Pretty Little Liars: The Complete Sixth Season DVD Review: Still the Same After Five Years Forward?

Allison asked the Liars to come home and give statements that would attest to the okay-ness of Charlotte being released. Yeah, right.
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At the end of Season Five, we left the Liars plus Mona still captured inside Big A’s lair. The girls were forced to create a creepy Prom, but kudos to them, they managed to escape the lair - only to find themselves outside, but still held within the perimeter of an electric fence. And it starts to rain. Not good. Season Six begins as the girls have been let back inside the “Dollhouse” and tortured.

Season Six has a unique feature -- a five-year time jump. Before the jump, the girls of course need to be shown dealing with various levels of PTSD after their final escape from A’s Dollhouse (Spencer uses cannabis edibles). Also, the season’s plot must include the search for A, presently thought to be Andrew Campbell.

While the five-year leap is a great strategy, it makes one wonder if the showrunners just didn’t want the Liars’ college years to be examined all that closely. While great mention was made during all the previous seasons of Spencer’s academic prowess, Aria’s love for writing, Emily’s athletic gifts and swim-team dynamics, etc., we never really saw them study much. And in keeping with other young adult-type TV dramas, this is normal. Studying is boring!

But maybe since college academics can’t be handled without more than a passing glance at a textbook, even for Spencer and Mona types, perhaps skipping the more gritty aspects of higher education would be the best path.

First, there are ten episodes that deal with the immediate issues after the Liars are free, and they have a good amount of twists and red herrings. Andrew Campbell, for example, is just a regular dude (albeit, now pretty angry), not a mastermind kidnapper. And a new victim of A’s was identified in the first episode, a girl named Sara Harvey was also a captive of the Dollhouse, having been there for about two years. Imagine!

Then, the girls and police are all sure that A is someone named Charles, possibly with the last name DiLaurentis, seemingly making Charles a previously unknown sibling of Jason and Ali’s.

After several shenanigans involving Aria and her photography buddy Clark, Lesli, a former friend of Mona’s, and other feats of suspended belief, A is now thought to be female. This is due mostly to Aria’s sleuthing/snooping on some of Clark’s freshly developed film, and seeing a hooded character with a female bust. The mystery chick (?) had been skulking around a trash heap at the same time that Aria and Clark were working on their photographer-as-auteur skills, maybe this near run-in with A was bad karma due to Aria’s misguided efforts at trying to make broken dolls pretty again.

And slap me on the cheek, I just got the analogy there - making broken dolls pretty - not bad I. Marlene King, not bad at all.

Other fun bits of the first half of the season included the combined wits of Ezra, Allison, Toby, and Caleb, as they concoct a plan to get Ali away from police protection so she can act as bait to bring A out into the open. The first part of their plan is somewhat arranged with the police, Ali gives a single press conference, asking A to bring her friends back, and other somber, half-whiny pleas. Sprinkled throughout her speech are clues that might lure A out of hiding.

Toby helps the secret-Scooby plan by giving Det. Tanner a false clue leading cops away from their intended mission. I love it when the guys are all helping. Remember when Ezra was a false A, and he's got all the high-tech capabilities, plus Caleb’s hacking skills, and Toby just being a good, smart dude, well it all works well.

I’ve realized what I like the least is when the girls keep secrets. Sure it’s the whole premise of the show, actually more secrets than outright lies, but I hate when they can’t tell their parents, boyfriends, or each other some real important shit, that just causes them great angst. And therefore I get all nervous. I think I feel more relieved than anyone when everyone knew (nearly) everything regarding A and whatnot, near the end of Season Five, and various parts of Six.

The funny fallout from all of this openness began near the end of the first ten episodes, during "Last Dance," the penultimate episode before the Big Time Jump. The Liars were banned from the high school prom, but their parents said they could hold a lame, twinkly-lights, dress-up affair in the Hastings' barn. The girls balked, but gave in and all showed up in their unrealistic price-point finery. All but Ali, she was on her way to the barn, but ducked out into the woods at the last moment, following the siren call (or high-tech beep, if you will) of A/Charles’ text message, telling her to come alone to the real prom.

And while the girls were lounging about in the barn, moms Ashley, Pam, Ella, and Veronica were somewhat chaperoning in Veronica’s kitchen, getting slowly sloshed on wine. The moms, especially Veronica, became more and more incensed at what the girls had been through, and decided that neighbor Kenneth DiLaurentis (Ali’s dad) was to blame for…something. It doesn’t even matter what. They stormed - or at least the polite suburban mom who’s had one too many chardonnays version of storming - over next door and find the home empty. Curious, because a glass of scotch has been poured, and no one is there to drink it.

While they half-heartedly search around the main floor, they hear sounds, assuming its Kenneth, and are massively surprised to see a strange but attractive young man come into the living room. It’s Rhys Mathews, the head of the Carissimi Group. Not only does Rhys look a lot like Jason D, he’s the head of one of the most convoluted subplots I’ve witnessed on PLL, and I’ve seen a few.

Evidently the Carissimi Group is a sort of holding company with one of the sweetest profit margins this side of Wall Street. They have endless funds to grant mystery scholarships to Hannah (but no one else), and I would imagine that they paid for the Hollywood level set design for the Rosewood High Prom. They say money talks, but this financier is keeping mum.

Speaking of mum, Rhys leaves our moms with jaws open, still standing in the living room. The scotch is getting warm, no one’s grabbed for it yet. The moms now hear some suspicious sounds in the basement, and troop down there with guns blazing. No, not guns, not Tasers, not even a baseball bat. Of course not, because a moment later the cellar door swings shut, locked tight.

The moms are up the creek sans paddle, Tasers, baseball bats, and most definitely sans phones.

And we never hear from them again! Really! (At least not at a sensible point)

The rest of the episode is pretty busy, the girls find out that Ali is at the prom, they rush there with Toby and Ezra, keep spying Ali just out of reach, and finally realize she’s been taken by Charles. They also find out that Clark is really an undercover cop, trying to protect them, but obviously has not managed that awfully well. Ali’s phone is on the ground, evidently fallen loose in a struggle. And this ends the episode - the assumed cliffhanger is that Ali is missing, but the real question is - what happened to the moms? We’ll get to it.

During the final Season Six-A episode, "Game Over Charles," the time is mostly spend post-prom, as the girls including Sara and Mona, all still dressed up, follow some clues that lead them to the Carissimi offices, which happen to be connected to Radley? Or something like that?

They find their way inside an office with an elaborate control panel, which Mona quickly figures out, and instantly are confronted with a live video feed of Allison, imprisoned somewhere inside Radley, and her father and brother are also there, subdued, apparently unable to move. Also in the frame is a hooded figure. The figure turns, removes the hood…

And it’s CeCe Drake?

This is the big, bad A? This is Charles?

All was explained.

Long ago, there was a third DiLaurentis child, named Charles, who evidently was problematic, one because as a toddler he tried to drown Ali, and two, because he liked to wear girl’s clothes. The parents, especially Kenneth thought that Charles needed to be institutionalized, so off he was trundled to Radley, and Jason lost his - what he later assumed was imaginary - playmate, and Ali, a kindly brother who was just trying to calm her down, not drown her.

As he grew older at Radley, he somehow transitioned to Charlotte, before such a thing was in vogue. Along the way she became friends with Bethany Young, and had other crazy adventures, eventually getting a chance to leave Radley on a temporary basis to take classes. Win!

This was a really tell-all episode. CeCe/Charlotte, explained so much about the last few years and why she tormented the girls - it was all only due to trying to protect Ali, and get home again. Would you buy that as an excuse? Me neither.

But the girls, especially Ali, accept it, and are practically weaving a new set of friendship bracelets. Charlotte is feeling all kinds of freaked out, she tried to detonate a bomb (but smarty Spencer manages to dismantle it in time), and is ready to jump to her death off the Radley roof, but the girls plead for her to give herself up. And so she does. Meek as you please. Oh by the way, Sara Harvey has been acting as Red Coat and Black Widow. I never did like her. 

After a few more helpful video flashbacks, the season’s first half is almost at a close. There’s a brief goodbye scene Labor Day weekend, as they all prepare to leave for college, all except for Ali, who ends up becoming a teacher at Rosewood. This is where we see her in the next scene, as it’s a preview of the time jump. And a hint of more trouble for our girls.

Admittedly, the five years fresh look for everyone has been fun to watch. But what about the moms? Are they still in the basement?

Well, they are fine, and for the most part, chasing new careers and life paths. Pam Fields has become a widow, so she’s not doing much, but Ashely now manages the Radley…Hotel. No longer a nuthouse, Radley got a great facelift to make a lovely lodging and meeting place for Rosewood’s citizens. Neve fear though, the dark innards of Radley are still intact, with secret tunnels and hidey holes, as we see in further episodes.

Veronica is running for state senator, and that’s all very exciting. It’s a great storyline that can pull in Spencer, because she’s been studying and then working in D.C. in the political arena. Ella is doing well, and makes a big move that surprises everyone, mostly Aria. Why though, was there no explanation of who locked them in the basement, and how the bloody hell did they get out?

Moving on.

For the younger women (and men), the romantic pairings or “ships” have changed. Hannah is engaged to a charming chap named Jordan with an indeterminable accent and lots of cash, Spencer has broken up with Toby but still friendly, Aria has a cutie in publishing, Ezra is a sad man who has no one, and Emily is semi-sad and single. Ali is secretly dating her sister’s shrink. That’s appropriate, right?

But, being PLL, you know things will change again.

Sara Harvey is back, and even creepier. She has a man Friday that acts a chauffeur, and all-around-helper because evidently she has no working hands. Oh, she seems to still have her hands attached - but they are pretty useless from the crazy burn type of accident she had when trying to help Charlotte set off the bomb at Radley.

And what of dear Charlotte? She is up for a release hearing, and this is the reason why the Liars are back in town. Allison asked them to come home and give statements that would attest to the okay-ness of Charlotte being released. Yeah, right. But - Allison, though a kinder, gentler version of the former Queen Bee, can still be persuasive. She’s not acting all Beeyotchy though, she simply wants her sister home and has long ago forgiven her.

The girls cannot reach such a Zen state so quickly, the most they can provide is a few statements saying that they do not fear Charlotte any longer. (Except Aria cannot say this, she just states that she does not want Charlotte released, she’s still afraid of her).

After all that, Charlotte is released, and quickly killed. A shame, Vanessa Ray who played CeCe/Charlotte, was fun to watch, especially as CeCe. This death sets up the plot for the remaining half of the season, to figure out who killed Charlotte. Was it one of them? Someone close to one of them?

In answering these questions, there are always some great tense moments, but there is one episode, near the end of this season’s second half, that literally made me jump, even on a second viewing! Some real scary stuff!

Other questions remain. Will Hannah get married? Will Emily smile? Will Sara please stop smiling? Will Ashley be able to keep this sweet job? Will Veronica Make Pennsylvania Great Again?

And naturally, there’s another A. An Uber-A. Of course there is. In this season recap I’ve given a few spoilers, but less for the second half. So, I’ll leave you with that in the very last episode, there is another big reveal, and I did have my doubts about this person, but is it Uber A?

We will have to wait for Season Seven.

Special Features:

  • Pretty Little Liars: Five Years Forward Special. A special episode that aired between the first and second halves of Season Six
  • We Heart The PLL ‘Ships
  • A PLL Prom
  • Inside the 5 Years
  • A Homecoming, the PLLs Return
  • Deleted Scenes

First, the deleted scenes. When the powers that be package these leftover scenes inside a complete DVD, these extras are obviously deleted because they didn’t propel the story as time allowed. And they are not necessary. So, this is “sort of” true with PLL, but they are not totally superfluous. Especially for hardcore fans of the show, these little gems add some good texture to the characters and stories. They also bring extra clues, fodder for all those Internet deconstruction discussions. So, they are worth the time.

The same hardcore fans may swoon over each feature, but only a couple of them rise about the ‘meh’ classification. "We Heart the PLL ‘Ships" is cute, but nothing that hasn’t been said already in other special episodes or features. "Inside the 5 Years" is just about interchangeable with the aired episode, "Pretty Little Liars: Five Years Forward Special."

"A PLL Prom" was somewhat interesting, discussing the themes of the girls’ dresses, Disney (not surprising as the Freeform network is owned by the Disney Corporation). Also discussed was the elaborate set design, which was pretty damn impressive.

The last feature, "A Homecoming: The PLLs Return" was pretty forgettable, mostly rehashing the same ideas of new fashions, hairstyles, set changes, and relationship changes that was also explored in the other features.

Again, some fans may love every bit of these extras, and that’s fine too.

Own Pretty Little Liars: The Complete Sixth Season on DVD & Digital HD

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