Got a Secret? About Monday Night’s “Pretty Little Liars”

I tell you: Five months has never felt so long. You’re telling me I experienced every undulation of that Giants’ season since the last episode of Pretty Little Liars? That the Republican wave hadn’t happened yet? That Vanessa Hudgens, Taylor Swift, Scarlett Johanson and Mila Kunis were all still together (with boyfriends/husbands, not each other) then?*

*I’ve got plenty of shoulders if you need ’em, ladies.

The distance between August 10 and January 4 (I saw it a day late…deal) melted away in those as-promised-by-Ashley-Benson thrilling first two minutes, which recapped the first ten episodes of the show—the finest non-divinely inspired Decalogue ever produced. Instantly, I remembered all about Camp Mona, glamping, and the Blowout Bar. The Twin Peaks connections made in the finale. That fantastic studying-for-the-SATs scene. Every scene that took place in the dark. And, of course, that another television character got hit by a car.

Most of all, those two minutes reminded me of summer, of laidback days watching Pretty Little Liars and tense nights debating its cultural merits and significance to the American zeitgeist. I know, it seems so long ago and so difficult to capture in these brutal winter months, but it is my job, nay, duty to try.

Let’s cite the deliciousness of “Moments Later”:

Keep Your Friends Close
Please Do Talk About Me When I’m Gone
The Perfect Storm

1. After Ashbenzo’s tweet and the teaser with the dream sequence—or was it?*—between Hanna and Alison, I really expected that to be the opening scene of the season (or second half of the season. Semantics). Of course, doing this would have again imitated Twin Peaks, which started its second season with its star character dreaming of a giant that gave him three key clues to his investigation. The fact that Pretty Little Liars went in a different direction may have harmed the flow of this individual episode—it would have been more interesting, I think, from the start if Hanna’s consciousness of reality were distorted or sabotaged—but bodes well: As we all know, you don’t really want to follow any patterns established by Season Two of Twin Peaks.

*See 2.

2. It struck me as odd that Hanna’s conversation with Alison was the only dream sequence she experienced. Again, this may have been due to a certain expectation going in, but it was almost frustrating how seamlessly she regained consciousness and her grasp of the situation. Within moments of waking up, she is able to cogently answer her mother’s question regarding Lucas by saying “He’s on the yearbook.” Even the dismissive tone with which she responded was perfectly in character. She probably should have been groggier.

3. What kind of mother makes that one of the first questions she asks her daughter after she broke her leg, broke her ankle, bruised her ribs, and possibly requires the removal of her spleen because of a hit-and-run car accident? The “When I find the maniac who did this to you, I’ll kill him” was much more motherly.

4. Had Hanna been groggier, it could have led to less definitive answers to the questions prompted by “Keep Your Friends Close.” She reveals that Noel is A fairly early in the episode, and based only on his spying on Aria and Mr. Fitz. There’s no reason to question Hanna’s memory or her piecing together of events, because getting hit by a car didn’t seem to hurt her head at all.

5. The dream sequence with Alison did serve much the same narrative purpose as the one in Twin Peaks, if less specifically. Instead of spelling out three clues for Hanna, Alison merely said that the Core Four know more about that night at the barn than they think they do. By your powers combined…

6. There is no way the “I See You” would have stayed on the car overnight. It was written through condensation on the back of the car—not dust—as the first minutes of the episode show. You might have been able to see it faintly and upon close inspection, but not clearly through dust. You’re better than this, PLL!

7. I did like Mr. Fitz taking apart Aria’s argument that it could have been incidental: “Not ‘Wash Me.’ Not ‘Go Sharks.’ ‘I See You.’ That’s very specific.” I didn’t realize at the time that Rosewood High’s teams were called the Sharks (you could see a poster later), so I thought Ezra was using it as kind of a go-to team name, which would be hilarious, because the only big-time team known as the Sharks are San Jose and Miami (from Any Given Sunday). Imagining Mr. Fitz as a fan of either of those teams is a lot of fun.

8. Best part of the episode may have been the interaction between Aria and Spencer regarding Mr. Fitz. It’s so Spencer of her to still be judgmental about something like that AFTER she herself went after TWO of her sister’s boyfriends. And I thought the “Since school started.” “SINCE LABOR DAY???” back-and-forth was hilarious. Who assigns Labor Day such significance as a checkpoint on the calendar? It’d be like, “Yeah, we’ve been dating since the start of summer.” “SINCE FLAG DAY???”

9. Loved the insincerity of Melissa’s hugging Spencer. It was a good scene to establish the tension that underlies that relationship, and Spencer’s “They just knocked her down and drove away” struck me as exactly the kind of thing a younger sibling would say to an older one in that kind of situation.

10. Another small scene I enjoyed: Mona and Hanna on the trampoline incident. I’ve said it before: I enjoy the characterization of friendships. Now let’s do it with the Core Four.

11. Ashley’s text to the Core Four that Hanna needed company was signed “Ashley M.” First, does anybody else have parents who text their friends? And then sign said texts with their first name? Who signs texts to begin with (aside from A, obvs)?

12. I suppose it’s time to deconstruct Noel as A. It just doesn’t work. He’s clearly not invested enough in the interrelationships among the Core Four to go to such lengths to disturb them. I never made this point earlier, but it’s clear to me now—and I thought this even before Alison called A a “bitch” in the dream—that A has to be female. Call me Ron Franklin all you want, but this is not the means by which men seek revenge.

13. By virtually any measure, Melissa makes the best A.

14. Alternatively, though, A is a metaphor. A metaphor for what?

15. Technological overconsumption. The idea that it’s impossible to escape that which haunts us so long as we’re always tied to one another through ubiquitous technology. By this point, it’s almost become a tired argument to say that Facebook et. al are dangerous because of their preservation of our pasts. Pretty Little Liars is essentially a show about secrets and an attempt to move beyond/bury the past. But that has become an increasingly difficult and nigh impossible task in this evolving world of ours. It’s no coincidence that A’s first attacks occurred technologically (via text, mainly) before leaking out into other media.

They can’t escape A because they can’t escape technology.

16. Or they can’t escape A because they can’t escape the past.

17. While Aria, Emily, and Spencer were waiting in the hospital, they were all on their phones relating what had happened. But who were they talking to? Spencer mentioned Alex by name; was Emily talking to Maya or her family? And was Aria on the phone with Mr. Fitz?

18. Alison also established another clear theme of the show, which is the slippery nature of truth. “You think the truth is some big disco ball of purity?…. Take it from me. You’re always better off with a really good lie.”

19. I went to bed last night praying that somewhere in America, someone will make that their high school yearbook quote.

20. I have long believed truth to be some big disco ball of purity.

21. The lipstick on the cup is important. I was waiting for the moment when Hanna woke up the next day and saw the lipstick still there…

22. Really, how can you not like Lucas? Nobody straddles the line between persistence and creepiness like that dude.

23. I felt like Emily’s coming out was rushed and probably should have been saved for next episode. I did enjoy that the reaction from her parents was not extreme in any way: that they were neither happy about it in a “You just be who you want to be” way nor angered in a “Get out of my house” way. Seemed more realistic.

24. “It’s like last year never happened.” Ian with the dagger to the Core Four.

25. How many one-on-one conversations can Aria and Mr. Fitz have within the confines of Rosewood without attracting some administrative suspicion? Does no one walk those halls?

26. The final revelation was that A signed Hanna’s cast, apologizing for overreacting. My money is that this one is pinned on another guy who can’t possibly be A—Byron Montgomery?–before we start getting somewhere with this later in the season.

And remember kids, it’s not a bar. It’s a…pub.

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