Aaaaaand we’re back!
Pretty Little Liars has teased season 7 as the “deadliest yet,” but there was one death that was never going to happen, no matter how many hashtags the Freeform social media team created: Hanna. Last year’s season 6 premiere showed us a flash-forward in which the Liars, including Hanna, warn Alison of a mysterious “him.”
And yet the tension was still on in season 7’s first outing, which began with another flash-forward of the Liars burying someone as they cried and talked about “first-degree murder.” The episode quickly shifted back to the present, where the PLL team (plus Mona!) get their first glimpse of the real, live Mary Drake, whom the team is sure had something to do with Hanna’s disappearance.
Mary heads to the police station to report a break-in at the Lost Woods Resort, which she now owns, and Toby is the first person on Team Liars to meet Jessica’s twin. The rest of the team gets a text from “A.D.,” revealing that the big bad knows Charlotte’s killer is not Hanna. The message ends with “The bell tolls for Hanna,” and the team immediately runs over to the bell tower, where it looks as though a dead Hanna has been strung up from the rafters.
After getting the body down from the ropes — because misdirection is the name of the game on PLL — Caleb realizes Hanna’s “face” is just a mask; underneath, the team finds a doll’s head. The group then receives another text: If they don’t deliver Charlotte’s true killer in 24 hours, Hanna will die, and for real this time. As extra motivation, A.D. sends a picture of Hanna imprisoned and looking more frightened than ever before.
The countdown clock begins and the team makes its way back to Spencer’s to formulate a plan. Now that everyone is working together, it’s likely all of their pieces will connect to find the answer they need. Their plan to figure out who killed Charlotte? Voting on pieces of paper and pulling them out of a hat. Funnily enough, they actually reach a quorum: Almost everyone thinks Ali killed her sister, with the biggest piece of potential evidence being a red jacket Ali may have worn when she killed Charlotte.
The team splits up, with Caleb, Mona, Spencer, and Toby making their way to Lost Woods, but Caleb quickly ditches his girlfriend to spy on Mary Drake with Mona. Spencer and Toby check out the decrepit motel and find a book on cyberbullying that proves Mary has all kinds of tricks up her sleeve (while simultaneously showing how perfect they are together).
Meanwhile, Emily volunteers to visit Ali and get her potential confession, but she runs into Elliott instead. He reveals Ali had a psychotic break, potentially caused by the fact that she may or may not have killed Charlotte…or maybe it was caused by some evil crap Elliott might be doing to her.
Aria and Ezra go to Ali’s home to look for clues and hints of Ali’s possibly murderous activities. And yet, they end up getting even closer while trying to escape the recently returned Elliott. (Funny how two former couples were paired up together for this detective work!) The team gets its first hint of Elliott’s shady life when Aria and Ezra spot him secretly taking a bag out of a locked chest in his room. Later, the team almost catches him in his true identity when Mona overhears Mary talking to a man in a British accent at Ezra’s favorite pub, Snookers. But there’s still plenty of time before our beloved characters discover what Ali quickly experiences at the end of the premiere: Elliott is a bad, bad man.
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While tailing Mary, Mona and Caleb spot her heading to the Hastings’ house, where she runs into Spencer and reveals that not only did she know the Hastings family, she and Jessica didn’t feel the twin/family bond. In fact, Jessica turned everyone against Mary, forcing her to leave Rosewood. (When she says “leave Rosewood,” does she mean “forced to enter a mental institution”? This show is confusing, guys!)
NEXT: Alison for Hanna — fair trade?
Despite the literal ticking clock counting down to their friend’s death, some of the Liars still find the time to do some reflecting on their relationships. Aria prefers to ignore the need to figure out her love life: Liam or Ezra? (Let’s be honest, it’s always going to be Ezra.) But Aria and Ezra share a tender moment when Aria realizes that all she wants is to be with Ezra during this difficult time.
And then there’s Emily, who takes up an ample amount of countdown time lying to her friends about what really happened when she went to visit Ali. When she asked Ali point-blank if she killed her sister, Ali woke up with a start and says, “Please God, forgive me.” Emily takes that to mean her former (and current?) love interest is the killer A.D. seeks. She takes a little trip to Ali’s house and remembers the good ol’ days — when their relationship went from friendship to something more — but then discovers the mysterious red jacket from the night of Charlotte’s death in Ali’s room.
While the team scrambles (and meanders) to save Hanna, Hanna’s about to prove her strength. She imagines Spencer imprisoned next to her, essentially giving herself a pep talk through her equally logical and strong best friend. She takes away one important piece of advice from this hallucinated Spencer dream: If there’s a way in, there’s a way out. Hanna eventually escapes her imprisonment, but unfortunately ends up on the road in front of Mary Drake’s car.
Caleb, meanwhile, decides what to do for the group once again, and runs off with Spencer’s phone and Ali’s jacket after Emily brings it over. He texts A.D. that Ali is Charlotte’s real killer, so the team now has to wait and see if Hanna will be traded for Ali. Before anyone can go check on Ali at her new mental-institution home, Elliott visits his new wife and reveals Caleb’s text: He “knows” Ali killed Charlotte, and there’s nothing Ali can do to save herself from him… Yet.
PLL is back — and it’s just as soapy, pulpy, and entertaining as ever.