Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Pretty Little Liars: “Over a Barrel” recap & review

by Melissa Parkin

The Liars convene at Ezra’s bookstore to fill in each other on recent discoveries. “A” proves that there truly is no rest for the wicked. As Aria vents her anxieties to Emily, over the letter she sent to get into Talmadge, the cash register goes haywire. A massively long receipt is spewed out, and Aria’s fear hits an all-time high. Her entire letter to Jackie is written out on the bottom portion of the slip, along with a message from “A” declaring, “This kind of lie will stay on your permanent record.”

Following their argument outside the bookstore opening, Spencer and Toby are still having a hard time finding middle ground as well. She’s trying to save the group from “A”’s sabotage while he’s trying to stay true to the uniform. Unsure of her future plans, Spencer frets over the bus loads of college acceptance letters pouring in. Her worries are put on the backburner though when her cell rings, and she gets a text from…Mona?
Photo: ABC Family/Getty Images
It’s an alert sent by the security company in regards to Mona’s laptop, giving each of the Liars the GPS coordinates to the computer’s location. Hanna, Emily, and Aria have to pass on the opportunity to recover it though, as they've got business of their own to take care of. Emily is at odds with her new work colleague, as she deals with Paige’s recent departure. Hanna can’t get her mother to open up about her weekend fling with Alison’s brother. This problem only worsens as she’s informed that Ted, Mrs. Marin’s boyfriend, is back in town and preparing to propose to her mom.

Aria receives an anonymous message from someone simply identifying themselves as “H.” This mystery person claims to be tired of running and wishes to meet her at the Grill come noon. She’s set out on a wild goose chase; “H” is a no-show. “H” then tells her to go to the flower shop on Maple and Prescott. The florist there gives her a bouquet with instructions to deliver them to Hanna’s house. Inside the gift is a card supposedly from Jason, hinting at the affair between him and Mrs. Marin. Things only get more complicated when Ted pops the question during dessert, leaving Hanna’s mother floored and without an answer.

Spencer and Caleb head over to the storage place specified in Mona’s alert. The pair take a page out of the John McClain handbook and crawl through an air duct vent to sneak into the shrouded locked unit. Upon arrival, they discover plastic wrapped evidence stored on all the shelves, including Mona’s laptop and even bloodstained clothes. Fingering Holbrook as the culprit, they realize that “A” is building a falsified case against the Liars for Mona’s murder. After a scare from a regular Heisenberg suit, Caleb and Spencer come across a large barrel in the corner of the unit, along with a large batch of antacid tablets and denatured alcohol. When mixed with water, the toxic brew can either preserve a corpse, or completely dissolve it. The electricity cuts out just as Spencer prepares to open the barrel. The two bail out without resolve as to its contents, but Caleb does discover something when he returns home. He tracks down the name on the storage unit, hoping to pin Holbrook to the evidence inside. Instead, he finds Hanna’s name on the rental agreement, and he’s more than convinced that Mona’s body is in it.

The mystery this week is the highlight of the show, but the character development seems to be lacking. With the series favored for its suspense and epic romance, it’s disappointing to see melodrama clogging the runtime. Aria’s guilt in regard to Ezra doesn't feel overly critical. Considering the ups and downs those two have been through, Aria’s letter to Jackie amounts to that of a speed bump. Emily doesn't really get the chance to properly grieve over her loss either. Can’t a girl get a little time for mourning? The biggest problem with the recent storyline is between Spencer and Toby. After everything this beloved pair has gone through together, the “moral” conflict now standing between them just feels exaggerated. They used to be the strongest couple on the show, but things suddenly hit the fan because…why? The chemistry between Caleb and Spencer proves to be the best out of the cast this week. Spencer’s neurotic mindset alongside Caleb’s banter and matter-of-fact attitude blends well. Hopefully, the melodrama plaguing the current storyline will wrap itself up quickly to avoid unnecessary tension. If the writers can tighten things back up, and focus on the heightened sense of paranoia that makes the show so noteworthy, PLL will be back on track.

Pretty Little Liars: “Over a Barrel” Episode Rating:  B -
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