Pretty Little Liars “Of Late I Think of Rosewood” Review (Season 6 Episode 11)

PLL The Girls 2

Welcome back, “Pretty Little Liars,” fans! After a longer-than-usual break that felt like a lifetime, our beloved “PLL” is back- but is it better than ever? Let’s take a closer look at the somewhat laboriously-titled “Of Late I Think of Rosewood” and find out.

So, first of all, if you saw the infomercial that was “Five Years Forward” back in late November, then you already knew a good half of what was going on here, so, as such, a solid portion of this was a bit of a wash. Not saying it was bad necessarily, just unsurprising under the circumstances.

I think, truth be told, some of the reception to the big “A” reveal of the mid-season finale “Game Over, Charles” took creator I. Marlene King aback a bit, and that special was her way of saying: but wait, there’s more! We have an all-new mystery for you guys! And look! There’s even a flash-forward so that some time has actually passed for a change and a bunch of mostly twenty-something girls aren’t playing teens anymore!

Indeed they are not, and yes, five years have passed since we last saw the girls, the epilogue of the last show notwithstanding. Oddly, even though the girls are playing a lot closer to their age, at times it felt oddly stilted, as if they were playing dress-up or what have you. Go figure.

I mean, don’t get me wrong- overall, it was fine, but that first half took a while to get into the groove, with some scenes playing better than others. I think a big part of the problem was all the exposition. It’s hard to communicate five years worth of changes without sounding like bad soap opera dialogue, and having even worse use of green screen- looking at you, Spencer in “Washington D.C.”- didn’t exactly help matters.

PLL Emily

Some scenarios played out better than others, and if anything, it gave me a new respect for some of the girls and how tricky their roles can be at times. To me, Shay Mitchell, as Emily, and Lucy Hale, as Aria, gave the most compelling reads on their “new” characters, with both ably portraying the after-effects of PTSD that would actually make sense for people who had gone through the sorts of things they have.

Indeed, Emily has suffered more than most, having lost her father to boot, making her very real pain all the more fresh and tough to get past. This led to her bottoming out in college and dropping out to become a bartender, as well as having driven her to become a bit of a pill-popping mess. I don’t know what all Em had stashed away in that big old purse of hers, but it can’t be good or she wouldn’t have scrambled to hide it from the rest of the girls.

PLL Aria

Meanwhile, Aria is still so shell-shocked that, by her own admission, she couldn’t even be in darkness for a brief period of time without losing it and crying out loud- even if it was on a jam-packed and stalled train in front of a bunch of people. Her breakdown at the hearing to determine whether Charlotte should be released from the mental hospital she was currently residing in felt achingly real and was the most gripping moment of the episode by far. She is truly “small but mighty.”

Em might have self-medicated a lot of her pain away, but Aria’s is still raw and ever-close to the surface, waiting to pop at any given moment. Is it possible it did, and she was the culprit behind Charlotte’s untimely death? We shall see. Either way, it was a fantastic turn by Hale.

The other girls weren’t bad, by any means, but at the same time, their performances seemed a bit too calibrated to be entirely believable. That might sound like a backhanded compliment- aren’t performances like this supposed to be accurate and carefully measured? But like I said, it was rare that I forgot we were watching actresses playing parts at any given time they were on the screen, which is not typically the case.

PLL Spencer

Indeed, as my loyal readers know, Spencer and Hanna are actually two of my favorite characters on the show. I’ve always loved Spencer’s slightly caustic intelligence and Hanna’s wise-cracking demeanor, especially over the last two seasons, as the actresses really came into their own, notably with Spencer’s pill-induced breakdown and subsequent stay at Radley and, in Hanna’s case, her more concentrated determination to get to the bottom of the whole “A” thing, come hell or high-water. Who’d have thought the mid-season would open with things flip-flopping like they have?

On the other hand, it’s nice to see Hale and Mitchell flexing their dramatic chops in earnest, after somewhat underplaying things for some time, especially in the early years of the show. Oh, they’ve had their moments- all the girls have- but overall, those two tended to be flatter than the others. Not so anymore, assuming it lasts. Overall, I think that’s actually a good thing.

Besides, I do feel like there were enough flashes of potential things brewing to leave plenty of room for improvement for Bellisario and Benson over the rest of this season. For instance, Spencer in the world of politics- not to mention her mother, played by the superb Lesley Fera- is a promising set-up for some potentially interesting developments, which should play well into Spencer’s intellectual bent.

PLL Hanna

Meanwhile, Hanna working for an Anna Wintour-type as a “roadie for a bunch of dresses,” as per Caleb’s description, is likewise a potentially amusing set-up, rife with comedic possibilities. “The Devil Wears Hanna,” anyone? Bring it on.

So, yeah, it was admittedly a mixed bag, but mostly because we already knew a lot of what was going to happen- at least those of us who watched that special and checked out the various trailers and teasers for the episode in advance. (I’d be interested to hear from those who avoided all of that like the plague and whether or not it made a difference, if you’re out there.)

Still, you can’t blame King for wanting to take a new tack on things- after all, she sort of wrote herself into a corner by solving the whole “A” thing. Her only real options were to reveal that “A” wasn’t Charlotte/Charles and, in fact, there was a so-called “Uber A” actually pulling the strings on everything that was happening, or to reboot the whole shebang. She chose the latter, and who can blame her for wanting to try something different- or the actors, for that matter?

Besides, it’s not as if King can’t still potentially tie in the new villain with the previous ones. It could happen, and this time around, it could even be a main player, i.e. one of the girls themselves. One can only hope that King has the guts to go for something like that, but we’ll see.

Until then, there are still pleasures to be had from the show, even if some of them are of the guilty variety. For instance, I nearly laughed out loud at Ian Harding’s somewhat over-wrought line readings about his experiences in South Africa working for Habitat for Humanity and how his girlfriend Nicole was allegedly “dragged off by half-baked revolutionaries.”

I’m well aware that in reality there’s nothing funny about something like that, but it was all so out of nowhere and borderline goofy I almost couldn’t help but laugh. (I also chuckled when I saw the blurb on the back of his incredibly pretentiously-titled novel “Ostinato,” which read that Ezra “concocted his own juice blend” at the Brew. Lol.)

PLL The Girls

On the plus side, although they may not be together, Spencer and Toby still have an easy chemistry together, leading to Bellisario’s best work in the episode, by far, when the two saw each other again for the first time for a long time. That was also a nice touch when she spotted that group of girls and all but flinched when they all received a text at roughly the same time. It would seem that Spencer has a bit of repressed baggage to unpack of her own, which might make for future drama, and that could be a good thing as well.

Likewise, Benson’s best work came when she was reunited with Caleb (Tyler Blackburn), the other half of the amusingly dubbed “The Brotherhood of Ex-Boyfriends,” which sounds like a bromantic version of “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” waiting to happen. In fact, please make that happen, I. Marlene King, I beg of you. Benson’s split from Caleb is a heartbreaker, but those two still have chemistry to burn, and I find it hard to believe they won’t be returning to that on the show, engagement on Hanna’s end or not.

Benson’s brief scene with Ashley (Laura Leighton) was also solid, if fairly subdued compared to past conversations with the parental unit. I also love that “squirrel factory” (What the what, Hanna? Never heard THAT one before) Radley has been turned into a hotel, of all things, which Ashley appears to run herself. Pretty cool development, that. Although it would seem that old habits die hard, if the someone watching the “Coven of the Sacred Cocktails” via overhead camera was any indication.

All of that said, the primary set-up at the end- the death of Charlotte right after she was released from the mental institution she was in was a decent enough set-up. After all, a lot of people had good reasons to want to see her die, despite the fact that the bulk of the girls said they were “over it.” We’ll just see about that.

We also got a late-in-the-game appearance from the much-ballyhooed “Shower” Sara Harvey (Dre Davis), back to no doubt wreak some havoc and raise the ire of grumpy fans everywhere that hate her with a fiery passion. I doubt seriously she did the deed of offing Charlotte, but you gotta wonder what exactly the girls “did” to her that was alluded to within the episode.

PLL Girls 3

Shades of the first episode abounded, in fact, particularly at the end of the episode, and I don’t think that was a coincidence. After all, this was essentially a reboot of the show, in a sense. Is there another bait-and-switch going on here? Hopefully, the show wouldn’t go back to that well a second time, but you never know. But if they did and the cops missed it, then everyone in the Rosewood police department needs to be fired immediately, even good old Officer Toby.

It seems more likely that they did not and that Charlotte is indeed dead, and one of the main characters is the culprit. But who? I guess that will be the main question moving forward, but I’m guessing that someone saw it and will be going into “A” mode sooner than later, and I say bring it on, because “PLL” just isn’t the same without an “A” in play.

All in all, an okay episode only really marred by knowing more than we might should have going in. Well, that and some slightly-off performances and/or writing, which happens, least of all when you’re going back to basics in a show like this. Not to mention in a show that’s in its sixth season. I don’t mind letting it slide for now, though the next few episodes will be the true indicator if this new experiment is going to work or not. Here’s hoping it does, because the TV landscape was a little less interesting without our favorite girls, am I right?

PLL Ali

So, what did you think of the mid-season premiere of “Pretty Little Liars”? Are you down with the whole “five years later” thing, or did it fall flat for you? Were you sad to see all of the relationships you know, and in some cases, might love, torn asunder? Who were you most heartbroken to see go their separate ways? Who do you think killed Charlotte? Is she even really dead? What all went down between the girls and “Shower” Harvey? Sound off down below and see you next week for more mayhem!