Pretty Little Liars: Last Dance (review)

The liars at the barn prom
Last week Pretty Little Liars was a continuance of “build-up” to the penultimate episode; Last Dance. In FrAmed Alison violated Lorenzo’s trust, Clark was acting very suspiciously and “Rhys Matthews” was obviously a DiLaurentis and part of the Carissimi Group.

This week sees the Liars coping with the reality of a prom ban, and their commencement ban, Clark’s true purpose is revealed, Alison shows her friends that even partial familial blood is “thicker,” Sara shows up for Em’s prom, the one she is not supposed to be at, and drops a hint, but Emily does not catch it. Toby forgives Spencer for the candy fiasco that got him suspended from the force, but Lorenzo has not yet forgiven Ali for her indiscretion/crime.

A lot has been cleared up in Rosewood, even while dropping some big clues about where the plot may be heading.

Question: Did anyone else clock the book in Kenneth’s house? On the small end table that, as Veronica Hastings points out, has DiLaurentis’ scotch on it, there was, next to the drink, a copy of Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train. Since Alison’s father is clearly not a crime/thriller “noir” type this has to be a clue.

The book is glimpsed for an instant and is clearly a signpost of sorts. Looking at the scene that follows, where the mother’s of the Liars meet Rhys Matthews (Charles?), actor Caleb Lane‘s hairstyle looks an awful lot like Robert Walker’s in the Alfred Hitchcock film version of Patricia’s book.

For those who do not follow film-noir or Alfred Hitchcock (or even Highsmith) the plot of Strangers on a Train deals with two chaps who meet on a train and agree to swap murders. This has got to be the big reveal coming up, obviously Charles and A did some sort of swap, or as Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker) says in the film a “Criss cross.”

Stepping away from that scotch and book laden end table for a moment: High point of the Liars’ mothers group, apart from getting trapped in the basement, is Nia Peebles getting the line of the evening with her slightly restrained version of “We had one job to do,” without the repeat. They did indeed screw things up, opting to follow Veronica’s lead and drink wine rather than hover nervously in the background looking out for their daughters and “protecting” them from Charles.

The episode provided a little in-depth look at Spencer’s mother. It really is not surprising that Spencer has issues. Even without the body in the back garden event, that mother Veronica will never get over, Mrs. Hasting’s is a real “type-A” force to be reckoned with and must be a real joy to share a house with. Fans of the show who watched it from the beginning know this already, as a Pretty Little Liar noob, however, it was a revealing evening in Casa Hastings.

Ezra shows up for Aria at the “mini” barn prom and later accompanies her to the real deal at the school. These two are a treat to watch. In the untrustworthy stakes, Sara shows up at the prom and rather ominously tells her date, “Emily, I want you to know that whatever happens…you mean a lot to me.”


Cue a reveal that will most likely upset the hell out of Em. Something along the lines of Sara lying about just how long she was in the doll house would fit. This little subplot will most likely segue nicely in with the Rhys is Charles main plot. As Aria’s mother Ella (Hollie Marie Combs)says in the DiLaurentis house when they meet the Carissimi Group exec, “I think we just met Charles.” So whoever takes that mask off at the real prom, which prompts Ali to gasp, “Oh my God,” is clearly not Rhys Matthews.

Nor is it Clark, who turns out to be a 22 Jump Street type cop (college man versus 21 Jump Street high schooler). Aria seems almost disappointed that Clark is not a stalker type comrade of A or Charles.

Speaking of Aria, what about that cringe moment where she mistakenly thought Ezra was going to follow her to LA? Almost as awkward as the “will you go with me to the prom” scene from last week. On the plus side for the Liars, Toby has clearly forgiven Spencer for her drug laced candy and Caleb turns out to be a knight in shining armor for Hanna and Lorenzo looks like he may be able to eventually forgive Alison as well.

The mothers being locked in the DiLaurentis basement was a great moment and as Pam Fields says, they had one job…one job! In their defense, it is hard to focus on your kid’s safety when talking about bodies in the garden, drinking wine, and searching for the family next door’s skeletons.

The show’s “Masque of the Red Death” motif at the prom, where a slew of red robed, and hooded, figures can be glimpsed was interesting if not a little wasted as Ali asked the first non-red-robed waiter if he was Charles. Seems that Hanna is not the only Liar who cannot be counted as the sharpest tool in the shed.

All that remains, is for the show to provide that somewhat anticlimactic moment of who Alison is “OMG-ing” about. Certainly with a huge buildup like this, there will be a certain amount of disappointment and disillusionment. Still, that Strangers on a Train hint must mean that whoever fans think is under that mask will not be revealed in the next, episode, aka the mid-season finale. It will be someone else. Who did Charles “criss-cross” with?

‘A’ obviously, but who is it? Next week should clear all that up despite odds that it will not be anyone that fans have placed in the big bad category. Kudos this week to Lucy Hale, Troian Bellisario and Ashley Benson. Honorable mention to Ian Harding as Ezra, “unless I have to dress up as a troll or something…I don’t, do I?” He and Hale have a wonderfully awkward chemistry together.

A personal plea…More Holly Marie Combs please.

Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesdays on ABC Family, next week is the mid-season finale…do not miss it. Until then, who do you think is going to be under that mask? Answers, not on a postcard please, but in the comment section below and one last thought…

How brilliant was the music this week?

Pretty Little Liars: Catching up is Hard to Do

Promotional poster for Pretty Little Liars
Looking over the list of “popular” shows on TV, Pretty Little Liars ranks right up toward the metaphorical top. With a cast of beautiful young women who can act and are topically relevant (example: Lucy Hale who is so socially applicable that Wes Craven killed her off in the first teaser opening for Scream 4) who fill roles from Sara Shepard’s book series that the show is based on, albeit very “loosely.” The many seasons of this mystery/thriller series ticks all the right boxes.

There is, however, one problem with the show. If you have not been an avid viewer from season one, or at the very least season five, catching up is hard to do. Being late to this particular party means trying to figure out who does what and to whom. Regardless of the character confusion the show does feature some great performers and this makes the difficulty worth it.

Holly Marie Combs who does not look much different from her 1998 Charmed days but can still pack a thespian shattering punch when in front of the camera is one example of a solid performance provider. Other cast members include personal favorite Nolan North, the voice over artist and actor who is seemingly in every video game ever, Nia Peeples, Torrey DeVitto and a slew of familiar names and faces who adorn the screen of this popular show.

Watching the latest season on Hulu yields a mishmash of events which leave the viewer at a total loss. The storyline, as presented by IMDb states that the four main “liars” were blackmailed when their fifth member, and leader, Alison DiLaurentis disappeared. Their deepest, darkest secrets will be revealed by “A” if they do not comply. Now Alison is back and she is apparently trying to save her four female buddies.

The girls in question were prisoners in an elaborate house that is makes one think of the banned episode of The Avengers, where a leather-bound Emma Peel being put through the paces was considered too risque for prime-time TV audiences. (The episode was A Touch of Brimstone and American censors banned it “outright” from US television screens. Pretty impressive for an old black and white show.)

Anyone not having read the books will be completely lost, although the show is, as stated above, only loosely based upon Shepard’s series. Fans will only be able to enjoy the series for another season according to Lucy Hale who let the cat out of the bag last year.

For the time being the girls are out of the doll house, after setting fire to the thing while Alison followed clues to the location. Now all of the ones from the house are having issues, flashbacks and dealing with it as best they can. Sara Harvey, the girl who had been in the silo doll house for years, runs away from home and goes to Emily’s place.

Rather ominously, Sara does not believe their captor is Andrew Campbell while Aria is so convinced that it is Andrew she lied to the police saying that she’d seen his face. Mona decides to go back to school and enlists Aria and Emily to return as well. Emily stays at home to comfort Sara and Aria never leaves the coffee shop.

Alison reveals a persecution complex, Spenser is struggling at home and it turns out that Andrew is adopted. Lorenzo and Ali appear to be mutually attracted to one another and the thought now is that Campbell may really be Charles DiLaurentis. Jason, however, shoots this down by telling Spenser that Charlie DiLaurentis was his imaginary friend.

Em, Ari, and Mona are at the doctor’s office to go through a group session when Spenser relays what she learned from Jason. However evidence exists that shows “Charlie” is real and as the girls discuss this, a call comes in for Emily from Sara on her borrowed burner phone.

Sara is asleep and a gloved hand, holding a knife is poised above her body. A text message appears stating that if his name is mentioned, the girl dies and they have seconds to leave the doctor’s office. They all comply. When they get to Sara, she is unaware of what happened.

Emily’s mother tells the girls that Andrew is being released by the police because of a lack of evidence. All the girls go through the DiLaurentis home looking for the proof that Charles is real. Aria finds a picture that matches the home movie that the girls found in the doll house. It shows Jason and another blond-haired boy…Charlie?

Andrew bumps into the girls at his release and is not best pleased that they thought he had kidnapped them. After he storms off, they meet Lorenzo and later talk about the “shocking game” Charles made them play. Now that it seems Andrew was not responsible, tensions return.

Ali and Jason confront their father about Charles DiLaurentis again and this time his answer is different. Viewers, however, will have to wait as whatever poppa DiLaurentis tells the two is behind glass and all we can hear is Alison saying, “What?”

Pretty Little Liars may be a little difficult to catch up on, but three episodes made it fairly easy to follow the most recent events. The show is entertaining and certainly contains a lot of twists and shifts in direction. Another ABC hit that will be missed when it ends after one more season.

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