Pretty Little Liars: The Complete Fifth Season DVD Review: The Show Does Several Things Very Well

The dialogue is snappy and clever, and those improbable story lines are fun.
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Coinciding with last night’s anticipated premiere of the Sixth Season of the crazy, compelling goodness of Pretty Little Liars, was yesterday’s release of the PLL: The Complete Fifth Season DVD set. This six-disk collection contains all 25 episodes, a handful of deleted scenes, and five special features. Season Five follows the story of Alison DiLaurentis’ return to Rosewood and brings the girls more tension as they still need to keep difficult secrets. “A”, the long-time unknown nemesis for our group of Liars is of course, still a key player in the story.

[SPOILERS]

Season Four had ended with a cliffhanger. The girls were in New York to reunite with Ali, but there was a rooftop struggle between the Liars and a new variation of A. Ezra saved them, but was seriously wounded. Season Five picked up on the same city rooftop, while Ezra, who had been on the outs with Aria and the rest of the Liars, after he had been revealed as a Temporary A, is taken by ambulance to a local ER. He survives, and eventually Aria and the others forgive him for the previous season’s lies.

In other season developments, Caleb returned from the canceled Ravenswood, and he and Hanna eventually reunited, indulging in a brief stint of heavy partying, before coming to their senses and acting like good TV teens. Mona was less than thrilled to see Alison return, and recruited an army of former Ali victims, including Paige, Emily’s estranged girlfriend. Also, the body of Mrs. DiLaurentis was discovered in Spencer’s backyard.

As the story progresses, the girls begin to lose their trust in Alison. Eventually they team up with Mona to learn more about Alison, now thinking that she might be Big A. Mid-season, Mona is killed and Alison is charged with her murder.

More hijinks follow as Aria’s brother Mike (who had been dating Mona) starts doing his own spy thing. Also, the girls, Caleb, Ezra, and Toby, who has now smoothly become a Rosewood cop, all play Sherlock, either separately or together to solve the multiple mysteries. They investigate every conceivable clue in a somewhat strained attempt to find out Ali’s real story, and also who killed Mrs. D., Mona, and Bethany Young. Bethany is the girl that had been buried in Alison’s grave, and Spencer was briefly a suspect in this case.

After all the sleuthing, the Scooby gang decides that Alison is not A, nor Mona’s killer. They, and especially Hanna, try to alert the police, but A foils the plans and Hanna is now arrested and accused being an accomplice in Mona’s murder. Soon after, Alison was convicted of the crime, and Spencer, Emily and Aria are also arrested as accessories. In the last episode of the season, as the four girls, wearing the requisite orange jumpsuits, are being transported to prison, their van is attacked and the girls are gassed.

They wake up in a nasty but intriguing life-sized dollhouse, and find Mona, alive and not so well, being forced to play the part of Alison, complete with blond hair and the famous yellow shirt from Season One.

And why do I care?

I’ve got fairly eclectic tastes as far as TV goes. I can be happy with the sudsy campiness of Once Upon a Time, the earnestness of a Law and Order or Criminal Minds procedural, or the inventive comedy of Parks and Recreation or The Mindy Project. Then there’s the can’t-look-away pull of 24 or Game of Thrones, and of course I can’t leave out the appealing freakishness of Fringe or The Leftovers.

But because I’m just a bit outside the demographic of ages 12 - 34 for PLL, originally it wasn’t on my radar. At some point I stumbled upon it, and didn’t take it too seriously. But I watched it a few more times, and found myself hooked. Which surprised me. The plot - and subsequent side plots - are improbable at best, and often bat-shit crazy.

Also, the girls’ wardrobe is ridiculous. Oh, the girls look great, absolutely. But realistic? Not so much. At one point my son, who was then about 17 or so, plopped down next to me, and started watching.  I asked him, “Hey, do the girls in high school dress like this?” He snorted out a chuckle, “Um - NO.” But I’m okay with suspending belief, after all this is escapist fare.

What drew me however to PLL, was that the show does several things very well. The writing is actually quite decent. The dialogue is snappy and clever, and those improbable story lines are fun. The acting is usually very good, and this, combined with the writing and directing, give us people we really care about. Even my son got hooked, and I’ll never forget the startling Season Three moment when the two of us turned to each other, jaws dropped, “Nooo, Toby is A?” (As it turned out, he was just a Temporary A.)

As it turns out, Season Five is just as captivating.

Special Features and Deleted Scenes

“Celebrating A Pretty 100th”, “Christmas in Rosewood: Designing the Ice Ball”, “Pretty Little Liars: The Guys are Back!”, and “Good Girls, Bad Lies: The Stronger PLLs”

The special features in Season Five set are mediocre, with the exception of “We Love You to DeAth.” This feature originally aired in October, 2014 as a stand-alone special episode where the actors sat together and answered fan questions. The content here basically covered the most of the same moments from the other features, rendering them boring except to the most intense fan.

The deleted scenes were surprisingly worth the time. You might find a few added additional clues as well!

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