Man, you take a week off Pretty Little Liars and all heck breaks loose. Before we get into this thing, let me get a few of these hot takes out here:
-- It's always been a little weird how Pastor Ted (Edward Kerr) could stay above the fray that has implicated his entire Rosewood-living gender into suspicion, but then they drop that he's responsible for Charlotte and now I think Caleb (Tyler Blackburn) and Marco (Nicholas Gonzalez) are the only dudes left on Pretty Little Liars that haven''t been dragged through the mud. Get those boys some sashes or something! And then get ready to revoke one of their tiaras because I suspect that at least one of them is going to be or used to be on the A.D. payroll. Don't go breaking my heart, Caleb.
-- Of course Aria (Lucy Hale) would be the first to cave and work with A.D. I can't believe I didn't hear the vindicated shrieking of a thousand YouTube conspiracy theorists.
-- I'm glad they're still making sure that Lucas (Brendan Robinson) is on the forefront of A.D. red herrings. I wonder how many of the old villains they'll trot out this season. Andrew Campbell (Brandon W. Jones)? Bridget Wu (Bety Le)? A headless Noel Kahn (Brant Daugherty)?
-- And then there was the bombest of bombshells: Alison (Sasha Pieterse) is carrying Emily's (Shay Mitchell) baby, which, as you'll recall, was something I referred to a "Top 5 worst thing" this show could do.
My feelings about Emison aside (which might get a little hyperbolic in that article), it was a Top 5 worst thing because 1) until these women go to a lot of therapy and find a modicum of stability (in which no one tries to torture them for a little bit), providing a baby for A.D. to manipulate/use against the Liars seems like a terrible idea, and 2) it crosses a pretty serious line.
This is a series full of blackmail, murder, and shovel-hiding. But the procedure to impregnate Alison would require a new level to A.D.'s invasiveness. It's pretty troubling in a show that's been trying to trouble us for ages.
Remember when CeCe (Vanessa Ray) had the Liars laid out on morgue slabs in the Dollhouse, each of them naked under a sheet? It was a new kind of power play, one that was both a visual representation of everything they've suffered over the years (the numerous violations they've endured) while still adding new and varied layers of intrusion. The idea of A stripping the clothes off unwilling and unconscious women is frightening. Implanting Emily's eggs into Alison while she was drugged is next-level frightening. It's a penetrative and monstrous violation. It's a new level of criminal.
But it's done, and now we have this aftermath of both Emily and Alison struggling to contend with the fact that Alison is carrying their child. Emily decides she wants to keep this child because, of course she does. Not only because, as Paige (Lindsey Shaw) puts it, she's Emily, but also because A.D. getting involved in an abortion seems like more than my heart can take. Besides, this is a baby that A.D. clearly wants born, which is concerning for the parentage. But we need to talk about the elephant in the room: how does this affect the 'ships?
Previously on Pretty Little Liars, Emily and Paige had an awkward bike race to determine whether or not Paige was going to further her career or stay in the pit of despair known as Rosewood so she could constantly be reminded of the terror that has gripped that small suburban town for going on a decade. And to be with Emily. Paige disappeared then reappeared in time to smooch Emily in the middle of the street, sending shockwaves (I'm sure) through the Paily community.
I watched it, at first not sure if this was some kind of dream (it was constructed with the tell-tale signs of a dream, with a jarring approach to continuity and the suddenness of the events) and then immediately tied this back in with Emily falling in love with her torturers. It felt early for Paige and Emily to settle down, particularly with Emison not in any way resolved. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on who you're rooting for), there's a lot of time left in the game for another twist. And then Ali launched a shot from downtown.
Alison being Emily's baby mama and the decision to keep the baby busts Emison wide open for retreading. The only thing that's been missing is the redemption of Alison. All of the Liars have a lot of other drama that cuts Alison out of their lives. Emily is the only person that's still hanging on as a close friend and not just as a fellow soldier in this war of attrition. So Emily finding any kind of life outside of Alison is a threat to her so, of course, Ali flips that switch inside her that seeks to burn down any perceived threats and salt the earth behind her so that nothing can recover. It's a plan that's worked so well for her.
After Paige says goodbye to Emily one last time (playing second fiddle in Emily's love life has never really suited her), she goes to Alison and asks her the big question: does Alison love Emily? Is this thing for real? Alison's response could've been a big heaping bowl of nunya for a shady Paige, but instead, Alison, without labels, talks about how Emily makes her feel. She gets weepy. How this is portrayed is important; Alison appears to speak without focus or intent, without performance. Obviously, Sasha Pieterse is working it, but Alison usually answers deep questions with a chin-up, self-righteous veneer of confidence or a sunken posture perfect for extracting pity from marks. The thousand-yard stare while words flow poetically is a new one for her and, in the context of this show, is objective truth when a character finds herself in it (until it isn't).
This is a moment of redemption for Alison. She's had several, but this close to the end, this is a turnaround moment for her. The last two episodes have been 'shipping whiplash for these three as Paily gets a little, but Emison gets so much more. And now I think we're running downhill toward Emison unless we decide to have some sort of arrangement in which all three egos of these women can be balanced across romances, motherhood, and a ritual burning of the past. But I'm guessing that's not going to happen. Paige is now left open to be demonized (or the type of humanized demon as Pretty Little Liars is wont to create). And people are already speculating about the face shape behind A.D.'s Aria mask.
The question I've been avoiding is who the father of this child. If it's not the cartoonishly-named Archer Dunhill who fertilized these eggs, whose sample is bringing the Emison baby to life? With Lucas being the new focus of the A.D. investigation, there's a possibility that A.D. fertilized the eggs himself, but that doesn't seem like A.D.'s M.O., you know? The father being Wren or Noel Kahn (pre-beheading) or some other male suspect seems like a long-shot unless we get some new dirt on any of these characters that would close the loop. I mean, I guess I can see Lucas whispering into Alison's ear something like, "Who's the hermie now?" when she finds out that it was him, but it's unlikely that they'd want to remind us of the dark period of this show, when it put into the mouth of a future main protagonist some pretty derogatory language against gender non-binary people.
So once again, I put myself in the place that I was in at the end of 7A, where I had a bad thought, put it into the universe, and it ended up happening. This is the bad thought I had during this episode: what if this is also Charlotte's baby? What if, somehow, there has been a sample created from before Charlotte's transition that has been preserved just for this occasion? And Alison is having her cousin once removed? It can't be that, right?
I don't know if America is ready. We've already been through so much.