‘Pretty Little Liars’ has overstayed its welcome

Cast members of Pretty Little Liars sit on a panel at The Paley Center For Media's PaleyFest 2014. From left: Troian Bellisario, Ashley Benson, Lucy Hale, Shay Mitchell, and Sasha Pieterse. (Courtesy of Dominick D/Flickr)

“Pretty Little Liars” (2010 – present), a staple of the Freeform network, formerly called ABC Family, has earned a top spot on many TV-goers’ guilty-pleasure watchlists. Loosely based on the book series of the same name by Sara Shepard, “Pretty Little Liars” (“PLL”) has taken its fans on a wild goose chase, with each of the six season finales offering viewers nonsensical explanations and burning questions in lieu of any reasonable answers. The seventh season of “PLL,” which premiered earlier this summer, continues a story arc that debuted in the sixth season and jumps five years after the five main characters, known as The Liars, completed high school.

Since their best friend Allison DiLaurentis (Sasha Pieterse) went missing at the start of high school, Aria Montgomery (Lucy Hale), Emily Fields (Shay Mitchell), Spencer Hastings (Troian Bellisario) and Hanna Marin (Ashley Benson) have been tormented and tortured by a series of unknown stalkers, each of whom go by the name of A, and who seem to know devastating secrets about their lives. The sixth and seventh seasons have introduced a new and improved A, who is meant to be even more dangerous than The Liars’ previous tormentors. While earlier versions of A maxed out at blackmailing The Liars with their secrets, such as Aria’s relationship with her high school teacher, later versions of A have really stepped it up. At this point, A has ruined Spencer’s chance of getting into college, as well as abducted, tortured and killed multiple people. A has kind of hit a plateau; what more can A do?

Though each season of “PLL” seems to have improved with respect to the quality of writing and acting from the main cast, the one thing that has remained constant is the unbelievable naïvety of the five best friends. The lack of common sense, which initially might have been considered charming when it was introduced in the first episode of the series, becomes increasingly blatant, despite all of The Liars being 23 years old at this point. One would think that after years of murders, abductions, threats and lies, The Liars would think twice before blindly entering an abandoned cabin to meet their tormentor for a trade-off. Yet, this is exactly what led to the climax of events during the mid-season finale.

The Liars organized a trade-off with their most recent tormentor, A.D. If they gave A.D. a thumb drive that contained evidence of A.D.’s accomplice’s guilt, A.D. would give them the videotape that contained evidence of Hanna’s guilt. The “trade-off gone wrong” trope is used at least twice a season, but this time, it was significantly more gory than usual. Since there are never any happy endings on this show, of course, The Liars are trapped in this cabin fighting for their lives against A.D. and however many accomplices he has scattered around the cabin. In typical “PLL” fashion, the final scenes of the mid-season finale reveal that someone died (Or did they? Tune in to the next episode to find out because no one really stays dead on this show); that someone else is injured and could possibly be dead; and that The Liars find an answer they have been futilely searching for the entire season.

“PLL” is confirmed to end after the second half of the seventh season, which will premiere April 2016. To this reviewer, this is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, the show has so many loose ends that it is improbable that the writers will actually be able to produce a satisfying conclusion to the saga. On the other hand, it will be nice to finally be done with “PLL.” It is hard to argue that the show is great television, yet it has a solid fan base which, despite regrets about continuing to watch the show, has been irreversibly sucked into all the twists and turns that the show offers. One must give credit where credit is due and applaud “PLL” for gripping its viewers so tightly. It seems that the more preposterous the story gets, the more viewers want to know who the masked tormentors are. “PLL” is a perfect example of how intoxicating the unknown can be. At this point, this reviewer couldn’t care less about the final developments of each of The Liars’ personal lives outside of the hunt to find out who their current tormentor is. Six and a half seasons worth of commitment have been put into “PLL,” and, if viewers can just hold out for another half a season, the conclusion of the wild saga will hopefully provide some relief.


Summary

The latest midseason finale of "Pretty Little Liars" has revealed that the over-the-top teen drama has begun to overstay its welcome.

2.5 stars
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