Poor Sabrina (Lulu Brud Zsebe): cupcake bag in hand and cast to lonely, hallway isolation. Just a girl standing in front of another girl with pastries and a willingness to respect tenuous and well-worn boundaries, she listened to Emily (Shay Mitchell) feed her a line of insanity that could only make sense on Pretty Little Liars. In the real world, how long would you listen to someone try to convince you that some horrible thing will "be over tomorrow," while lamenting "I wish I could explain it to you" like you're some kind of simpleton? Would you surrender your bag of cupcakes to this woman in a gesture of romance, or would you just bolt and consider dialing a Homeland Security tip line?
Such is life for normies tempting fate by dipping their toes in troubled Liars water. It takes a person of a certain constitution to maintain a lifestyle that requires so much ethical ambiguity. There's no time for moralizing. There's only time for speculating, plotting, and occasional breaking and entering. Sometimes there's also time for defusing a bomb you happen across. But very little.
The Liars have left a string of broken hearts in their wake, belonging to people that couldn't hack the life. Remember when Hanna (Ashley Benson) dated sweet Travis (Luke Kleintank), before Caleb (Tyler Blackburn) returned from his stint of ghost-seducing? Aria (Lucy Hale) dated sweet but sleepy Karate Jake (Ryan Guzman) before eventually running back to her school chum Ezra (Ian Harding). It felt like there was a time when Emily was attracting every bi-curious girl in eastern Pennsylvania, but none of them was as privy to what was happening to her like Paige (Lindsey Shaw) was (and apparently is). And Spencer (Troian Bellisario) — well, I guess Spencer had "almost things" with her addiction coach and the artist who built that whisper machine at The Brew, but they also didn't matter enough to know her Sherlock Holmes alter ego.
And, as the OTPs begin to converge onto Rosewood, you almost have to feel sad for these poor wretches who thought they could hang. Seasons 6B and 7A have been particularly brutal when it comes to loves lost. Goodbye to fiancés Jordan (David Coussins) the Australian Beefman and Liam (Roberto Aguire) the Sweet Prince of Ezria Truth. As much as I'd like to see Spencer have one night with Xiomara's anti-Rogelio Marco (Nicholas Gonzalez) (she deserves something after her Caleb and Toby double whammy), that's probably doomed. And now we have sweet Sabrina, so important for her role in weed-gummy-bearing Toby (Keegan Allen) so hard he couldn't even stand up, who will become just another casualty in Emily's dubious romantic history.
The best part about these normies weaving in and out of the Liars' lives is watching them try to make sense of their crushes' perpetual states of absurdity. It's like a straight-laced character from a John Grisham novel wandering into Gabriel García Márquez's Macondo. Things look similar to what you know: trees, houses, bananas. But then all these people are wandering around in what they're calling an insomnia plague, and did that young woman just float into the sky and burst into a radiant light? Well, at least there're bananas.
These regular people are the best juxtaposition for refreshing the drama happening in Rosewood. As the plot thickens and the stakes escalate, we as the audience can get desensitized by the constant topping. Adding someone who's not hardened by incessant and omnipresent bullying means we get fresh eyes on the magical realism. We can see the exhaustion and conditioned vagaries of these girls who've been singled out to suffer, without much changing in the pacing or direction of the show.
One of the best examples of this was during Season 6A when the Liars came back from the Dollhouse and had to return to normal human life. Among their parents and casual Rosewoodians, they were disparate thanks to all that they'd endured and, during the episodes in which the Liars were allowed to stew in their PTSD, we could really feel their isolation from their common man. It isn't until their lives are populated with a citizenry that isn't fantastically foreboding or dimensionally complex due to years of torture that we notice how their lives are tragically weird.
But it cuts both ways. All we need are a few well-placed, confused looks from Sabrina, who only wants to do something normal like grab some dinner. "No, sorry," I paraphrase for Emily. "I can't go out with you tonight. I have to stay in this apartment that isn't mine and wait. Also, let me tell you absolutely nothing in the most ominous way possible." Because we're normies that aren't being hounded for no apparent reason by a maniacally murderous texter, sometimes we empathize with the Rosewood normies. Yeah, I hear you, Emily, but your refusal to talk about it sounds at best completely ridiculous and at worst like you're operating a terrorist cell.
You have to applaud the show for sticking to its guns when it comes to the Liars not describing their personal hells to regular folk. Though it gets exhausting to listen to their thinly-veiled evasiveness (because time may have passed, but they're all still terrible at fibbing), a special relationship has developed between the good people of Rosewood and those participating, voluntarily or involuntarily, in the vile cancer that was Charlotte's favorite game.
The Liars protect the innocent from getting involved. It's only the most insistent of their loves who wedge themselves into the pernicious lives of their soulmates. Otherwise, the Liars shoulder their burden alone, under the prying eyes of those who wish they were strong enough to love them in this perdition, and the ones who think they're total weirdos because these girls are constantly stalking around the sleepy homes and sleepier abandoned warehouses in town.
But that doesn't mean we can't appreciate the normies who dared to dream, the ones who saw these tiny, handsome lasses and thought, "She seems aloof and mysterious. I wonder what she's all about. Maybe I'll ask her out. What's the worst that can happen?"
I have a theory that all television, by the fourth or fifth season, will start to remark on how its characters are worse for their community than any plague or famine because of all the drama that swirls around the them and threatens to swallow the community whole. Think of Sam from New Girl telling everyone in the loft they are garbage people, the patients on Scrubs expressing the same sentiment to the show's characters, and, of course, the cast of Seinfeld. But asking out a Liar, if you're not built for constant emotional and physical assault, is like inviting the pale horse to your house. Doom and Death are all that await for you fools. But bless your hearts, normies. You revitalize this show.
Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on Freeform.