Pretty Little Liars “Game On, Charles” Review (Season 6 Episode 1)

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So, was the sixth season premiere of “Pretty Little Liars” bonkers, as per usual? Have you seen an episode of this show? Of course it was! Pretty much every episode past around the end of the third season has featured one or two WTF moments at the very least, and given how crazy this past season finale was, it was a virtual given that there would be more to come in the premiere, and “Game on, Charles” was certainly no exception.

We started with a shocker of a reveal right off the bat, as we saw that, lo and behold, the girls were not alone in the dollhouse, and I’m not talking about Charles. Lest we forget- and after this long, it’s quite possible many have- another girl has been missing and presumed dead all this time: Sarah Harvey.

I have to give credit where credit’s due to the show for managing to shoehorn in quick explanations for the various stuff referenced throughout this episode that harkened back as far as the first season, like the mentions of Jenna’s accident for the first time in many a moon, as well as the reference to Ali referring to “Herme,” which many have posited was a reference to a hermaphrodite, leading many to wonder if Lucas is/was a cross-dresser and/or an actual hermaphrodite.

Seems a bit far-fetched to me, but then again, look at the show we’re talking about. Is it really so out-of-the-question that Lucas could be harboring a big secret of that nature? Least of all with all the “Psycho” references the show has dropped over the years? (Sorry: spoiler alert on a 50 years-old-plus horror classic.)

Anyway, Harvey is back on the radar, and she’s clearly been at the “Dollhouse” quite a while- possibly since Ali’s disappearance, and is looking worse for the wear in the process. As with Mona, Charles has been attempting to fashion a faux Ali from her, including the requisite yellow dress and the like. But now she’s out, and surprisingly enough, so are the girls, thanks to a Hail Mary passing play- courtesy of Ali- that actually worked.

To wit, Ali faked a call from “A” to the cops, snuck out while they were chasing their tail with the ploy call and went to meet with “A” in an isolated spot. By then convinced it was Andrew who was either “A” or one of his/her minions, at the very least, Ali had Ezra and Caleb (aka the “Hardly Bros”) tail her to the meet, and they also put a tracker into her shoe, in hopes that she would lead them to the lair where he/she was keeping the girls. About time to see that these guys aren’t leaving much of anything to chance anymore.

Granted, they did give Ali just enough rope to potentially hang herself, but they also left a pretty clear trail to where Ali was, and even called in the cavalry for good measure, just in case. It may have taken several seasons, but they’re learning. (Of course, as sure as I say that, someone will make a boneheaded move in the future that lands them right back in hot water yet again, just you wait.)

In this case, it worked, though, and they actually found the location of the girls, albeit with the help of the girls themselves, who set a fire that both served to give the trio an idea of where they were, as well as trigger an alarm that helped them pinpoint approximately where to look, being as how said location was, after all, underground. Granted, this might have been a dire mistake, had the girls not been rescued, as it could well have led to their own demises, but then we wouldn’t have a show, so obviously that wasn’t going to happen.

I was a bit surprised that the “Dollhouse” matter was resolved as quickly as it was, but then, I guess that needed to happen as well, lest we spend an entire season underground, which might have gotten old pretty quick. (Even “Lost” knew when to say when on that sort of thing.) As it stands, if I’m not mistaken, the girls were still down there at least a month, with Mona there even longer, and Sarah down there even longer still. I think that’s plenty enough time to sufficiently traumatize everyone concerned, albeit some more than others.

From the looks of next week’s episode, it may not be quite that easy, however. There is some indication that they might pull a fake-out and have the girls imagine all of this- which is to say, their escape- and that they might be down in the “Dollhouse” still after all. I don’t think they’ll go there, however, save maybe a faux dream sequence that leads us to believe otherwise at first, before revealing that, in fact, it was just a dream. That I don’t imagine they will be able to resist, and who can blame them for that, either?

Other stuff: Charles apparently had a well dubbed “The Hole” that he kept bad little girls in, should they misbehave, a la Buffalo Bill in “Silence of the Lambs,” as we saw with poor Mona. He also has a faux morgue down there, which he creepily left the girls naked and on metal carts under sheets in, as if they were corpses.

At first, they thought Charles might be faking their deaths to throw off the authorities and lead them to give up- and maybe he was, until his plans came to an abrupt end. Charles then had Candy Striper Mona deliver them some pills, before Charles confronted each of them in their rooms with…what, exactly? Not sure, but whatever it was, it clearly only added to their ongoing trauma.

Three weeks later after that incident, it was revealed that Ali had been cleared of her murder charges, what with the alleged victim not dead, after all. Andrew Campbell was still missing, though the police had apprehended lots of evidence (including a journal, which may or may not be fake) that would seem to indicate that he was “A” or one of his/her minions. (I vote the latter, personally- I can’t imagine that AC is actually “A.”) I think that the guys and Ali know this too, but it didn’t stop them from using AC as bait to draw the cops’ attention away from Ali so that they could execute a plan of their own.

That said, though, the two are clearly connected, given that Ali’s shout-out was to Andrew, not “A,” per se, and that was who she was aiming to meet at the “kissing rock.” AC and/or “A” got the message, or else the rest of the episode wouldn’t have happened. We got a creepy phone call, with the prerequisite spooky song (“Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree”), plus a freaky mannequin with a pig mask on, a la “Saw,” all courtesy of Toby and the guys, as part of their well-executed fake-out. This led the cops back to Campbell farm, thinking that was where Ali was going to meet “A”/AC after she escaped, thus getting them out of the way for the “real” meet.

We also discovered that Charles had been stealing and stockpiling all sorts of stuff from the girls for who knows how long, particularly from Ali, and had the girls set up her “room” in the “Dollhouse” for Ali’s supposed arrival. Charles even included a copy of the latest newspaper to rile up the girls that much more with news of their suffering parents and the like, and had them sign a “welcome” card, complete with the foreign translations the voice-over lady used when they first arrived themselves on the cover of the greeting card, plus a recording inside, instructing Ali what to do when she arrived.

We see via newscast that Radley has at long last been closed- about time! And yet, the timing on that can’t be a coincidence. My theory is that big “A” decided to cut their losses and just bury whatever evidence might be left there once and for all. Note that a rich benefactor bought it- most of us long suspected “A” must have mighty deep pockets to pull all of this off. Could it be a DiLaurentis? Or even a Fitzgerald?

Spencer clearly thinks the former, as evidenced by her “Etch-a-Sketch” message. (Was anyone surprised to learn she had won an award for her “Etch-a-Sketch” skills back in the day? Didn’t think so.) She leads the girls to the toy room, where they threaten to destroy Charles’ stuff and then Spencer later shows them Charles’ home movies, before burning the film, then some of his stuff, setting the aforementioned fire. A dubious move, to be sure, and one that could have easily backfired, but in this case, actually ended up saving their skins, not frying them.

Granted, Charles did set off the alarm, and then the sprinklers, but all that did was alert Ali and company to the “Dollhouse” location, even if it did save some of his stuff in the process. You win some, you lose some, I guess. The girls track down Mona, get her out of “The Hole” and abscond with her, with Ezra managing to open up the trap door from the outside that gave the girls an exit out of that hellhole. Was it somewhat convenient that everything happened as it did when it did? Perhaps. But like I said, you’d rather the girls were stuck down there for half the season instead? Probably not.

We end with everyone reuniting with their significant others- note Emily going to Ali, and promptly asking her about who Charles was, much to Ali’s befuddlement. It was there we ended, but that was fine. With one thing resolved, that of course allows room for resolving others, with just enough mystery about what went down in the “Dollhouse” left to fuel at least a few more episodes, notably what exactly went down with those “surprises” to the girls at that one point. I’m genuinely not sure what went on there, and I’m not even sure I can guess just yet. Perhaps with a little more information next week, as I’m sure we’ll get to it eventually.

All in all, a solid enough premiere, I thought. Was it all resolved a bit too tidily? Perhaps. But I suspect we’re not quite done with the “Dollhouse” as of yet. There’s still plenty of fallout to contend with as a result of it, after all, and that should be plenty interesting. There’s also the alleged time jump coming up, which should also be an intriguing development, as it will fast-forward the action to the future. And who knows what the future holds?

I would like to take a second to commend the show-runner’s decision to quit while they were ahead, in opting to announce, “Lost”-style, that the show would be running for two more seasons and that would be that. That shows that they clearly have a game plan, and that it can be executed in that amount of time, which is definitely a good thing. Whether or not the end result is a good thing will remain to be seen, but the fact that they have an ending in mind is at least a relief, right? Just so long as it’s more satisfying than the aforementioned “Lost” finale, I’m good. I didn’t hate that one, but boy, did they leave a lot of unanswered questions. Hopefully, that won’t be the case here.

So, what did you think of the big season premiere of “Pretty Little Liars”? Were you happy with the resolution of the “Dollhouse” plotline, or was it all a bit too tidy for your tastes? How about the revelations about Andrew? Are they for real, or is it all a bit of a fake out, as per usual? Is Charles really Jason’s twin? Is he really a he? Is it someone we know, or a new character? Why does Charles have Sarah there? How does she fit into all of this? What did Charles do to the girls as their “surprises”? Will Charles move to a new location and try to abduct the girls again? Sound off on this and more down below, and see you next week!