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Pretty Little Liars S04E06: "Under the Gun"


Rosewood is filled with perils heretofore unseen outside of a horror movie or Twin Peaks. Despite its status as a small suburban town, it seems to have enough abandoned warehouses, dilapidated structures, and scary hospitals to house even Batman's lesser villains. Upon sexual maturity, any male denizen seems to have taken a class in pedo like a Jewish boy studying for a bar mitzvah. And, of course, there's the spectre of our heroes' late friend that hangs among them in the form of digital bullying and actually-maybe-not-I-don't-know appearances.

So when Spencer says Ravenswood is "Creepyville," that says something.

Pretty Little Liars took some time this week to hip its fanbase to the upcoming Ravenswood, which is not so much a spin-off as it is a supernatural series that seems to run in parallel and be loosely connected to the misadventures of the ladies of Rosewood, PA. Spencer and Toby were our hosts.

The Toby storyline is killing me but, happily, we only had to pinch our noses and swallow the smallest bit of his silliness before diving headlong into Ravenswood's weird little town. The only good that came out of mentioning the search for his mother in this episode was that it led to a conversation comparing A to the bird that's thus far given Spencer everything about Cicero, Grunwald, and the mysterious phone number. Information from A and the parrot come from vague and unreliable sources.

Just about everything you need to know about Ravenswood appeared in the short montage as Spencer and Toby arrived in town to find the old sorority marm Grunwald: one-person funerals, pigeons that make raven sounds, a color palette so saturated the entire town looks black and white. People ignored Spencer on the street but were willing to spy on her through a window. Toby's ghostly/vampire features fit right in here.

And it seems, just for Spencer's visit, the town was putting on a pageant of the bizarre. Sure, the creepy spies behind blinds and the piercing eyes of the townsfolk were weird enough. But the townies also seemed to revel in ignoring outsiders or shirking them with cryptic and almost anachronistic phrasing. The gardener at the house Spencer and Toby mistakenly visited said something about only answering to the master of the house, like he was on Downton Abbey. But Ravenswood really rolled out the Tim Burton carpet by also sounding a choral chant throughout the city that had the entire town gathering at an angel statue/tomb in what looked to be the town square, and everyone looked pensive, even in a state of glorified awe. Just another Tuesday in Ravenswood.

The trip ended with a Shana and Jenna sighting and one last message from the town: a dead bird falling from the sky and splatting against Spencer's windshield. The entire sequence felt a little inserted, especially since Spencer didn't get anything from the adventure except low blood-sugar. At one point, it was literally Toby pointing to weird stuff in the area. Ravenswood is a weird place, man. Okay, we've got it, show.

What the scene did successfully was remove the only real brain in a week when the Liars were more threatened than they've been all season. Ashley's storyline finally came to a head and, for the first time in a while, I felt like the suspense and anxiety with the waiting game really worked. The disruption of the Marin house, including Tom, was palpable, as everyone operated on an emotional setting of 11 that made what's been a very disparate family almost clannish. Did you see how quickly Caleb was tossed out? Hanna's reminiscing on the dried-up pond might've been a little heavy-handed, but for the most part, I could feel the intensity and pressure, something laughably lacking in the Fields house in the wake of Emily's terrible lying and fuel for social services.

Aria also had her own problems as the Ezria rumor started to spread and, in the mouths of babes, became gossip not about how their teacher took advantage of a student, but how Aria must be a slut for sleeping with him. I don't have any scientific research on how these rumors start and are received by high school students but, unfortunately, blaming the woman for an unholy pairing sounds honest to our society, so I wasn't terribly surprised by the storyline. However, that Ezra hasn't gotten any flack for this (yet) is a little disturbing. Though maybe that's because I think Ezra is a creepy pedo with a little-boy face who looks even creepier in his sweater-vests. I'm saying I might be biased.

This thread also allowed for Mike to step up and start talking about protection, about how he should've stood up for Aria and been a brother to him. It was the second time this season that a sibling made a point to mention protection to one of the Liars, which makes me think that Mike might be closer to Melissa than A. But at the same time, things would really fall into place if Mike was A. "Mommmm! Mike's been cyber-bullying me!" "I know, honey. He's been cyber-bullying everyone. Can you rub some calamine on my bee stings?"

With everyone else out of town or absorbed in their own dramas, Emily was the lone Liar trying to thwart A. Poor, stupid Emily. Mistakes galore. First, her logic that Hanna couldn't tell anyone about A but she could was ridiculous. You can't get away from A on a technicality. That's complete foolishness. You aren't playing Monopoly. Second, A is always watching you. Like, all of the time. Why would you ever think that leaving something anonymously that could incriminate anyone associated with A wouldn't get replaced with something that'd get you in trouble? The video itself was a little corny, but the imagery was interesting: a figure in a red coat wearing an Emily mask (lesson: don't let kooky strangers take molds of your face) standing in front of Rosewood's (dwindling) population. The "guilty" card like we were watching A's homage to "Subterranean Homesick Blues" was a little over-the-top, but the creepiness factor was right on the money.

It wasn't an episode full of answers, but it certainly set a tone. There's an air of hopelessness among the Liars this season, something echoed by Mona (oh, hey, Mona's back) when she spoke to Emily about finding her empty RV. "We all go up in flames." A has everyone on a tighter leash these days, and isn't afraid to the pull the trigger on anything. The stakes are much higher, if not in body count, then at least in family destruction. The Liars have gone from being on the precipice of attacking A to being whipped into place by her. Everyone seems headed for rock bottom.


NOTES

– Shana goes to Rosewood now. And she plays the violin. Okay.

– Something covert is going on with Hanna and Caleb that extends beyond copping a feel. Between Hanna's mysterious text near the beginning of the episode and the package Emily gave Caleb on Hanna's behalf, there are secret ops afoot.

– Conner is a jackass. Not surprising from a Rosewood boy, but instantly unlikeable. Kudos to the show for making someone so innocent-looking so dastardly in record time. His claims and ruthlessness remind me of last season's texts from "A's little brother," the ones that the Liars ignored during the A changing of the guard (from Mona to Red Coat). I was happy to see his car get busted up. The implication is that it was Ezra who did it, but I would imagine Ezra could acquire a plain black hoodie and not one with an identifiable logo on the back. Since Ezra is one of my top suspects for being a hoodie. Because he's awful.

– Aria telling Ezra to go away: Huzzah!

– Ravenswood is so behind the times, people still have flip phones.

– Ashley:red wine::Tom:brown liquor.

– Toby made a funny! "You're following a lead that came from a bird." Almost as good as Spencer's "Mo' Mona, Mo' Problems."

– Your Moment of A: Emily Mask Hoodie hot-wires a car. OH NO! Wait, what?

What'd you think of "Under the Gun"?

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