All roads lead back to Radley, even the ones paved with good intentions.
Kenneth DiLaurentis finally reveals the truth, in increments, to his children about their sibling, Charles DiLaurentis. What we previously heard was Jason’s imaginary friend “Charlie” is actually his brother, older by 15 months, and who was a problem child from a young age. After an incident in which young Charles dunked his baby sister Ali into a scalding hot bath, the parents shipped the boy off to Radley, where he eventually took his own life at age 16. (With pills, if you — like Spencer — were wondering.)
Or so we think.
Honestly, those words should be added to the end of every patient file associated with Radley: “Or so we think.”
This leads us to classic PLL: A little breaking and entering, the investigating of a creepy abandoned house on a dark night and a flashback to Mrs. D lying to one of her kids in a really obvious and intense sort of way. And all of it before Hanna ends up with a shovel in her hand, threatening to dig up what may or may not be the grave of Charles DiLaurentis, only to be stopped by Ali and Jason. Less than 24 hours earlier, they learned they had a sibling they never knew of before, and now they’re mourning this stranger, and the happy lives that might have come with their existence.
But, like Alison before, Charles is a Schrodinger’s cat, both alive and dead at the same time. Either is possible.
Meanwhile, in addition to groping for answers and hunting down red herrings, the Liars are still coping with their post-dollhouse trauma in this Grave New World.
Aria, when she’s not Googling more about the death of Charles DiLaurentis, continues to take photos of creepy doll heads. After a flashback revealing that A cut her hair in the dollhouse to force her to play along with his/her attempts to make her a living doll, Aria finally opens up to her father. Her photography isn’t just an attempt to take the focus off herself, as she says, but it is also an attempt to study that which scares her. You have to wonder: Is this Aria basically holding her hand over the flame for as long as she can, or is she turning her trauma into something abstract, almost absurd, processing it into something with a different meaning?
Emily, who’s being pushed into therapy with Dr. Sullivan by her mother, would much rather focus her attentions on her haunted houseguest, Sara. Emily takes Sara for a stroll past the fountain from the opening credits of Friends, followed by some synchronized night swimming. It’s an interesting but potentially troubling development, only because Emily, who likes to take care of people, is basically taking Sara, the girl whose real life was the lie that Alison told the cops last year, down the greatest hits path of her previous relationship with Paige.
Hanna, who’s been stripped down to her core yet again — and rebuilt herself stronger than ever before — is ready to get some answers. And Caleb, who’s still struggling with the sense of helplessness he felt when she was missing, can’t help but be smothering in his attempts to track her and keep her safe.
“I know it sounds extreme,” he says to his girlfriend, who just spent almost a month being tortured and treated like a doll. Right now, the last thing Hanna needs is to be treated as helpless and fragile, and as something that needs to be protected. She understandably tells him she needs some space, and as Caleb silently walks out, I had wondered if, given his continuous verbal disdain for Rosewood’s finest, he was going to go the Toby route and become a cop. If so, I understand their police academy takes only a few episodes to complete.
Spencer is still having trouble sleeping, and we learn why when we see that her dollhouse flashbacks are literally covered in mysterious blood. This is the perfect mind game for A to play on the girl who spent a whole season suspecting herself of murder. The fact that this episode features Spencer digging through her friend’s trash for pills, and then hitting up a stranger (played by Troian Bellisario’s real-life best friend, Lulu) for pot cookies can only mean dark times and wonderful story lines lie ahead.
(And all that blood in the flashback was from Spencer being forced to insert the trackers in her friends that we see A utilizing at the end of the episode, right?)
Never mind the mystery of the show or its puzzle pieces falling into place (or the guest spot by Maddie Ziegler next week, seemingly playing the little girl from The Ring). Just try to view an episode of Pretty Little Liars through the filter of Twitter: For Paily and Haleb shippers, there’s nothing but bruised hearts. And every new friend that one of the Liars meets, be it Sara Harvey or Aria’s new photography buddy, Clark, is immediately loved or hated. I mean, literally, they’re either immediately seen as suspicious and another potential A suspect or assumed to be a new love interest. On PLL, there’s an eternal fine line between flirty and creepy anyway. That kind of pressure and hyperfocus can land you in a place like Radley, for sure.