Adult drama is so limited on this show that when it arises, it kind of demands a bit of attention. While there's always some drama involving the grown-ups, it generally exists within the framework of how it affects one Liar, all the Liars, or the conspiracy against the Liars. Mama and Papa Hastings are estranged, but that's still tied to the dark puzzle that Spencer spends all her waking—and, I’m sure, sleeping—hours trying to solve (just like when you donate your downtime computer-processing power to SETI@home, Spencer maximizes her subconscious). Almost anything that happens to the elder Fields happens because A drives a car through their house or because someone is Spider-Man-scaling a school. But these Montgomerys are doing something different.
"March of Crimes" contained a full-on scene with just grown-ups! No kids struggling their way through a weak-sauce lie! No police trying to get an of-age individual to crack on how terrible his or her usually unattended children are! Just two people dealing with something that happens in life and addressing the complicated emotions that typically accompany a divorce, a break-up, and/or simply being of a certain age while being alone.
It was sweet to see Byron console Ella after she suffered the painful end to her engagement. Even better, it was great to see them come together without any sort of romantic wink toward the audience or them stacking meaning onto their hug beyond, "These are two people who respect each other, love each other, and just want each other to be happy." It was almost refreshing to see something like that play out that wasn’t hyperbolic or fraught with four-and-a-half seasons' worth of paranoid mythology. Zack is a sleezeball, but as far as Ella is concerned, that’s something she already knew in the back of her mind and ignored during their whirlwind romance. Byron and Ella had a scene together that was real and filled with heart. In fact, for a second there I almost forget about the two separate syndicates of masked bullies that are chasing their daughter and her friends.
Of course, it was one of the many external forces of magic surveillance in the Liars’ lives that stoked the preexisting younger-girls flames in Zack’s loins. At least that explains his remarkably quick heel-turn last week, when he tried to massage a “yes” out of the small of Hanna’s back and then violated the sanctity of Hanna’s bubble of junk-food loneliness to give her his number. Now the question is why.
What would A have to gain from Zack hitting on Hanna? Did A think Hanna was going to cave and sleep with Zack? Or was it expected that Hanna would be her loose-cannon self and ruin the engagement party? It all seems unlikely. Given everything that's happened, from Hanna having no interest in cheating on Caleb to her being super honest with everyone, and even to Aria’s victim-blaming-turned-predator-investigating reaction, this seems more like someone is trying to out Zack as wrong for the Liars’ circle. And that reeks of Mona.
But, even though there were two guest stars from the dark side, "March of Crimes" wasn't an episode where Mona could pout her lips with intimidation. After so many weeks of Noel Kahn’s deep involvement with Alison’s underground network and Mona’s little birds, he finally showed his face. And I'm a little confused as to why the Liars are still so scared of him and so suspicious.
Maybe there’s been a miscommunication between Pretty Little Liars and myself, but I remember Noel leading the girls to Alison, covering for them with the police after Ezra was shot, and then helping Alison execute her ill-conceived break-in. Other than Mona’s folder with Noel Kahn’s name on it, the Liars seem to have a lot of information on Noel that puts him largely in Alison’s column, and supposedly on their side. Why Emily felt compelled to raid Noel’s car is a little murky, and in hindsight, I've found myself rummaging for dots to connect in order to justify her investigation. I also can’t help but be on Noel’s side; Alison does seem like the type to toss away friends when they’re no longer useful, and taking out an insurance policy like hard evidence that Alison wasn’t kidnapped and being held hostage for two years seems like a logical move for a man in his position... that position being “blackmailed into lackeydom.”
And now we've reached the part where I rail on why the Liars are friends with Alison. Pass over this paragraph if you need to. But Alison’s cavalier attitude about having Noel break into the house in a manipulation play clashed mightily with the needy, apologetic Alison we saw at school the next day. Pretty Little Liars is still failing to find a way to allow its skeptical audience to connect with her character. Is she a woman who sets up grand theater in order to get people to stop asking questions, or is she a truly scared teenage girl who's just trying to do what she has to do in order to stay alive?
Her performance for Jenna (which included, whether it was intentional or not, more emphasis on her scared, quivering voice for the blind girl’s benefit) was followed by what felt more like a conference between competing HBICs (“How did you do it?”), which doesn’t help her case. She’s many things to many people. Her inconsistency, complicated by Pretty Little Liars' history of subterfuge with regard to good characters (Zack, for instance), means that the series isn’t interested in telling us which side she’s on. For now, we're left to do that ourselves and as much evidence as we’ll be provided for one side, we'll be provided for the other.
Speaking of evidence, Tanner was the last important part of "March of Crimes." With Holbrook apparently away at a summer camp for disabled children or whatever magnanimous event he’s rolled up his sleeves for, Tanner was left to ask the very questions that would poke holes in the pile of picked-over trash that Alison calls a story. Things didn’t add up, events seemed too coincidental, and the Liars looked shifty. While the Rosewood Police in the past have been nothing but accommodating to fibbers, fabricators, and fools for high school girls, Tanner doesn’t seem like the type to bend to those kinds of demands—she raises the stakes. There’s someone who can find everything out just by thinking about it for more than five seconds.
As much as we’re supposed to side with Liars and want Tanner to stop interrogating their clique in hopes that one of them will slip, I find myself cheering for the detective to figure out a way to call them all out on the flimsy manipulation and sabotage Alison’s had RPD working on this whole time. Sometimes, you’re just hoping for the truth... and that the confessing kidnapper they caught is just a clever trap for Alison. Or maybe that he was just arrested for his dumb haircut.
”March of Crimes” was not as much of a “s#i*t will go down” outing as we might’ve been led to believe. It was more of a “crap will happen” or a “bull puckeys will occur” kind of episode, maybe a “manure will fly.” It was nice to see Noel Kahn kicking around, and Caleb’s jab to Zack’s stupid face was satisfying. But you can’t have an episode where a house explodes or where Emily shows Alison how Rosewood girls get down between the sheets and then crow about an episode like this. It’s fine, but let’s dial back the Instagram hype.
– Hanna: “Even the doorknob smells like her.” Spencer: “Why were you smelling the doorknob?” A fair question. But Ali does seem like the type who would bunt like a cat all over that doorknob. I mean, Ali’s even using Hanna’s moisturizer now? First the bath salts and now this? Come on.
– Where do I get one of those sweet, sweet Rosewood jean jackets like Hanna was wearing?
– Do you think Ashley was more upset with Hanna because she was drinking liquor from a flask or because she wasn’t trying to find the answer to her problems at the bottom a fine Napa Valley vintage?
– “If one of us falls, we all fall. And A wins.” Alison said that with her needy/scared voice. But that kind of sounds like a threat, doesn’t it?
– The swim team coach is the last hope for Rosewood men to not be lechers and creeps. Come on, swim team coach. Don’t be that guy with a peephole into the locker room.
– Who is this Kristine T in Spencer’s phone? Spencer has time for other friends? How. Dare.
– A left Spencer a nice eye chart message (maybe). It might be the weakest A message yet. Although the eye doctor did leave Spencer pretty crazy-looking in her Blue Blockers. She was like the Eradicator or Doc Brown from Back to the Future.
– Emily found out that Sydney was in league with Jenna and everyone puffed up their chests to look more intimidating. Sydney was still riding that "I like girls"/"I just like Emily" line. She basically said that she didn’t expect Emily to be so nice, given all the bad things Jenna says about the Liars. And then Emily basically threatened to pull a Paige and drown her when she least expects it. Emily drove away and Sydney was basically like, “Oh, that’s what Jenna meant about them being horrible.” But what they never really explained was why Sydney and Jenna have to dress alike. Especially if Jenna is blind, who cares?
– Rosewood has a Maggiano’s? Is that why everyone is so slow? Because they’re all coming out of a family-style food coma?
– Hanna pouring out the booze—are we done with Downward Spiral Hanna? Was watching that black-and-white movie on TV rock bottom for her? “Ugh, I’m boring like Aria now. Time to stop dulling myself with vodka.”
– Your Moment of A: A is at the only eye doctor in town, sitting in the waiting room in full Hoodie regalia (hoodie, leather gloves, black headphones for an iPod containing Alison’s fictional kidnapping story). The nurse offered to turn down the air conditioning if the Hoodie was cold, which makes me believe that these people actually are wearing the hoods and gloves all the time. I’m very upset by this.
What did you think of "March of Crimes"?
AIRED ON 8/30/2016
Season 7 : Episode 10