Here in what was supposed to be the Season of Romance on Pretty Little Liars, we started with just about all the Liars either in or about to be in committed, loving relationships. Hanna (Ashley Benson) was engaged to Aussie beefcake Jordan (David Coussins), Aria (Lucy Hale) was betrothed to loveable everyman (and soothsayer) Liam (Roberto Aguire), Alison (Sasha Pieterse) would eventually marry the ethical quandary Elliott/Archer (Huw Collins), and Spencer (Troian Bellisario) would eventually have all the tall sex with Caleb (Tyler Blackburn). Emily (Shay Mitchell) was the only one left in the dust but, you know, this show really doesn't seem to care about Emily's romantic happiness. Maybe she was in the penalty box for bedding their torturer's lieutenant.
Seven episodes deep and Hanna is no longer engaged to Jordan (though Haleb is brewing), Aria is now engaged to her old high school English teacher (seriously, Aria, so many fish in the sea), and Alison narrowly escaped a lifetime of violent psychotherapy and leather masks via Hanna's windshield. And while no one's saying that Alison isn't the undisputed champion of Ill-Fated Romance, Spencer is having an unusually hard go of it in the boy department.
First was the gone-too-soon Spaleb relationship. Hacker and the Brain barely got a guest star arc of blissful episodes together before Hanna's kidnapping muddied Caleb's heart into a desperate confusion over whom he actually loved. The meta-narrative ensured that fan-favorite Haleb will eventually find their way to each other again, but it doesn't make it any less disappointing to see a vulnerable Spencer reason her own way through a breakup. I mean, she made Caleb realize they weren't meant to be through verb tense. I think that's part of the Hastings creed. Go to law school, make your family tree murky with neighborly dalliances, and use semantics and grammar for your breakup conversations.
Then "Original G'A'ngsters" came along and provided Toby (Keegan Allen) with his own Spencer breakup. Obviously, they weren't really together, but his goodbye felt like one all the same, especially since it mirrored so closely how Caleb and Spencer split. They both referred to her as being perfect, an ideal, but one they ultimately choose against. Toby said he originally started building the house for her (big fat duh, Toby) but that he would be moving to Maine to spare fiancee Yvonne (Kara Royster) from the deadly cyclone that is Spencer's drama. That cyclone can only be so enchanting.
Once she closed the door on Toby (literally — nothing is ever really dead in Rosewood), Spencer wept. Maybe this was more obvious to you, the viewer that isn't dead inside, but I immediately asked, "Why is she so upset?" Spencer is the one who told Toby to leave town after Noel Kahn (Brant Daugherty) (allegedly) cracked Yvonne's ribs during a robbery, a home invasion that was indirectly caused by the Liars' independent investigation of A.D. Spencer also had been horizontally mamboing his best friend until a couple weeks (days? hours? Rosewood time is getting murky again) ago, so it's not like she was waiting for Ossifer Toby to move from the Airstream to the barn.
But she wept. She wept because all of her paths to happiness had dried up, all of the men in her life had abandoned her for peppier versions, and she was stuck in this small town, hunted and alone. She wept because Rosewood was sucking all the life out of her all over again.
Some Summer of Romance, huh?
But what does this mean for Spencer? Much as a spinster woman might retire to a large house full of cats, it's time for Spencer to retire to her puzzles. Her high-stakes, never-ending, human puzzles.
Kid Hastings does her best work when her distractions are limited. Recall everything she did when she was institutionalized at Radley, or when she was popping focus candy, or when she was in a dismal bunker Dollhouse with nothing to do in her down time between mind-bending horrors. She figured stuff out. She bypassed red herrings. She put the pieces together.
And, of all the things in Spencer's life, there is nothing that distracts her more than a boy: Wren (Julian Morris), Toby, Old Man Andrew Campbell (Brandon Jones), that artist guy who used to dig through her trash. They've all contributed to Spencer's happiness in some form or another, either through validation, romance, or falling for her manipulation, but they're all fleeting. Maybe Spoby is in the cards for the future once Toby realizes he's forever drawn into the rainbands of Spencer's cyclone and ditches Yvonne and Maine* to return to the eye of that storm. But her legacy is this one last job: finding out who A.D. is.
[*Side note: In my fan-fiction, I would have Toby and Yvonne make it to a quaint little town in Maine, hoping to leave behind all the torture and murder in Rosewood only to find themselves in Cabot Cove, setting for Murder, She Wrote and the most murders per capita of any town in the country. He could be the new ineffectual sheriff in town who's constantly shown up by a local author. I think that's Toby's destiny: a goofball but well-meaning cop who has his job done for him by tenacious civilians. He just has to be around to cuff the perps.]
What I'm really hoping for is a super team to develop. With Spencer unstuck from shackles of loved ones, I hope she can team up with Trained Eidetic Mona (Janel Parrish) and Blind Private Eye Jenna (Tammin Sursok) to fully uncover A.D.'s plot. If they could just sit in a room together and hash it out without the Other Liars Brain Trust tossing in their hysterical two cents, this thing would be solved in time for supper. And Wren can finally be brought to justice. Or Jason (Drew Van Acker). Probably not Noel Kahn. Is it Aria? I refuse to let you people have the satisfaction of it being Aria.
There are times during this season that it seemed like Pretty Little Liarswas specifically focused on unraveling Hanna (between the torture shed and then her driving through a man) but there also seems to be a focus on breaking down all of Spencer's connections to vulnerability. With her parents on an interminable victory cruise (probably paid for by your tax dollars), her sister in the increasingly-suspicious "London," and all the boys in her life making poor decisions to leave her, there's nothing standing between Spencer and her inevitable Scooby-Doo-like unmasking of their latest villain. She doesn't even have a job to take up her sleuthing time. This is her job now. A.D. better check him or herself.
Unless Spencer is A.D. But that's too good to be true.
Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on Freeform.