How long has Pretty Little Liars been talking about college? Wasn’t early admission into Penn, like, two years ago? When do these girls finally get to don the cap and gown and get the heck out of Rosewood? We’re inching (so very slowly) toward the end of the girls' senior year, which has been so fraught with a seemingly infinite number of dangerous situations that it's more like a cruel Stoic paradox than a school term.
Also, what class will they be when they finally graduate? Class of 2015? Does that mean, since only a couple of years have passed in Rosewood and we're going on our fifth season of PLL, that this show started in our future? Time is a flat circle, man.
But anyway, just because the Liars can't seem to get to the end of their high-school careers doesn't mean we can't look forward to senior superlatives and quotes while indulging in some speculation over what Season 5 has in store for us! The Season 4 finale left us with a lot of questions, like:
But, before we get into the specifics, we should dive right into the biggest question mark Season 4 left us with:
Superlative: Most Likely to Survive Being Buried Alive (by a Mother, Relative, or Appointed Guardian)
Quote: “And the rest is rust and stardust.”—Humbert Humbert, Lolita
Alison being a high-school drop-out notwithstanding, her return is probably the biggest challenge the Liars will face during their senior year. Four seasons of Ali twisting in the wind, and now she’s back in Rosewood to stay. I’m sure that Mrs. D (who unwittingly tried to murder Alison) and whoever’s playing Jason this season will be affected by her return, but to me, the potential ripples she'll create within the clique politick are much more interesting. How do you reintegrate a character into the normal flow when she’s been a figment of these girls’ collective imagination for so long? Do they immediately just kneel at the foot of the OG queen bee? Or has Alison changed so much during her years on the run that she no longer has the desire to even be the “benevolent” dictator she once was?
Possible power struggles aside, how do you even trust someone who’s been at least a trickle in the soaring fountain of lies that dominates your life? Or, worse, someone who’s still a beacon of creatively executed trouble? These are all great academic questions to be answered but, knowing PLL, we’ll probably breeze right through the group dynamics and settle into the Hunt for A as it escalates to the next level. Alison's return could be the game-changer that viewers who've grown bored with the show have been demanding. I have a feeling that writers' room pitches for stories the creative team could blow up with Ali’s return, particularly those that might distract from the focus on A, were probably constituted to Strawberry Patch Road. However, I know there’s at least one Liar who won’t be overjoyed to have Ali back.
Superlatives: Most Likely to Own Your Life in Five Years; Most Likely to Die in a Puddle of Drool at Radley
Quote: “My mind rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere.” —Sherlock Holmes, The Sign of Four
Of all the people who seemed to have changed because of Alison’s disappearance, Spencer’s transformation was probably the most extreme. Her flashbacks portray a meek sheep following the Hastings trajectory while mitigating Alison’s detours with a manageable Type A personality. Now she walks a fine line between true detective and walking semi-nude down the streets of suburban Pennsylvania wearing a sandwich board plastered with all her A clues, smelling like Doritos that've been stored in an armpit. She vacillates between mad genius and mad hatter, is what I'm saying.
But, foremost, before she’s a crazy person, she is the de facto leader of this clique. Without her, they are The Other Liars Brain Trust, a consortium of fools pretending to be problem-solvers when in fact they're just too steeped in S.O. business that they can’t honestly bother to solve the mystery of the cyberbully who stalks them. What’s more, Alison’s return absolves Spencer of any guilt she previously felt about possibly being the one who put Ali in the ground. So do we have a turf war on our hands with the blonde babyface rejoining the fray? And if Papa Hastings wasn’t trying to cover up for Spencer’s chicanery that fateful summer, what is he trying to cover up? Does it directly relate to whatever Melissa cooed in her father’s ear?
Also: Will Spencer continue to attract the men who find themselves helping the cause against her? Wren, Toby—if the next guy she dates shows up to her house wearing leather gloves covered in fry grease, I won’t be surprised. But at least her taste in men couldn’t be any worse than that of her sad-sack friend, one Aria Montgomery...
Superlatives: Most Willingly Ignorant; Best Kickpunch
Quote: “The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.” —Nick Carraway, The Great Gatsby
The Montgomery homefront has pretty much calmed down now that Mike is no longer dating Mona, Ella has come home, and Byron is probably nailing as many Syracuse TA’s off-screen as he can invite to his writer's cliché of a brown leather couch. But, of course, it’s the consistent fallout since Season 4's summer finale that’s kept Aria busy. While Ezra not being A was kind of a surprise, it almost seems more disgusting that he was his own agent in abusing these girls’ trust and manipulating Aria specifically. PLL will continue to sell Ezria and it’ll continue to be be weird but completely expected. Just because Ezra knows who A is but couldn’t bring himself to say it out loud—neither when he was facing down the barrel of a gun nor when he was staring wistfully at the nighttime skyline—doesn’t make him totally useless, right? Along with Alison’s return, Ezra’s apparent willingness to cooperate with the girls in providing information on what’s actually happening in their lives would be a coup. Aria will just need to dress in bulky sweaters or something so he doesn’t get distracted.
The bigger plot-development question for Aria is whether we’ll actually get to see her as a character who's not defined by a man. There were glimpses of that in Season 4, but they were so ephemeral it’s hard to identify moments where we got to see who Aria is without Ezra. Is it too much to ask that Aria gets some space to herself for a while, or will his near-death experience mean that Ezria will be stronger than ever? I'm hoping for the former just because it seems like so much of PLL's focus ends up on Aria (she is the one who shushes, after all), and it’s unfair that she’s so underdeveloped compared to Spencer and Hanna. Even Aria’s meekest friend has had more opportunities to show us what she’s made of.
Superlatives: Most Furrowed Brow; Most Put Upon; Best Swimmer; Most Confusing Gloves
Quote: “Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” —Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird
Poor Emily. She is the “straight man” in a group of kooks. Of everyone she knows who swaps punishment of each other for sundry nefarious deeds, it seems like whenever one of these villains lashes out at her, it’s always undeserved. All Emily seems to want is to find a nice girl to settle down with and maybe not have to worry about someone driving a car through the front of her house or her dad collapsing from some Spider-Man-climbing-induced heart condition.
Emily's only real flaw (if you could call it that ) is that she's so trusting. Alison called it a virtue because she’s so loyal and willing to believe the goodness in people, so it was interesting to hear Emily say, during the second half of Season 4, that she was going to sign off on Alison being gone. “Do we want her back?” I paraphrased on Emily's behalf. And then, within a couple weeks, after what seemed like Rosewood’s first teleported visit by none other than Alison herself, she was a true believer. Does Alison trust Emily more than the rest of the Liars because Emily has a better moral compass, is loyal, and will see the best in Alison? Or does Ali view Emily as malleable pile of chump? Is that enough to cause a schism among the Liars?
Finally on this crawl to the high-school finish line, and with Lindsay Shaw returning from a brief stint on Suburgatory, will we see a lot more of Paige, or will Emily cut the cord? She doesn’t seem to be as skilled at letting go as her blondest friend.
Superlative: Best Person to Have on Your Side in a Fight (if Spencer Isn't Around); Best Hair
Quote: “There are two kinds of evil people in this world. Those who do evil stuff and those who see evil stuff being done and don’t try to stop it.” —Janis Ian, Mean Girls
The most interesting non-Alison, non-A plot happening on PLL is the Impending Haleb Confrontation. Hanna’s been coming on strong to Travis for months now (I don’t know how long that is in Rosewood—maybe five, ten minutes?) and she might finally have enough of him worked over that he can submit to her every whim, just like Caleb used to do before he started chasing that ghost tail in Ravenswood. And just as you suspected, right when Travis and Hanna (Tranna?) start to heat up for real, Caleb will be back in town. Can Hanna forgive Caleb for his top-secret trespasses? Will she be able to deny that hair? My guess is no to both of them.
But, as far as the season goes, Hanna has developed a compelling niche for herself as the group's confrontational muscle. Not that she has pounds on anyone, but she’s the one who picked up the gun and she’s the one who’s not afraid to demand answers. While Spencer tangles with taking her Sherlock impression to the next logical conclusion (substance abuse) and Aria flits between denial and anger that Ezra spied on her but also tried to save her (kinda), Hanna (with Emily as her back-up) seems poised to take on any part of A’s organization. I don’t have a crystal ball, but it’s a pairing that can work. Hemily? Let’s do this.
Mona Vanderwaal: “I am a forest, and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.” —Zarathustra, Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Shana Cruz: “The Devil went down to Georgia / He was looking for a soul to steal.” —Charlie Daniels
Jenna Marshall: “I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.” —Helen Keller
Paige McCullers: “For in tremendous extremities human souls are like drowning men; well enough they know they are in peril; well enough they know the causes of that peril;—nevertheless, the sea is the sea, and these drowning men do drown.” —Pierre Glendinning Jr., Pierre; or, The Ambiguities
Toby Cavanaugh: “What if I'm not a superhero. What if I'm the bad guy?” —Edward Cullen, Twilight
Ezra Fitz: "I get older, they stay the same age." —Danny Wooderson, Dazed and Confused
What do you think is coming up in Season 5? What other quotes and superlatives do you have for the PLL characters? Leave them in the comments!