We all know there was a Paige problem.
While Paige has been everything from a would-be murderous nemesis to a lionhearted lover to a nagging thorn in Emily’s side, my main gripe with her is what the show has been doing with her lately, which is to say nothing. Paige has been found sitting on Emily porch so many times I was convinced that she must be some special breed of vampire that can’t enter a home if she’s been invited. The conversations were all the same: Her and Em’s relationship is untenable for whatever reason that week, because one of them is closeted or they’re being hounded by A or, now that Ali’s back, Emily’s feelings for Pigskin are a little confused.
There was just no point to Paige being around other than to add an element of sullenness to Em’s life. She’s just around to lurk and make Emily’s already very awkward life all that much more awkward. Basically, she was to appear in order to create Furrowed Brow opportunities. And then Mona, as usual, to the rescue.
Paige being on the inside of the Liars’ clique, one that now shields the abdicated Queen Bee, is almost essential to Mona’s new grassroots spy network necessary for getting the inside poop on what Ali plans next. Mona’s Heroes is stocked with people the Liars find repulsive (by design) so the ins are few and far between: Caleb’s not around, Travis apparently only appears by text now, Toby is pretty suspicious of Mona, and Ezra’s annoying. So Paige is the way. Except Paige doesn’t want to be a part of it.
When Mona sidled up behind Paige at her car, I thought that was going to be the opportunity for Paige to cave and reluctantly join the crew, especially when presenting the “with me or against me” terms. But I was pleasantly surprised to see Paige continue her Social Switzerland campaign by telling Emily that it’s not safe for Ali (or her associates) if she were to return while still maintaining the anonymity of her would-be social assassins. With that kind of response, Mona looks like a douche for her black-and-white scare tactics. Paige was also pretty useful in bringing up how much Mona is like Alison now: “Did you ever wonder when you became the very thing you’re afraid of?”
In fact, a lot of the episode was about monsters and monsters dealing with being monsters. Discussing Mona as a monster is easy, particularly when juxtaposing it next to Hanna’s accusations last week that Mona wanted to be friends with Ali so she made her own Ali. The actual Alison was too much of a devil to contend with personally, so she scared her anonymously as A, thereby becoming her own devil in secret. Her claims that all this Mona’s Heroes business is just a preventative measure (in her conversation with Lucas) may be her justification but that’s thrown into question. Do you have to create a mob to annihilate this girl? Is it fair to seek justice or revenge on Alison in order to protect the former victims? Or are you just getting a thrill out of being able to be the greater monster that chews up the one everyone else used to be so afraid of?
Because the thing is that, no matter what we think of Alison’s current situation, whether she’s biding her time or if she’s just a husk of who she used to be, our information shows that she’s at least changed. She’s scared and paranoid. She can’t stop trying to operate one step ahead of the people that would destroy her. The thing is, though, that her continuing the lifestyle of the girl on the run is making her into a different sort of monster, the kind that reminds everyone what got them into this situation in the first place.
The tape recording of the doctor’s visit with all the new details of her ever-compounding kidnapping lie is an interesting wrinkle. It’s the newest in a series of gargantuan asks Alison has been demanding of her put-upon friends. She’s been so painfully needy since she’s returned to Rosewood, which is understandable given what she’s been through on the run and her mom being found by a guest-starring dog. But she’s translated it into out-of-control demands that fly in the face of the only thing the Liars really want to do: stop lying. I mean, they’re terrible at it.
Bringing Alison home and killing A were supposed to be the things that allowed the Liars to start all over again. No more games, no more hiding, no more lies. But Alison’s return to Rosewood has been nothing but a reintroduction of that beast that started this in the first place (also, they didn’t kill A — we don’t know that for sure yet but COME ON). Not to mention that Ali’s return seems to have also brought about the ill-will done to Mrs. D so Spencer has never gotten a break from the monster. The problem for Spencer is that the equations are supposedly balanced now and, yet, she’s still seeing dragons.
"There've been monsters under my bed for so long that, now, when they're not there anymore, I feel I have to create them."
And there are still plenty of monsters out there, Spence. Papa Hastings might still be a monster with a disturbing level of medical knowledge to poison Mrs. D with his heart-pressure medication. We know about Mona and how Alison is still Godzilla-ing all over their lives. Then there’s the person they smash-cut to once Ali reminds Spencer that the monsters might not be under their beds anymore: good old Ezra.
Ezra and Aria are the only two monsters in the episode that seem mournfully repentant for being their own devils, which is understandable given that they’re the most emo characters on the show this side of Jason DiLaurentis. They’ve destroyed lives and relationships, though Aria more in a self-defense way than in an intentionally manipulative way. Okay, really, Ezra’s the only monster in this conversation but they can connect at least with how they’re feeling, which is with some level of regret. The part about how you have to stop expecting, demanding, or pleading for forgiveness is a poignant one. Though it loses some power since Aria is so very, very quickly falling back into the creepy embrace of her former stalker, who doesn’t deserve a lot of forgiveness, it’s important to note that Aria will have to assume that perspective in order to move on. She’s done something that, to Shana’s family, would be unforgivable. She’ll have to reassure herself with the knowledge that she did what she had to do and that no reassurance will come her way for it.
It was another episode without startling revelations or advertised shockers. That’s acceptable given their character work. Alison being back could give them enough material for at least the summer season before A “magically” reappears. I don’t know that they’ll hold off that long but there’s enough there to sort through. They're unpacking four seasons of mixed feelings. Though I get the feeling the that natives (long-time viewers) might be getting restless with all the talky-talky and none of the action-action. We’ll see where we stand after the return of Haleb.
— If they changed Shana’s last name from Cruz to Fring to make a Breaking Bad reference so I feel like her being A is a possibility I’M NOT BUYING WHAT YOU’RE SELLING, SHOW.
— Mr. D wanting to move out of town is singularly the best idea any Rosewood male has ever had.
— So, is Sydney? I guess it doesn’t really matter. Between the fans’ desperate (and ill-guided) pleas for Emison and the more realistic proposition for a return to Pailey, I feel like Em’s dance card is full. Although, Sydney’s involvement and presence makes her highly suspect for something.
— Aria [after Hanna tells the group they know Spencer’s family isn’t guilty because they wouldn’t be stupid enough bury the body in their own yard]: “Hanna, that’s so not helping.” Hanna: “Yes, it is.” Thank you for not changing too much, Hanna. To be honest, until Aria started tugging at her black underlights I didn’t even remember there was supposed to be a change at all.
— Welcome back, Andrew. Smooth moves trying to pick up Spencer by asking her if you can make out. “I’m still with the carpenter.” Oh well. At least you got to save her from a dead possum.
— I feel like this is a long time to wait for the medical exam. That seemed like something that should’ve happened once she gave her statement. Though the course of Rosewood public services never did run smooth. Because they’re incompetent.
— This hat.
— Rustling in the bushes outside of Emily’s house! Is it Mona? Is it A? Please let it be A!
— I guess Hanna feels out of control again. Womp womp with the shoplifting.
— Papa Hastings coming home to drink some more brown liquor and telling his daughter not to try to contact her mother makes me feel like Not Rish’s spa is more like a hole in the ground.
— I’m a little disturbed that Ali and I share an interest in positive and negative comments about ourselves. Also: does Ali’s computer have ring lighting? And did someone get her some edibles or something? Girl looks super chill.