Before this episode of Pretty Little Liars started, Marlene King, while sitting inside some Freeform fan ViP room, compared the big reveal of “Hush, Hush, Sweet Liars” to the moment that Toby was revealed as a hoodie, though the footage they showed was from when Spencer discovered that her boyfriend was working for her bully. If King meant the former, that was definitely a shocking yet plausible event for PLL. If she meant the latter, that was one of the tensest moments of the series and well-constructed over months.
Nothing comparable to either of those things happened here.
Whatever we witnessed during this episode felt like a train had violently derailed but continued to trainwreck toward Crazytown and all stops in between: What?-ville, I-can’t-even-ton, and SMDH Falls. As soapy as this series has been, I don’t think it’s ever trudged so valiantly into the darkest and corniest of soap territory as the end of Season 6B did. More tragically, it sullied a mostly okay season.
My hopes for 6B and the time jump were to really dip into the adult lives of these characters and for them to deal, once and for all, with the demons that have haunted them. While those things were addressed (mostly), we also quickly realized from the beginning of the winter/spring season that eliding time wasn’t going to mature the show so much as it was just going to turn up the dial on self-destructive behavior and adult content. Showing Spencer from behind, stripped to just her underpants might’ve been too risqué when she was supposed to be in high school but it certainly wasn’t for post-collegiate Spencer.
We’ve had the Season of Answers and the Summer of Answers. 6B was definitely the Season of Back Nudity.
That wasn’t something I had trouble with. We knew that was coming. The Liars being able to drink alcohol, readily slide in bed with whomever, and deal with higher stakes not directly caused by a bully in a hoodie were collectively the expectation. One of my favorite parts of the season was how more confident adult Liars banded together to end this thing, sending viruses and creating a large-scale trap for A-moji. I thought that would be the difference-maker between the high-school years and the twenty-somethings. And then Elliott ripped off his Detective McCreeperson mask.
I really want to talk about why this ending was remarkable if incredibly stupid. First of all, it’s narratively unfounded. Nothing that happened in the last five minutes of the episode correlated to anything that happened before that last episode aired, not directly anyway. There’s no clear trail to Mary Drake despite her somehow being the Big Bad. I’m not accusing the creative team behind PLL of cobbling together an ending last-minute or anything. I know better than that. But let’s be honest here, the show had no clear paths toward institutionalized twin. There weren’t really even any grown-over paths.
But, assuredly, this was something that’d been planned for a while (because that’s how television shows work) and Marlene King even noted that there’ve been a couple hints dating back to Season 5 for this reveal. But, you see, that’s actually the only way this ending was in any way earned: via social media.
The twin theory has been kicked around since the beginning of the series. It’s one of the major storylines in the books, though for one of the Liars and not Mrs. D. But very recently the show creators seeded the fandom with suggestions of the twin theory being important for the end of the season, even creating a hashtag for it. So the avid followers of the show’s multiple important social media accounts were rewarded for their fandom while those that might be more casual viewers were given the shaft. It’s a revolutionary way to leverage the direct connection content creators have with an audience in order to create fabula without bothering with the syuzhet.
But it doesn’t make the ending any less ridiculous. Elliott ripped off his Wilden mask which he used to haunt his new wife. Why the heck not? Mrs. DiLaurentis had an evil twin. Of course she did. Together, they wanted controlling interest in the Carissimi Group and revenge for a fallen lover and daughter. Seemed legit. Elliott had a British accent. It’s all completely preposterous. I want to go back to the halcyon days when Wren was supposed to be A.
But the episode, despite the sudsy ending, was not without value. Sure, Alison escalating herself to a mental hospital mere hours before her husband was to return seemed a little weird, but it was also amazingly twisted in the manner that she was tortured. If Charlotte and Alison had, in fact, buried the hatchet and were bonding as sisters (or cousins, I guess), how cruel was it to fry the mind of your daughter’s best friend by making her think she’s going to be dragged straight to hell? How about how Elliott honeymooned with Alison loud enough that he was certain everyone else in that sleepy B&B could hear them? How about this show making us feel sorry for Alison DiLaurentis?
And then, of course, there was all the swapping and ship-teasing. While those suffering Spoby got a little boost from them working together and their hands brushing up against each other, Haleb and Ezria got a little more real with tender smooching (Caleb: naked with Spencer in the morning, lip wrestling Hanna at night) and celebratory beast-with-two-backs-making (Aria making one more contribution to the Season of Back Nudity). Cheating was alive and well in Rosewood. Some things never change.
But, interestingly, as Heather Hogan has pointed out on numerous occasions, Emily spanned the entirety of 6B (and much longer) without a love interest. Emily babysitting Alison was such an unabashed Emison tease, so much so that I’m starting to think they honestly love torturing the poor souls pining for Alison to cave to Emily’s sexual web for broken women. But the fact that the only Liar in this episode with whom nothing romantic happened was the only gay one, and the fact that she’s been without a significant other for a long while now, made this Emison snub only highlight Emily’s dry spell and a show that has shifted its attention exclusively to the heteronormative relationships. Or maybe, once Emily left, Rosewood stopped being the suburban lesbian haven it once was.
But these important points about the episode didn’t negate the nonsense that happened at the end of the episode. There is nothing satisfying about a soap opera cliffhanger for this series and it leaves Season 7 only with the promise of soapier things to come. It’s a crushing blow to a season that may not have satisfied all the potential it had with a restart but was otherwise a perfectly enjoyable season to watch. The thing is that this show has always had a supervillain but, mostly, they’ve been able to tip more toward the Christopher Nolan Batman feel rather than the 1960s Batman TV series. Once Elliott pulled off the mask, we were in Adam West country. So how do you think they’ll do in the rest of the Liars? With their weather machine or their giant space laser?
I honestly have no idea where we go from here. We still have the chalkboard scene to lead up to so we know that: Hanna is going to survive being dragged up to the belfry, Ali is going to be discharged from the mental hospital, and these women are going to stick around in Rosewood because they’re gluttons for punishment. Just get out of town, ladies. Don’t look back. That might be good advice for all of us.