Pretty Little Liars 5.03 Review: “Surviving the Aftershocks”

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Pretty Little Liars returns to Rosewood High School, and we have the characters in play in a setting where we remember that these are high school girls who have been stalked, duped, terrified, and have done some not-so-pretty things themselves. Being back at school gives the show some perspective which is missing when the girls are out wandering the woods or New York City sans parents or any type of surveillance (aside from creepy Ezra’s, of course).

“Surfing the Aftershocks” has Ali stepping up to find out who is trying to kill her, Aria confessing to Ezra about Shana, Hannah suddenly having an identity crisis, and Spencer being even more freaked out by her family.

Ali is taking charge and it’s obvious that she hasn’t changed all that much. She already has the girls doing her bidding by keeping her kidnapping lie a secret. She also sneaks in a dig about Hannah’s weight and one ups Aria by visiting Ezra while he recovers. I understand thatAli has some things weighing on her, like someone trying to kill her, but instead of falling back into her habits of manipulation of her friends, she should trust them a whole lot more as it’s obvious that the girls are willing to protect her.

Aria tells Ezra her secret and asks him to keep Ali’s secret as well. Seriously that is all she does. Aria appeared to be getting a more meaty story with her murdering someone (in self- defense!), essentially eliminating the person they all believe was “A.” But we’re back to Aria and Ezra again. No matter how much I. Marlene King tries to make it happen, I can’t see past the teacher/student thing. This relationship continues to be the romantic fantasy aimed at the under 18 crowd, I assume. I suspend a lot of belief watching this show, but I can’t take this storyline seriously.

What I can take seriously is Hannah’s doubting of herself and the person she has become over the past few years. I think that this is one of the more realistic teen experiences that the show has touched on. All of a sudden Hannah’s having flashbacks to just after Ali had disappeared and of Mona was re-purposing her as a new Ali, Queen B of the school type girl. Since we are to believe that Mona knew that Ali was alive all along and (maybe?) helped her out, and was, in a sense, the first “A” that the audience was introduced to, Mona seems even more calculating. She was befriending a lost Hannah and terrorizing her at the same time.

The Hastings family makes the episode, which felt like a filler for setting up future plot lines. First Melissa warns Spencer to stay from “that family” the Delaurentis’s. Then Mr. Hastings makes the same remarks while Spencer tries to argue her case that the two families are already connected. Finally we have the one –two punch of Melissa and Mr. Hastings against Spencer. Melissa almost slips and tells Spencer the deep dark secret being kept by Melissa and Mr. Hastings, but he stops her quickly saying Spencer can’t lie about what she doesn’t know.

I really hope that the Hastings’ secret is worthy of all this atmospheric lighting and sinister warnings. This secret should not be another harmless twist that when found out elicits little more than a shrug from the audience. We’ve been down this road many times before.
In keeping with the idea of this episode setting up for future episodes, a new girl, Sydney, is thrown into the Emily/Paige mix, though it’s not yet clear what her role will be.

This episode takes the audience back to familiar ground but other than re-establish things we already know (Ali’s up to something. Aria’s hung up on Ezra, Spencer’s family is creepy, and Hannah is insecure) it didn’t give us much else. Here’s to hoping this is all laying the ground work for some explosive surprises because this show desperately needs one to keep it on its toes.

[Photo via ABC Family]

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