Pretty Little Liars premiere recap: 'Playtime'

So here we are, at the start of the final season. I’ll be honest, some days I didn’t think we’d ever get here. I thought “A” would be leaving doll heads and tooth messages well into the girls’ 40s. I thought “A’s” children would take up the game and start torturing the Liars’ children, like Rosewood’s own Hatfields and McCoys. With the end in sight, though, I’m happy to finally have some answers on the horizon.

But first, here are some Season 7A finale cliffhangers that get resolved in the first, oh, three minutes of the show: Spencer got shot but she’s fine, just has her arm in a sling. Toby is completely fine other than needing a crutch to walk. Yvonne, on the other hand, remains in a medically induced coma a week after the accident. Yvonne deserves better than this, but at least if she stays unconscious Toby and Spencer will be able to get back together…

Oh and then remember how Emily and Paige were up for the same swim coach job at Rosewood High, and it was very dramatic and all that? Problem solved: They both get hired! Emily is the swim coach and Paige is now, much to Ali’s chagrin, “athletic supervisor.”


Ezra comes home after just a week with the newly found Nicole (for once on this show could somebody just stay dead?), but things are tense between him and Aria. He doesn’t exactly say what he’s going to do about this new situation, but he isn’t ready to make any big decisions. The best thing about him being home is this line about Toby and Yvonne’s wreck: “All of the things that have happened in this town, and those two get taken out by a deer?” Sensitive, Ezra!

The big news of the episode — and the season — is waiting in a giant black box at Spencer’s house. (Her parents aren’t home, because who would cut a trip to Europe short when their daughter is hospitalized for a pesky gunshot wound?) They open it, and inside is an elaborate board game called Liar’s Lament, with Liar figurines that can hop around a miniature Rosewood. Best of all, the centerpiece is a cell phone, “A’s” preferred communication method for all seven seasons. Hellooo Pretty Little Liars-themed Jumanji! I don’t know about you guys, but I am all in for this game to drive the rest of the season. This show is at its best when it goes really high-concept (like the Dollhouse episodes), and hopefully this game continues that. There are a couple issues with it though, which I’ll get to in a bit.

First, let’s buzz through some of the less interesting stuff to get to the meat of this episode. Hanna and Caleb are back and better than ever. Hanna still wants to get her fashion business off the ground, so Mona offers to help, and she snags Hanna a gig dressing a New York senator’s daughter for a few different events. They hit a snag when it seems like the daughter thinks Mona is Hanna’s boss, but they work it out (for now, at least).

Lest we forget that Ali works at Rosewood High, too, she and Paige get placed on a committee together, and Ali lets her daggers fly right into Paige, in front of an administrator who’s known them all since they were students. Emily is caught in the middle — she confronts Ali, who ends up admitting that she feels like she doesn’t know who she is anymore (fair) and is frustrated that all her memories with Rollins are now fake memories (again, fair). But Emily also steps up and, when Ali can’t answer why she kissed Emily, tells her, “Don’t kiss me again. Not until you know.” I am really curious whether showrunner I. Marlene King is going to make Emison actually be the “endgame” the fans have craved for so long. Anyway, when Emily goes back to Paige with the non-kiss-related news from that conversation, Paige reminds her that regardless of her identity, Ali loves playing the victim, and Emily just loves being the one to save her.

Jenna and Mary Drake are both apparently missing. Not a surprise.

Ezra, as we’ve established, isn’t physically missing, but his mind/heart are another story. Hanna tells Aria to just plan the whole wedding herself, and then when Ezra is ready to come back to her, the plans will all be set. Um… is that the best advice, Hanna? Really? So anyway, they go to a venue to check it out, and who’s there working as the manager/tour guide but Aria’s very important, totally memorable childhood friend Holden from season 3! (Real talk, I couldn’t have remembered who Holden was to save my life. Thank god for articles that explained he’s the guy Aria fake-dated so she could date Ezra in high school. He looks like Lucas 2.0.) Holden is shocked Aria is marrying Ezra — and even more shocked when they run into Ezra and Ezra tells Aria he has to go back to New York at the behest of Nicole’s parents. “Who’s Nicole?” Holden asks. EXACTLY, HOLDEN.

ERIC MCCANDLESS/FREEFORM


Is 'Famous in Love' the next 'Pretty Little Liars'? Not even close

The end is near for one of TV's favorite franchises — the second part of Pretty Little Liars' final season began Tuesday night. And as one fan-beloved show ends, PLL's network Freeform hopes to launch another to take its place.

Famous in Love, Freeform's new drama starring Bella Thorne as an ordinary girl thrust into the Hollywood spotlight, aired its first episode immediately following PLL. And to further entice new fans, the network made all 10 episodes available for streaming on the their website and Hulu.

But will PLL fans hunting for a new show fall in Love with its new Freeform neighbor?

Unfortunately, as hard as Famous tries to replicate the most binge-able aspects of its teen TV counterparts, its entertainment quotient falls short.

Based on the novel by Rebecca Serle, Famous opens with Thorne’s actress character, Paige, sulking through a crowd of paparazzi before seeking shelter in a limo, finding a tabloid with her face on the cover inside. Flashing back a year, the rest of the episode introduces itself in an equally clunky manner. Thorne’s college student character explains to best friend Cassandra (Georgie Flores) that she wants to be an actress but her parents want her to stick to studying economics. Minutes later, Cassandra successfully drags Paige to an audition, and spoiler alert, she nabs the lead role.

The pilot also introduces Jake (Charlie DePew), Paige’s roommate and crush; Rainer (Carter Jenkins), Paige’s new co-star and also-crush; and a web of other characters who all quickly become romantically involved with one another, including Rainer’s agent-mom Nina (Perrey Reeves) and his nemesis Jordan (Keith Powers).

The show attempts to peddle the same juicy drama that made Pretty Little Liars so addictive by parading teen TV tropes across the screen -- age-inappropriate hookups and undercover same-sex couples surrounding the wide-eyed new girl in town. That newcomer is Thorne, an actress who’s arguably more famous for presenting herself as a celebrity than she is for any of her past work. In recent interviews, she's claimed she’s “leaving Disney behind” to forge a new, more adult career. However, Famous’ Freeform network is owned by Disney, and is barely a step removed from the Disney Channel shows where Thorne got her start.

As Pretty Little Liars devotees would argue, TV shows don’t have to be “prestige,” or aimed at adults, to be compulsively entertaining. ​However, Famous doesn't deliver on the dramatic elements that drew us to PLL. The show's pilot sets up Paige's romantic conflict, as she grows closer to boy-next-door Jake while being cast alongside movie star Ranier. Meanwhile, Ranier's mom makes moves on her son's enemy, Jordan, while his girlfriend secretly hooks up with her female roommate, both of whom also competed for the starring role that Paige won.

If the show's entanglements sound confusing, that's because they are. To make matters worse, the acting is too clumsy to make any of Famous' plot twists compelling to watch, with Thorne the prime culprit. If Freeform expects to hold onto PLL's viewers with an addictive new show, the network needs to do better.

Famous in Love premieres on Freeform on April 18 at 9 p.m. ET and is now streaming on Freeform.com and Hulu.


Pretty Little Liars Returns With Gifts For All and the Truth About Spencer's Parents

The game is on, and we're going to need a real life copy of it immediately.

Pretty Little Liars returned tonight, and it brought along a present, tied up with a big red bow. That present turned out to be a super high-tech board game (which we weirdly want to play), complete with cell phones and a little model of Rosewood, as well as important letters and the occasional sharp knife that could pop out at any time. If it were us, our first order of business would be to take this thing apart, but alas, it was not us.

The liars were still convinced Noel was behind it, but decided as a group that it probably contained a bomb and they were just simply not going to play. Obviously, that didn't last long, but first...

Spencer confronted her mom about Mary Drake's claims of being Spencer's real mother, and Veronica confirmed it. Apparently, Mary seduced Spencer's dad, who thought she was Jessica, and then found herself pregnant. Instead of letting the baby end up in the foster system, Veronica took in her husband's daughter as her own. She didn't witness the birth, but the baby was brought to her outside Radley.

After learning this, Spencer got a text from A.D. telling her to play the game if she wanted to get closer to her mother, so she played. The game had her play truth or dare, and then dared her to go pay Toby a visit at the hospital, where he was waiting for Yvonne to wake up from her coma.

After visiting Toby and assuring him that his fiancee would wake up and they would all escape Rosewood eventually, Spencer went back to the game, and it rewarded her with a piece of the game and a letter Mary had written to her child, explaining that she did it all on purpose and asking for forgiveness.

The other girls were less than enthused about Spencer giving into the game, and Hanna even threatened to stab it before it suddenly started showing footage of the girls digging up Rollins. As usual, A.D.'s got blackmail.

And in the midst of all this game play, the other liars had slightly less earth-shattering issues.

Ezra returned and asked Aria to stay, seemingly still planning on marrying her despite Nicole being alive. So even though Ezra hadn't yet found the way to tell Nicole about Aria, Aria tried to continue on as if everything was normal. She even visited a wedding business, which is where she ran into her old friend Holden.

Holden was a little disappointed to find out that Aria was engaged (to her old teacher, no less), but gave her the VIP treatment of wedding planning. Then, they ran into Ezra, who had to head to New York. Nicole's parents were apparently asking him to join them at Nicole's rehab center.

Alison, meanwhile, wallowed in how terrible her life is right now (which to be fair...she's pregnant with her dead con man husband's baby) and got understandably upset that she now has to work with both Emily and Paige at school. Paige doesn't want Emily to get roped into Alison's perpetual victimhood, and Emily doesn't want Alison to kiss her again until she really wants to, and doesn't just want to make Emily stay with her.

Then there's Hanna, trying to make waves in the fashion industry. But she's getting help from Mona, whose help is sometimes helpful and sometimes not help at all, and she might be trying to steal Hanna's spotlight, maybe.

Finally, Jenna's having tea in a dark room, asking A.D. to tell her about the game. So A.D. drops a big braille book in her lap. We can't read it, but Jenna can of course, and she likes what she reads.

Soooo what do we think is the point of this game? Does "Winner take all" mean that one of the girls will win, or are they playing against A.D.? Do we all agree that the person who handed Jenna that book looked awfully womanly? Doesn't Hanna's fashion designer storyline seem kinda trivial compared to everyone else's storylines?

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