Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Pretty Little Liars: “Game On, Charles” recap & review

by Melissa Parkin 

PLL kicks off where it ended last season. Upon escaping above ground from “A”’s compound, the girls find themselves trapped inside an electrically charged fenced-in area. As punishment for their actions, Charles leaves them outside to brave the conditions for days. When Charles’s dollhouse bunker finally opens, the girls regrettably head back inside, only for “A” to snatch hold of Mona and gas the remaining girls, rendering the Liars unconscious.

Charles makes it clear who’s in charge as the girls awaken naked on morgue slabs. The Liars discover they’re still inside “A”’s lair when Mona enters the mysterious room playing nurse. Vanderwaal finally takes a stand against Charles, only to be taken away to “the hole”. Aria, Spencer, Emily, and Hanna succumb to the pressure and do as “A” demands, heading inside each of their mock-bedrooms. Screams ensue from behind closed doors before the screen cuts to black.

ABC Family/Eric McCandless
Three weeks later, Alison speaks with the media after being officially exonerated for Mona’s murder. Andrew Campbell is the prime suspect in the Liars’ disappearance, and Ali pleads to the cameras for her friends’ safe return and for the police to respect her privacy. It turns out that the whole press conference was merely a ruse set up by Detective Tanner in an attempt to lure “A” out of hiding. As the police wait inside the DeLaurentis house for Charles to make his move, Ali makes one of her own. With the help of Ezra, Caleb, and Toby, she manages to send Tanner and company out on a wild goose chase so that she can escape from her house.

The Liars finally emerged from each of their living quarters, having undergone unspeakable torture during the past three weeks. None of the girls can find the words to express what happened, but the fact that Aria’s hair is now chopped off and dyed in streaks of pink again . . . . A lot of freaky things went down. The four meet up in Mona’s room, only to find boxes full of Alison’s belongings occupying the space…and no Mona. As the girls comb through the personal effects, Spencer discovers one of Charles’s old toys. He’s a DeLaurentis. They also realize something else. All of the stuff in each of the girls’ bedrooms was stolen from them over a period of time. It’s been Charles’s plan all along to lock them up in his sadistic “dollhouse.”

As it turns out, Alison left a hidden message inside her speech to the press earlier, telling Charles to convene with her at the Kissing Rock. Ezra and Caleb pick up Alison after she eludes the police, and they drive her out to meet “A.” To ensure her safety, Caleb puts a tracking device inside Alison’s heels so that he and Ezra can track her with the hopes of “A” bringing Ali to the girls. The plan goes south though when Alison heads to the rendezvous point. Charles isn’t there, but a car is. She gets inside, and the GPS instructs her to drive out to Tyler State Park. Upon arrival, the car runs out of gas. Ali hits the button for roadside assistance, only to get “A” telling her to open the trunk. Caleb and Ezra arrive at the spot soon after, but Ali’s nowhere in sight. They search the abandoned car, finding an automated greeting card declaring that Alison leave all her belongings behind, including her clothes and shoes, and start walking.

Forced to change into that notorious yellow blouse, she treks through the woods as the girls plan their own escape from below. Having witnessed “A”’s vanishing act from the vault, Spencer knows there’s a secret entrance to the room. The Liars find it and make a statement by burning all of Charles’s precious keepsakes inside. Forced to take action, “A” pulls the fire alarm. Caleb and Ezra catch up to Alison as the three overhear the whaling coming from underground.

Aria, Emily, Hanna, and Spencer scour the bunker for Mona, finding her trapped down in a pit. They rescue her and flee to the surface just as Caleb, Ezra, Alison, and the police arrive on scene. After inspecting the bunker, another girl is found inside. Sarah Harvey. Sarah went missing the same time as Ali initially did.  She was dressed to look just like Ali?

Where to start….

An awful lot takes place over the course of this episode, but the proclaimed #SummerOfAnswers begs far more questions at this point. Who is Charles? Who is this Sarah Harvey? What does she have to do with any of this? Why would Tanner leave all the curtains drawn open in the downstairs when the police are supposed to be hiding out in the family room? Seriously, do the police think that a mastermind like “A” isn’t capable of looking through a window to see if the coast is clear first? Yikes.

With that last peeve aside, the episode is an exceptionally strong opener to kick off season six. Admittedly, the dollhouse captivity seemed a bit outlandish when introduced in March’s finale, but it plays out surprisingly well. With striking visuals, including the girls’ electrically fenced-in imprisonment and the mock morgue scene, kudos goes out to Chad Lowe for the direction of this episode. The emotional burdens and particularly dark atmosphere are captured flawlessly, showcasing the truly grisly nature of unfolding events.

Pretty Little Liars - “Game On, Charles” Rating:  A -


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