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Pretty Little Liars - Playtime (Mid-Season Premiere) - Review: "Endgame, Bitches"


7.11 - "PLAYTIME"
Directed by Chad Lowe
Written by Allyson Nelson and Joseph Dougherty
Reviewed by Gavin Hetherington

SEASON GUIDE





'PLAYTIME' REVIEW

IT'S THE FINAL COUNTDOWN

Dun dun dun dun! Dun dun dun dun dun! I'm excited. And right off the bat I thought this was a pretty good mid-season premiere. Usually I can be a little underwhelmed, but I think there was some life to be had with this one. And to be fair, I was more underwhelmed with the mid-season finale that preceded this episode - it didn't have to do much to improve. Fair enough, there wasn't a great deal of action compared to the episode before, but sometimes an episode doesn't really need it. I felt like I got way more out of this one, and I can truly be excited for the final following nine episodes. At last, it's endgame! Legit this time, and no beating around the bush. Some questions from the previous episode were answered, but I hope they are able to wrap everything else up in 9 hours (actually less since it doesn't include adverts).

Spencer did what she does best and stole the episode for me. I continuously found myself wanting her to return to the screen when the others were on - as awful as that sounds, I genuinely think the only story that had substance was Spencer's. It was absolutely vital to the progression of the story, and especially following the reveal that Spencer is Mary Drake's biological daughter (though let's be frank, she is not Spencer's mother, Veronica is, she just gave birth to her). I thought maybe the writers would backtrack but I'm glad they're following through on this, and it has provided the Hastings with meat for their final show. Before I sink my teeth into the Veronica-Spencer dynamic, I want to bring up the reveal that there were two guns in the house when Spencer got shot - and the bullet from Jenna's gun does not match the bullet that ended up in Spencer. Nice little twist there, I hope this is something that is addressed and not brushed over.

But the episode-stealing moment for me was the talk between Spencer and Veronica. I love when this show goes all out honest between the characters - no smoke and mirrors, no lies - just straight-up truth. I felt that with this scene. It was emotional to watch Spencer as she realises her identity is under threat, believing Veronica to be her biological mother when the truth is not so clear. Troian portrayed it beautifully, as did Veronica as she relayed back what happened in the past. It helped clear up some questions about what happened, and if anything, solidified my respect for Veronica even more. She's had to put up with a lying, cheating prick all these years. He continuously harms her, and yet, Veronica manages to pick up the pieces. It is far more admirable of her in doing so, and you can see how genuinely hurt she was and continues to be so now her parentage is in question. I hope this only makes the bond between them stronger, because it's not blood that makes a mother, it's love, and Veronica has shown that she loves her.

Aria always seems to be trapped between two men, though there was nothing romantic going on with Holden, it seems like some kind of conflict needed to occur. Quite honestly, I sorta forgot who Holden was (a quick wiki check reminded me what his deal is). I didn't find that he added anything to the episode other than to be a means for an end for Aria and her awkward wedding planning. I liked that Ezra came back and seemed happy to move forward, but then we get a whiplash moment of him leaving to go see Nicole in New York. I was kind of hoping for a bit more Nicole detail in this episode, but it was instead made pretty irrelevant. Remember writers, we only have 9 episodes left, don't give us filler drivel with Aria. Give us the goods while you still can!

Hanna and Mona sure light up my life. I enjoy their presence together so, so much, and I was overjoyed to see Mona play a pivotal role in Hanna's story this week. Sure, you could argue this was a little filler (not for character development but for overall story), but at least it's entertaining as hell. I enjoy seeing them work together, and I especially enjoy how they haven't forgotten who they are too, for example: 'Do you trust me?' ... 'Sometimes.' Mona reverts back to her bossy, need for authority self and, of course, conflicts with Hanna who is trying to do her own thing. But I see these two working together more in the future and Mona will somehow get involved with her business. Not as her boss-lady, oh no, but as some kind of helper. She has contacts, as we know, so seeing them utilise their skills will be awesome. I love these two. I just hope Mona remains on the side of good and there's no hidden surprises there.

Emily was caught between two bickering children in the form of Alison and Paige. They did end up annoying me, the both of them, by episode's end, but I also realise there are some underlining problems that are most likely going to come out. It's nice to see Emily get the job and Paige as well, so there'll be no unnecessary complex there - but now they work at the high school with Alison. This little love triangle just gets more complicated by the episode. While I'm always suspicious of Paige, I found Alison to be extremely petty in the way she handled the faculty meeting situation. I always love seeing bitchy Alison, but only when there's more wit to it. This just seemed like immature shade when I know she's better than that. It does have something to do with her insecurities though, as Emily notices she keeps getting pushed away every time she gets close. I love how Emily told her 'please don't kiss me again, not until you know.' I need Emily to take more action. If we have to suffer through her love life as her only storyline, then please let her have more agency in it. Notice how I ended up talking about Alison and Paige more? Yeah, it's because I don't have a lot to say about Emily, which does pain me. We're coming to the end, she needs more!

I have to feel sorry for Yvonne too, being in a medically-induced coma. This seems like a convenient way to write her and the baby out to pave way for Spoby. It does give Toby more to work with and I'm sure there will be some hard-hitting emotional stories to deal with when this does happen, so I can't complain just yet. And I loved the end with Jenna reading the endgame in brail. I thought we wouldn't see her at all but what a nice surprise at the end there.

EPISODE VERDICT

I'm happy. I love the addition of the board game and how it works - I seriously want one. It's going to take the final stretch of episodes in a very interesting direction. At first I rolled my eyes (oh right it wouldn't be PLL without a mysterious package being delivered), but this has to be their best present yet. And so, that's probably the best present us fans get. So excited to see where the game takes them. I commend Spencer for giving us a brilliant show, I really do have to single her out for making this a great mid-season premiere. The other girls were fine, and I enjoyed Hanna and Mona, but this needs to step up too. I need all my girls to have the best final season ever, and I'm sure that's what they're building too with the endgame. All I can say is that I'm happy with this episode. I was worried I would be underwhelmed, but it matched my expectations, and perhaps was a touch better than I expected. Bring on the Liar's Lament!!


EPISODE AWARDS

Prettiest Little Liar: Spencer Hastings.

Boyfriend Material: Detective Fury.

Biggest Asshole: Alison and Paige. Both needed to grow up.

Most Sympathetic Character: Spencer - she tore my heart in two in this episode.

Favourite Episode Pairing: Hanna and Mona. Name a more iconic couple, I dare you.

Best Line: Emily: 'It wants us to play.' Hanna: 'No Em, it wants to play with us.'

Funniest Line: Hanna: 'She probably walked into a closet.'

Best Moment: Spencer's talk with Veronica.

Saddest Moment: Spencer's talk with Veronica, revealing the truth about her maternity.

Creepiest Moment: The board game turns on by itself.

Shadiest Moment: Alison's shade-throwing during the faculty meeting.

Funniest Moment: Mona taking authority and having to be checked by Hanna.

Damned Disappointment: Can't really say I was disappointed by anything to be honest.

Biggest Question Mark Award: Where the hell do I buy me one of them Liar's Lament board games, 'cause hot damn I want one.

Biggest ReveAl: The writers aren't backtracking on the Spencer as Mary Drake's daughter - I thought that would have been the 10,048th red herring. Nice to see a follow through.

What did you think of last night's winter premiere? Let me know your thoughts on the episode in the comments and make sure you tune into the next episode, airing April 25 on Freeform!



About the Author - Gavin Hetherington
SpoilerTV Senior Staff Writer and award-winning author of the 'Abyssal Sanctuary' series. Gavin joined SpoilerTV in August 2014 and, as of 2016-17, reviews Pretty Little Liars and Salem. Previously, he reviewed 2 Broke Girls, Devious Maids, Mistresses and Sleepy Hollow. Gavin also writes special anniversary articles, most recently for Charmed and Desperate Housewives. You can contact him at gavin@spoilertv.com.
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