Previously on Pretty Little Liars, Jenna Marshall’s eyeball transplant took a turn for the worse and she was left as blind as the day Alison & Co. threw a firecracker at her to stop her having sex with her stepbrother, so she fled town but left behind her lover, Halloween store employee Shana Fring, who was driven to madness by Alison & Co.’s lack of remorse and ultimately killed in the face by Aria’s shotgun for deciding to put on a black hoodie and send a bunch of texts saying stuff like, “I’ll give you something to cry about.” Shana’s family filmed her funeral from multiple angles and uploaded it to WebsiteTubes. It had one million views. One million of them were from Aria Montgomery.
Hanna and Travis are stargazing out on Hanna’s lawn. Well. Actually. Travis is stargazing and Hanna is gazing into the black abyss of a future where everyone thinks she’s Ali’s doppelganger puppet again. Travis tries to comfort her but he doesn’t get it. If only Hanna’s boyfriend understood the complicated feelings of loving a ghost! If only such a man existed!
Downtown Rosewood. Aria and Ezra stroll the streets at midnight, talking about how if he can forgive himself for preying on her, she can forgive herself for murdering the girl who shot him in the guts. They are halted in their tracks by the site of Alison, out alone in the middle of the night, chatting up someone in an SUV. Aria calls out to her like, “Uh, hey? How’s it going out here in the dark by yourself like the night you were smacked in the gourd with a crowbar?” Ali waves off the SUV and says her dad’s assistant was just dropping her off to retrieve some school papers he left at his office. There’s no time to be nosy nellies about her story because the sounds of a bus arriving from Special are followed by the long forgotten click-clack that always accompanies the splendor of Jenna Marshall’s presence.
The bus vanishes. Jenna turns serenely on the spot to face two of the people who blinded her and one of the people who wrote about it in his True Crime novel. They stare at her across the road. She does not stare back because she is re-blind. (OR IS SHE?)
Over tea and cookies — “Stop calling them ‘biscuits,’ Toby; you were in England like a week” — Toby quotes F. Scott Fitzgerald about Ali, talking about action is character. I’m not going to read into it that Toby is dropping lines from the novel Fitzgerald dropped dead in the middle of writing; I’m going to remember that time the Liars went to that Great Gatsby pawn shop so Spencer could pawn the ring her sister’s dead fiance gave her to buy Toby a truck that he still drives around town. Toby finds it hard to believe that Alison has changed. I find it hard to believe he’s stopping at one quote from The Love of the Last Tycoon. One more obscure literary reference and Spencer would be on him like a cat on a string. Their sexy scholarly banter/accusations of Hastings murder plots is cut short when Jenna calls from the bus stop with the news that Shana has been murdered.
The Liars meet to decide whether or not Jenna has returned to town to punish them for blinding her and killing her girlfriend. An actual thing Hanna has the nards to say out loud. Emily, who frankly should be a lot more fucking empathetic about the death of a damn girlfriend, says Jenna should have stayed in New York to cry, and Aria says that all of them should feel free to tell the truth to everyone because she’s not going to eff up their relationships with her lies. Ali whips around at the window when she says that, eyes as wide as moonbeams, looking like Aria just invited her friends to summon hellbeasts right into her living room. But also, Ali says she has decided to try on the truth like so many masks of her own face. She’s going to make amends to everyone she ever messed with in all of Rosewood. Aria’s eyebrows go: “Well, shit. See you in a hundred years.”
It is a testament to the heinous social warfare of teenagers the world over that Alison DiLaurentis, a girl who has been victimized in one way or another by half the men in this town and buried alive by her own mother, has to remind herself that she’s been through worse stuff than returning to high school. Rachel Platten’s “Begin Again” plays her through her pep talk in the mirror and slow walk through the rubberneckers at Rosewood High. It wouldn’t be such a high-impact moment without some serious directing chops from our friend Norman Buckley and editing prowess from our friend Lois Blumenthal — I mean, this scene just could be an “aww” and an “ouch” but it feels like a series of body punches, no matter whose side you’re on. It’s also like, stop saying endgame about your romance ships. The Liars are the Ship.
Now here’s a weird thing. Alison can’t remember where the guidance counselor’s office is. The girl who remembered every dollar and trinket and ciphered note she left in all the paintings and holes and doll heads from here to Hilton Head can’t remember where the guidance counselor’s office is. Hashtag twin theories, but I sure hope not because the actual journey of the girl I hope is actual Alison DiLaurentis is one of the most fascinating things I’ve ever watched.
The Liars’ reverie is interrupted by a page for Spencer to report to the principal’s office, probably because they want to use her as the flag for the Pledge of Allegiance.