After five and a half grueling seasons of intrigue, misdirection, and mystery––specifically one mystery––Pretty Little Liars finally reveals the As up its sleeve in the only way it knows how: exposition. Lots and lots of exposition. After years of scheming intelligently, sometimes, getting so close to exposing their nemesis for the final time, our Liars had very little to do or do with their success.We’re used to getting crumbs, if not crummy leads. Our protagonists have never been especially results-oriented. Their pièce de résistance was getting captured for several months. And what did we learn? A has never stood for answers. Instead, they gave us an A for effort. After all was said and not so much done, it was A who gave himself up––’girl, I know. What a drag!’ It must feel good to be rewarded for five and a half seasons of misery––I mean mystery.Very few writers can stick with the program and stick the landing. Fans have stuck with this show like barnacles on a baleen whale. And what do they say? Love the one you’re with. This is writing we know and love. They play dumb––or coy, if you like that––until they know what they’re doing. Then they smack you with a sack of quicksand that explodes into a flurry of feathers from a red herring or a Red Coat. Nobody saw that coming, not even the writers.
‘Is that not Selena Gomez?’We’ve seen this kind of suspense––suspension––surrounding the writer’s strike. Get LOST. Without any clear ending in sight, they got listless and we got LOSTless. After the deal, stories turned around. The Season 3 finale, “Through the Looking Glass,” is one of the best episodes and among the better finales ever. At “The End,” however, season 6 could have used a 7. Of course, this is Pretty Little Liars. We will have another season of endurance.In LOST, questions play fast and loose. It’s all right if you cannot keep up, because the show can’t, either. Pretty Little Liars is almost the opposite: it’s prudent and almost prude in its secrecy––there is one question and no answer…and then there was one. Thanks to Marlene King, we received a final explanation for how the antagonist came to be. What do we think? How do we feel? Cementing its legacy, the big reveal was pretty solid.I’m sure some people called it even if they weren’t necessarily calling for it. All doubts cast aside, the show dropped us a line drive. Viewership anointed. If you don’t know how far to go or how far you can go, it’s probably hard to do a lot of foreshadowing, let alone eye shadowing. Things paid off, like Detective Wilden. Kudos to the writers who think and thank ahead. They deserve credit for a job that doesn’t need to be thankless or thoughtless.
We knew A was going to be somebody obvious. Introducing an entirely new element at the 11th hour is pushing daisies. After all those seasons, the PLL braintrust just needed to find someone in their periphery who was also omnipresent––a Sixth Man of the sixth Year. Somebody who could appear at any time in no time. Enter Noel Kahn. During his tenure, Noel could always be counted on to divulge or engender a big revelation. Noel Kahn: harbinger of truth.
“Bad boys have nothing on mean girls. Guys have a fight, throw a punch, it’s over. Girls don’t fight fair. They gang up, keep secrets, plot. They can cut with a look.”
Even though Noel was basically an asshole and possibly a narcissist, he was also the most relatable character on the show. This wasn’t clear at the time, but he genuinely knew as little as the audience, except for helping Ali, who trusted him. His intentions were mostly decent; he had the rare distinction of being a character who was not entirely irrational or conceivably psychotic. He dug the core of the show:
“It’s kinda hot, knowing you think I’m capable of murder.”
Noel’s an old soul. Anyway, the culprit was always going to be obvious, but the way in which A was the culprit did not need to be. This is where the writers excelled: CeCe has had motivation.* The jury is out on whether transgender awareness benefits from her exposure, but the only thing that matters is whether she makes sense. I didn’t find much precedent for the gender flip, except for those two yellow dresses under the piano lid. ‘Charles’ DiLaurentis was a recent idea.
Apparently, the writers have known all this since the beginning of season 3. If not wholly recent, then, recently administered. Repeat viewing could lend itself to sussing out the plan beforehand. King claims she rewatched all the episodes, rereading scripts, to ensure continuity and consistency. Despite her dedicated appraisal, numerous curiosities abound. Number one: why? Why would anyone in their right mind go to and get into all this trouble? Wrong mind.
*The show demonstrated motivation, but the motives were just as suspect as the characters were suspicious. You mean it’s not Wren? It had to be somebody. The explanation was nebulous. CeCe believed The Liars commandeered Alison for themselves then disowned her disappearance. Afterwards, she simply became a hustler, jonesing for a fix. The cycle of addiction is an unfulfilling, self-fulfilling prophecy. Especially true if you’re the prophet.
Did anyone else think A was going to be Amy Dunne?I’m no prophet, but maybe these moments offer certain insight into why she just gave up. Mayhaps the mishaps lost their luminous luster. She had her time to shine. CeCe probably thought it was getting too easy. The punishment fit the punishment––because there really wasn’t a crime. And the writers must have decided that if they didn’t reveal her then, they might never do it. Everything fell to pieces, which themselves fell into place. But not 1st place.
“Did you guys…?”
“Okay, that’s just sick, Ali. Like I said, it’s my brother. Why do you think he was so mad at me all the time? He was so frustrated. And who could blame him? I mean, look at me.”
Jason? Care to comment? Doubtful. I’m not sure this scenario was entirely warranted…did she do it all––and none of ‘it’––to be close with him? There are other ways to cultivate friendship. Since sex wasn’t on the table or any surface, for that matter, why not keep things platonic? Don’t even dangle the carrot. Pretty Little Liars has always been a platform for broaching topical teen angst, but this one seems like more of a niche. A niche’s niche. No harm, no foul?
“You almost froze Aria and Spencer to death.”
“You drove a car through Emily’s house.”
“Yeah, and I almost cut her in half, too. But is she hurt? No. Is her mommy hurt? No. I only got mad when you didn’t listen.”
“You can’t steal people from their families and lock them up to play with them like they’re your toys.”
“Yes, I can, and I did. I know you won’t believe me…but I love all of my dolls. That’s why you’re still alive.”
This suggests a lot of madness to the method. Even Mona called it quits. Although she was allegedly misdiagnosed, CeCe thus betrays her murderous mark. ‘If I didn’t love you, I might kill you.’ This is the gist of her intentions and although I am also not a doctor, I wouldn’t be knocked over by one of those red feathers if CeCe truly has illness on the IED spectrum. Interviewing EW, King provides some clarification. The major account here is that CeCe is a “mad” “genius.”I think the interpretation implied is that “Charles comes from a very crazy family. Crazy runs in the family.” The impetus for empathy is that CeCe wasn’t all that bad to begin with, but nuts; she was in a difficult situation. Gender, while incidental, became wrapped up in a swirl of misunderstanding that incited further insanity. Identifying as ‘girl’ is important to her character, yet ultimately a plot device. Evaluating the merits of the development compels this basis.It could be unfortunate that one of the first prominent transgender characters on a big show is also a ‘Little’ batty. Identity distress is growing media consciousness. As purveyors of popular media, King and co. might have broached the subject differently. As storytellers, however, they owe us nothing, if not a good story. Naturally, everybody has standards. Like it, leave it. Don’t like it, leave. If you were on that picket white Pretty Little Liars fence, you aren’t anymore.One frustration may be that this show has been around for awhile, so no one treads lightly, coming or going. You’ve stuck with it; now you’re stuck with it. Given 6B and 7, ramifications loom large. CeCe will still be there––most of the audience will still be there. Melodrama, meet confrontation. Communication is more problematic. We got seasons of answers in one episode. It’s like pacing yourself through a big meal, except you wait until the very end to eat everything.After another five years and a soft reboot, the characters will have had plenty of time to get over the big reveal. We’ll have had months. Then again, no amount of time is enough for those who have since given up on the show. If you didn’t, however, you must be prepared for the actors to behave (somewhat) closer to their actual ages. Aria’s relationship with Fitz will only be creepy in retrospect.This is the PLL we have come to follow. This is the pill we have to swallow.Lost in all this is the important revelation that the Rosewood police were actually just menacingly incompetent. They were really just trying to do…something. The Liars were pretty wise in their reticence. It’s a quandary: would they have been better off without the police? What about us? All we need is help from Caleb. Jason? It’s telling that the p.d. made a compelling A. That would be a Wayward Pines twist. Voila! Substitute Rosewood for WP.Any lingering problems with the show are probably best articulated by some list cataloguing the unanswered and the inexplicable. For everything else, there’s Mastercard. How else does CeCe cover her expenses? According to Mona, she’s “the real Wolf of Wall Street.” Penniless? “She never made a bad investment.” Or penny stocks? What now? CeCe knows everybody’s business and would make a good matchmaker. “Game Over, Charles.” Hello, Dolly!
Penultimately, we must ask whether Ali was worth all the trouble for herself and others. Was Ali even worth her weight in salt, if not just saltiness? Is Ali worth her weight in Ali?Finally, we have the most unforgivable plot point of the entire series: why in the world would Emily date Paige after the latter literally tried to drown her? Garbage.