Pretty Little Liars Episode 716 Recap: Some Devil

Spencer’s back in the interrogation room at the Rosewood Police Department. She’s spent more time sitting here than she has at her own family’s dining room table, and it shows. The RPD Detective she isn’t dating is hammering her with questions about how she murdered Archer but she doesn’t crack. Every time she says “I don’t recall” her power grows and his strength is diminished. By the end, she’s spitting it out before he can get the questions out of his mouth. He says she should slow down. She cocks her eyebrow at him and is like, “That’s the opposite of what Detective Marco Fury was saying when I whipped off his belt in the elevator the night we’re reminiscing about right now.” Fury comes in and tells her to lawyer up. She accidentally used Archer Dunhill’s credit card to buy drinks the night he died and as soon as he finds the receipt she’s going to prison for eternity.

Where were you on —

Look if Donald Trump can stay out of prison there’s no fucking way I’m going there.

When Spencer tells the Liars about Dunhill’s credit card, Hanna flips her lid and starts hollering about how dare Spencer get drunk on that night and what was she thinking and she put them all at risk mishandling evidence, etc. Which is hearty talk coming from the girl who slept with Spencer’s boyfriend that very night and also one time got drunk at a frat party and tried to bury a gun in the yard. Okay and I remember an entire season Hanna was so fucked up about how she became Ali after Ali died that she drank every beer in Rosewood while wearing splatter-painted jeans and being rude as hell to Emily.

Really, though, Hanna’s lashing out because she feels guilty because of the aforementioned Caleb situation. Her plan to assuage her shame and foil Detective Marco Fury is to break into the Radley’s receipt room and destroy the Dunhill receipt. Caleb can help because obviously Caleb set up the Radley’s security system so obviously he knows how to take it offline for ten minutes at a time. They sneak into the receipt room while everyone else is in a staff meeting but there are about a hundred thousand boxes in there and they can’t find what they’re looking for and their time is running out so Caleb just floods the place. These two are so very made for each other. Remember when Hanna tried to destroy A by throwing her phone into the garbage disposal?

While Hanna and Caleb are engaging in their shenanigans, Spencer goes to Detective Marco Fury’s apartment where he does not invite her to take off her jacket but does invite himself to explain the justice system to her, which is just about the most hilarious thing I have ever heard in my life. The number of times the Liars have been tossed into an interrogation or a holding cell or community service or jail or an asylum because the police in this town came after them instead of the people who were torturing them has got to be close to a billion. Spencer actually tries to explain this, that in her experience the only justice for victims happens when the victims themselves stop their predators by whatever means necessary. The Khaleesi Method, if you will. She begs him to let this one slide. But he can’t. So she just goes ahead and helps herself to the evidence he’s got laying around on his coffee table.

Raising a baby in this town seems like a chill fun responsible thing to do, Emily. Good call.

Said evidence is a flash drive of Lucas telling the police that maybe the Liars did, in fact, kill Charlotte, even though Lucas explicitly told Hanna that he had their backs re: an alibi on that night. Hanna still stands up for him, though, even though everyone takes a turn explaining why Lucas probably still has it out for them.

Conspicuously absent from their list is the reason he hated Alison so much from day one: “Hermie.” I had actually thought the writers might try to tie that into his relationship with Charlotte, her being his best friend from childhood and a trans woman and all that, and I’m relieved they didn’t. They have shown no inclination to get any of this stuff right, as evidenced by the fact that the Liars’ confrontation with Lucas ends with him misnaming and misgendering Charlotte over and over. Plus: I guess she was catfishing him? Truly nothing like making a trans woman your psychotic villain, murdering her, and then giving her a posthumus duplicitous internet personality storyline. It just goes from worst to worst-er. Charlotte was emailing with Lucas pretending to be Charles during earlier seasons and together they made some comic books — excuse me, graphic novels — about how Ali was the worst. Which doesn’t even make sense: Ali was the one thing Charlotte loved above everyone and everything else! Why would she be making murder books with Lucas about her?

I give up. Which means after all these years I finally have something in common with Aria.

I can’t believe they saved my best story…

… until the episodes when no one was left watching.

Remember when you had to go deep in the forest and sit still in a barber’s chair in a ramshackle cabin to give your face away? Lord, but times have changed. Aria is now taking orders from Aria over FaceTime and she didn’t even have to spend a single the night in the woods. Today Aria commands herself to break into Ali’s house and wreck the new nursery. Hang some Little Liar dolls above the crib, smash and stomp on things, splash blood all over the place. That sort of thing. I am still unclear about why Aria is doing this. I think it’s to keep Ezra out of jail because A.D. knows he’s a statutory rapist, but, like, doesn’t literally everyone in the galaxy already know that? His predatory and illegal relationship with Aria hasn’t been a secret since season two.

At least Aria’s literal bloodbath keeps her away from Ezra, who has started his book tour. His publisher wants him to act like he and Nicole are happily reunited and Happy Ever After and all that, which is fine with Aria; she has somehow realized the best she can hope for at this point is Ezra making bank on this book so at least their dumb future together won’t be hampered by poverty. At a reading at the Brew, Ezra tells this group of adoring ladies that he’s not with Nicole anymore and is, instead, engaged to his former student, Aria Montgomery. They don’t react. They just sit there with glazed eyes staring at him. It’s actually kind of haunting. I’d have chop off my own ear to see them come to life, and — as one glassy-eyed mass — devour him. A group of women tearing Ezra Fitz to shreds, fighting over and gnawing on his limbs would be just the endorphin boost I need to get through these last three episodes.

Sadly, they do not cannibalize him. He goes home to Aria and she’s like, “Sure, fine.”

And these are my moms naked ballerina twins lamps.

Cool, seems normal.

All right. Let’s do this Emison thing. Which, if I’m being honest, seems like exactly what someone said out loud in the writer’s room when it was time to plot out the last half of this season. I know y’all want me to weave gold from straw one more time and paint you the most beautiful word poem about these two finally getting together. And maybe a side poem that gives Paige the send off she deserves. But may I be candid with you? If these writers had collectively and consistently given a fraction of the care to Emily’s relationships that I gave to honoring those relationships by breathing my whole heart into coloring in their lines, you would not need a word poem or a recap from me. What happened on screen would speak for itself and we would all be a blubbering mess on our bedroom floors. Alison and Emily’s final moments in this episode should have been the climax of the entire show. As it is Alison cannot even answer the simple question that should have been the writers’ through line from day one: Why did she keep pulling at Emily and pushing at Emily and hurting her and holding her close and begging her to go away?

The closest you ever get to this answer is in this show’s most glorious episode, “Shadow Play,” during which Joseph Dougherty penned a diary entry from Ali about Emily called The Mermaid. “Shadow Play” is the essence of Pretty Little Liars distilled. One of the greatest hours of TV ever made and certainly the best thing PLL ever did. The craftsmanship and care that went into every movement, every line of dialogue. It was a character study and a love letter that honored every one of these women, and especially Paige and Emily and Alison.

Now, though: Here is Emily creating a nursery for the baby Ali’s carrying. Here is Emily building a crib and enduring questions from Spencer about what in the world she’s thinking tying herself to Ali like this. Here is Emily snapping at Ali to take her vitamins like they’re proof Ali has worked through every way Emily makes her tremble and decided to really, truly stay. Here is Emily holding Ali close as A wages war on the next generation. Didn’t Paige leave yesterday in Rosewood time? Emily begging her to stay and suggesting some kind of parenting throuple and holding her cracked heart open in her hands, and it’s 24 hours later and Ali says she’s made up her mind and she wants to make this whole family thing work with Emily, and they’re kissing and the music says its endgame. (If you ever go back and rewatch this show, notice how the music goes berserk every time you’re getting sold on an emotional moment where the writers didn’t do the work; when Emily and Sarah Harvey kiss it’s basically the Hallelujah Chorus at ear-splitting decibels.)

We shoooouuullldddaaa haaaad it aaaaallllll

This moment should be everything. And I mean everything. This moment where the resurrected Dead Blonde Girls throws off the chains of the patriarchal power structure that has kept her oppressed and abused and on the run for her entire goddamn life by claiming her queerness and laying hold of the one woman who saw every angle of her vulnerability and brilliance and madness and never stopped loving her.

Instead you’ve got a sloppy love triangle in which no one’s motivations make any sense and it ends with Emily asking the ultimate why of Alison Dilaurentis — the crux of this entire show — and Alison answering, “I don’t know.” The things you spent five entire seasons pondering? The hinge of my entire personality and the explanation for at least half my behavior? Shrug! She says all her relationships failed because she was really in love with Emily, but THAT’S INSANE. Ali’s relationships were with Ian Thomas, who stalked and videoed her and her underage friends and staturory raped her; Ezra Fitz, who needs no introduction; Cyrus Petrillo, who slashed her up in a basement when she was homeless; two adult male cops who were investigating her kidnapping and attempted murder; her dead husband who drugged and tortured and impregnated her with her friend’s eggs and some unknown sperm without her knowledge or consent; and heavenly Emily Fields. Ali’s relationships didn’t fail with those predators and monsters because she was in love with Emily; those weren’t even relationships.

Can I just.

Truly, I must.

“You’ve always protected me, Em.”

“Then why did you always push me away?”

“Because I didn’t want to need protection. I saw things I shouldn’t have, knew things I shouldn’t know. I made myself hard to survive, and I tried to make you and the others hard for the same reason.”

“I thought — after you left, I spent years thinking you hated me. For how I felt about you.”

“I hated myself, for letting you get so close, for wanting you, for hoping you might see me — really see me — and want me too. I’ve never been good enough for you.”

“You’ve never seen yourself the way I do.”

“I know. It’s terrified me. It still terrifies me.”

“Why?”

“Because I’ve never stopped wanting you.”

“You mean—”

“I want you, Emily. In every way. And the family me and you and this baby could make together.”

This pregnancy storyline would still be gross as all get out but at least something would make sense. At least someone would have tried to tie the fractured pieces of Alison DiLaurentis’ character together. This whole show should have been building to this moment. The payoff should have flattened us. But it’s puppets now; you can see the strings hanging down over a stage of slapdash sticks. A billion hours of Ezra Fitz’s bullshit and this hurried insult for the couple whose story could have shaken the queer storytelling canon down to its foundations.

I’m too good for y’all. You know that, right?

Obviously.

The Risen Mitten is doing some art at the end of Charlotte and Lucas’ graphic novel. It’s a tree and there’s a gravestone underneath it. I guess the final chapter takes place in Spencer’s backyard.

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior writer who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 1038 articles for us.

60 Comments

  1. I am delighted for everyone who was with Emerson throughout this show, I really am. For me, however, Alison (version 1) just kissed baby Emily as a manipulation and unfortunately I haven’t seen her romantic feelings for Emily evolve along with the rest of her, I feel like this whole relationship is forced, to please fans. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just really badly done. Last week when Paige and Emily were saying goodbye there was so much emotion and when they kissed the week before there was chemistry galore, I feel like the writers never gave Emerson fans the same.

    As for the misgendering of Charlotte! How on earth can they get something so simple so wrong?

    • And some people watched that corny bike scene and couldn’t wait for it to get off their screen. Paily as a relationship was ALWAYS badly done and NEVER compared to the other HET pairings. Hell, it started off being 2nd place to Maya.

      And didnt we watch Alison manipulate EVERYONE? Not just Emily right. Did Paige stalk all the girls gf’s and bf’s? No her behavior/choices was directed solely at Emily.

      Didn’t we watch a person that tried to find herself while living with an abusive mother in a fu$ked up a household. Paige can be forgiving but not Ali? Well too bad, Emily had more in her heart for Ali than most. I wish I had a girl in my life like that when I was 20.

      Personally, if they don’t make Paige part of AD Im not sure what to make of all of the A-minion like insecure things they had her during 5yrs forward.

  2. Thank you for putting it so well into words why that Emily/Alison scene was so unforgivable on a storytelling level.

    If it were S5 or S6 I could at least give the show the benefit of the doubt that there would be pay-off in the end, like I have with so many of the show’s other questionable decisions. Now I have to accept that this is what we’re getting – characters with poorly written motivations, abusive relationships being written off to blame the victim’s internalised homophobia (un-fucking-believable), the godawful forced pregnancy plotline – that’s what was deemed an acceptable resolution to Emily and Alison’s journey. Regardless of what comes in the final few episodes, there’s no walking back from that.

    My mind won’t let me fully comprehend it. It’s too immensely disappointing.

    Also a small, meaningless correction: Hanna, startlingly, was 100% sober when she decided to bury that gun in the frat party yard.

  3. Nice job articulating why the Emison scenes left so many of us cold. It just feels like rushed fanservice at this point, which is super disappointing.

    ALSO WHY DO THEY KISS SO WEIRD??? NO TONGUE AND SOMEONE’S HEAD OR HAND IS ALWAYS BLOCKING THE VIEW??? WHEN WE GET SOFTCORE ELEVATOR PORN FROM SPENCER AND THE COP???

    • This is the go to “fan service response” THE WHOLE SHOW IS FAN SERVICE. No-one would normally still be with their HS sweetheart. It’s a teen show.

      And No tongue? Lol did you not understand that maybe Emily is IN SHOCK ..lol I must have missed all the EROTIC PAILY SCENES, I don’t seem to recall ANY. Sorry, the couple you don’t like didn’t perform sexually enough for you.

  4. I’m so infuriated with how the writers have chosen to handle this season. Marlene King has let us down. Our years of dedication have crumbled into nothing but disappointment on all levels. For a show that started so strong, with such potential to tell amazing stories across the board, it has proven not up to the challenge. I’ve watched this show since I was 17 and just wrestling with my own identity, so it will always have a place in my heart. But this season is shrinking that space.

    I think others (including Heather) have covered the Emison disappointment more than adequately, so just a couple points not directly related to that relationship and the mess of a storyline it has been given:

    Lasting trauma: At the very least I would have hoped the show would, over the years, explore the girls’ collective and individual trauma in some genuine way. Sure, they touched on it very briefly last season but with cheesy flashing lights and horror music flashbacks. These girls have suffered years of abuse and torture that go beyond the physical torture they experienced in the dollhouse. It would have been great for the show to explore how the girls are affected in a nuanced, carefully done way. Instead it felt like a checkbox ticked off in the writers room (PTSD flashback? Check! All done with that!). The only thing I am slightly hopeful about is the preview where *SPOILER* Aria is revealed to have called Ezra a predator. Maybe, maybe we will see Aria examine the ways in which Ezra has fucked her right up, but then again they’re getting a happy ending. Never mind. Such a lost opportunity.

    A/AD: Maybe I should reserve judgment until the reveal, but it does not feel like we are building to any satisfying conclusion. Despite all the interviews saying we’ll be happy with the end, I don’t believe it. I don’t believe the writers can craft a story and motivation that we will care about in the remaining episodes. At this point I just hope it’s Mona because I want to see Janel Parrish have more screentime.

    Friendships: The cast/writers/Marlene always claim this is a story about friendship. So why don’t we actually ever get to see the friendships develop? It’s all either relationships or A-mischief. Their friendships are rooted in shared misery and trying to stay out of jail/A’s grasp. I don’t doubt that all of these girls were better off in the 5-year gap when they weren’t together. Again, this could have been written so differently to let us truly believe in the power of their friendship. Instead, we get in-fighting.

    I know this isn’t all directly related to your review, Heather, so I’m sorry for the tangents but my GOD it’s exhausting caring about this show.

  5. Super late to this, but I just wanted to echo a little bit of what HH and others have said here. I’ve always appreciated Emison in theory, just never in execution.

    Part of it is that I just don’t feel the actresses have the best chemistry together, which I don’t put on them so much. They’ve literally been given like three romantic scenes the entire show. Mainly it’s just so underdeveloped as a narrative.

    I mean, yes Emily was in love with Alison before she disappeared, and then she came back and they had a brief fling before Emily realized Ali was (at least partially) using/manipulating her/she thought Ali was A. And then, after the dollhouse, nothing. Like just literally nothing. Ali started going to church, and dating a boring cop, and completely lost any semblance of a personality, and Emily dated a couple randos and Sara Harvey. Skip ahead a few years, and Ali marries a sketchy dude, Emily is supportive of her (but also kind of dating the coffee chick, and then Paige…) Then *boom* in the final few episodes they get thrown together via forced pregnancy. It just doesn’t scream epic love story to me.

    I mean I get being excited that Emily gets the girl she’s loved since high school, and I’m happy for anyone who enjoyed it. I just think if the writers put half the effort into Emison’s scenes/storylines that they did for any of the straight couples it could’ve been so much better. It felt forced, and kinda empty, and I wish Emily, Alison (and Paige) had all gotten something better.

  6. Heather, your recaps have been the best part of this show for me for at least three years. You were the long suffering Emily Fields to I. Marlene King’s twisted, shady af Ali. While I’m really grateful for your years of optimism and levity in the face of them mishandling their LGBT and POC characters, I’m twice as relieved that you’ll be free of this steaming mess they’re cranking out in less than a month.

    Anyway, Maya/Emily/Paige/Spencer/Ashley Marin/Mona/Samara/Ella Montgomery/Pam Fields/Papa Fields/Veronica Hastings/Charlotte/Yvonne/Shana/every harvested egg/and even Shower Harvey all deserved better treatment than they got.

    And Ezra Fitz and all the other predators in town (past and present, living and dead) can choke.

  7. Also, I think one huge part of Emison not appealing to me at all (aside from a lack of chemistry between the actresses and this disgusting forced pregnancy story line) is how underdeveloped Ali’s transformation is, specifically after they gave us season 1 and 2 Paige McCullers.

    We only had to wait a couple episodes for Paige to apologize for acting out and hurting Emily. We got to watch Paige mess up and date Hanna’s weird Ken doll ex and lie to herself and hate herself until all of that seemed far sillier and more daunting that sitting down and talking to Emily. We got “If I say it out loud, if I say ‘I’m gay’, the whole world’s gonna change,” and we felt how scary that was, and then we got to watch her accept it anyway.

    And, for several seasons, we got to watch her grow and adjust to a world that absolutely changed, but never again stopped her from being her (defensive, distrustful, hot-tempered) self, or from loving Emily.

    Why did they go through the trouble of proving they could write and execute authentic character development and redeem someone who briefly seemed irredeemable if they expected us to settle for Season 7 Ali? Paige proved that the PLL team can make a character with a questionable past into someone worth rooting for without rounding out all their sharp edges. I really wish they would’ve done the work with Ali.

  8. K, I know I’m a few days late here, but after reading so many hateful comments, I just wanted to jump in and say my piece. I know what I have to say isn’t going to be a popular opinion, but I’m hoping I can open some people’s minds here.

    So many people on here seem to view Alison as the source of all evil for the show, instead of looking at all the people who made her the way she is, or rather the way she used to be. They refuse to acknowledge the possibility that, like any human being, she has the potential for change and growth. Some of the characters, *ahem* Ezra, have not changed or grown, and while I’m not arguing anyone here likes him, they seem to spend more time picking on Alison, who was a teenager when she did those things, instead of a full grown adult. Maybe that’s just because we can all agree Ezra’s the worst, but it still seems weird to see.

    I don’t really get how Alison is any different from other characters that have been largely supported on here over the years, maybe not by all but certainly by most. And mind you, these are all characters I love more than Alison. I’m talking Santana Lopez, who bullied pretty much everyone and who once shamed Brittany for wanting to sing a gay song with her. I’m talking Regina Mills/Evil Queen, who actually killed an unknown number of people, and tried to kill Emma multiple times, yet a large number of people shipped Swan Queen from day one. I’m even talking Cat Grant, my all time favorite tv character, but who has canonically admitted to outing people in the past, considered doing it in the first Thanksgiving episode, and who terrifies all of her employees so they’ll work harder. But these characters have all shown growth and change and we’ve supported that. So what makes Alison so different? My biggest issue with her character is that, unlike these other women, she had to be made into a meek little shell of herself to even be considered to have changed and grown.

  9. I feel like I’m the only one that has viewed Paige as the most odious resident of Rosewood from day one. I mean, I really can’t stand her. I felt some empathy during her coming out, who didn’t? But seriously, beyond that, I find her to be pretty pathetic. She has been more emotionally manipulative of Emily than Alison ever thought of being. I also am 100% sure that the subtext of Paige and Alison’s entire story arc is probably rooted in some sort of romantic history between the two. I would personally be thrilled to find out that Paige is AD. A full throated empathetic gay villain, whose villainy is not rooted in her sexuality, but in lost, soured or unrequited love, you know, like practically every other great villain in the history of the world. If we are to ever get to equality in media representation, we have to be willing to see ourselves equally first, and accept and celebrate it when our community is treated as such.

  10. Why recap a show you obviously don’t like? I used to love your recaps but now your ‘insights’ are just saltines. Most of the people on this site aren’t even in the demographic of the show, it’s a teen show. Is it perfect, hell no but it helped a lot of teens (me included) come to grips with being gay. And it’s so funny to me that people are bashing Ali when Paige is FAR from perfect, but because she’s gay her redemption must be real. She was literally obsessed with Emily for years, semi stalking her and keeping tabs on a girl who didn’t even knew she existed. Then she bullied her for being gay, tried to drown her by somehow she is a better choice for Emily. Yea okay, the writers should’ve but more time in Emison and fleshed out their relationship more because this doesn’t do them justice and it seems rushed. But still Em got the girl

  11. I have to be honest, no matter how developed or undeveloped (and it’s most assuredly the latter) Emily and Alison are in terms of storytelling, I was incredibly uncomfortable with it from the jump because (unlike even the ACTUAL statutory rape storyline), we met these actresses as these characters when one of them was an adult woman of 23 and the other was around 13 or 14. It’s always looked creepy and felt really uncomfortable to me. It’s possible I’d have been able to overcome that if four or five years later they had really told a love story, but it’s not what happened and all I feel with them is unease.

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