.
That's how Planet Alison most affected her orbit: after years of being the "me, too" of the group, she was clay to be molded and Alison was the ideal shape. Now that Alison is back and doesn't seem to have the same pull over everyone (unless they're named Emily), Hanna has the opportunity to look at her life, how she was mistaken for Alison and so ready to pretend to be her, and think, "What the hell am I doing?" Alison is not a person you want to be. You do not want to be the girl that people are hunting down because she was a jackass. You definitely don't want to be her now, all emotionally-scarred and traumatized from keeping one step ahead of the long arm of A. So, if the end-game of your creator was to be Alison, and you suddenly realized your autonomy, wouldn't you also need a change? A hair change is fine. Just don't change too much, Hanna.
Speaking of the storytelling itself, though, they also did an interesting thing with Jason this week, specifically, our theories about Jason. It appears we were right where they wanted us to be. In the season finale, we talked about how Jason is the only logical person to have knocked out Alison with a big rock since Mrs. D wouldn't really try to protect anyone else. So sound, our logic, right? I mean, talk to me three months ago and I would've said it was airtight. Outfoxed the show. Sorted. And then Emily and Hanna came up with the exact same theory. So, obviously, we have to be wrong.
Spencer cajoles her way through the episode with a pace we haven't seen in a while. She was actually borderline rude about everything, even after she came to terms with the fact that her parents might have done her solid even if she didn't need it. Papa Hastings was nothing but nice throughout the episode (which is, of course, suspect) and Spencer kept raking him over the coals. The sad part was when he brought home pretzels and he asked if his daughter wanted some. She says "sure" and it looks like they might have a civil conversation, maybe some father-daughter bonding time. But, instead, Spencer brought her Abbie Carmichael swagger to their countertop meeting. There was so much third degree that I almost identified with Melissa when she joined the party, a woman who is making it a difficult to be on her side, what with crazily swinging from being a loyal family member in cahoots to keep the Hastings safe to someone unnecessarily cutthroat and mean when talking to her sister. I guess that humanizing period is over.
Spencer is digging up the secrets, though, as you would expect her to. Hanna and Emily also have their own sleuthing squad but they don't find anything from the weird transient-looking dry-out house leader (or Arnie) that honestly is of any importance except that Jason used to eat A LOT of pizza. Three times a week? Hokey smokes. How did Jason keep his manly figure?
But while Hanna was finding out she's just been an Alison drone with better dialogue and Spencer was finding out that maybe her dad is a killer, Aria is off suffering the PTSD of being responsible for killing someone. She's confiding in Ezra, which doesn't really add up. I know that they're very close, love of each other's lives, blah blah blah. But it was only a couple weeks ago in Rosewood time that you found out he was a crazy stalker with hidden surveillance all over your life. She's so quick to trust him again. And I know that it's easy to take Alison's advice and do the exact opposite because, really, what the heck does she know, but can you start telling the man who, by his own admission, wanted to publish all of your secrets in a book for his own profit? Forgive and forget but maybe take some time.
But if there's an overall theme to the episode, it's honesty and refusing to just be a couple of satellites in the pull of Alison. Ezra wants to be completely honest with Aria. Aria tells Ezra about Shana. Hanna's on her way to being true to herself. And Spencer has been about nothing but truth since she came into our lives. It seems like only a matter of time before all this honesty is going to bite these girls in the behinds, particularly when their honesty conflicts with the lies they've been spinning. More importantly, though, I'm not sure what we're looking forward to right now. Yes, Spencer is on the verge of outing someone as the person to kill Mrs. D or the girl in the tomb or something. And Mona's got something going on. But there's not a lot to discuss as far as plot goes right now. We're not exactly cliffhanger-y. Maybe that's okay. We have plenty of time. So much time.
— The Liars must have a closets dedicated solely to the revealing black dresses they wear to funerals. Where are they getting all these clothes? Are memorial services what gave Cece Drake her start in the competitive Rosewood boutique market? Before switching over to bright clothes and Tresemmé, did Bruce oversee racks and racks of lacy little numbers for casket viewings? Who knew there'd be so much tragedy in this suburban Pennsylvania hamlet that its young women would need endless funeral attire? Cece knew.
— Emily: "Coincidences happen." Spencer: "Yeah, all the time. They grow on trees like coconuts waiting for you to walk under them." Poor, sweet Emily. After all this time you'd assume that believing in coincidences in Rosewood is like rationalizing the tooth fairy. How can the tooth fairy fly with all those quarters, Emily? How does the tooth fairy fly?
— I know I bring it up every week but I really like that Mona is back and openly dastardly.
— Welcome to the show, Sydney Driscoll. If you're one of Mona's Heroes, you are terrible at the stealth game. If you're honestly just another swimmer hoping to get advice from Coach Em, well, that can't be true because we're in Rosewood. Literally everyone is up to something. Except that one kid from the academic decathlon. He just wanted to see Spencer's boobs.
— "Blood is thicker than water ... it can also be very slippery." What does that even mean, Melissa? Because you're also blood. So should Spencer stay away from you, too? Or are you saying that Jason and you are on the same level? Or are you just saying to not clean your floors with blood? I don't know where you're going with that.
— Alison got real scared of that painting. Is that the same one from Breaking Bad?
— In this episode, we also got the origin story of the cupcake-eating torture. It all comes together.
— I didn't realize that Ezra pinning the A title on Shana was so circumstantial. She was following them and was wearing a hoodie? That's your evidence? Anyone can be wearing a black hoodie (like, seriously, anyone—half the town is on A's payroll) and you were skulking around after the girls, too. Can the Liars please just put it together that Shana was not A. Can that be the next puzzle that Spencer solves?
— Spencer: "Crazy around here works on a sliding scale." Amen, sister.
— I say that Papa Hastings was being genial and protective this episode, but there's nothing more creepy in the entire episode than him offering to give Alison a ride home. It sounded like he had an unmarked conversion van waiting for her around the corner. Also: where the heck was Alison going?
— The Paige Saga: I'm over it. Do something with her.
— Aria: "But, here I am, once again. Back at the scene of the crime." Ezra: "There's no crime here. Not the way I see it." There was a crime there. It was consecrating "sacred ground" with your sixteen-year old student. Not to pry, but I'm sure there were multiple crimes there.
— So Mona is definitely watching Hanna get her new color. But who is the other woman behind the frosted window? It looks like someone wearing an Ali mask to me. But maybe it's Alison. Or Jenna. Or one of the vast number of waifish teenage girls that populate the show. Honestly, it could be an extra in the background of the high school. I guess anyone can be A now.