Pretty Little Liars: Charlotte’s Web – The Good, the Bad, the Guilty (Recap/Review)

Pretty Little Liars follows up the midseason premiere death of Alison’s transgender sister with Charlotte’s Web, which feels a bit like “The Good, the Bad and the Guilty.”

 SHAY MITCHELL, ASHLEY BENSON, TROIAN BELLISARIO, LUCY HALE

Pretty Little Liars follows up the midseason premiere death of Alison’s transgender sister with Charlotte’s Web, which feels a bit like “The Good, the Bad and the Guilty.”  The cast are broken into the good; Hanna, the bad; Aria and Sara, and the guilty; Aria (maybe) and Ezra (equally maybe). It is revealed that the death of ‘A’ was not an easy one as Lorenzo tells the Liars that Charlotte’s neck was broken before being thrown from the church tower.

The first part of the episode spent a good amount of time trying to convince viewers of Aria’s guilt, clearly a waste of effort as the Montgomery is too slight to have lifted Charlotte let alone break her neck. The focus then shifts, only a little early on and then more so after Aria returns to Rosewood, to Ezra.

Furious that his Nicole is obviously dead and that Ali’s sister is free to roam the streets and go to church at four in the morning, this revelation occurs on the day that he and Aria see Charlotte head into the church. Rather interestingly, this means that these two were the last to see Charlotte alive…

Sidenote: Is it just this viewer or does Liam look like a younger version of Ezra?

Emily is rescued by former flower-child Sabrina (she of the “drug candy”  that got Toby in so much trouble last year) when her credit card will not work on the Hollis Medical Institute’s  parking machine. Later, it is revealed that all those hypodermic needles from the previous week’s episode must have something to do with Emily’s  mystery blood treatment.

What Em is having done is not clarified but it could have something to do with a “hepatitis” (A, B, or C). Much later Sabrina is asked not to say anything about bumping into Emily at the Institute.

Hanna finds the key to her mother’s security suite and learns that Aria lied about where she went in the wee hours when Charlotte was being murdered and Hanna was hydrating.  Apart from wondering what Aria was really up to, Hanna is more worried about Caleb meeting her latest squeeze, Jordan.

Spencer is convinced that she influenced the person who murdered Charlotte with her criminology study on the “Honeymoon Murderer.” Aria is taken off Ezra and the job of getting the next book from him is passed to Liam.

Later Aria talks her boss into letting her try again and she explains to Ezra that they will not take back the advance. He gives Aria the “first draft” of his second book. She asks him where he went the night that Charlotte was killed after they met. Ezra tells her home.

Sara Harvey shows up twice, each time with her hands covered. When Emily visits her father’s grave Harvey shows up, looking weird and not a little creepy.

Hanna proves to be quite adept at playing Nancy Drew and after finding the “incriminating” footage of Aria and Ezra, deletes the evidence.

ASHLEY BENSON
Hanna and Emily…

Aria tells the other Liars, sans Ali,  what happened on the night Charlotte was killed and it seems like now Ezra is the new suspect. Spencer then explains that she told Ezra about her murder case study, she believes that Ezra copied the murderer’s MO and killed Charlotte to keep Aria safe, or out of misplaced anger about Nicole’s death.

Spencer’s mother clarifies how she feels about her and Emily tells her dad about what happened at school and that she lost her scholarship after he died.  When Sara Harvey shows up, Em leaves.  Later flowers are put on a freshly dug grave (Charlotte’s?) and as the camera gives a POV shot of entering a limo, the drivers says, “I’m sorry for your loss.”

It never ceases to amuse at how capable Hanna is at computerized tasks, or at manipulating a CCTV security system.  Ms. Marin is not the sharpest file in the manicure set the best of times.

By the time the show ends, Alison tells Lorenzo the she believes her friends could well be responsible for Charlottes’ death; a 180 degree turn around from before.  As usual, Pretty Little Liars crams a lot of things into one episode:

A lot of “things” unsaid,  relationships that all feel a bit “mix and match” and more questions than answers.

Sidenote: Whoever did wardrobe for this episode? Hanna’s nighty looked like something Granny Smith would wear, not a 20 something fashionista.  Makeup and lighting also looked pretty shaky this week with Alison looking as though she  had been beaten about the face and eyes…

As usual kudos to the cast: Sasha Pieterse Lucy Hale, Ashley Benson, Troian Bellisario, and Shay Mitchell. Oh and for the older  fan, more Nia Peebles please.

Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesdays on Freeform. Tune in and try to keep up with all the twists and turns.

 

Pretty Little Liars: Of Late I Think of Rosewood (Review)

If there was any doubt that things were going to be different in Rosewood after the midseason break of Pretty Little Liars, the release of CeCe, aka Charlotte, aka ‘A’ proved that it is not too late for things to go south, again, in this odd little verse.

 HUW COLLINS, SASHA PIETERSE

If there was any doubt that things were going to be different in Rosewood after the midseason break of Pretty Little Liars, the release of CeCe, aka Charlotte, aka ‘A’ proved that it is not too late for things to go south, again,  in this odd little verse.  In what may be the longest time ever in a seasonal break, in Rosewood the “liars” have all aged five years.

Once again, the girls decide, to an extent, to stand by Alison (Sasha Pieterse) and “lie” once more for their friend. Only Aria (Lucy Hale) breaks down and says what she really feels; ‘A’ still terrifies her and even the older version of herself is scarred to the bone by the experience. (Kudos to Hale for knocking it out of the park with her train tale.)

This “Old Home Week” episode shows that the ghosts of Rosewood, Radley and ‘A’ are not resting easy.  As evidenced by the playing of Fleurie’s “There’s a Ghost” with lyrics that mention  masks (more lies) and ghosts (‘A’ and all the victims of the entire incident previously) this second half is going to be full of revenants that refuse to lie still.

It comes as no real surprise that once CeCe is let out that she dies. Initially thought to be a suicide, by the end of this  episode of Pretty Little Liars, it is revealed that Charlotte was dead before exiting the church bell tower.   At least two suspects spring to the fore; Mona (Janel Parrish) who dramatically crumples up her pages-long prepared statement to pronounce that Charlotte should be released and Sara Harvey (Dre Davis).

Standout Moments:

Aria revealing that she is far from normal after her time in captivity and being tortured by ‘A.’

LUCY HALE
Aria revealing that the trauma is far from over…

Sara Harvey showing up at the funeral looking drugged out of her mind.

Spencer’s The Wizard of Oz quote from the munchkin coroner; who pronounces the Wicked Witch of the West:

“Really, most sincerely dead.”

Hanna (Ashley Benson) moaning at the cocktail party that there are no “special drinks” and calling Radley a “Squirrel Factory.” She then starts the ball rolling with “Electroshock Margarita?”

Spencer; again, with her drunken confession at the revamped Radley “Squirrel Factory” aka,  “sanitarium:”

“I thought it wouldn’t matter what we said to the judge… because I thought they would never let her out. I thought that we could just lie for Ali one more time and it wouldn’t matter. But it did. They let “A” out.”

Overall Thoughts:

It is fitting that at the Charlotte Cocktail Party  Spencer (Troian Bellisario) brings up the lies told at the hearing.   Her “testimony” which, out of all the girls’ was the most straight forward was the most impressive.

 TROIAN BELLISARIO
Lying one last time for Ali…

At the cocktail party, that Alison does not attend as she is welcoming Charlotte home,  the only “liar,” apart from Spencer who does not get into the drink renaming drill is Emily (Shay Mitchell).  Lucy does come up with “Manic Depressive Mai Tai” just before Spencer professes that she loves her friends lack of good taste.

ASHLEY BENSON, SHAY MITCHELL
Hanna and Emily

In terms of dramatic reveals, the dead body of Charlotte, carefully covered up except for that right-hand clutching the crumpled flower, took second place to the arrival of a clearly stoned Sara at the funeral. (And haven’t we seen something similar in Rosewood before?)

Sidenote: What a great turnout for a mad-as-a-hatter kidnapper who tortured several young girls for an enormously long time. Clearly, being a DiLaurentis means that all past sins are forgotten come funeral time…

Before the end credits roll the funeral ends and  Alison leaves with Dr. Rollins, Mona zooms off, Sara floats to her car and Lorenzo (who has clearly been promoted in the five years the liars have been away) stops by to tell Hanna, Emily, Aria and Spencer that a)Charlotte was murdered and b) Not to leave town.

There are a number of familiar faces that turn up although Nicole was not one of them as apparently she was abducted by revolutionaries in South America while building houses.

Patsy Cline’s Crazy plays out the episode and the song sets up the end-scene rather well. Pretty Little Liars is about to get cray-cray all over again and it is almost like five years never happened…away from Rosewood…for those who “got away.”

Since the title of the episode is a “homage” to an old Twilight Zone episode, “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville;” where the protagonist of that old segment  wanted  to return to “days gone by” it seems that this episode of “Liars” may be heading “back” to the way things were before ‘A’ was un-masked.

The second half of season six airs Tuesdays on ABC on their new Freeform, replacing Family. Tune in and see where this mystery will head now that CeCe is “dead.”

 

Pretty Little Liars: Season Finale: Wait…What?

The Liars sans Ali
Having come late to the Pretty Little Liars verse, it did not take long, seemingly, to get into the storyline and various plot devices on show. “Seemingly” being the operative word here, since each new season finale “reveal” left this viewer a little nonplussed…The biggest reveal, Charles is Charlotte (is CeCe) resulted in a “Wait…What??” moment. The very end of the finale, which features a jump into the future of five years, shows the liars getting back again to save Mrs. Rollins, aka Ali.

While the biggest jaw-dropping moment had to be the Charles is CeCe reveal, there were several other things in the Game Over, Charles segment that were, to say the least, eye popping. (Never mind most of these reveals actually stretching the suspension of disbelief required to breaking point and beyond.) The Star Trek, or Mission Impossible, type technology during the whole CeCe exposition, aka reveal sequence, was that bit…too, too. Even the “billion dollar club” Carissimi Group could not have that type of “techno” at their fingertips…

*Sidenote* did it annoy anyone else that the “meeting CeCe/mistaking her for Ali” scene ended with Vanessa Ray’s character standing outside the coffee shop, with the girls inside being visible in the window, and that CeCe’s< and therefore our, view of Aria, Em, Hanna was clearly a video shot of the liars and not a real view of them inside the coffee shop?

Back to the Game Over, Charles season finale, let us look at what works and what does not, from the viewpoint of someone who missed the start of this party, in other words the first four seasons.

What Works:

All roads lead to Radley. This works perfectly, even if one never watched any prior seasons. Every scenario led back to the place. Even the Carissimi Group was a tie-in for crying out loud, Radley was the elephant in the room. Nuff said.

Sara was a plant/baddie. This also made perfect sense. There was never any point where this girl did not feel “off.” Right down to the kiss and snuggle that led to her moving from Em’s house, “so we can date properly,” scenario. While it was never clear who she “worked” for, it was clear that she was not the victim she claimed to be.

Mona as creepy accomplice. This works brilliantly. The girl is odd and quirky and not in a good way.

Mr. DiLaurentis is a douche. No issues with this “reveal” at all. The man has always been a rotter, even Hanna, who is not the sharpest tool in the shed, realized this.

What Does Not:

Charles is CeCe This one could be debatable. The decision to pull out the old transgender trope card sort of works…just. That said, what is odd, again from a late arrival, is that CeCe (Vanessa Ray) is drop-dead gorgeous. As good looking as the younger Charles was, would he have really transitioned so well? Also, wouldn’t Ali have noticed that CeCe’s equipment was a bit different? This reveal feels forced and like the series creator’s are catering to GLAAD and the LGBT community for brownie points.

The secret room/door at the Prom. This one is sort of self explanatory.

Mona as super computer genius. Mona tells the liars that she started “snarfing” Alison the minute she got back in town. Snarfing, for those in the know, means taking large files or documentation without permission aka information theft via WiFi. Seconds after the “snarfing” comment, Mona then says that since she could not get a lock on Charles’ location she coded a program to decrypt the signal source and…” Another, wait…what? moment. It just feels…forced.

The 3D holographic monitor screen and that computer Mona accesses. Nope. Too technologically advanced and once again, Mona knows how to use it. Perhaps the young lady in question has been shown to be a computer whiz in previous seasons and if so, apologies to the show’s writers are in order. But seriously? The monitor? Come on folks.

Ali is murdered…Twice.CeCe kills Ali and Mona does as well. The former with a rock in front of her/his horrified mother. Turns out that the killed Alison was really Bethany all along. Mainly a problem in that it does not make a lot of sense that both CeCe and Mona killed Bethany.

*Sidenote* Hands up all those who thought that, by the end of the episode, CeCe was going to turn out to really be Bethany and that Charles was really dead…killed by CeCe?

The secret room leads to Radley. What?? Spencer and Hanna went to the Carissimi Group offices before, questioning the CeCe DiLaurentis plant Rhys, and not only did they not notice that the building was near Radley, but the show’s creators never bothered to mention it either. In the season finale, however, there is a secret passage connected to the secret room that leads to Radley where CeCe, Alison, Mr. Dilaurentis and Sara are. Sure…

Food for thought:

Not long after Mona’s show of expertise, Spencer defuses CeCe’s bomb, which accomplice Sara turned on, just in the knick of time. This little event, like the rest of the season finale feels convenient and contrived. While the final episode is annoying, a lot one might add, it could have worked just fine if the program makers had not decided to do the entire reveal in one episode.

This end episode screamed two-parter. Sadly, it was not and the whole multi-reveal feels forced and hokey. A disappointing end to a season that, for the most part, has been clever, funny and addictive. The question of just who Charles was, apart from being A, was huge as was his motivation for the horrible things he had done.

The girls searching for an answer was entertaining and thought provoking. The whole, he is alive, he is not thread was great and the whole Charles is a girl now, could have worked beautifully if the writers and the producers had taken a bit longer to deliver the reveal…In a two parter.

Long term fans of Pretty Little Liars may be perfectly happy with the series end episode. If this is the case, apparently it is not a good idea to come late to the liars party without some serious binging first. That said, some of the issues brought up here would not disappear with a binge “catch-up” of the show or having the season finale as a two-parter. They do not work, full stop.

The show will be back in 2016 and the first title of the first episode appears to be a riff on “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” from the Daphne Du Maurier novel Rebecca. I could be wrong, but with the time jump, of five years, in the finale and the Rebecca reference, it looks like the next season is going to be flashback city.

Final Verdict:

The season finale was a little disappointing and forced.

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.”

Uh-oh.

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.