If you know me, you know that I have always been a little skeptical of Paily, particularly the early beginnings when she tried to drown her soulmate before admitting she just didn't know how to deal with her feelings. Some people pull pig-tails. Others engage in attempted murder. Rosewood be Rosewood.
But after Paige's departure from suburban Pennsylvania life in Season 6A, granting herself a much-deserved vacation from the pressures of being emotionally invested in a Liar, we watched Emily (Shay Mitchell) stumble through a swinger and her torturer's shower-obsessed lieutenant. Then the show tried to bury its gay in bleak loneliness — minus her dalliance with Sabrina (Lulu Brud Zsebe), if we could even call it that. I think to be considered a dalliance you need to at least get to over-the-shirt stuff.
Emily's post-Shower Harvey celibacy has been of note because, when placed against the other Liars getting down all over place, one notices the absence. Aria (Lucy Hale) had both Liam (Roberto Aguire) and Ezra (Ian Harding). Spencer (Troian Bellisario) had Caleb (Tyler Blackburn) and a few emotional moments with Toby (Keegan Allen). Hanna (Ashley Benson) had Jordan (David Coussins) and some smooches with Caleb. Alison (Sasha Pieterse) had her duplicitous, torture-y, grifter husband. But Emily, since 6A, has been without any substantial paramours. It's like Rosewood's well of wayward women dried up.
So when Paige materialized in a Rosewood High hallway, I was happy to see that Emily would find a path to the Season of Romance after all. Paige was the last of the The Great Santa Shorts Embarrassment to make her way back to Rosewood after the time jump. As much as I'd like to quibble about Ezria being legitimate, these are the true 'ships. All apologies to the Emison supporters, but you know that 'ship is cracked because Alison would never subject herself to standing next to her stripped-to-the-waist English teacher for Emily's benefit. It's just not happening. Look at these fools.
This is what true love looks like, people. One man's opening sequence to some Santa-themed group action is another man's concretized OTPs.
And the Season of Romance has dabbled in all of the 'ships to some degree. Five years later, Haleb has been of heavy interest as Caleb bounced between his desire for Spencer and his undying love for Hanna. Spencer had a couple moments with Toby throughout the season, as Rosewood's Finest tried to figure out how to quit the Hastings Kid. And, of course, there's the ever-present Ezria, constantly rising from its own ashes of reason to begin anew under the pretense that their relationship, in some universe, had an ethical and totally not perverse beginning.
So important have the core 'ships been to this season that I almost completely forgot that Ezra's adult girlfriend was kidnapped by Colombian guerillas. And you don't usually forget Colombian guerillas.
In my defense, this telenovela subplot occurred during the five-year jump, a mysterious time vacuum for all the Liars from which details trickle out in order to create an inflation of time. In episode distance, we are barely a season from when most of these relationships were running hot and heavy. But the time jump creates a sense of loss we never suffered and gives credence to the relationship obstacles we see today.
"Big fat duh, Nick. That's what a time skip plot device is for. Get with the program."
Easy, PLL viewer with baby boomer slang.
Relationships that might've been stale or that some viewers might not have caught onto in the first place get added dimension with time-jump revelations. Spoby benefitted from the elided pregnancy scare that set into motion all of the obstacles that are currently between them, which now includes the entire Northeast. Haleb is deepened by the emotional chasm that seemed understandable (Hanna's purpose-driven life and Caleb's fear of abandonment), but is still a gap that could be easily filled. And Ezria — well, it seems like Aria boned Ali's brother, Jason (Drew Van Acker), at some point. So it's not just her teacher and beta-male Liam.
Paily got its own boost from the time jump this week, as we learned that Paige and Emily lived together during their time away from us. Within moments of Paige and Emily meeting, we go from feeling a long-awaited reunion to understanding that these two people have been intertwined even when we weren't looking. And it seems like Paige didn't even try to drown her once.
You don't have to be Haleb stan Mrs. Grunwald (Meg Foster) to psychically predict where this is all headed. In at least one more grand gesture of fan service, the core 'ships will be reunited and all we can do is begin the mourning process for all the future casualties. How long will it be before Toby ditches Yvonne (Kara Royster) back in Cabot Cove to reunite with Spencer? How many chaste nightly chats will Sabrina withstand before Paige sweeps Emily back off her feet? Is Hanna going to straight up stab Noel Kahn (Brant Daugherty) before giving Caleb another shot?
If Season 7 is going to be the final season, then it only has two tasks to accomplish: unmask the ultimate villain and couple everyone back up. It's a recipe for resolution and, even if you see it coming from a mile away, the depth the five-year jump creates makes that ending feel sweeter than it would be if they've just invented trials for each of them. I mean, they already fake-killed Toby and made Caleb fall in love with a ghost. Without an extra five years of sustainable drama to work with, where were they going to go?
And that's the best gift the time jump gave us. The Liars got normal lives with pedestrian drama that PLL likes the effect of but has no interest in exploring in real time. Pretty Little Liars is a show that moves and doesn't spend time meditating too often (though it's often good when it does). So if we're going to run downhill toward the A.D. reveal and soulmates converging, at least we'll get to do it with relationships deepened in the only way PLL has time for: off-screen.
Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on Freeform.