by Melissa Parkin
A picture says a thousand words, and “A”’s got four to showcase. Media erupts with the news of Charles DeLaurentis being named as the lead suspect for his mother’s murder and the Liars’ kidnapping. Plagued by the sweet memory of Charles’s birthday party when they were little, Alison can’t bring herself to believe that her brother would do something so vicious. Already stressed about her suspicious scholarship, Hanna doesn’t bother beating around the bush and calls out Ali on her show of sympathy towards Charles before she storms off.
Things continue to only get worse when Hanna’s mother refuses to believe “A” is behind the scholarship her daughter received, and Aria’s mother isn’t seeing eye to eye with her child either. After being chosen as a finalist in a photography contest, Aria gets the chance to have her work showcased at a local exhibit. Her hopes are squandered though when Mrs. Montgomery refuses to let her go out of safety concerns. Frustrated, Aria goes to the Brew and vents to Clark, who is all too curious in finding out more about “A.” Ezra overhears the conversation and tells Aria that he’s worried over the matter of her new friend. This inspires Aria to ask for a police escort to the art exhibit, which Detective Tanner surprisingly green lights.
With her mother’s bitter blessing, Aria prepares for her big night. She consults Emily for some fashion advice, and the two girls get to talking. Emily spills the beans about her recent fling with Sarah Harvey and the hopes of asking the pixie blonde to prom. This brings up the sore subject about whether or not the Liars will even be able to go. Apparently, the school has raised some concerns over the safety of the event if the girls were to attend; this leaves all their plans in limbo.
School dances are the last things on Hanna and Spencer’s minds. The pair decides to play detective by following the money trail of Hanna’s scholarship payday, leading them to the Carissimi Group. After the duo gets inside the corporate office to personally return the gifted money, they’re introduced to the lucrative Rhys Matthews, a Jason DeLaurentis lookalike. Of course, the girls jump the gun and assume he’s Charles.
Despite Spencer wanting to keep the potential bombshell under wraps for the night, Hanna spills the beans to Emily after arriving at Aria’s art exhibit. Not wanting to spoil the evening for Aria, the girls decide to hold off telling her about Rhys. Little good it does. As the party commences, Aria’s section of the gallery is unveiled, but it’s not her work on display. Instead, it’s the staged autopsy photos “A” took of the Liars while they were drugged in the Dollhouse. Mrs. Montgomery gives Detective Tanner a verbal lashing for the police departments’ incompetence as Ezra consoles a shaken Aria. After spotting Rhys Matthews parked outside the gallery, Spencer, Emily, and Hanna sneak off and tail his car to Rosewood’s abandoned doll factory, where Clark of all people shows up to meet with him. To only make matters more complicated, the infamous Red Coat reemerges, giving tickets for senior prom to “A” from the back of a black limousine.
With just one episode away from the big “A” reveal, all the pieces of this complex puzzle should be falling into place by now. Unfortunately, more questions are begged than answers given. Newcomer Clark’s suspected betrayal leaves no impact of shock, Rhys is almost certainly nothing more than another red herring, and the melodrama woven into the plot feels like filler. Remember the good old days when PLL left you gasping? Like season 3’s midseason finale, where we discovered that Toby was part of the “A”-team, or season one’s moment when Hanna was run down by a car with “A” behind the wheel, or when Ezra was shot on the rooftop in season four. These moments sent chills coursing up our spines because we felt a connection to these characters. With the exception of the Liars and their men, all the faces in season six are unfamiliar and underdeveloped. Who are Leslie, Lorenzo, Sarah, Rhys, and Clark? Don’t ask us, because we sure as heck wouldn’t know. Why should we care? Why should we be shocked by their actions? Answer: we shouldn’t.
And that’s what’s disappointing. PLL wove a web so big that we must wonder now if it just became too big for its own good. Nowadays, everything feels like misdirection and meandering subplots. The fact that fans have to wonder if Charles is even someone the show has introduced yet is maddening. Plus, how can we forget the show runners’ trickery for advertising the season five finale as the #BigAReveal? We were promised “A”’s identity, and all we got was the meaningless name “Charles.” Really? It could have been “Bologna” at that point, because it still wouldn’t have made a difference. It meant nothing to us. That’s not a reveal. It’s an awful clue. Because we’ve been bamboozled before by PLL, can we really count on an honest, shocking reveal come August 11th? Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Pretty Little Liars - “FrAmed” Rating: C -