I don’t normally do write-ups like this but I watched the season 4 finale the other day and couldn’t stop thinking about how incredulous the entire franchise plot had become. I even have a voice memo on my phone in which I sort of rage burst about the millions of loopholes in the show that no one bothered to even cover up in the end. I feel like at this point the producers are just trying to pull whatever meagre plot strings they can find and hastily throw it into the plot cauldron, hoping that it would turn out fine and make sense, at the very least.
But no. It was such sloppy work. Among the trashiest shows in the history of tv shows, PLL ranks pretty high on that list (along with the likes of Teen Wolf and Faking It) – but just like the aforementioned two MTV shows, I just cannot stop watching them. I wish I could say they were so terrible that I couldn’t even continue watching them, but in reality it’s the exact opposite. The more I curse and rage scream at the stupidity of the characters, the more I want to find out what they do and how they end up. I think this speaks volumes about my own level of trashiness too I guess
The last time I finished season 3 was last year even before I came to college, so enough time had lapsed that I was at first quite bored in the first few episodes of season 4. The thing about drama shows like this is that there is quite literally zero sense of continuity. You can pretty much discern very clearly when one plot finishes and another one begins, because you will notice that no one else ever brings up the finished plot later on in the series, even if it’s something as huge and significant as Hanna’s mum being arrested. It’s a really huge pet peeve especially after watching shows like Parks and Recreation in which you can see very clearly character progress and development from past events and how they shape and mould them as the shows progresses. In season 3, it’s still hard to believe how quickly Spencer just snaps back into normalcy after leaving Radley – still not worse than the ???s that surfaced when Malia just randomly checked in and then out of asylum in Teen Wolf, it was like she was just THERE for the sake of wanting her to be included in Stiles’ plot but let’s not go there – and it was no longer brought up again, not as a significant plot nugget anyway.
My biggest problem with season 4, however, is the entire “Shit! Ezra is A! Oh, wait! He’s not! All of this makes sense! Thanks!” execution. So first, we find Spencer, Emily, Hanna and Aria in Ravenswood apparently trying to…do what exactly? They found a flyer advertising about a magic show and somehow connected it to a magic trick bladesaw that A sent them as a parcel in the mail. “A sent us this box which if you turn a knob a certain way, a saw will fall out but if you don’t do it correctly it won’t fall out it’s ~magic~ so that means A wants us to go to a magic show” and in Ravenswood. Of all places. Okay, fine. They go to Ravenswood, and Emily almost gets killed, presumably a stunt pulled by A. At the same place, they find Cece, whom – what exactly does she even do again? They discover that there are actually two Red Coats – Cece and actual Alison DiLaurentis who, surprise surprise, isn’t dead! I mean, they don’t know that for sure yet but at least that’s what Spencer pieces together. And apparently Alison led them to A’s lair in Ravenswood, where they find multiple computers linked to CCTVs EVERYWHERE in Rosewood as well as a lot of flow charts with photos and names of a lot of people and basically just what you would probably expect to find in a serial killer’s basement. And then you think – shit. This is really A’s lair. Who else would do this sort of sickening thing besides this A person who’s been obsessively stalking these four girls for four seasons already oh my god get a life already.
And Cece’s character is so WEAK, I swear she only exists as a name for people to throw around when nothing makes sense to them. Cece’s name was certainly mentioned A LOT for someone who only made a cameo for 5 minutes for the entire season. “Cece Drake is behind this this and this!” they all exclaim for everything that happens, but then it turns out she wasn’t even in Rosewood the entire time. She didn’t even do ANYTHING God who even is she
But that’s not even the most important thing of that episode. The most important thing is at the very end before the end credits, they show you a person dressed in black from head to toe – typical A clothing gear – walking into the lair, realising that it had been invaded by the very people he had been stalking all along. But this time, this time they pan the camera around and YOU FINALLY SEE THE FACE OF A. IT’S EZRA FITZ. HOLY SWEET JESUS. The “I read Shakespeare so I’m an intellectual, y’all” English teacher that Aria had a more-than-brief secret love affair with. How could he ever be A?!
That’s right. How could employee-with-a-steady-income, vest-wearing, impossibly-neutrally-nice Ezra Fitz who recently only finds out he has a son be A?! You can’t brain this. Neither can I. A once blackmailed Aria with information about this affair at the very start of the show, how could he have sent a text to Aria’s phone while being in the same room at the same time. Guys. What is this. Of course, and then you remember that there was once a theory in season 2 or 3 honestly you can’t remember anymore which was that A might be a group of people but it might also have been dismissed in season 2 or 3 again after Melissa Hastings did something I think. Speaking of which, there was like two or three episodes in S4 that roped Melissa back in for the mask thing and then kicked her out immediately after Melissa told Spencer a bunch of useless stuff that apparently justified her making a mask of her own face? Actually, the entire mask ordeal is so pointless and messy and frankly, very disturbing. Yet again, no continuity?! To this day, we don’t even really know what the masks are for?!
Okay, so once it was made known that YOU, as the audience, know that Ezra is A, they start to make Ezra’s actions seem suddenly very suspicious. His glare longer with more suspenseful music in the background, and he’s suddenly lurking and stalking the girls in school?! Like, does no one really notices that? All past three seasons prior to the “giant reveal of Ezra as A” left absolutely NO INDICATIONS at all that Ezra had even a remote chance of being A, but as soon as YOU know Ezra is A, his actions immediately escalate to become alarmingly suspicious? It is literally a gradient zero graph. A steep step from bottom to the top. And then you spend the next few episodes groaning in frustration, wanting ANYONE AT ALL to just figure out that this man! This sickening, disturbing man is A! He is the cause of all your problems! About 2 episodes later, Spencer is the one to find out, and frankly, she really had very little to work with to pin it on Ezra, but you don’t care! You’re just really glad that finally! Someone can expose this paedophilic bastard!
And then you cheer Aria on when she finds all of Ezra’s stalker A stuff about her and her friends and Alison and literally everyone else in Rosewood and then Ezra suddenly appears and hunts after Aria and Aria heads for the ski lift (honest to God Aria what the everliving heck were you thinking) and SUDDENLY EZRA IS BESIDE HER AND SHE CAN’T ESCAPE OH GOD
AND THEN EZRA REVEALS THAT HE IS NOT A
Get this, THIS is Ezra’s story to all the creepy stalker stuff he keeps about all of them: Ezra is writing a book! He’s writing a book about Alison and Aria and Hanna and Spencer and Emily! He knew Alison first before he even came to Rosewood! He knew Aria before he even saw her! He showed interest in Aria because he wanted to “get to know” his characters even more in depth to write a story about them! This isn’t disturbing on a psychological level at all!
You know, they say all artists and writers are, to some extent, insane, but I wouldn’t count on that extent to be on the level of fixing-hidden-cameras-everywhere-to-follow-your-subjects’-every-move. Tell me that’s not downright sickening. Actually, tell me that’s not a federal offense, because I’m pretty sure you could go to jail for that. And why isn’t he put away?! Like, okay, fine, even if he isn’t A, it still doesn’t excuse what he did?! Which is keep tabs on four high schoolers (and more) 24/7, take photos of them without their knowledge, hide surveillance cameras to record their daily actions and interactions. He’s an English teacher! Doesn’t he have test papers to mark? Notes to make? References to write? Actually these questions are rather on the same level of “Don’t these girls have homework to do? Tests to take? College essays to write?” so never mind. But, really, I’m pretty sure you can write a book about people without becoming a downright criminal. And if you can’t, then maybe you really shouldn’t even write a book at all.
And then there’s the thing about Ezra knowing about A. I couldn’t really accept Ezra NOT being A at first, so I honestly didn’t entertain any possibilities at all that he isn’t A, but when the show decided to progress in that direction of Ezra not being A (which is still absolutely absurd but I guess I would have to accept because of what happens in the finale later), you have to start thinking: so Ezra isn’t A, but he KNOWS about A. Which honestly doesn’t make him any of a better person tbh!!! If he knows about A ALL ALONG – in fact, probably longer than any of them because Ezra knew Alison before he knew them – then what has he even done to help them stop A? Or warn them about A? If he’s been keeping such close tabs on all of them, there is NO WAY he can’t have seen A leaving notes in their lockers??? Delivering parcels to their doorsteps??? Ezra??? Please??? You could have actually been a great deal of help with all your creepy CCTVs – you literally had one job! But??? No??? Seriously??? WHAT EVEN IS THIS SHOW
Finally, we are graced with the finale. In the finale, we finally get to meet Alison. That’s right, folks. She’s not dead. She’s been pretending to dead for two years. What has she been doing for the past two years? Studying for her SATs, I hope. And she finally tells us the whole story, which turns out to be not whole at all. Thanks, Alison, but you have been zero help. She tells the girls that on the night she went missing, she’d been trying to figure out who A was by blackmailing pretty much everyone she knows. At the end of the day, she was no closer to finding out who it was, but was instead hit on the head by a rock, and buried alive by her mother. Okay. Well. I mean. Ali’s mum. She knows that, uh, you should probably, uh, check your own daughter’s breathing first before diagnosing her as dead and burying her in your own backyard right? Right? Isn’t this basic human anatomy knowledge? Don’t Americans know this?
And then Ali’s creepy psychic 100-year-old friend “sees” Ali being buried alive and drives all the way from Ravenswood to Ali’s house JUST IN TIME to see Ali reach her hand out of the soil. Okay. Let’s see: 1) in one of the episodes, we see that Caleb had to take an hour-long bus ride to Ravenswood from Rosewood. So either psychic friend also has the supernatural ability to drive really fast without getting a speeding ticket, or she could “see” it happening to Ali hours before it did; in which case, couldn’t she have just called Ali and asked her to stay at home that night? 2) Ali was unconscious when she was buried alive; I’m pretty sure you lose A LOT of oxygen even if you were buried alive for seconds – and she was unconscious. How did she even get the energy to reach through the soil and unearth her hand? It’s not like she was buried underneath foam bubbles y’know!
So anyway, she managed to escape wow amazing and Mona ends up taking care of her. Right. Mona. Another character for the producers to conjure ONLY when two plots don’t seem to fit together. “Oh, it’s fine, Jerry (generic white man name), they don’t make sense now but let’s just throw Mona in! She’ll make everything make sense! Totally!” From being A to being A’s henchman (who knows NOTHING about A okay that’s v convincing thank) to being on the girls’ side to DISAPPEARING FROM THE SHOW COMPLETELY to helping out Ezra write his book??? This girl no hobby one is it??? Actually, does any of the characters have hobbies??? I feel like everyone on this show really needs to take a step back and just chill. They all need to take a day off and DO NOTHING. Please. I worry for y’all.
Halfway through Ali’s storytelling, a hooded figure shows up and tries to shoot, well, all of them I guess? So all five of them run…to the rooftop. Excellent idea. They get cornered, and out of nowhere, a door bursts open melodramatically, only showing you the shadow of someone wearing a cap – so you think: A. And then Aria suddenly steps forward and says, “Ezra?” and you’re like whAt tHe HeLl and it IS Ezra and another door opens and it’s the hooded figure so it’s true! Ezra is not A! Ezra then tries to protect the girls while screaming “I KNOW WHO U R PLZ DONT DO DIS” but he gets shot and A gets away and Aria and Ali are screaming Ezra’s name but no one had the sense to ask him who A is guys!!!! This is super v v v v important!!! He got shot in the stomach I watched enough movies to know that he’ll live!!!! Scott’s dad in Teen Wolf survived a sword to his gut for HOURS without batting an eyelid, he’ll be fine!!!!
Sigh. At this point, they can literally pull out the most convincing A and still be able to deny it with a pathetic excuse like maybe he’s developing a game and he’s testing out the possibility of the player winning by actually executing them in real life and everyone will be all “Phew at least he’s not A” BUT GUYS HE IS AS DANGEROUS AS A DON’T YOU GUYS LOVE YOURSELVES
I can’t believe I just spent two hours writing this