Pretty Little Liars: Put on Your Doll Faces

Whew! Well, that’s certainly one way to start off a season. Pretty Little Liars has certainly had its share of hair-rising, adrenaline filled episodes, but last night’s Season Six premier was especially harrowing. The liars (plus Mona), having spent the Season Five finale trapped in A’s living dollhouse before making one giant desperate bid for freedom, find themselves to be just as trapped as ever. Instead of open woods to lose themselves in, the girls are enclosed by an electric fence, still fully in the clutches of A (now known as Charles). Angered by their disobedience, Charles leaves them outside overnight and throughout the whole of the next day – to the point where the girls are so thirsty they start talking about the merits of drinking their own urine. Thankfully before that nastiness can take place, Charles forgives their transgressions enough to allow them back inside where they may be at his mercy, but at least they’ll be fed and sheltered from the cold. It’s a tough decision, but it seems to be the lesser of two evils.

Except, maybe it’s not.

This season has been touted all throughout Pretty Little Liar‘s hiatus as the Summer of Answers. We’ve spent five seasons plucking at the thread of What Happened to Allison!? and so far the conspiracy has just gotten bigger and bigger. Every time something new is revealed, one question is answered but five more pop up in its place. Like a hydra. But now we have two seasons until the end and it’s time for things to start wrapping up. For the threads to quit coming loose, and instead bring us to the full picture. But I don’t think it’s going to be that easy.

This may be the Summer of Answers, for us and for the Liars, but I don’t think we’re going to be getting anything for free. So let’s break down the premier and think about what we know, what we’ve learned, and what’s to come.

The Liars

After returning to the Dollhouse in the wake of their failed escape, the Liars are gassed unconscious and made up to look like dead bodies in a morgue. That’s where they wake up, relieved at the very least to still have all their organs. And their lives. But when Mona, back in her Alison getup, ushers them back to their rooms they each open the door to…something. Something terrifying. And are subjected to terror for the next three weeks.

We just don’t know what that terror is.

Eventually they’re let out again, this time to prepare Alison’s room for her arrival. Charles has apparently been stealing and secreting away belongings from all the girls for years in order to make theirs and Alison’s rooms more like their actual homes.

One important thing to note is that Charles has apparently forced the girls back into their looks from the year Alison went missing. They’ve returned to their old clothes and Aria’s got pink streaks in her hair again. I’ll have to actually re-watch the pilot to know if that’s actually the clothes they were wearing from the night Alison went missing, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

While they’re in Alison’s room unpacking all her boxes, the past continues to be brought up. Old secrets and sins are rehashed, like the Liars letting Alison blind Jenna. Emily is quick to point out that they’re all different people than they used to be (even Alison), that they’ve changed and grown. But clearly Charles doesn’t see it that way. Or at least, doesn’t want to see it that way. No, he’s obsessed with who they Liars used to be.

Mona

Mona’s an interesting one because she’ll never really be one of the Liars. She’s not one of the core four and her experience’s with Charles are different. Charles doesn’t care about Mona. He’s not trying to recreate a Mona of the past, he’s trying to erase her. Which, in all fairness, is something that’s been happening to Mona since the minute Alison disappeared. Mona has always been taking Alison’s place.

At first, it was just adopting the persona of one of the popular girls. Mona left behind that nerdy loner she used to be and transformed herself into someone new, someone cool and appreciated and popular – like Alison used to be. But then it grew to more than that. Like Alison had before her, Mona began collecting secrets. She used those secrets to become A, terrorizing the Liars the same way Alison had terrorized her. Later, well after Mona’s stint in Radley and Alison’s return to Rosewood, Mona was able to amass a following the same way Alison had and be elevated as Queen Bee of the school; her reign of terror hit its zenith when one of her own (I want to say Lucas?) pointed out that she had basically become Alison. It didn’t matter that she had once been victimized, she’d gone so far as to become her own version of the monster she’d always claimed Alison to be.

Now here in the Dollhouse, the ascension to her place as the New Alison is made manifest. Charles has her living as Alison, wearing her clothes and her hair and her name. Mona isn’t there anymore, she says, she’s Alison now. But it’s more than just looks. In the Dollhouse, Mona becomes the de facto leader of the Liars, like Alison had always been. She’s the one who’s been there the longest, she’s the one who knows all the secrets. She’s the one who encourages them when they despair. They fall in line, looking for Mona to show them the way. Spencer may have been the one to come up with the escape plan (both times) but when the first one failed, it was Mona they all turned to.

What do we do now, Mona?

Alison

I gotta tell you, I just don’t know what to think about this girl. Clearly, she didn’t kill Mona, but for me…that’s just not enough at this point. I’m so turned around by everything she’s ever said, every decision she’s ever made, that I just don’t think I will ever trust her.

For her part, Alison gives a press conference which she fills with half truths and secret messages. Then she’s used as bait by the police to catch Charles (who they’re certain is Andrew – more on that in a minute), but by using a well timed phone call and a manniquin in a pig mask, she’s able to slip the police to meet up with Caleb and Ezra (the oddest teamup ever – I’m very curious who reached out to whom in order to set this whole caper up) and set up their own trap for Charles. All of this seems pretty par for the course for Alison. She trusts nobody and in return gives them no reason to trust her.

Unfortunately, Alison runs into some car trouble on the way. Her Roadside Response is high-jacked by Charles and she’s given instructions to check her trunk, change her clothes, and start walking. First off, I totally thought the Roadside Assistance voice was her father. And at this point, I’m not 100% certain it’s not. One thing for sure, that was a man’s voice giving her those instructions. Not a boy’s. That was an adult. Now sure, Charles could have been using some kind of voice manipulation, but doesn’t that usually sound much more metallic and computerized? This sounded far too natural for me to think it was faked.

Alison, too, gets brought back to the night of her disappearance. She gets put back in the fateful (and truly heinous) yellow, ruffled top and delivers herself up to Charles.

Charles

So we finally have a name. Six seasons in and A is finally out in the open. Sort of. Spencer discovered his first name during last season’s finale, but it was unpacking Alison’s room that led her to finally put the final piece of the puzzle in place. Charles is a DiLaurentis.

At this point, we still don’t know much about Charles. We know he’s a DiLaurentis. And that he’s obsessed with Alison. But that’s about it.

From the home video he keeps looping, I’m drawing the conclusion that he’s at the very least a sibling of Alison and Jason, if not Jason’s twin (judging from the comparable size and coloring of the two little boys with Mrs. D – not identical, but possibly fraternal). Which leads me to wonder why it’s Alison he’s so fixated on and not Jason. He’s clearly a secret member of the family, so did Alison replace him in some way? Is she the reason he was discarded from the family?

More specifically, what is it about the night of Alison’s disappearance that is so important to him? It’s not just Alison in general that he’s so fixated on, it’s that night. It’s that horrible yellow top. We’ve rehashed that night so many times, from so many different view points. What is it that he knows that we’re missing?

But I guess the questions about what he knows and what he wants can wait, as we’re still working out who exactly is he. The police seem to think it’s Andrew Campbell, which I guess makes sense for them what with him being missing all this time, as well as A’s lair being found at his family’s old orchard. But…I’m disinclined to agree with that theory. For one, the police in Rosewood are pretty hopeless. And corrupt. So I’m a little wary of just about any theory they might submit. Second, Spencer seemed to recognize Charles, but not in the way she would recognize someone she knew well. Like a pen pal, she said, or a cousin you’d never met. Someone you know, but don’t know.

Andrew is someone Spencer knows. He’s been a class mate of hers for several years. A study buddy, and even an occasional friend. Plus, if he is Jason’s twin (which is apparently the theory I’m going with) that would make Spencer his half sister. Which is a little awkward considering she’s gotten a little naked with him. Let’s hope they keep the incestuous suggestions to a minimum.

The last thing about Charles I want to bring up is this. The Liars found his secret lair with his own memories and ghosts. His dolls and toys and the home video. His soul, they called it. And in an effort to get Mona back and then escape, the girls decided to torch the room (maybe a little rash considering how dangerous an indoor, underground fire can be). They wanted to hurt him, to make him crazed, to destroy his soul. They wanted him to make a trade. But Charles didn’t get crazy. He stood there behind the glass, stoic and silent, as his things burned. He only pulled the fire alarm when the fire spread and put the girls in danger. Even though it led to their rescue of Mona, their escape, and the police to raid his Dollhouse.

I don’t think Charles wants to hurt the girls. Not really. Or at least, he doesn’t want to kill them.

Final Thoughts

This was a great premier. Alison’s return last season didn’t exactly answer any questions, it just showed us we were asking the wrong ones. And so the mystery started threatening to just get to big, too convoluted. But last night’s episode made me feel reinvigorated. I’m invested again. The stakes have been raised. The secret of A is out, not just to the Liar’s families, but to the police as well. Charles has been outed, and as he’s closed in on he’s going to get more desperate, more rash. We’re gearing up for the final push, and I for one am pumped.

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