So there you are, staring at the smashed corpse of your sort-of best friend's husband, a man whom you believe to be sociopathically abusive and grossly violent, as his busted head rests on your steering wheel. You look around at all of your high school friends who've been through similar events several times before and who've also led you astray several times before, because who actually knows what to do in this situation? Who do you call when you're from suburban Pennsylvania and you need a body to be cleaned up and a capital crime to be buried?
Tuesday's episode of Pretty Little Liars presented that very conundrum. Do you trust prone-to-freakouts Aria (Lucy Hale)? Shaky-hands Emily (Shay Mitchell)? A distracted Spencer (Troian Bellisario)? No, your first call is to one person and that's Mona Vanderwaal (Janel Parrish), Rosewood's very own Mike Ehrmantraut.
Or at least it should be. But the Liars have been side-eying Mona for years. That was on display when Aria had nothing but sarcasm and spite when Mona was telling her and Hanna (Ashley Benson) how she just saved them with her automotive connections. Despite always being around when they need her to clean up a crime scene or instantly operate a Star Trek-like holodeck, Mona is, no matter the situation, forever on the short list of suspects with Jenna (Tammin Sursok), Ali, and whichever creepy dude one of them just picked up at a bar the night before.
Granted, Mona was the founder of the game that's haunted them for their entire post-pubescent lives but, at some point, when is she redeemed? When has Mona shown enough contrition that you can trust her? When do you learn that Mona is going to do right by you?
It Must Be Nice to Have Vanderwaal On Your Side
Mona rolling up in Hanna's fixed car and schooling the Liars on the finer points of being criminally stealth is just the latest in a long line of Mona trying to find ways to make up for her (now ancient) reign of terror. This is a woman who stayed up all night once telling the Liars everything she knew about The Game in an effort to help them thwart the woman that stole it from her. She helped the Hastings senatorial campaign even though she was working for the opposing side. She even once copped to a cop-killing in order to save Ashley Marin from the police and Hanna Marin from herself.
There is no greater resource in the fight against your high-level tormenter than a genius-level reformed tormenter that desperately wants to be your friend. There is no one quicker on their feet when it comes to dire and hopeless situations. Mona is the only one that actually knows the rules to The Game. And, most importantly, she knows everything about you with encyclopedic detail. She's an expert on you and she only needs to be paid in validation. Let her get you your latte.
But, like Emily mentioned in "Hit and Run, Run, Run" (and something Spencer has been hammering since the beginning of Season 7), the Liars have all fallen into their old foolish patterns just by being in Rosewood. And chief among those trappings is to accuse all their old nemeses, even those that've long been exonerated, of foul play. Sure, Mona may not be playing exactly by the rules, but what do you expect from someone so unstuck from convention that in her spare time she teaches herself to be a phenomenon?
Mind you, Mona is also a woman that suffered with them. Recall the Season 5A finale when the show psyched us all out (#NeverForget Season 5's narrative betrayal) by showing Mona's presumed dead (but actually just paralyzed) body, lifeless in the trunk of a car, just before she was carted off to the same "dollhouse" in which the Liars would soon find themselves naked and afraid. She struggled through as strong as the other four and, from beneath that burden, still managed to help them hatch a plot to escape that required her acute MacGuyver skills. Would Spencer have been able to build a DIY electromagnetic pulse without Mona around? We'll never know.
After losing the title of A, the hunter became the hunted, and Mona had to deal with the small nuisance of an anonymous and moneyed individual terrorizing her from afar. The Liars will only occasionally accept Vanderwaal assistance in spite of reluctance, hesitation, and negative bias — even though Mona has been baptized in the same sacred flame of torment as the rest of them. It's kind of messed up.
Which is why it's no surprise during this episode that Mona reacted to Aria's tired disdain almost as if this was a normal conversation pattern. Because by now it is normal. The Liars speak in thinly-veiled accusations. Then Mona quips back with confidence and no small amount of sass, fully detailing all the things she's done to help her friends and thereby making the Liars' schemes look like they were constructed by babies.
A dynamic theme to "Hit and Run, Run, Run" was the focus on how these women surrendered nice, quiet lives under their own deserved fig trees to retake up the arms against familiar, cruel (if soapy) enemies. But it wasn't just the Liars who fell into their old routines. It was Mona, too, that fell back into a pattern of helping Hanna and her band of frenemies, despite it being a thankless job. Thankless might not even be the right word because you might assume there are zero thanks. I feel like with all the times the Liars took and took and Mona kept living for them anyway, we're looking at a negative thanks situation.
The unfamiliar parts of this heavily-tread territory should be enough for the Liars to adopt Mona as an honorary Liar, especially given the fact that if everyone could get on board, Spencer and Mona could probably work together for 20 minutes and figure everything out. At the very least, Mona would be there to shut Spencer down whenever she opened her mouth to point out another red herring. Or not even a red herring. Just whoever is around to accuse and sounds remotely plausible. I was surprised when Spencer saw Jenna and she didn't just stand up and yell, "J'accuse!" to the blind woman's face.
The fact is, it's high time the Liars gave as much of themselves to Mona as they do to obvious creeps who try to pick them up at bars. Mona: the beginning and the end of A survival. Mona: sufferer of her passions and atoner for past sins. Mona: the person you want on your team when the chips are down, you're out of leads, and you need a solid blue snarf. Mona will save us all.
Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on Freeform.