Despite the several dozen things that perpetually make me want to punch my own face right in the eyeball during this final season of Pretty Little Liars, one thing the writers and I fully agree on is that the overarching theme of these last few episodes should echo the major lesson of the entire show: None of us ever have, or ever will, deserve Mona Vanderwaal. My suspicion was that Mona was going to be revealed as A.D. at the end of the show, not as a bad guy, but as the person who stole the game back from the people who stole it from her and then used it to help the Liars finally get all their answers. It’s why I kept saying this new A.D. and this new game seemed weirdly helpful. It doesn’t seem like that’s the case; the final scene of this episode shows Mona in a modified lair inside her apartment, where she’s trying to outgame the game and solve the very last set of mysteries. No bloody clown masks, but she’s got an entire stack of shovels in the corner.
And that’s just a piece of her infinite majesty on this day. Hanna finally reveals to the group that she’s let Mona in on the game. The Liars snip and snorp about it because they’re morons. The only times they’ve ever been at A’s level, and especially the only times they’ve actually been a step ahead of A, is when they’ve shut up and done exactly what Mona told them to do. They’d have died down in that underground dollhouse like some beautiful little rats if Mona hadn’t been there scoping it out in the dark and figuring out the rules months before they arrived. Hanna’s like, “Look, we all know Mona will run under you with a car — wait, Mona, let me finish. We all know she’ll run under you with a car, but then she’ll show up at the hospital to do your makeup and create an elaborate verbal cypher when talking to her dolls to help you suss out the fake cousin among you. She is our best and only hope.”
The Liars know it’s true, even if they don’t like it, so they finally relent and agree to follow her lead. Firstly Emily. Mona figures Ali and Emily should probably know the sperm donor whose DNA makes up half of their forthcoming baby, and she’s already gone to the trouble of tracking down the doctor who forcefully inseminated Ali. She and Emily could just march up in there and start asking for answers, but you know Mona’s fondness for playing dress-up. She and Emily pretend to be a couple trying to get pregnant. They hold hands but haven’t really discussed their backstory. They both insist the other one will carry the baby. When Emily reaches the end of her acting ability, Mona rips into the fertility doctor.
He barks at them to leave like that’s gonna slow Mona’s stride. She lifts a magazine with his home address on the way out the door — “You stole that?” Emily gasps, like this isn’t the same firecracker fae who nodded and shrugged when the Liars found out she literally smashed Bethany Young’s head in with a shovel — and breaks into his home to dig into his personal records. She discovers he accepted an enormous sum of money, enough to pay off all his medical school loans, right around the time Ali was forcefully impregnated. In an afternoon she figures out all this shit, more shit than all the other Liars have ever figured out on all days combined.
Okay and then she does my most favorite Mona thing, which is breaking into other people’s dreams to act out my greatest fantasies. This time it’s Aria’s dreams and it’s a black-and-white musical set to “Jailhouse Rock.” Mona performs the song while dancing around in a guard’s uniform, twirling a nightstick and jabbing it all around her prisoner, who just happens to be Ezra Fitz. He is bloody and bruised and everyone keeps punching the hell out of him and the whole time Mona’s just a-smilin’ and a-dancin’, placing a veil on Aria’s head, thrusting a bouquet in Aria’s hands. Veronica Hastings is the officiant of this nightmare wedding. She says she wouldn’t piss on Aria’s grave, which is rude and weird, but whatever. Mona dances and sings and Ezra looks like hell and is behind bars and this is the soul of their relationship, People Choice surfboards or not. I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t seriously consider turning off the episode at this point and never watching PLL again. My ultimate endgame. This scene might as well have been written just for me, is how much of an arrow it was straight into my heart.
Aria wakes up in a panic with Ezra dozing on the couch beside her. She’s worn out from doing all of A.D.’s busy work to keep that college essay she wrote about Ezra being a predator out of the cops’ hands. She yells at her face on the phone like, “I was just a child when I wrote that thing,” which, yeah, that’s the point. But like all the times she and the other Liars have talked about that particular piece of history, they can’t hear their own words coming out of their own mouths.
The whole day she’s distant and aloof with Ezra, doesn’t enjoy dance class with him, doesn’t want to listen to the song he has picked out for their wedding, doesn’t want to make eye contact with him or be touched by him. He assumes it’s because she’s still mad at him for writing that true crime novel about Alison. You know the one: He did his “investigating” and “research” by seducing and stalking his 15-year-old student and her friends. But no it’s actually not that. It also could be the fact that his fiance came back from the dead and he zipped and skipped all around the world at her family’s beck and call and didn’t even return Aria’s phone calls while that was going on. But no it’s not that either. Aria’s very obvious misery doesn’t keep Ezra from creaking on about how his mom’s going to ruin their “perfect day.”
Ezra actually goes full “Some people have real problems, Emily” on Hanna and Caleb, who are sitting in a corner at the Brew talking furtively about the most recent police investigation they obstructed because it implicates Hanna in homicide. They’re whispering back and forth about Detective Marco Fury’s visit earlier that morning and what this “new evidence” is he’s got his hands on and whether or not Ashley’s really going to believe Hanna didn’t flood the basement of Radley. Well, Ezra brings them coffee under the guise of being a Nice Guy but really only wants an in to plop down in a chair and go, “You think you’ve got worries. My mom hates my brother’s girlfriend!” Aria sees them and side-eyes Ezra and shuffles on by.
Ashley does want to know what the bleepin’ heck is going on. Fury and the Gang showed up at the Radley talking about the security system going offline for ten minutes, and Hanna and Caleb were there when it happened, and all of a sudden the receipt that proved that Spencer paid for a round of drinks with a dead man’s credit card the night he died had been erased by a tsunami. Also Ashley wants to know what the deal is with Caleb, just in general. Like, he lived in the walls of Rosewood High and then in their shower and then with his Uncle Dad Jamie in a bean barn and then like on a train in Europe where he started boning Spencer and then in Spencer’s garage and now at the Radley. What’s his whole hobo deal, really? It was cute when he was a kid, but is it permanent? Caleb explains that he’s still grifting because he’s trying to figure out if Hanna loves him back, loves him-loves him in a forever kind of way. He wants to marry her. Ashley forgets the murder investigation and picks up Caleb and twirls him around the kitchen.
Later, because the police are swarming the hotel and I guess Lucas finally kicked Hanna out of his apartment, Hanna and Caleb meet in the woods in a tent and propose to each other with cigar rings and champagne. And then they have sex like the first time they had sex. I teared up, I don’t mind telling you. It’s pretty silly when shows marry off their high school sweethearts, but with these two I believe it. This is a full circle moment that actually laid the groundwork and the payoff is a weepy and well-earned nostalgic ending.
Spencer has the weirdest day of everyone, per the usual. For one thing, both her parents are in town and at home. They’re working together to pack up to move to Harrisburg or some other innocuous-sounding place. Two amazing things: 1) Peter says they’re not having a yard sale because he’s not leaving bits of himself behind in Rosewood, which is hysterical on account of half the kids in this town are made up of bits of himself. 2) Just randomly in a box on the couch Spencer finds a baby blanket that says “property of Radley.” A baby blanket. With the logo of the local asylum. Which her parents hung onto. A BABY BLANKET THAT SAYS PROPERTY OF RADLEY. It’s so dumb and great. When Spencer first says, “This must be what they brought me home in” I thought she meant it was like a straightjacket she came home in from her teenage time in Radley, but this is even better.
While they’re packing, this loud as balls recording of Peter and Mary Drake talking about murder comes blaring out of all these speakers all over the house. Peter rips down some of the speakers and yells and smashes his fist on the counter. I honestly can’t figure out how the recording they hear is more damning than any of the other shit that’s ever happened to this family, but for some reason it causes Veronica to “forfeit” her senate seat and Peter to bust through the wall and run screaming into the night like a rabid werewolf. I mean I guess the reveal is that he bought some drugs to kill Jessica DiLaurentis? Which, like, yeah? Of course he did. You think that’s gonna weird out Veronica’s constituents more than the Hastings’ backyard being the most high profile rotating residential graveyard in history and Spencer and her friends getting arrested for murder every five minutes in high school?
Either way, Spencer’s ripped up about it, enough to consider going on the lam with Mary Drake, who half-kidnaps her and explains that the drugs Peter bought were actually for her. He and Jessica had a plan to kill Mary but Mary just killed Jessica right back instead. They had the same DNA, you know? So they both knew the special kind of pills that would stop each other’s hearts. Spencer does feel sorry for it. Her dad is truly the worst. But she’s gotta stay here and protect her friends.
Also she’s gotta stay here and fight with Detective Marco Fury who has now decided Spencer’s main crime isn’t possibly killing someone, but having sex with him that night at the Radley because she was sad Caleb was still in love with Hanna. Motherfucker, she was drunk. You were drunk. You didn’t know each other. You fucked in an elevator. And now you’re mad it’s because you weren’t the love of her life or the first man to ever sleep with her or that she wasn’t just entranced by your natural charm and charisma? Jesus, the men-child in this town/the world.
The Liars are getting to the bottom of the game. Aria creeps into Ali’s in her black hoodie and adds a couple more puzzle pieces to the map they’re building together. I hope it leads to Mona’s hyper-adrenalized dreamscape, a place full of more glorious madness and grandeur than Willy Wonka’s most exoctic fever dream. We can all sip on Spencer and Toby’s broken engagement wine there, together.