Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Pretty Little Liars: “Songs of Innocence” recap & review

by Melissa Parkin 

All’s well that ends well, except for PTSD-induced nightmares and severe emotional scarring. The Liars recuperate in the hospital following their rescue from Charles’s Dollhouse, just as Toby tracks down Andrew Campbell and takes him into custody. The physical threat may be over, but that doesn’t reassure any of the girls in the midst of their mental recovery.

ABC Family/Eric McCandless
After spending much time trapped in her mock-bedroom in the Dollhouse, Hanna goes Extreme Makeover: Bedlam Edition on her actual bedroom upon returning home. Determined to rid herself of the tainted association to the past few weeks of torture, she guts the entire space. Furniture, wallpaper, and all. Her erratic behavior sparks concern among Caleb and Mrs. Marin, but they understand where Hanna’s coming from. After her mother presses for more information on what happened at the Dollhouse, Hanna finally gives a glimpse into what the girls endured. Charles played hideous games on them all, including making the Liars decide who got to have water each day over the others.

While still in the hospital, Sara Harvey (Charles’s other kidnapping victim) relays her story to Emily on how she wound up in the Dollhouse. Having run away from home two years ago, she found herself in a parking lot just outside Rosewood when someone hit her on the head. Next thing she knew, she awoke as a prisoner in Charles’s lair. Mrs. Fields tries to help Emily cope, but it’s no use. Emily refuses to seek therapy or even let a willing Paige return to Rosewood. Having pushed everyone away, she takes her emotions out by attending the gun range, against her mother’s wishes. Finally coming to terms that violence won’t solve anything, she opens up to Mrs. Fields. Emily also finds an unexpected visitor lurking outside her house late at night. She confronts the stranger, only to find that it’s Sara Harvey. Apparently, Sara’s own mom wasn’t so thrilled to have her daughter back, so the girl ran away once again.

Spencer doesn’t exactly receive a warm welcoming when returning home either. After having the best night sleep she’s had in ages at the hospital, Spencer revels in the assurance that the anti-anxiety medication the doctors prescribed will let that cycle continue. That peace of mind comes tumbling down like a house of cards though when she discovers that Mrs. Hastings has intervened. Given Spencer’s history of addiction, her mother refuses to allow the chance for her daughter to relapse, thus cutting her off from the medication. Without the aid, Spencer suffers restless nights when not trapped in hellish nightmares of the Dollhouse. It’s revealed that Charles had forced each of the girls to decide which of their friends would suffer, or else they all would.

Alison confronts her father about the identity of “Charles” DeLaurentis. Though seemingly rattled by the name drop, he outright denies any knowledge of such a person. Spencer calls horse-pucky on him, knowing full well that Alison’s father is quite the notorious liar himself. Alison sees Spencer’s suffering and shares a rather awkward run-in with Toby, asking if he’s talked to his girlfriend at all. Ali’s then introduced to Toby’s new partner and the newest member of Rosewood P.D., Lorenzo.

Despite his initial belief that the case against Andrew was solid, Toby can’t shake off the feeling that something isn’t right. Considering “A”’s methodical scheming, he doesn’t buy the idea that the evidence can be so clean-cut. Everything points to Andrew. It’s too perfect. Aria, on the other hand, doesn’t feel the same. She works with the police in the hopes of putting Andrew away for good. She goes to the station to answer some questions, but the interview doesn’t go well. None of the Liars ever saw Andrew’s face while locked away, thus they can’t prove it was in fact him. In a moment of desperation, Aria lies to the police, saying that she did see Andrew just once in the Dollhouse while not wearing a mask. She admits her slip-up to Spencer when she visits, but Hastings cuts her some slack. Aria also tries to apologize for the events that occurred while in the Dollhouse, but she can’t quite manage to find the words. When Aria gets called downstairs by her mom, temptation gets the better of Spencer, who steals some of her friend’s anti-anxiety meds.

As the show draws to a close, Andrew professes his innocence from jail as Ali is shown flipping through an old family photo album. Surprise, surprise. There are blank spaces in the sections containing images of her brother when he was little. Just because you rid yourself of the evidence doesn’t make someone disappear . . . .

With the exception of the last little reveal, this episode of PLL doesn’t explore the mystery portion of the show. It’s focused purely on the Liars’ return home, which on the surface sounds boring. I can assure you though, it’s not. The introspective look into the psychological damage these girls have suffered is compelling all by itself. Seeing how each of the Liars cope (and in some ways break down) reveals so much about their individual personalities. They all shared the same experience, but they’re each handling the aftermath differently. Shay Mitchell shines brightest in this episode, particularly in the kitchen scene when Emily opens up to her mother. The dialogue is profound and impactful, and Mitchell’s delivery is raw, heart wrenching, and honest. If these first two episodes of the #SummerOfAnswers are any indicator as to what lies ahead, season six could be PLL’s strongest installment yet. 

Pretty Little Liars - “Songs of Innocence” Rating:  A -


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