Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Pretty Little Liars: “How the A Stole Christmas” recap & review

by Melissa Parkin

Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images
It’s that time of year again. Bring in the Santa hats, the Christmas trees, and the…knife-wielding psychopath.

Considering Toby’s car accident, Spencer’s arrest for murder, and the recent fatality to hit Rosewood, the Liars didn't have the happiest of Thanksgivings. Deaths are fairly commonplace in shows like Game of Thrones. In the world of PLL though, being a main player in the series pretty much guarantees protection from taking a dirt nap. That safety net tore apart however in the form of the “Fatal Finale” when Janel Parrish’s Mona is declared dead by police after a bloody confrontation in her house, despite there being no body. Clinging to short-lived relief that Mona faked her death, and staged the murder scene, terror sets in as she’s displayed with frozen features, in the trunk of A’s car.

A month later, everyone’s still trying to recover. Mona takes the opportunity to reach out to a couple of people from beyond the grave. As the Liars take a stroll through downtown Rosewood, Hanna receives a message from Mona, via lawyer, as part of her last will and testament. Inside the envelope are blueprints to Alison’s house, pointing out all her hiding places. The team devises a plan, with this new information, hoping that they can dig up evidence on Alison to vindicate Spencer of Bethany’s murder.

It wouldn't be Christmas without the notorious A giving the girls a proper holiday greeting. Whoever thought a snow globe from a charity Santa could be so creepy? Alison isn't getting off scot-free either. The ghost of Christmas past comes to haunt her, in her sleep, in the form of Mona. As everyone in Rosewood should know by now, secrets always have a way of unearthing themselves. Even with a brutal blizzard moving into town, Spencer can't help but sweat. Having made bail, she’s more determined than ever to prove her innocence before finding herself locked behind bars for good.

In order to keep an eye on Alison, the Liars attend the DiLaurentis Christmas Eve Ice Ball. After confirming Alison’s arrival, Hanna and Spencer slip out of the bash and sneak into Alison’s house. As Emily and Aria stay behind, Aria catches Alison kissing someone dressed as Santa Claus. Once on the prowl, she realizes Detective Holbrook just so happens to be there, donning a Saint Nick suit of his own. Among those revelations, Sydney and Jenna reveal their true motives for befriending Alison. They, along with everyone else, suspect Alison killed Mona, and that fear forces them to play nice with her to stay off her hit list.

Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images
With Toby’s leg still recovering from the car accident, he’s bound to a wheelchair. He still doesn’t let this disadvantage hold him back from being put to good use. Staying up in Spencer’s bedroom, he serves as a lookout because he can view the DiLaurentis house from her window. As Hanna and Spencer canvass Alison’s home, Toby spots the infamous hooded figure, A, lurking in the downstairs. Toby tries to warn the girls, but Hanna doesn't get the message since she left her phone in the family room. Sauntering about the DiLaurentis house with some serrated steel in hand, A thankfully doesn't spot Spencer hiding behind a nearby couch. The same luck doesn't follow Hanna, as she winds up confronting the knife-wielding A in the attic.

Upon hearing Hanna’s scream, Spencer races up to her and finds her passed out on the floor. A escaped through a window. Despite the nasty bump on her head, Hanna proves the mission was well worth it. She uncovers a letter among Alison’s things that proves Alison didn't only know Bethany, but that she also lured her to the DiLaurentis house on Labor Day. This could be Spencer’s get-out-of-jail free card, as it creates enough reasonable doubt to shift suspicion to Alison for Bethany’s murder. As the girls revel in their victory, Mona continues to haunt Alison in her dreams. This ghost of Christmas future foretells of Alison’s death, causing Alison to wake up screaming from her sleep. 

The blizzard rolling into Rosewood takes an ugly turn, and the Liars find themselves snowed in at Spencer’s house with Toby, Caleb, Ezra, and Paige also in attendance. The gang celebrates the holiday together, taking pleasure in each other’s company. A lonely Alison wanders into the yard and steals a look inside Spencer’s kitchen window, seeing the group in all their merriment before she heads back to her own house next door.

Now, it wouldn't be a Pretty Little Liars Christmas without a perfect A send off. Bells toll from outside Spencer’s place, causing the gang to go and investigate. As they head out to the back porch, they're greeted with a beautiful, decked out Christmas tree in front of Spencer’s barn. The gorgeous sight soon turns grim as the words Merry Christmas, Bitches – A light up in massive letters beside the tree.

As per usual, Pretty Little Liars continues to balance teen drama, romance, and suspense in its perfect blend of contemporary television. The plot manages to be taut while expanding to everyone’s storylines. The costume designs are exceptional in this episode, particularly Emily’s ball gown. It’s also a pleasure to see Janel Parrish’s return. Obviously, she’s having all too much fun playing Alison’s feisty conscience. With the long wait since August’s “Fatal Finale,” “How the A Stole Christmas” gives fans quite the happy helping of all the things we love to see, as it builds anticipation for the show’s January 6th return.

Pretty Little Liars: “How the A Stole Christmas” Rating: A (how appropriate)

  
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