I was 20 years old when I started watching Pretty Little Liars; I was definitely older than the average viewer. I've since covered the show for Refinery29 for the last four years. During that time, I have met people of every age, gender, and background that fell in love with this show about teenagers running from all kinds of villains. Sure, there is A — the murderous, blackmailing stalker who has followed their every move for seven years. But, A is not their only villain.
They've had to deal with the downfalls of technology being used to record their every move. They have had to deal with the group think A used to get other people to do A's dirty work in the form of high school bullying. Each of the girls have felt the judgement and limitation of patriarchy — these women were videotaped in their bedrooms without consent by of age men when they were underage, were manipulated and seduced by the older men in their life — including doctors, teachers, and police officers, were blackmailed by their fathers, and were told over and over told that the men and "adults" were smarter and wiser than they could ever be. These young women weren't just tortured by A but by the whole community that should have been supporting them.
While the murder mystery and many twist and turns are definitely addicting, I kept watching because of the friendships the characters formed in order to survive. There are very few shows that really get what female friendship is like in your late teens and early 20s. This show hopefully doesn't exactly remind any viewers of their friendships, I hope murder isn't part of the picture, but it does capture the complicated and all encompassing feeling of friendship during this time. Tonight was an overtly mushy but much appreciated send off of that friendship.
Surprisingly it is Ezra (Ian Harding) who reminds them that their friendship is what makes them different. Last week Ezra and Caleb (Tyler Blackburn) learned that Mona (Janel Parrish) is the mastermind behind the Liars' Lament game, and this week they run and tell the girls. The only problem? Aria (Lucy Hale) is not with them because the girls all shut her out once they learned she had been working with AD. Even though Ezra is my least favorite character, he did say one of the best lines of the show, "Do you know what makes AD so dangerous? She can't forgive. That is the only edge you've ever had over her, and now you don't even have that."
Cue the tears and re-readings of Harry Potter. Yes, just like the boy who lived, what separates the Liars apart from the person they literally can't name is their ability to love. It's not an original super power by any means, but it feels right all the same.
Ezra doesn't just call out the girls for losing their edge against AD but for being hypocrites. He's right when he said everyone there has made mistakes. This whole mess started with one big mistake when Ali (Sasha Pieterse) threw a smoke bomb into Jenna's (Tammin Sursok) shed and blinded her. When Ali convinced the rest of the girls to lie and blame everything on Toby (Keegan Allen), and when she convinced the rest of the girls to never be apologetic to Jenna, she started a domino effect of lies and mistakes that might never end. That might not be the crime that AD has never forgiven them for, but AD definitely has never been able to forgive these girls for something they committed before they turned 16.
Since then Aria has murdered someone, Hanna (Ashley Benson) has murdered someone, Emily (Shay Mitchell) has betrayed Toby...again, and Spencer (Troian Bellisario) has embraced the black hoodie and paid for a cop's drink with the credit card of the man she just buried. The secondary players' hands are no cleaner. Caleb was paid by Jenna to spy on the girls. Toby joined the A team. Ezra created a lair so he could have a devoted space to spy on the girls, and still never figured out who A was because he is the worst spy in the history of the world. And then there is Ali — Ali's bullying has been the catalyst for almost every storyline on the show.
Ironically, even after being slapped in the face with their own crimes of rushing to judgement, they all agree Mona must be AD. It's not a completely illogical jump. Mona was the first A after all. She did blackmail, stalk, and secretly bully them for years. I just wish they hadn't all jumped on board of another red herring so fast.
Caleb and Hanna depart for Mona's apartment, right as Mona is leaving. Someone has stolen the game, both physically and metaphorically, from Mona. In the game's place they left a note saying, "time for pie, be there." Hanna and Caleb follow Mona to Two Birds, the exact place Mona said she was supposed to meet Charlotte (Vanessa Ray) the night of Charlotte's murder. Spencer joins Caleb and Hanna just in time to learn that (surprise!) Hanna and Caleb got married.
Caleb confronts Mona about being A, and Mona doesn't even pretend to not have the game. Turns out Mona is not a liar anymore. She admits she had the game, she admits someone stole it from her, and she admits she told Hanna that the game's pull would be too strong if she helped. Mona literally told Hanna that she was afraid she would torment Hanna and her friends again with access to the game, so no one can act offended she did just what she said. Mona realizes what no one else will fully admit. They were never ahead of AD. AD knew that Hannah would show the game to Mona and that Mona would get pulled in. Mona is scared.
Mona runs into the Ladies' room and out a secret passageway that connects to the church somehow. Spencer and Caleb climb through the tunnel to find out where Mona ran off to, while Caleb sends Hanna home. Why he sends his wife home alone when there is a murderer and all of Rosewood PD after her, I will never know. Caleb and Spencer have a nice moment about how they are happy to be where they are now but don't regret being together, but honestly, I'm not sure anyone needed that. I don't think where were Spaleb fans. (If you are a Spaleb fan, PLEASE comment, I have questions for you).
Emily and Ali spend the whole episode just being in love. They admit their feelings for each other. They worry about their baby. They fall asleep in each others' arms. Most of it was filler for the fandom, but Ali did make a great point. If Emily and Spencer end up in jail then their baby will end up without a family, growing up in homes and hospitals, just like Charlotte. It starts the game all over again.
Aria meanwhile is about to turn herself into the cops. She feels she needs to do some grand gesture to her friends to show she is sorry for helping AD, and she now has the body to turn over to the police. Ezra stops her just in time. He convinces her that she doesn't owe this to her friends (true), but also tries to convince her to run away and let them all take the fall for it. Considering he just lectured everyone else about how love and friendship has to come first, this monologue didn't really make sense, but I guess desperation makes everyone a hypocrite.
Aria has learned her lesson though and won't put her happiness with Ezra above her friends. Ezra and Aria go collect Emily and Ali so they leave the jurisdiction of Detective Tanner (Roma Maffia). One problem: They can't locate Caleb, Hanna or Spencer.
That's because those three are solving a bigger mystery. Hanna ends up back at the church, and sees flower petals coming from the bell tower. The bell tower has been an ominous place for A and her dolls. This is where Ian (Ryan Merriman) was pushed off the bell tower, it's where it feels each of the Liars have almost died, and it's where Charlotte's body was found. Hanna climbs the stairs to find Mona, rocking the look she wore back in 2010, when her main hobby was getting bullied by Ali.
She confesses that she killed Charlotte that night. Like I said, Mona is no longer a liar. She met Charlotte at the bell tower to confront her. She knew that Charlotte was still playing the game. She had fooled Ali and the doctors and the court into believing that she was reformed, but she had every intention to treat all of the Liars like pawns in her own game again. Mona didn't want to go back to that life, and she wanted to protect her friends. Charlotte tried to kill Mona, and in self defense Mona bashed Charlotte's head in at the bell tower. The murder weapon has never been in hiding, but always part of the chapel looming directly above where Charlotte's body was found.
Because Mona told the truth the Liars got the remaining puzzle pieces. The map took them to Archer Dunhill's (Huw Collins) body. He was buried at Aunt Carol's house under Charles' grave. The grave that symbolized the birth of CeCe, the woman who would destroy the Liars' lives, is now the resting spot of the body that could destroy their lives all over again.
They are about to dig into the grave to uncover the body when Aria speaks true words of wisdom. Why? Why are they letting AD tell them what to do over and over and over again? She says, "if we want to stop the crazy, we have to stop acting crazy." Amen. Finally. Let's get these girls a prize. They turn and walk away from the grave as the police show up on the scene bulldozer in tow. The girls are once again caught in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with a shovel in hand.
Detective Tanner wastes no time in arresting the girls, but it turns out she always knew they would be released. Mary Drake (Andrea Parker) has confessed to the murder. Her confession explains everything. She hit Archer because he had lied to her and blackmailed her about Jessica's death. She got the car repaired. She showed in Spencer's shower, which is how windowsill glass got down the drain. To top it off by admitting she murdered Jessica too, she doesn't give Spencer a chance to even think about saving her.
This all just feels like more of the game — Spencer watching her biological mother and Ali watching her biological aunt go to jail for a murder they did. Spencer has lost so much during this game, and this is another thing to add to the list. Mary Drake mimes to the girls to keep secret, perhaps the final finger to lips "shhh" sign we will see during the show. Detective Tanner admits to the girls she knows Mary didn't kill Eliott but she also knows that it's a tidy story, and she doesn't know if she will ever be able to prove her theory about the girls. They are released.
They check on Mona and bring Dr. Sullivan back to town to help Mona out again. This time it's now just Hanna that shows Mona true friendship, but all of the girls. While each person has their part, Hanna has always been the heart, which according to this episode might have been the most important weapon in their arsenal. They return home to get rid of the game. Liar's Lament finally turns off. The lights stop. The phone dies. The board stops buzzing. It's over. The combination of Mary Drake turning herself in, the friends all reuniting, and Mona confessing to Charlotte's murder finally silenced the game.
There's time for one more cheesy friendship line and everyone leaves the game behind. The episode ends with A driving into the sunset with all the pawns. The game may be over, but A made sure she still had hold of her favourite toys. Because like Mona says the game is never over and we still have next week's series finale.