‘Pretty Little Liars’ Season Premiere- “Tick-Tock, Bitches” Review (Season 7 Episode 1)

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On the season premiere of the reportedly final season of “Pretty Little Liars,” all the chips were down, and the girls and their friends had twenty-four hours to deliver Charlotte’s killer, or the kidnapped Hanna would be paying the price, in the aptly-titled “Tick-Tock, Bitches.”

If this does indeed prove to be the final season- rumors abound that there will be a movie, or at the very least, a spin-off of some sort- then it certainly started with a bang, if this episode was any indication.

As with the previous mid-season premiere, we began with a flash-forward, this time with a noticeably absent Hanna- as opposed to the last one, which basically confirmed she was alive, so I’m not sure what all this rigamorale is all about, unless I. Marlene King thinks we forget everything that happened before now.

Anyway, we see a frantic Aria, Spencer, and Emily apparently digging a grave in an undisclosed location. They say someone was murdered and that they might go down for it and that their “plan failed.” Then, the credits roll, with Hanna, appropriately enough, as the lead “shusher,” as it were.

KEEGAN ALLEN

We then flash back four days earlier, as the girls, minus Hanna, along with Mona, Caleb, Ezra and Toby, spot Mary Drake headed into the precinct. As per usual, the girls want to go after her half-cocked, but Toby says he’ll take care of it, being a cop and all. Besides, as pointed out, Mary couldn’t have actually done the kidnapping of Hanna, as she was caught elsewhere on camera, so she must have a partner.

Toby talks to Mary, who confirms her identity as the late Jessica DiLaurentis’ sister, and says she is there to report a break-in at the Lost Woods Resort, which she just purchased and is the new owner of, because of course she did. Every “Psycho”-inspired motel needs it’s very own “mother,” after all- and a Norman Bates, for that matter. (Well, hello there, Elliott!)

Toby returns to the fold to relay the information shortly thereafter, then they get a text: “A lie for a lie, an eye for an eye. The bell tolls for Hanna- A.D.” What, no emojis? Or is that yet another text-based stalker? (Could be “Shower” Sara Harvey- she seems like the emoji-loving type.)

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Suddenly, the church bells ring out and everyone heads there. Horrified, they see a Hanna-looking body hanging from the bell tower, but a closer look reveals it’s just a mannequin dressed to look like her, complete with a Hanna mask, which means that whoever did this has access to Ye Old Creepy Mask Maker’s Shoppe, last seen back in Season 4. (Remember Hector Lime?)

Or is there another creepy mask maker in town with access to the girls’ faces? I wouldn’t be surprised with anything on this show at this point. Tom Cruise could be under one of those masks and I’d just shrug it off. Whatevs. Hey, he has access to those kind of masks, too, am I right?

Anyway, one of the crew pulls off the mask to reveal one of Aria’s creeptastic dolls that she loves taking pics of, and Em spots a string pull, which is naturally pulled and the doll recites a message to all concerned: “You have 24 hours to deliver Charlotte’s real killer or Hanna dies. Tick-tock, bitches!” (Title drop!)

It’s 4am, and the clock starts counting down from there. The team makes Spencer’s home “Command Central” as the Hastings are on a cruise. (Raise your hand if that’s a side episode you’d like to see- Peter getting tanked on a tanker, drunkenly doing the Hustle- I’m so in!) This time, remarkably, all are working together for the first time, and it only took six seasons to get there!

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We see Hanna in a shed somewhere, for some reason in her skivvies, because, why not? Anyway, GF is fit, as the Brits say, so I wasn’t complaining. For some oddball reason, the CC team takes a “silent vote” (!) on who they think actually killed Charlotte, with Ali the clear winner.

Mona gets a single vote- probably Caleb, he just can’t seem to let that kiss go (and why would you want to? Everyone knows crazy girls are the best in bed! TMI, Mark…moving on…)- and Spencer gets another…Ezra, maybe? Or Mona herself?

A person who later turns out to be Emily refuses to vote altogether, though we discover it’s because she suspected Ali as well, but just didn’t want to admit it to herself, still having feelings for her. That will change later on, but at what cost?

Ezaria confess to seeing someone in a red sweater jacket going into the church the night of Charlotte’s death that could have been either Ali or Charlotte herself. But did Ali snap and kill Charlotte, or was it Charlotte who snapped and Ali possibly killed her in self-defense? I think a lot of people would love to see crazy Ali return, but I don’t see it happening, least of all this late in the game.

Unless this is your first time watching the show, you know by now that they love to point the finger heavily at the person who didn’t do it before revealing the real culprit, so IMHO, Ali is innocent and totally being rushed to judgment here by, as usual, her quick-to-jump-to-conclusions, so-called friends. With friends like these…

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A snapshot of a beaten-down looking Hanna spurs everyone to action, with Mona and Caleb, of all people, teaming up to spy on Mary Drake at the Lost Woods Resort- probably so the ever-suspicious Caleb can keep an eye on her. Emily heads to the hospital to talk to Ali herself, while she gives Ezaria the keys to Ali’s house, so that they can look for the incriminating red jacket.

After seeing Mary unloading heavy bags of stuff, Spencer and Toby get out to investigate while Mona and Caleb tail Mary elsewhere. After wowing Spencer with his new-and-improved lock-picking skills, they discover that all that is in said bags are a variety of books, most in foreign languages like French and German.

The books are about things like medicine, banking, construction, chemistry, and “The Art of Cyber War”- basically an “A” starter kit. Mary looks to be wicked smart, self-taught, and well-traveled, as proven by a heavily-marked passport, with lots of Europe and Latin American-centric traveling. It also proves that she was in town a week before Charlotte’s untimely demise.

HUW J. COLLINS

Emily talks to the sinister Elliott, who, lest we forget, is definitely in on it with Mary, at the very least, and has motive to want to find Charlotte’s killer, having been in love with her. Emily fills him in on some of what they’ve learned- that Mary is Jessica’s twin, that she’s in town, that she’s the new owner of the LWR- way to show all your cards, girl! Emily may well be the prettiest of all the liars, but she is sure not the brightest.

Elliott says it’s “strange” that Ali didn’t know about all this, and asks Emily how she does. She is savvy enough to point out what a lot of us have already- that Charlotte dubbed herself “CeCe Drake” in tribute to her real mom, who she obviously must have knew about, hence the last name.

Emily suggests it might help to get Ali out of the hospital, but Elliott begs to differ, saying that, if anything, Ali is even worse off than when Em last saw her. Imagine that! Elliott asks Emily if she knows of a traumatic event that might have set her off or that she feels responsible for.

But Emily doesn’t get a chance to incriminate herself (or Ali) further, as Ali picks that moment to go off the hook, punching Elliott, yelling “Get away from me!” and forcing the staff to have to sedate her. Taking a hint- but not seeing the truth in front of her face- Emily understandably takes her leave.

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Ezaria investigate Ali’s house, finding nothing, save a locked chest at the foot of Ali’s bed, when Elliott returns home- thanks for the heads-up, Em! The two hide in the closet, then sneak out the window just in the nick of time, after conveniently seeing both where Elliott hides the key to said chest and him taking a backpack and some clothes out of it, looking super-shady while doing so.

Though they don’t see it, things get even crazier when we see Elliott grab a “medical bag” packed to the rim with all sorts of instruments of torment, including what I believe was a massive bone saw.

Mary Drake also looks to be busy in her preparations, as Mona and Caleb see her buying what looks to be to Mona everything one needs to clean up and cover up a murder- and she would probably know. God, I love Mona. (Remember what I said about the crazy women?)

Spencer calls Caleb to check in, but he curtly cuts her off and hangs up on her, in full-on Hanna-centric mode at this point, much to her chagrin. Not very BF-type behavior, there, Caleb. Could this signal the beginning of the end for Spaleb? I’m sure a lot of their haters would be in favor of that, to be sure.

TROIAN BELLISARIO

Mary says she “has everything we need” to a caller that Mona later identifies as either British or Australian- way to troll, everyone, I. Marlene, lol, lest we forget the existence of Jordan. But yeah, it’s obviously Elliott. (Or is it the much-missed Dr. Wren? Probably not, but fans can hope, and King is all-too-happy to give them enough rope to hang.)

We see Hanna participating in the worst proposed sequel to “Spring Breakers” ever, as she’s hosed down with water, then tased until she’s unconscious. What, is Jigsaw holding a wet T-shirt contest here? If so, Hanna obviously wins, as the only contestant. But I’m good with that. (Her winning a wet T-shirt contest, not being tortured, for the record. For that, see “Ratter.”)

Caleb and Mona tail Mary to Ali’s house seemingly, but Caleb finally gets his BF mojo back when he realizes she’s actually headed to Spencer’s. He tries to alert her, but of course, Spencer being Spencer, she invites her inside to size up the “enemy.”

This is, of course, the best scene in the entire premiere- two worthy adversaries, going toe-to-toe. There’s a reason Spencer garnered that lone vote earlier in the episode, and this scene is evidence of the why.

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Let’s unpack. Mary says she and Spencer met a “long time ago”- but that’s before Spencer identifies herself as not being Melissa, who Mary is obviously aware of as well, noting in their picture together that they “look so much alike…almost like twins.” Spencer says they were often mistaken as such, as kids.

Mary asks after Spencer’s parents, who were who she was really looking for, saying that they “used to have a lot in common.” Note the measured use of past tense there- might Peter and Mary have once been a thing as well? We already know he slept with Jessica, fathering Jason in the process…if not others. Could he be Charles/Charlotte’s baby daddy as well?

Mary also pointedly says that the Hastings are “excellent secret keepers” (must be a family thing, as Melissa and Spencer are chips-off-the-old-secret-keeping-block) and Spencer asks why they would keep her, as in Mary herself, a secret. Mary says it’s because Jessica turned everyone in her life there, family and friends alike, against her.

“I was born first- and she was born jealous.” Meow! Way to “burn” the dead there, Mary D! Mary says she’s returned because she found out Jessica was dead, thus making it safe to resurface, which could be a tip-off that she didn’t kill her- or just a carefully-placed lie to throw Spencer off.

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Spencer accidentally references the LWR, but ably covers it up by saying that her ex-BF Toby told her that Mary had a break-in there. Mary, without losing a beat, says Spencer is “lucky,” as she personally “can’t be friends with any of her ex-lovers.” Because they’re dead? Or because she’s just crazy? (Is it wrong that I was strangely attracted to Mary after this scene? Yep, I’ve got a problem.)

Excusing herself, Mary leaves with one last, wonderfully-creeptastic caveat, telling Spencer to be sure and lock up- “These days, you’re not safe anywhere.” Yeah, this was pretty much the best. This scene could have been twice as long and it still wouldn’t have been enough.

It also did absolutely nothing to quell my long held belief that Melissa was directly involved with all of this somehow- though now I wonder if Spencer might be, too, after all. Once upon a time I suspected her, but I let it go. Now, I’m not so sure. She’s certainly got the mental capacity to pull off some “A”-level shiz, that’s for sure, as does sister Melissa. Or both, working together, for that matter.

Emily sneaks in to talk to Ali, asking her point blank if she was involved with Charlotte’s death. She’s heavily sedated, and making little sense, exclaiming “God help me, please forgive me,” which is apparently almost all the evidence Em needs to throw her friend to the lions, i.e. the girls and company- though the final nail in the coffin proves to be the incriminating red sweater jacket, which she finds in a “Goodwill” donation box at Ali’s house later on.

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Aria tells Ezra she needs a hot minute to assess what she and Ezra mean to one another now, in light of their sleeping together again, and goes to follow down a lead to a local bar, where Mona and Caleb have traced Mary’s phone pal to. Though it proves fruitless, all it takes is a beer and an ignored call from Liam for her to rush back to Ezra again. Guess that answered that question. (And there was much rejoicing amongst the icky-when you-really-think-about-it-but-dedicated Ezaria contingent!)

Hanna gets a pep talk in her dreams from Spencer and wakes up, determined to find a way out of the shed, which, as we’ve seen, does have a massive gaping hole in the ceiling. Way to pick a secure location, kidnapper! Paying the price for his/her poor planning skills, the kidnapper arrives, clad in black with night-vision goggles on, only to find Hanna MIA. Whoops! (So, that was totally Elliott, right? He did grab some dark clothes along with his tools o’ torture earlier.)

As all this was going on, Spencer fills in some of the gang on her Mary encounter and what her research on her files yielded. It seems that Mary was more or less accused of killing a child she was baby-sitting, but there was no real proof, so no charges were filed. Mary was nonetheless committed to Radley until she was 18, at which point she was released, only to return time and again before leaving for good some 23 years ago.

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Mona calls CC, letting everyone know that Mary was on the move from LWR, after getting a call from the not-so-mysterious gentleman caller. Emily arrives, cluing in everyone on the Ali sitch and offering up the red jacket as proof.

Though not without reservations still, Caleb has no such qualms and takes off with it, leaving it at LWR for AD to pick up, which he/she does, placing the “evidence” in a plastic bag for safe-keeping. (Again, it’s totally Elliott, right?)

Caleb just makes the Hanna deadline, also texting AD that it’s Ali who killed Charlotte just for good measure. Hanna is, of course, already on the run, missing one car as it passes by in her frenetic escape, but catching the next one- only to find it’s Mary. Whoops again!

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Emily frets about Ali’s safety, but the girls reassure her Ali will be safe in the guarded hospital. As we see, such is not the case, as Elliott easily gains access, being a doctor there and all, to say nothing of being her husband besides, and he drugs Ali with something or the other. Elliott whispers to her sinisterly how she’ll live a long life…rotting away in the hospital for the rest of her days.

Elliott tells her he knows Ali killed Charlotte and that, “Just like you, Alison, Karma can be such a bitch.” Ouch! Talk about kicking a girl when she’s down. That is where we leave things for now, and that seems about right.

So, did Ali actually kill Charlotte? Doubtful. Was Elliott the kidnapper? Probably. Which also makes him AD. We already know he’s in cahoots with Mary, so that’s part of it as well. They’re the ones looking to avenge Charlotte, obviously.

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I maintain that “Shower” Harvey is Emoji “A” and is hardly done with her shenanigans, and likely the one looking to cover up who killed Charlotte, probably having done it her own damn self. Not sure why, perhaps because Charlotte “betrayed” her, or maybe Charlotte turned on her, or maybe because she stuck her with the water bill at the Dollhouse, which must have been astronomical.

In addition, there is yet another tormentor out there, commonly known as “Uber A,” and which is separate from the others, but may be and likely is, also a team. What their agenda is remains hidden, but it obviously has something to do with the girls, or why would they be tormenting them for so long? I maintain it has something to do with their parents less than anything the girls themselves did, a sort of “sins of the parents”-type deal.

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What do you think? What did you make of the “Pretty Little Liars” premiere? What was your favorite scene? Did you also get a kick out of the showdown between Spencer and Mary? Who do you think AD is? How about Emoji A, aka “Amoji”? Or “Uber A,” assuming it’s someone different from the rest? What would you like to see in the final season? Sound off down below and join me next week for more madness!