Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Pretty Little Liars: “Grave New World”

Illustration for article titled Pretty Little Liars: “Grave New World”

Alison DiLaurentis is alive. It’s arguably the biggest plot twist in the history of Pretty Little Liars, but it somehow feels like an afterthought to an episode more concerned with introducing Ravenswood than providing the spooky, campy fun I’ve come to expect from PLL. To be fair, it would’ve been hard for anything to top last year’s Halloween special, which featured Aria almost getting thrown off a train, a body bag in the party ice, and a random performance by Adam Lambert. This episode forgoes jump scares in favor of old-fashioned suspense. Unfortunately, slow and atmospheric is not a great mode for Pretty Little Liars, a show that’s best when it’s moving almost too fast for the audience to keep up. Put another way, I would guess this episode is 60% people walking through creepy hallways, 30% Caleb on a bus, and 10% interesting plot mechanics.

The episode pick up where the summer finale left off; after discovering A’s secret lair and enough evidence to decide Alison is actually alive, the liars head to a costume party to find Alison before A does. They arrive in impeccable style, rocking costumes that vaguely invoke the Edwardian-theme of the party and suit each girl perfectly (Spencer’s black ensemble is by far my favorite, although Aria’s top hat is pretty great too). No idea where they purchased said costumes, but Ravenswood does seem like the kind of place that would have a 24-hour costume shop. I was convinced the show would reverse its “Ezra is A” (#EzraA) reveal pretty quickly, but it seems to be leaning into the concept… for now. Ezra, wearing A’s gas-mask costume, calls Aria from the party, and the show certainly wants us to believe he’s the masked soldier stalking the girls throughout the episode.

Caleb, meanwhile, is busy hanging out on a ’50s style bus, making friends with a quirky foster child named Miranda. She’s the female lead of Ravenswood and makes a fine impression here, but the last thing I care about in a PLL Halloween special is Caleb emotionally bonding with another troubled girl he needs to protect. (And is anyone else weirded out by the fact that Caleb and Miranda have identical haircuts?) Their meet-cute pulls too much focus from the liars, who are busy following Red Coat into a mausoleum and discovering a secret staircase that leads to an eerie maze of tunnels, because of course it does. They get trapped inside and immediately check to see if they have cell service, which is both practical and hilarious.

A mysterious wind separates Hanna and/or turns her into a statue, and she spends most of the episode wandering through tunnels, exploring a mansion, and getting trapped inside a phonebooth. (The biggest mystery of all: Why would someone have a phonebooth in their house?)

The rest of the liars find their way into the mansion where they hear Alison’s screams. Spencer is separated from the others, and she ends up battling it out with #EzrA in the greenhouse. She manages to slice his palm—which will probably become relevant later—knock him out, and almost unmask him before he wakes up and knocks her out. Once reunited with Aria and Emily, the girls discover Alison’s screams are coming from a tape recorder. Spooky psychic Madame Grunwald arrives just in time to explain the recordings came from one of her “sessions” and had been stolen months ago. Then she ominously announces, “one of you has been touched by the one Alison fears the most,” and you can see all of the girls immediately making mental lists of their past hook-ups.

In the obligatory let’s-send-Caleb-to-Ravenswood scene, Hanna instructs her boyfriend to stay and protect the girl they met a few hours ago, and he agrees like some sort of stoic manservant being sent to war. So it’s goodbye Caleb, hello #EzrA who conveniently arrives just as the girls discover they have a flat tire and no spare. OH AND HE KEEPS ONE HAND IN HIS POCKET THE WHOLE TIME BECAUSE HE PROBABLY HAS A HUGE GASH ON IT (or he really likes that Alanis Morissette song).


Just when it seems things are going to wrap up and usher the audience into the grayscale world the Ravenswood premiere, the show finally makes good on the twist it has been teasing since the pilot: Alison is most definitely alive, and the liars finally speak to her face to face. She wants to come home, she says, but she’s scared. She tells Hannah to remember what she said in the hospital and runs away just as #EzrA comes around the corner to return Aria’s phone (and keep his hand in his pocket again). The reveal shakes up the structure of the show—casting Alison as the victim and #EzrA as the villain—and it’ll be fun to see that new dynamic play out over the rest of season four. It’s just too bad it took a boring Ravenswood-focused episode to get us there.

Stray Observations:

  • For those (like me) whose memories are a little fuzzy, here’s Alison’s hospital visit with Hanna from season one.
  • I have to assume the stoic soldier and his cousin-in-white, Leah, are featured on Ravenswood because otherwise I have no idea why we spent so much time with her falling into a ditch.
  • Miranda description of Hanna’s outfit as “prom night on the Titanic” is spot on.
  • After Spencer announces one of them is going to have to change the flat tire, Emily: “Are you looking at my cause I’m gay?” Aria: “No, you just happen to be the sporty one.”
  • “I have an uncle too, who turned out to be my father.” Caleb, telling it like it is.
  • Thanks to Joe for letting me sub for him this week. He’ll be back to celebrate Caleb’s departure when the show returns January 7. #EzrAisEverywhere