Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Pretty Little Liars: “I’m a Good Girl, I Am” Recap & Review

PLL starts with a bang as author Sara Shepard makes a special guest appearance. Mona’s old friend, Lesli Stone, takes the stand, and her testimony isn’t particularly kind (or honest). It doesn’t help that Alison’s public label as the ultimate “Mean Girl” further tarnishes her image. The only hope that she has is for someone to corroborate her whereabouts on Thanksgiving Day. Months back at the park awaiting Cyrus’s arrival, Alison heard someone inside one of the large pipes near where she was sitting. The girls track down the lead, but it winds up being a dead-end. Mike’s eagerness to help with Alison’s case throws the Montgomery clan into hot water. It’s obvious he wants to testify, but Aria puts the kibosh on that when “A” ships a large box to their house with a huge cow tongue inside.

Aria convinces Mike to go with Ezra out to his cabin, and the boys find an unwanted guest waiting inside for the two. Caleb, the cabin crasher, insists that Mike return to Rosewood for the sake of Hanna and Ali, but Ezra argues differently. During the spat, the youngest Montgomery exits stage left and takes the car, only to be attacked. Ezra and Caleb race after him and come across an old Pathfinder’s camp where a mysterious archer starts firing at the boys. With arrows flying through the air, they flee from the scene before coming across Mike. Having been pepper sprayed in the eyes and knocked unconscious, “A” ties Mike up and leaves him for the others to find.

Caleb and Ezra race to Detective Tanner, relaying the ordeal. Being the archetypal cop in town, Tanner simply brushes them off. Yep, one of Rosewood P.D.’s finest at work. Andrew continues to up the creep factor with every discussion he shares with Aria. First, he blows a gasket over Aria asking for Ezra’s help instead of his. Then after the whole crazy target practice at the scout camp, Andrew mentions to Aria that he just so happens to be an award-winning Pathfinder. No, you don’t say?

Alison DeLaurentis may be the prettiest prisoner of them all, and she’s going to be wearing a whole lot of orange…for life. Following a grueling murder trial, the verdict finally comes in, and it’s unanimous. Guilty. The Liars remain shell-shocked by the ruling, until Aria notices Detective Tanner waiting for all the girls. Without any explanation over the charges filed against them, Spencer, Aria, and Emily get hauled off to be processed before entering the slammer.

The plot of this episode does meander here and there, but “I’m a Good Girl, I Am” is entertaining overall, even if outlandishly so. Mike’s commonsense (or lack thereof) to go venture out alone in the woods is blatant proof that the kid got what was coming to him. The mentioning of Andrew’s archery skills immediately after Hawkeye apparently attacks Mike, Ezra, and Caleb was about as subtle as a brick to the small of one’s back. And the whole Kendra storyline was pure time filler. We already knew Alison was framed, so Kendra’s confession wasn’t for the audience’s sake. The plotline wound up being put on a fast track to nowhere. The only good news to take away from the episode would probably be Toby’s declaration of love to Spencer. Thank the Lord! About time, man. Glad nobody held their breath waiting for this turnaround. Geez.

Detective Tanner has to be working for the “A”-team. Someone gets attacked, and she treats it like it was a jaywalking violation. How could you be in that job position and be that useless? She’s smarter than that, and we all know it. With “A”’s identity apparently being revealed next week, it makes us wonder…who’s under the hood? Some still think Mona’s alive (strongly agree), some think Aria might be behind the whole debacle, and whispers still linger over Wren’s involvement. Remember, how could “A” sabotage Spencer’s Oxford interview and know the exact moment the blood vials would bleed out…unless “A” was there in England? Definitely something to think about.

Pretty Little Liars - “I’m a Good Girl, I Am” Rating:  A -

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Pretty Little Liars: “The Melody Lingers On” Recap & Review

The prior Queen Bee of Rosewood finds herself in the hot seat this week as her trial for murdering Mona Vanderwall begins. Since the evidence against Alison is all circumstantial, the prosecution decides to play dirty. Instead of presenting the details of the case, the chief prosecutor resorts to defaming Alison’s character. Given that the girl lies more than a rug, painting an unflattering image of her to the jury comes all too easy. It doesn’t help that “A” assists the prosecution by exposing the truth about Ali’s fake kidnapping story.

The prosecution doesn’t stop there. Hitching a slew of Ali’s loved ones to her ruinous wagon, they force Jason to testify as a witness against his own sister. Once placed on the stand, he tries to do right by Ali, insisting upon her innocence. The tables turn on him though as the prosecution throws him under the bus for his change of heart, resulting in him having to confess to his affair with Mrs. Marin in the process. Ashley breaks things off with Ted after her affair with Jason reaches the public’s attention…but the jury’s still out on whether Ted accepted the decision or not.

The Liars desperately seek evidence to help out both Ali and Hanna by trying to contact Varjak. Using one of Caleb’s burner phones, they text the mysterious blackmailer with the hopes that “A” will reach out. Following a visit with Hanna, Caleb loses his cool and snatches Aria’s phone when Varjak calls her cell after she displays apprehension about answering. He accepts the call, but the anonymous source doesn’t say anything. Instead, Édith Piaf’s song “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” plays over the speaker. The girls relay the message to Hanna, and she recognizes the tune. Mona used to play it in her room. Going over to the Vanderwaal residence, the girls discover Mona’s room has been ransacked by “A”. Aria insists on not giving up on their search, and Spencer winds up uncovering a note hidden between the silver glass and the backing of Mona’s handheld vanity mirror.

“Chandelier’s rituals. Sister launched lair. A ruler’s list chained.”

Tensions rise with everyone in town and Andrew suddenly goes from Prince Charming to Prime Suspect, casting dispersions on the late Mona Vanderwaal right to Aria’s face. He even appears outside Mona’s house when the Liars are inside investigating. “A”’s little break-in at Mona’s prior to the Liars’ arrival results in a distinct screwdriver being wedged in the floorboards by a broken window. It’s later processed by the police, revealing it came from Boo Boo’s Ice Cream Factory. The show closes out on “A” as the hooded figure shreds all the records related to ‘Varjak,’ using the bits of paper to line the bottom of a birdcage containing Ali’s parrot.

Despite the stakes being high for Alison and Hanna, nothing particularly compelling seems to surface during this episode. Pure regurgitation of prior events plagues the entirety of the trial, and none of the conversations occurring outside of the courtroom really drives the storyline. Everyone pretty much laments over past mistakes. As for the cryptic mirror message, it’s anyone’s guess on what it could possibly mean. With the verdict of Alison’s trial next week, things will hopefully pick up, but until then, it’s a little disappointing. Aria’s behavior really is the only aspect worth reminiscing over. Why did Varjak call her phone when she specifically never tried reaching out to him/her? Plus, her insistency for the rest of the Liars to keep looking through Mona’s room after it appeared “A” already got what they came for is highly suspicious. Could Miss Montgomery really be the notorious blackmailer?

Pretty Little Liars - “The Melody Lingers On” Rating:  C +

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Pretty Little Liars: “To Plea Or Not to Plea” Recap & Review

To plea or not to plea. That certainly is the question of the hour. Detective Tanner has pegged Hanna as Alison’s partner in crime, convincing the D.A. to offer a plea bargain for Ali’s confession. So long as Ms. DeLaurentis admits to killing Mona and naming Hanna as her accomplice, Ali will receive a reduced sentence to fifteen years in prison with the possibility for parole in ten. Given Alison’s innocence, she scoffs at the deal, until her lawyer lays out the facts. Her chances of acquittal are slim to none. If she loses, she’s facing life in prison. Mrs. Hastings gets wind of this development and hurries over to the Marin’s, informing Hanna’s mother of the ordeal.
Emily seeks out Ezra’s help in trying to uncover the true identity of “Varjak.” James Neilan, the attorney who delivered Mona’s posthumous letter to Hanna during the Christmas special, knows something. Ezra agrees to pay him a visit, calling out the lawyer for his involvement in Mona’s murder. Fitz presses him for information, but comes up empty-handed. Aria meets up with Emily who’s waiting for Ezra outside Neilan’s office. Given that “Ezria” is on what Ross Geller would call a “break,” this leads to an uncomfortable run-in between the separated couple when Ezra exits the building. Thankfully, Fitz managed to rattle Neilan’s cage enough, because the attorney soon rushes out from his office with his cell to his ear. He tears off down the street, and the trio hops into Aria’s car to tail him.
They eventually come to a gated piece of property deep in the woods. Emily takes off out of the car just as Aria receives a text from Andrew. The distraction causes Ezra and Aria to arrive at the front gate after it closes, but Emily thankfully managed to slip inside beforehand. Now, all alone, Ms. Fields approaches a cabin, seeing Neilan enter the premises. Clearly flustered, Mona’s former attorney empties out the safe inside. Emily takes advantage of the distraction and begins sifting through the garbage left outside, coming across a receipt from Tony’s Pizza with the name and number of Varjak listed on the slip.
Meanwhile in London, Spencer goes against her mother’s wishes and rebooks her flight to head back home. Melissa, however, encourages her to stay. Some strings were pulled and Spencer gets another interview set up for St. Andrews. The sisters finally make amends and agree to a fresh start. Succumbing to her new plans, Spencer decides to lighten up. She enjoys her much needed break away from Rosewood with Wren and Melissa’s flat mate, Colin, keeping her company. The Englishman invites her to see a rendition of Hamlet with him, and the pair goes out for drinks afterward. Some banter exchanges between the two, and they kiss once arriving back at the flat.
Sadly, Hanna’s not sharing in her good fortune. Ali receives threats insisting she take the plea bargain, and her unwillingness gets her roughed up behind bars. Finally reaching her breaking point, she decides to go through with the deal. Caleb races over to Hanna’s house, informing her that a warrant has been issued for her arrest. In a state of panic, Hanna prepares to run, but Caleb convinces her otherwise. She must come clean with Tanner about “A”. That’s the only way she’ll get out of this. With all the threats from “A” still on her phone as proof, she agrees. The two go down to the precinct to confess to Tanner, but just as they’re about to speak with the detective, Hanna’s phone goes on the fritz. “A”’s trusty skills with technology emerge in the form of a hack, wiping out all the messages sent from the blackmailer.
The other girls inform Spencer of Hanna’s arrest, and they receive a message from “A” calling for a clean slate. Flipping through the texting history, they all discover that “A” hacked each of their phones as well, and any evidence they had is now gone. Ali refuses to sign the plea bargain, making Hanna’s future look a bit brighter. Unfortunately, Hanna gets put behind bars anyway, but to everyone’s surprise, it wasn’t Alison’s doing. Mona’s blood-covered clothes were discovered by police, and forensics revealed a sample of Hanna’s own blood on the sweater.
“To Plea Or Not to Plea” falters more frequently than it delivers in execution. Melodrama reigns supreme over the storyline, filling a majority of the runtime with utter fluff. The entire hour recap can be summed up in a single sentence: Aria breaks up with Ezra and Hanna gets arrested. The End.
The fluff patting the runtime only points out what everyone already figured was going to happen. Aria’s relationship with Ezra hasn’t show any progress for a number of episodes with no hope in sight, so Aria’s decision to end things seems more like a mercy killing than a bombshell. The same goes for Spencer. As of recently, her relationship with Toby has been about as smooth of a ride as sitting in the back of a school bus going down a gravel road. The way that both girls handle their rocky relationships is the problem. Love triangles are never the answer to resolving conflicts; in fact, its sole purpose these days is to only make things worse. If Aria naturally gravitated towards Andrew and Spencer found herself swept off her feet by Colin or Jonny after an official break up, then all’s well. Technical cheating on both their parts is a bit too bitter to digest, especially when the couples in question have been together for numerous seasons. Everything falling apart all at once just reads as pure melodrama than natural progression. And let’s not even get started on the recent build-ups suddenly hitting brick walls. The entire storyline with Mike’s involvement in Mona’s murder gets wiped out entirely five minutes into the show. With only two episodes left to the #BigAReveal, things better shape up and fast.
Pretty Little Liars - “To Plea Or Not to Plea” Rating:  C