Pretty Little Liars Season 4 Review “Shadow Play”

Pretty Little Liars Season 4 Episode 19 Shadow Play (14)

In a superlative episode of “Pretty Little Liars,” things took a turn for the Noir in “Shadow Play,” which functioned as a sort-of alternate reality version of the show set in another time, another place. If ever there was a cast born to be in Noir-type film, it’s this one. Shot mostly in luxurious black and white, this was a lot of fun- if more than a little cryptic in a way we’re not entirely used to. Don’t get me wrong, the whole show is cryptic in a sense, but what are we to make of all that happened in this episode?

For one, most of the episode was posited as a hallucination induced by Spencer overdoing it a bit with the pill popping. So, how much of this stuff actually happened at all? Can we trust any of it? Obviously, the non-B&W parts are fine, but what of what transpired within the hallucination? Some of it was clearly stylized and meant to be fake, but there was also some stuff in there that was pretty plausible.

On one of the shows “Pretty Little Liars” is best known for emulating, “Twin Peaks,” there’s a famous dream sequence that did indeed hold clues to the entire mystery at hand, albeit in even more out-there and cryptic fashion than this show, if you can believe it. What if “PLL” is doing a similar thing? For instance, how do we know Ali isn’t manipulating the situation to her favor, as suggested within the B&W sequence? Maybe she planted the journal in Ezra’s classroom, changing the entries as Spencer said, all the better to make him look guilty. After all, would “A” be so stupid as to leave it there in some place so obvious?

Then again, maybe Spencer’s also right in that Ezra left it there on purpose for them to find, thinking they wouldn’t know he changed the entries just to throw them off a little more. It could easily go either way. However, we do know that Ezra’s absolutely involved, and that he would seem to be actively seeking Ali- but why? Because she’s the evil one and he wants to put a stop to it, or because he’s “A” and wants to find her and kill her? I just don’t know anymore, and this episode didn’t exactly help clear that up.

And yet, certain things rang true, didn’t they? I think, just like the dream sequence in “Peaks,” the B&W sequence in this episode is a code to be cracked, every bit as much as Ali’s journal has secrets hidden within its very pages, as Toby noted: “Don’t look at the book, look at the pages.” The question is, what’s real information and what’s hyperbole? For instance, did Ali really call the Fitzgerald Art Foundation? And if she did, was it because she was looking into Ezra, or looking to meet with him? As in they’re on the same team? I mean, why not?

Or Ali could be blackmailing Ezra to keep an eye on the girls, in a similar fashion to Toby. Or someone else could be tormenting them both. It could be for any number of reasons- if, in fact, Ali called that number in the first place, and it really is Ezra’s family’s foundation. It could just be false information meant to throw us off, and it might never have happened. It was in a hallucination, after all.

Other things I noted: When in Ezra’s classroom, there were two quotes on the blackboard: “You start a question, and it’s like starting a stone. You sit quietly on the top of a hill, and away the stone goes, starting others” and “You must suffer me to go my own dark way.” Both are quotes from “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde,” and both suggest a man who has started things into motion that he can’t stop. Ezra did say that people tend to misunderstand the real story of that book. It’s ultimately the story of one man with two distinct personalities that are at odds with one another, a sort of light side and a dark side. Is that Ezra? Perhaps he was the mystery patient at Radley with issues? Maybe he did whatever happened to Toby’s mother?

Except, here’s the thing: Granted, Ezra’s family is rich enough to cover up some things, but even the school knew about Ezra’s shady past involving students. It almost cost him his job, in fact. If his family couldn’t cover that up entirely, could they really cover up that he was in Radley? On a certain level, I think even Spencer isn’t sure. What was it she said? “Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself not mean.” Maybe that’s Ezra, forced to go down some dark avenues to prove what he suspects to be true: that Ali is “A” and has been all along.

Ali’s family, on the other hand…I mean, hell, her own mother’s on the board of directors! What if it’s Ali that has the split personality, not Ezra? What if there is no twin as many suspect, but merely two personalities in one girl? It would make sense. One side of Ali is genuinely scared, paranoid and convinced someone is out to get her. The other is actually creating that tension, manufacturing drama at every turn. That totally sounds like something Ali would be capable of. She always did love stirring up the drama.

Or it could be one of the girls, as many have suspected. Spencer is a likely candidate. She’s smart, but she’s also got some issues, and they were serious enough to land her in Radley, too. Plus, both of her parents are lawyers, so they’re good at covering up stuff, as we’ve seen repeatedly. And didn’t Melissa once say Spencer should watch the questions she asked because she might not like the answers she gets? Spencer could work, too. (Cue the “Spencer Look” in my direction, lol.)

Emily, Aria and Hanna are a bit more debatable, but many are convinced Aria is a worthy suspect. I haven’t dug too deep into the theories on that one, as I like to puzzle things out on my own, but it’s fun hearing occasional alternate theories. The great thing about the show is that there’s enough leeway almost anywhere you look to make anyone a viable suspect. It’s part of what makes the show so fun, in fact. About the only one I don’t suspect at this point is Caleb, and that’s only because he isn’t on the show anymore!

Either way, something’s clearly going down on next week’s show, as it looks like the girls are about to confront Ezra about all this sooner than later. Given that we still have a ways to go with no announced end in sight, I’m betting that either Ezra isn’t “A” at all but is looking for him/her as well, or that he’ll somehow manage to weasel his way out of things somehow, i.e. by making Spencer out to be a pill popping wacko that’s all hopped up on drugs and who is imagining things because she’s so obsessed. After all, they have no real hard evidence on anything, if you think about it. We may know that Ezra has a freaky lair in his cabin, but they don’t know that yet. He may evade Spencer’s accusations yet. We shall see.

Whatever the case, this was a wonderful episode that, however dubious some of the things that may have gone down were, was a joy to watch. It was beautifully shot, the girls (and guys, for that matter) looked fabulous in period costume and it was overall a lot of fun. I would have to say that it was hands down one of my favorite episodes ever, no matter how valid the information in it was. Hey, you gotta keep the mystery going somehow, right? As long as they keep doing it in such an inventive way, I’m down.

What did you think of the latest episode of “Pretty Little Liars”? How much was true, and how much was stonewalling? Are Ezra and Mona really working together? Was the journal a plant? Is Ezra really “A”? Is Ali? Or is it someone else entirely? Start your engines and your crazy theories below, and I’ll see you next time, when we play it again, Sam!