‘Pretty Little Liars’ Series Finale Review: Chaos A.D. (Or, A.D.’s Nuts)

I give you my final review, in the form of an open letter. Enjoy! (Spoilers, obviously.)

PLL finale 1

June 28th, 2017

Dear Bitches I. Marlene King and the “PLL” Community,

Well, that’s one way to end a series.

After seven season of insanity, everything came down to one hour-and-a-half finale, over which a whole lot of stuff went down, some of it satisfying, some of it not so much, almost all of it gloriously nuts. Would you have wanted anything less, really?

I’ve reviewed “Pretty Little Liars” longer than any other show- almost the entirety of its seven-year run, in fact. Since the show started, I’ve completed my undergraduate studies and obtained a Bachelor’s Degree, then attended graduate school and garnered my Master’s Degree in Creative Writing. I’ve moved three times- four if you count switching dorms at one point to another room.

Both of my nieces graduated high school and started college, one of them moving out of her home for the first time. Friends got married, friends got divorced, some had kids. I’ve dated any number of women, one of which said, and I quote: “You have really great taste otherwise- why do you like this teen soap opera crap?” We don’t date anymore.

PLL finale 5

Actually, my liking “PLL” makes perfect sense if you really know me. My all-time favorite show is “Twin Peaks”– a show with which “PLL” clearly shares some DNA, being as both revolve around the death of a high school girl that sends the town reeling. (In the case of “PLL,” “death” should be in quotes, obvi.)

Both shows also have moments of undeniable surreal weirdness. Jenna and Mona would be right at home in “Twin Peaks,” then or now. (That’s yet another thing that happened since “PLL” came on the air- against all odds, “Twin Peaks” was revived. Who’d have thought?)

My all-time fave teen movie is “Heathers,” and hovering right around the top are movies like “Mean Girls,” “Jawbreaker” and “Pretty Persuasion.” Every last one of them revolve around cliques of girls tormenting others, in some cases until certain ones reach a breaking point and get revenge.

Factor in an unabashed love of old-school Film Noir, Hitchcock and murder mysteries in general, and “PLL” is like a perfect storm of things I adore, so my loving it isn’t that surprising, really, despite not being a particularly coveted part of their so-called “demo.” But, to shout-out my fave podcast about the series, “Bros Watch PLL, Too.” (Benjamin Light and Marco Sparks, you will be missed- thanks for all the free funny.)

PLL finale 4

Oh, don’t get me wrong. The show has often been ludicrous, and threatened to go completely off the rails any number of times. There are plot holes you could drive a school bus full of mean girls through, many of which remain unresolved, despite the writers’ semi-best efforts. But I’m also a big fan of movies and shows that are so-bad-they’re-good, so it’s all the same to me.

Love it or love to hate-watch it, “PLL” was a near-constant, steady source of persistent online fandom that helped it to rule online media like no show before or since. What little I’ve seen of online reaction pretty much ensures that it won’t die down for some time to come, even amongst the haters. You might be bashing it now, but hey- you’re the ones who kept watching it, even till the bitter end.

PLL finale 8

The finale was expertly conceived to cover all bases, while glossing over many others. There was some meta-commentary: Aria and Ezra walking the studio lot (where they were making a movie based on his and Aria’s book!), making wisecracks about Aria’s “ugly cry” and talking old movies; the group selfie; I. Marlene King cropping up at Ezaria’s wedding long enough to do the “shh!” thing with her finger; one dollhouse giving way to another dollhouse, and so on.

There was some fan service: Ali proposing to Emily- in a fugly pug sweatshirt, no less; the long-awaited Ezaria wedding; Hanna announcing her pregnancy; some choice Charlotte flashback shenanigans; the final group hug scene with the girls; and that full-circle ending in the barn with “PLL” 2.0.- implying that the party might not stop with this iteration of the show.

PLL finale 9

There was some “A”-level trolling: the opening dream sequence, complete with Lucas tap-dancing and Jenna-and-the-horse foreshadowing; the show referenced Maya without explaining what “Maya knew”; the wine moms shouted-out their immortal “trapped in the basement” moment without actually explaining how they got out of the basement; what seemed to be Melissa-as-“A” turned out to be Mona-in-a-Melissa mask (thus dashing my long-held beliefs that Melissa was “Uber-A”); and King trying her best to make “PLL-Junior League Edition” a thing (much like “fetch,” it’s not going to happen- sorry IMK, you need to quit while you’re semi-ahead).

Best of all, there were some genuine WTF moments to go out on: the big London twin reveal and especially the way it was revealed, with Spencer thinking she was looking in a mirror until “she” did something else; the reveal that Dr. Wren was the father of Ali’s twin (!) babies and that Twincer killed him and made his ashes into a necklace (!!); the fact that it was essentially a horse (!!!) and Jenna’s keen sense of smell that outed Alex as the twin; the realization that it was Alex sleeping with Toby instead of Spencer since Yvonne died- suck on that, Spoby fans- and the big reveal that Mona hired her heretofore unknown French BF to pose as a cop so that she could kidnap Mary and Alex and hold them hostage in her own personal dollhouse.

PLL finale 3

All of that was delightfully demented, not in the least Alex’s I-think-it-was-supposed-to-be-Cockney accent, which Troian Bellisario later admitted in the after-show was based on no less than late rocker Sid Vicious! Say what you will about it, the performance was go-for-broke bonkers at the very least, and “PLL”- and TV in general- at its most delightfully twisted.

Oh, to be sure, I had some quibbles. Like, for instance, the fact that the group managed to suss out that Spencer had a “bad” twin in the first place and track down the location of her evil lair in near-record time, given that they’ve been duped by one “A” after another for years on end. To say nothing of the fact that evil geniuses managed to build not one, but TWO freaking underground lairs in Rosewood over the course of, what, under a decade without raising any eyebrows, including one that simulated a small neighborhood?! Seriously?

So, yeah, a lot of this didn’t add up, there were definitely some time-line problems with a lot of the reveals over the years, and I’ve no doubt a lot of this wouldn’t hold up to any kind of intense scrutiny, and yet… I kind of don’t care. After a so-so back-half of the seventh season that started off a little rickety, with one too many whiffed episodes and go-nowhere plotlines, it was nice to see the show boot and rally for a strong, if unbelievably crazy last few episodes. Would you honestly want it any other way? Logic should be damned in the “PLL”-verse.

PLL finale 2

I suppose my favorite thing about the whole crazy affair was that Mona, my all-time favorite “PLL” character, was effectively the “hero,” in a sense, of the entire series- and she herself began the show as the O.G. “A.” villain!

Think about it- she literally got away with murder; tormented the girls many, many times; outfoxed several iterations of “A” and survived kidnapping, near-death, being literally driven crazy on multiple occasions, incarceration in a mental institution; the list goes on. And yet, she still came out on top, living to torment others (specifically Mary and Alex) another day in France with a hunky in-cahoots BF, no less, running- what else?- a doll store! Mona is kind of the best. You gotta love it.

Oh, I’m sure some people hated all this, if what I’ve already seen online is any indication. Yes, I suppose on a certain level, it is disappointing that “Uber A” wasn’t someone we’ve known even existed all this time, AGAIN. I suppose, technically, we have known both of them in a sense, for a while now, but not in a traditional sense, that’s for sure.

Really, though, the only “A” that we’ve known the whole time was Mona, and her reveal was kind of the best reveal, as it wasn’t a cheat, even if it was straight from the books. God bless them for not killing her off back then- or later on, for that matter.

PLL finale 11 (2)

But honestly, it was actually after Mona’s reveal that the show really went into insanity overdrive, and it’s been a lot of fun since, so I can’t say I’d change much of anything, warts and all. Okay, maybe I’d lose some of the more useless characters that never amounted to anything and some of the wonkier subplots that never went anywhere, but overall, it was a genuinely fun ride. (Hanna’s dance meltdown will always occupy a special place in my heart.) In all seriousness, the more out-there it got, the more I enjoyed it, even as it made less and less sense and defied logic at nearly every turn.

I’ll allow that the show dragged a bit here and there, and that the cops were almost entirely clueless and fumbled the ball at near-every turn. I’ll also allow that it’s completely unbelievable that most of these girls didn’t end up doing hard time. Or that more than a few things didn’t add up in the end. That’s what happens when a show revolving around various mysteries runs for so long- tying up all the loose ends becomes near-impossible. Just ask “Lost.”

PLL finale 6

But on the whole, I just loved the show, and I will legitimately miss it now that’s it’s gone. I went through a lot of stuff, as mentioned above, during the show’s run, and I will always associate it with a particular time in my life during which I went through the transition from a young adult to a bona fide man, with actual responsibilities in life and all that entails, for better or worse. It’s not overstating matters to say I grew up with the show, even if I didn’t come of age in general with it, like a lot of “PLL” viewers. (For that, there will always be “Buffy.”)

Shows may come and go, but “Pretty Little Liars” will always remind me of a specific, exciting time in my life, and that’s no small thing, no matter what some may think of it in the short term after it ends. It was one hell of a ride, warts and all, and I will always think back on it fondly, even as I laugh about how silly it got at times.

I hope to see the core cast go onto bigger, and maybe even better things, and I will definitely continue to follow their careers, much as I have the other stars from shows I’ve loved over the years that also held a special place in my heart. Lightning may never quite strike twice for them in this same way- how could it?- but I wish them the best in all they do. Ditto the writers, directors and other members of the crew that helped to make the show so memorable over the years. Can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

PLL finale 10

Most of all, I want to give a shout-out to my fellow fans and armchair detectives, whose wild theories, hilarious commentary, and snarky comebacks to all those nutty twists helped make everything so enjoyable during the show’s run.

Thanks for your comments, for engaging with me and others online, and for just being amusingly upfront and unflinching in your reactions to the show, both good and bad. You helped keep me sane and honest, probably more than I would have, if left to my own devices.

The online community was truly an experience unto itself, and easily one of the best parts of watching the show. In a very real way, you guys helped redefine how one watches television, and how social media can directly affect television itself, for better or for worse, and that’s no small thing.

Thanks for reading my columns over the years, and by all means, let me know what you thought of the finale in general and the series as a whole down below. It was a great, fun ride, IMHO, and I was glad to have it and share it with you. Here’s hoping we have another one like it sometime!

PLL finale 7

Yours truly…bitches (sorry, couldn’t resist- it’s my last review!),

Mark Trammell

P.S.- Seriously, I.M.K.- don’t make a “PLL 2,” the sequel. Have you learned nothing from “Ravenswood”? Keep the original show’s legacy intact, if you don’t mind. Unless it’s “Wine Moms,” the Series- cuz that would be awesome. 😉

Regardless- you keep doing you, and never mind the haters. Peace, kisses and much love!