‘Pretty Little Liars’ season 5 premiere recap: ‘There’s no art to this war’

The season five premiere of ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars” was full of ugly truths. It was also full of the sinister plot twists that have kept PLL fans in Rosewood since we received our first text from A four years ago. A may be one step ahead of us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun trying to decipher said plot twists.

Before we get started, please note: There are spoilers below — from the show, not the books, which I’ve never read. This is my guilty plleasure and I have to draw the line somewhere.

Fitz knows who A is. (Eric McCandless/ABC Family)
Fitz knows who A is. (Eric McCandless/ABC Family)

The episode picked up where the season four finale left off. Ezra Fitz, having been shot during the struggle with A, is carted off in an ambulance as the Liars watch in horror. He’s in bad shape. Aria is especially distraught since it’s clear he took the bullet to save her (and her friends).  The Liars convince Aria to calm down, noting that she’ll wind up answering questions in the police station if she lets on that she’s involved. The goal, after all, is to make sure Ezra’s OK and get him to divulge A’s identity. Alison, watching from a balcony, sees a hooded figure on top of the ambulance. It’s presumably A, the same hooded figure who scaled rooftops in the last episode and probably does parkour in his/her spare time.

As Ezra gets admitted to the ER, the girls mobilize and obtain a burner phone so that Hanna can anonymously I.D. Ezra as the shooting victim. There’s a discussion about whether splitting up is the best idea (because that’s never gone terribly wrong before, am I right?). Spencer cites historic military tactics, which Ali one-ups with a nod to the philosophies she’s apparently been reading about while on the lam: “There’s no art to this war, Spencer.”

Back in Rosewood, Spencer’s mother gets a call from Hanna’s mom, Ashley. It’s clear that the girls haven’t bothered to call home. Melissa, who confessed something to her father in the last episode, tells her mother that she blames Ali for all the trouble that Spencer has ever been in and comes thisclose to telling her mom whatever secret she’s holding onto — until Detective Holbrook rings the doorbell with news that Cece Drake — Ali’s old friend, doppelganger and prime A candidate — has escaped police custody. 

The girls have been reported missing, which Mona sees on television. “This changes everything,” she barks in a phone call to persons unknown. Ali has teamed up with Aria and they’re headed to the hospital, but not before Ali asks an important question: Does Ezra have a chance to win Aria back? Aria dismisses the question — it’s hard to speculate on Ezria‘s fate when Ezra’s fate is so unclear.

Spencer, Hanna and Emily make it to the hospital in time to pretend to read well-being journals in the waiting room. Aria and Ali take a more direct approach, asking for Ezra by name. Not far away is the mysterious A, who has managed to elude the cops keeping watch over Ezra’s surgical room, even while sporting a bulky white coat and leather gloves. When Alison DiLaurentis gets paged over the loudspeaker, the shady figure follows her to the exit.

Ali, clearly being trailed as she walks through shadowy alleys and darts through traffic, ends up looking A straight into his/her obscured face. She then runs to a deserted playground where swing sets and roundabouts eerily appear to move on their own. She sees the figure again, who creepily whispers “wanna play?” Enter Spencer, Emily and Hanna, who confess that they’ve been following Ali to protect her. Then a contingent of A types descend on the playground, hissing at the group until the NYPD — yes the NYPD — breaks up the melee.

Mona gets the intel that the group’s in New York. She shares the info with  – dun, dun, dun — erstwhile A-Teamer Lucas.

It occurs to the girls that they shouldn’t just be congregating in the middle of the city. So, Ali takes them to one of her hideouts — a theater in the middle of Times Square. Flashback time! We discover that Ezra took her here back when they were hanging out — before he knew that she was a 15-year-old girl and before she went missing. And it’s not just a pretentious date spot. It’s a theater owned by Ezra’s family.

Alison and Ezra (Eric McCandless/ABC Family)
Alison and Ezra (Eric McCandless/ABC Family)

It’s been a while since the girls had a sleepover, but old habits resurface pretty quickly when Ali steps away to make a phone call and the girls wonder if she’s keeping secrets from them. (Is the sky blue?)

The secret-keeping becomes pretty clear when Emily awakens to find Ali gone. She slipped away to meet with Cece and Noel. CeCe needs to get away from Rosewood police (she killed Detective Wilden!) and Ali lends CeCe her passport so she can make a clean getaway. Noel’s role is unclear other than that of stereotypical teenage boy: “Is this the part where you two kiss?”

Another blast from Ali’s past — Shana — appears at the hospital. Given her shaky rapport with the Liars, Aria keeps her at arms length, but Shana insists that she’s there on Ali’s orders to keep watch over Aria. She encourages Aria to rest and promises to wake her should there be any word on Ezra, who made it out of his difficult surgery.

Alison tries to sneak back in while the girls are still sleeping, but Emily is awake and calls Ali out. Ali explains that CeCe has protected her. CeCe was never actually Red Coat, but rather the one who saved Emily from being sawed in half last season. So, there’s that.

Back at the hospital, Aria wakes up and disovers that Shana is gone. She hears that Ezra is in recovery and goes into his room, only to see Shana standing over him. When Aria gets closer to Ezra, he wakes up, appears terrified and enters a code blue situation. 

Situations are brewing in Rosewood as well. Holbrook is looking into Fitz’s background and discovers that he is, in fact, a Fitzgerald. He eventually connects Ali to the Fitzgerald Theater. Meanwhile, Mona has gathered an army of Rosewood High School students scorned by Ali — Lucas and Paige,  among them — and assures them “the bigger we are, the harder she falls.” Melissa Hastings makes an appearance at this meeting and seems to have taught Mona a thing or two.

Ali and the girls field calls from Aria to get more info on Fitz’s condition. But a wayward call comes through — from Detective Holbrook. When the girls suggest that Ali take her passport and run, she confesses that she gave it to CeCe. Cue another discussion about trust, friendship and secrets.

Maybe the wrong set of friends were having that discussion. Because once Aria makes it back to Fitz’s bedside she learns the truth. Shana appears in the theater with a gun, declaring “I couldn’t have picked a better place to end your story.” Ali tearfully tries to calm Shana down. Hanna, bless her heart, blurts out that Shana needs help, like Mona.”I’m not Mona,” Shana snaps. “This isn’t a game.” It turns out that Shana fell in love with Jenna and was trying to get “justice” for all of the bad things that had happened to Jenna because of Ali.

Aria to the rescue. She showed up at the theater just in time, hitting Shana over the head. Shana then fell off of the stage, to her death.

“It really is over,” Aria says, sounding incredulous. And with good reason: If there’s anything PLL fans have learned over the past five seasons, it’s that with A, it’s never over.

Lingering questions: What did Melissa tell her father? And why must she not tell her mother? What is Mona planning? Who descended on the Liars in the playground? Because Mona’s group doesn’t seem that organized. Also, did CeCe really just pass security as Vivian Darkbloom?

Bethonie Butler is a producer and a reporter on The Post’s engagement team. She oversees online comments and has also contributed to The Style Blog and She The People.
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