For the first few seasons of PLL, I thought this day would come—maybe at the end of season 2, like a normal murder mystery show. Maybe after season 4—make us work for it a little bit, right? But then, as the show got renewed for seasons 5, 6, 7… it started to feel like maaaybe we were being played, and would continue to be played forever. I was beginning to make my peace with the fact that we’d never find out ‘A’s identity, or that when we did, it would be completely bogus and random, like last season’s “Charles DiLaurentis” letdown.
But oh, boy, did the ‘A’ reveal feel satisfying! All this time, CeCe Drake was right under our noses, plotting evil. According to Twitter reactions, it looks like a lot of people were disappointed by the reveal, but I really don’t understand why! CeCe was always a little too involved, and a little too mysterious. Wren literally would have made no sense. And one of the Liars, least of all. Did you want it to be Ali? Also, we finally have a real reason to hate Sara Harvey! Okay, before I continue this rambling—let’s recap.
We open on an extremely confusing scene: It’s still prom night (because PLL loves to mix drama and ball gowns), and the Liars, Ali included, are running upstairs to the roof. ‘A’ is on the ledge, about to jump, and the girls are saying, “Just because we know who you are, it doesn’t mean the game is over!” and “You’ve been such a bitch to us. But we heard your story—we understand!” Um… say what? How did we go from prom to “understanding” so quickly? But then we’re slapped with an “EARLIER THAT NIGHT.” Phew. I was about to be furious if they just had ‘A’ commit suicide before explaining anything.
Back at prom, the girls are looking for Ali in that weird maze, when who shows up but a red-caped Mona. “I’ve been following Alison since yesterday morning,” Mona says, and then does her usual thing where she explains everything really quickly. Yeah, she knew Clark was a cop. Oh, by the way, Charles has his own cellular network. The servers are at the Carissimi Group. Gotta love Mona.
Meanwhile, we see Ali in a bed that’s a little too familiar: Ah, back at Radley. Home sweet home. There are pictures of Mrs. D on the wall, and what looks like Charles’ little face taped onto photos of Ali’s body. Clues, clues, clues. And also? Mr. DiLaurentis’ lifeless body is sitting outside the bars of the cage/bedroom.
The Liars, Mona, and Sara freaking Harvey head to the Carissimi Group, where Mona is trying to crack the code with a bunch of impressive DiLaurentis facts. Sara pipes up, saying Charles gave her a cupcake every year on September 7—try that date? It works, which is sign 5,058 that Sara is suspicious, but not even Mona barely bats an eye.
After a bit more fiddling, they find the last ‘A’ lair. They all step inside, except Sara who goes, “I’m going to wait in here. It’s a little tight in there.” ARE. YOU. KIDDING. ME. No one finds that odd?!?! This room is the most high-tech ‘A’ lair of all, with some sort of fibrous, holographic video screen that springs up, playing a live feed of Ali at Radley.
“Why would you kill them?!” she’s screaming, as we see Jason lying motionless next to Mr. D. “We’re family!”
THEN, the reveal: Hooded ‘A’ turns around and says, “Don’t be so dramatic, Ali. They’re not dead… yet.” It’s CECE DRAKE! The Liars take turns gasping for like 10 minutes (which was hilarious, but I was doing the same thing, so whatever).
“I did everything to help you,” Ali says.
“You gave me a passport and a plane ticket,” CeCe retorts. “That’s hardly everything.” Then she sings a creepy little song (I guess to show that she really is ‘A,’ sharing a penchant for ominous oldies): “Lord help the mister who comes between me and my sister.”
Let me just say, I think that Vanessa Ray, who plays CeCe, was a fantastic actress this episode. She didn’t feel like CeCe anymore, she definitely had a lingering masculine affect—talking out of the side of her mouth a bit, sounding a little bit gruffer as Charles/Charlotte than she did when she was playing her created “character” of ultra-girly CeCe. Overall I found her totally compelling—it made me wish she’d continue to be a character on the show next season, though without the games.
“They never understood how much I loved you,” CeCe tells Ali. “From the moment Mom brought you home, I never left your side. You were my very own living doll.”
(IT MAKES SENSE! Well, the abandoned doll factories still don’t make sense, people. But the doll obsession does.)
We re-live that old bathtub murder scene Mr. DiLaurentis had recounted through Charles’ eyes. Baby Ali is crying in her crib. “When my doll was sad, it made me sad, too,” CeCe says. Charles knocks on the window to get Mrs. D’s attention outside, but she can’t hear him. “Know what makes me feel better?” he says, and starts running the bath. OH… he wasn’t evil (yet)… he was just a dumb child who didn’t have enough supervision! (And was that a Marlene cameo?)
ANSWER ALERT: Ali got her “Why do you hate me?” question answered—Charles didn’t hate her. Just everyone else. We’ll get to that.
Mr. D. pulls Baby Ali out of the bath and screams, “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?” Then seemingly without a second thought, he and Mrs. D are dropping this poor, tiny kid off at Radley Sanitarium. Because that’s what you do with a kid who makes one stupid mistake! There was a kid on an episode of Law & Order: SVU I watched once who tried to kill his little sister all the time—that kid needed to be locked up. Charles clearly didn’t actually need to be locked up, and then of course the being locked up made him go crazy. Mr. D does say, “This wasn’t the first time, Jess. We’re doing the right thing,” when Mrs. D is upset about leaving him, but if that were true, couldn’t they have shown us one other time?
NEXT: Ali’s secret twin