A for Alison, or Aria? A for Anonymous. A for Answers, sometimes. A for Audience, because we're the ones rooting for the troubles that befall the Liars, wishing new problems upon them so we can cheer as they overcome them. That's right, A for All of us. And now it's A for Almost, as in soon we’ll know who ChArles is, too.
It seems like one of the leading complaints of fans this season (myself included) is that we haven't really been able to understand or sympathize with Alison, re: her interest and concerns about Charles. But then again, when have we ever really known or understood Alison? She was dead, then alive, she was the girl everyone loved, the girl everyone hated, and everything in between. She was the girl who could be anything, or anyone. That’s immortality, my darlings. She's a master planner and a manipulator (as everyone's been telling Lorenzo ever since he arrived in town).
Image: Tumblr/Stranger of the North
At her worst, she's still several steps ahead of the rest of us. For the ones who needed a villain to define them, that's who she was. And last night, she was the girl amongst the men in wolf masks, the girl traveling through the woods alone yet again in this dark fairy tale's penultimate chapter of the dark fairy tale.
The episode opened with an amazingly written and edited sequence with the individual Liars with their moms as we're all reminded that it's time for Rosewood High's prom, but our girls have been disinvited by their school, due to "security" concerns. Instead, the moms have decided, the girls are going to have a little prom of their own in Spencer's barn.
The Liars take it hard, of course, but maybe it won't be so bad. "Even if we went to the real prom, who would we hang out with except each other?" they ask one another. And "we already know that Charles had some twisted thing with formals." A likes the glitz, the glamour.
So we briefly go to Spencer's barn, where it all began. Where all those years ago, Alison first roofied her friends, conducted her own A investigation, where her friend on speed threatened her with a shovel, where she was last seen alive (or so it was believed) for a long, long time.
But Charles is desperate to reach out to Alison, like a phantom on the other side of some kind of twisted mirror. Alison is eager to connect with her mysterious brother, for reasons we can guess at, even if we don’t agree with, or maybe for other reasons of her own that we can’t even fathom yet. Maybe they can bond in only a way that long lost siblings understand. Or puppet masters.
The Liars follow Alison to the prom, after having been alerted to her presence there via Instagram, crashing it as they all search for Charles. Thankfully, they get that real high school moment, a metaphorical and possibly literal last dance with their significant others there, as if they know this moment in time is passing, for better or worse. And they did it their way, breaking through, refusing to conform to the desires of others, to preserve the status quo on a community that is quiet, scared and wants these girls to be something they're not, to be silent and pretty, or just not be there at all.
And it's interesting that we get a brief idea of that other world, that other show playing side by side with this one, where Noel Kahn went to senior prom with the infamous Bridget Wu. Jenna and Lucas went, too, (possibly together, but probably not), and maybe Andrew, Sydney, Holden, and Cindy and Mindy are there, too, living out something resembling a normal teenager's life.
But we don't want our PLLs to be normal, not really. We want them to be exceptional. They get to dance, like normal kids, but dressed as Disney princesses in an adrenalized hyperreality, and then they go chasing down mysteries as yet conquered, and secrets as yet purged, with villains as yet unmasked.
That's not even getting started on the #PLLMoms and their adventures, which include getting drunk on wine, spilling old secrets, committing a little breaking and entering, confronting a DiLaurentis doppelgänger, and then getting locked in a basement. One could easily write 12,000 words on how great these four are together. Part of me wishes that this episode was a backdoor pilot for their own show.
You know, I've yet to see a theory for who Charles is that I could get behind 100 percent. Or even 50 percent. They're all mildly interesting, but more telling about the theorizer than the facts themselves. I'm excited for next week's finale, where we'll see Charles, hear him, understand him, as I. Marlene King has promised, but I'd still be OK never knowing who A is.
(Although, after this episode, I could easily make a case for why even Mrs. Horowitz could be A, or Charles, or Black Widow, or… something.)
But the point is, this part of the story is almost over. Charles has already revealed himself to Alison, and he's someone that she probably has met already (there goes a lot of your potential A suspects), and soon the rest of the Liars and Mona will find out as well, and why. The game is almost over, and we know there’s a happily ever after and beyond awaiting us, but before that, we're going to find out what this has all been building up to.
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