Pretty Little Liars “Charlotte’s Web” Review (Season 6 Episode 12)

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In the latest episode of “Pretty Little Liars,” what with the initial rehash of material most die-hard fans already knew behind us- save the ending murder, of course- it was time for the show to forge ahead with the mystery element, in the wryly-titled “Charlotte’s Web.” (See what they did there, E.B. White fans?)

I mean, don’t get me wrong, the mid-season premiere was perfectly fine. It was just nothing surprising, thanks to the “5 Years Forward” special and the ample previews released in the run-up to it, so the episode couldn’t help but feel a bit like a retread. Here, on the other hand, we moved into gratifyingly new material, as well as got a better sense of where the girls really stood, beyond the exposition-heavy soap operatic dialogue of the last episode.

We began with a girls’ talk sesh, in which the new boyfriends were discussed, promptly followed by meeting them for the first time. In Hanna’s corner, we had Jordan, played by David Coussins, an Aussie actor whose lone American credit is “The Wrong Side of Right.” He keeps the accent here, and is a good-looking enough guy, but alas, there is next to zero chemistry between him and actress Ashley Benson.

I can’t decide yet if it’s because the two actors don’t have chemistry IRL or if they purposely were directed to seem a bit distant from one another because they want to leave the door open between Hanna and Caleb as characters. Are the show-runners testing the waters to see how the would-be couple flies with the fans? Or could they care less and have plans for them that we don’t know yet and actually want us to object on purpose? It remains to be seen, but so far, so lacking in genuine heat, sorry to say.

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Meanwhile, in a move that seems even more calculated to get a rise out of fans, the show seems to be moving towards a hook-up between free agent Caleb and Spencer. Or have the two already hooked up once in the past during their Sangria-fueled Spanish bullfighting shenanigans? Even as I write that, I recognize how silly it sounds. Bullfighting? Half-baked revolutionaries? Femicides? (More on that later.) What exactly have the writers been smoking on their break?

Who knows? But I think I might like it. It’s almost as if the show has come this close to stop trying to take itself so seriously and decided to go in the exact opposite direction and become a sort of parody of itself. Hell, after all that bonkers business in the Dollhouse, who could blame them? Maybe someone slipped the writers some of Spencer’s “special” edibles from earlier in the season. Lol.

Either way, this could prove to be a lot of fun if they really go for it and cut loose a bit with it. They’re not quite there yet, to be sure, as the show is still fairly straight-faced about it all, but all they need is a little push in the direction they’re already going in and things could be ludicrous in the best of ways. Maybe Ezra could go off the deep end and join a creepy mime troupe, or get into marionettes or something. Why not? They’ve already had magicians, freaky dolls and a life-sized dollhouse. Why not go for broke?

Speaking of Ezra, he seems to be the one that might well be in on the joke. Chewing scenery like it’s going out of style in nearly every scene he’s in, Ian Harding is having a field day with “Dark Ezra 2.0” and I’m kind of loving it. Of course, as indicated by the whole 2.0 thing, we’ve been down this road before, so obviously he’s not the killer this time any more than he was last time, but by now, we know how the show likes to point us in the direction of one character to take the heat off the real culprit, so I sincerely doubt Ezra had anything to do with anything, really.

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My prediction: he goes over to the church, confronts Charlotte and tells her to stay the hell away from Aria or else. Then, shortly after he leaves in a huff, someone else shows up and takes her out for real. Even money says it’s Mona, what with her changing her tune, seemingly on purpose in the last episode, likely to help get Charlotte released so that she could promptly kill her. After all, Charlotte did abduct Mona and hold her hostage far longer than the other girls. And lest we forget, she’s not above going a little mad sometimes, as it were.

Still, even that seems a bit on the nose to me. Mona has already been “A,” after all. Why bother doing a so-called “Uber A” if it’s only going to be the same person it was the first time? Ergo, I doubt it’s her, either. I actually think one of the girls being the culprit would be far more interesting, and I wouldn’t at all be surprised if the show goes there this time. Lest we forget, many have posited that it was one of them before, especially Aria and Spencer. I’d actually love that, personally. Especially if the show’s next season might be its last.

I mean, can’t you just see it now? The final season finale does its big reveal and it’s none other than crazy Aria- driven mad by the Dollhouse experience and having developed a split personality- one the Aria we all know and love, the other a full-blown psycho that takes over whenever she feels threatened. Or if you prefer, substitute Aria with Spencer, if you’d rather it be her. Whatever the case, it could be a lot of fun if they went there.

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As for Aria’s boy toy, Liam, played by Roberto Aguire, of “NCIS: New Orleans” and the ridunkulous Syfy flick “Sand Sharks,” their chemistry was a slight improvement over Hanna and Jordan’s, but still no great shakes. As ever, Aria and Ezra have chemistry for days, made all the more readily apparent by the reactions they have to one another as either enters wherever the other is at any given moment.

It’s a little troublesome that the couple that meshes the best together was a teacher and his student on the show, but it is what it is. Despite the iffy circumstances, the two just click as actors, plain and simple. As the fans are fond of saying: these two are endgame. Deal with it, haters.

But first, we’ve got loads of drama to get through, as evidenced by Ezra’s flash drive, which, contrary to featuring what he had prepared of his second book, as he told Aria, actually contained a bunch of files on mysterious abductions and murders in the South African jungle- the aforementioned “femicides,” which I’m pretty sure is not a word, much less a thing. Stop trying to make “femicide” happen, “PLL”!

I suppose what they want is to think is that Ezra snapped in the jungle while doing the whole Habitat for Humanity thing and started deconstructing girls instead of trees for wood to build houses with. Seems a bit dubious to me, but whatever. I don’t know who killed his ex Nicole, but I seriously doubt it was Ezra himself. That’s just what they want us to think, naturally. That said, I just love all of this insane subplot and I wholeheartedly support it getting as nutbar as humanly possible.

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Speaking of cuckoo-for-coco-puffs storylines, there’s also Sara, who’s taken to haunting graveyards in the dead of night, and wearing gloves to cover up burns the girls somehow caused, I guess. First the girls blind Jenna, now they’re burning up bitches! What the what? Apparently, the cops decided that Sara was “too weak” to have tangled with and murdered Charlotte, so she is no longer a suspect altogether. Because it’s not as if she couldn’t have had help doing it, right? Ugh. Rosewood cops are the absolute worst.

I also find it hard to believe that she “doesn’t remember” anything that happened because of Stockholm Syndrome. Yeah, right. If you believe that, then you probably believe that Shower Harvey’s water bill is no big whoop, either. It’s only a matter of time before she joins the SLA, mark my words. (Ask your parents.)

Let’s see, what else did we have here? Oh, there was Rosewood’s most awkward dinner party evah- including the grace from hell, courtesy of Ali, which was priceless and nearly worth the price of admission to the episode alone. I knew crazy pants Ali was hiding in there somewhere. ‘Bout time she bared those claws once again. This whole “reformed” Ali wasn’t doing it for me, really. Yes, I know. Everyone deserves a second chance at redemption, but let’s face it: evil Ali is just more fun, am I right?

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Other stuff: the girls actively covered up and deleted footage of Aria leaving the hotel de Radley at the time of death of Charlotte; Em is hiding some sort of blood disease or something like that from everyone, save relative newbie Sabrina (Lulu Brud, “Ray Donovan”), whose been on the show before and is now apparently been promoted to HBIC-that’s “head blonde in charge,” what did you think it meant? – of The Brew in wake of Ezra’s Lost Weekending.

Also, Emily inherited a sizable amount of money from her father, but for some reason seems to be dead broke, if that credit card incident was any indication. Might also explain why she directly pocketed that tip in the last episode, as well. She had a great scene at the aforementioned graveyard talking to her dad’s tombstone that somewhat reminded me of a similar scene on “Twin Peaks.” As I mentioned in the last review, Shay Mitchell is killing it lately.

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Spencer also fears she might drag down her mom’s campaign to be Senator, as she once wrote a paper for her Criminology class about a murder eerily similar to the MO of Charlotte. I liked that she directly presented it to her mom, where in the past she might have tried to hide it from her. Veronica responded by hiring Caleb to do some damage control, because of course she did, and told Spencer to cool her jets. I really want Veronica to become an elected official, BTW. The only thing that would make me happier is a “Drunk Wine Moms” spin-off.

We ended with another graveyard visit from an unseen man, who put flowers on Charlotte’s grave before returning to his limo. Might it be the return of Kenneth? Maybe even Jason? We shall have to wait and see, I guess, because that was all we got. This time around, I didn’t bother watching the preview for next week. I’m tired of stuff getting spoiled, so I’m avoiding that stuff like the plague moving forward. From here on out, I am going spoiler-free, and that’s that. Hopefully, I’ll be able to avoid them online as well. Fingers crossed!

So, definitely a step up from the last episode, which, like I said, was fine, just not a lot of surprises overall. With this episode, we got a better sense of where the girls are at in their lives, and where they might be headed. We got to see Aria in her element, and Ali falling back on old habits, Ezra in crazy-eyed drunkie mode, and Veronica in Tiger mom mode, protecting her beloved cub Spencer. Yeah, the Hanna stuff was a bit meh, but the Emily stuff is fascinating, and the most compelling of all the girls’ subplots thus far, so there’s that. All in all, a solid ep, IMHO.

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What did you all think of the latest “Pretty Little Liars”? Is the new storyline growing on you? Or are you over it? Who do you think killed Charlotte? Was it one perp, or more than one, working together, “Scream”-style? What in the world is Em hiding? Will she mack on Sabrina? (Lol. I joke- OF COURSE she will. Duh.) Are Aria and Hanna destined to end up with their old BFs, or will Spencer snag Caleb from Hanna on the sly? Will Ali go full evil again? Where was Mona this episode? Sound off on this and more down below and see you next Tuesday!