Pretty Little Liars “Songs of Innocence” Review (Season 6 Episode 2)

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In a perhaps inevitably transitional episode of “Pretty Little Liars,” the girls all dealt with the fallout of their release from the underground bunker that served as Charles’ “dollhouse” and the events that took place there, in “Songs of Innocence.” (Note the William Blake reference, and the fact that next week’s episode title “Songs of Experience” completes that nod.) From what I can tell, the girls were subjected to various psychological- and sometimes physical- forms of torture, much of which was not Charles-inflicted, but rather inflicted by one of the girls on one of the others, by choice. Well, not that they had much choice, per se, as if they didn’t choose, then all would suffer, but you get my meaning.

It was quite reminiscent of a study we read about in one of my psychology classes in college, often dubbed the “Stanford Prison Experiment.” In it, a group of students were selected and placed randomly into one of two groups: prisoners and the guards watching over them, both within a simulated prison setting. After a certain point, each fell into their roles all too well, with the former often passively accepting psychological abuse on the behalf of the latter, to the extent that some quit, and one of the people overseeing the experiment pulled the plug after six days after the psychiatrist in charge let things go too far, in their opinion, also getting fished in to allowing things to happen that shouldn’t have. (Update: Someone known as “A”- lol- also noted that the Milgram Experiment was another likely source of inspiration- thanks for the heads-up, now please don’t put me in the dollhouse, “A”!)

This seems to be the case with the girls as well, as each of them was forced into a position to “punish” their friends, lest they all be punished, essentially forcing them to choose sides and dole out nasty repercussions on the fly to one of them in the heat of the moment. We saw what appeared to be electrodes attached to each of the girls, which were used to administer shocks to whoever was chosen by the girl being “tested,” with each girl faced with a line of switches in front of a line of pictures of each of the other girls while a countdown ensued- choose one, or all get the shock.

You’ve got to wonder what the stats on who suffered the most might be, but if I had to guess, I’d say that Spencer got it the worst- perhaps because the girls saw her as the “strongest”- as evidenced by both the fact that Aria felt compelled to apologize to her, likely for flipping her “switch” one too many times. (Or maybe Aria simply picked on her the most, while the other girls picked on someone else more- it’s hard to say.)

Also fascinating was the way each of the girls handled their post-traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD, for short). Aria wanted to immediately put it out of her mind and behind her- with no “memorializing” whatsoever, thank you very much, Ezra- and place the blame on someone sooner than later, even if it meant blaming the wrong person. (Does anyone really think Andrew is actually Charles? Even most of the girls seem a bit doubtful.)

Spencer longed for the comfort of prescription medication, but wasn’t getting it, thanks to her understandably wary mother. Robbed of that fallback, she instead went right into “action” mode, confronting Ali about who Charles was, and ordering her to step it up in finding out. Lack of sleep and unwanted flashbacks of what happened in the “dollhouse” led her to also try and put it all out of her mind, to the point that she wasn’t even sure what Aria was apologizing for when she did so.

Emily went into full-throttle take-no-prisoners mode, donning her father’s military garb, breaking into his safe and grabbing a gun and taking herself right to the gun range to take out her frustrations in a hail of bullets, much to her mother’s horror. Especially rattled by her interaction with the thousand-yards-staring Sara Harvey (Dre Davis, whose credits include, interestingly enough, a movie called “Outliving Emily”!)- who was, according to the cops, there over two years- Emily was determined not to be a victim, and to prepare herself for anything else that might come her way, be it Andrew or anyone else. Can’t say I blame her, honestly.

Hanna, back to the safety of her own house, was promptly horrified by what she saw, realizing her home was not her home anymore- or at least her room, which she frantically disassembled from top to bottom, tearing down the wallpaper and trashing everything from her bed to her furniture. Only Caleb and her mother provided a modicum of comfort, though she was the lone girl to openly talk about what happened to her down in the bunker to her parent. Others tried, but to no avail.

Side note: Props to the “PLL” crew for making sure most of the parents were present and accounted for, or alluded to as being in on the loop at least, especially since they are often not to be found anywhere when most of this stuff is going down, albeit mostly by design- or, no doubt, availability of the actors playing them. It would probably be a minor miracle if we saw all of them in one single episode, but we did see at least one parent represented for each of the girls, so that’s something.

Finally, there’s Ali, who perhaps had the biggest turnaround of all the girls, even though she didn’t go through what they did. Survivor’s guilt will do that to you, I suppose. In her case, it led her down a decidedly unexpected path- right to church. Can’t say I saw that coming! She’s also starting to doubt her father, understandably, given that he’s almost certainly lying to her. Not only did he do a bit of a double take when she confronted him about Charles, but she noted that there were clearly some photos missing from a scrapbook of baby pictures she found, right where it would have made sense for there to be some for Charles, assuming he existed. Obviously, he does, but Ali’s dad isn’t exactly forthcoming on the details of that one.

We also met a new character, Lorenzo Calderon (Travis Winfrey, “Single Ladies”), aka Toby’s new partner on the force, who already has his eye on Ali, even showing up at the aforementioned church she attended. It is too much to hope that he might actually be a good guy? He is “new” in town, which never seems to be a good thing. On the plus side, I do think Ali is going to err on the side of caution when it comes to him, which is good. She’s doing her best not to go into her typical mode of be a bitch now, ask questions later. But shouldn’t she be doing precisely that? (Meaning be a bitch and keeping her distance from anyone even remotely sketchy.)

That was about it, really, but that’s not to say it was a bad episode, more of a necessary evil than anything. Let’s face it, if the show had let everything simply go back to normal, as if nothing had happened, that would have been unrealistic. By addressing the elephant in the room, and allowing the girls to take a breather to deal with their respective brands of PTSD, it also gives the viewer a moment to recover themselves, from the bleakness of these last few episodes, which were a whole new level of dark, even by typical “PLL” standards.

Of course, it’s alluded to as well that the girls will be returning to school sooner than later, which is probably for the best, given that all the spare time spent ruminating over what happened doesn’t seem to be doing them any favors anyway. Having something- anything- occupy their time seems like a good idea to me, even if concentrating on something like school after what they’ve been through probably won’t come easy. Still, baby steps.

What did you think of the latest episode of “Pretty Little Liars”? Were you happy with the way the show is handling the obvious traumatic nature of what the girls all went through? Do you think there’s even more going on than what we were shown or told? What else went on during the girls’ extended stay in the dollhouse? What all did Sara go through in the two years-plus she was there? Is she, as some have speculated, a plant by “A”? Has she been brainwashed by “A,” a la Patty Hearst?

If so, what does “A” have planned for her to do, once she’s infiltrated the girls? Was Andrew framed? Or is he involved, just not to the extent the cops think? Will the girls be able to recover and go back to a “normal” life after what they’ve been through? Sound off on this and more down below, and see you next week!