Pretty Little Liars finally did what it’s been promising for years. It revealed who A is.
Need I mention SPOILERS from here on?
Early reaction from a lot of fans hasn’t been warm to the revelation that CeCe Drake (Vanessa Ray) is “Big A.” The villain who stole the “A” game from Mona (Janel Parrish) after Season 2 and amped it up into something much larger.
CeCe’s story unfolded in last night’s Pretty Little Liars summer finale. She was born a boy, Charles DiLaurentis. When sister Alison (Sasha Pieterse) was a baby, Charles was obsessed with her. Like she was a doll. Charles also demonstrated early transgender behavior that his father wouldn’t tolerate. So after an incident where Charles almost accidentally drowned baby Alison, he wound up in Radley, the sanitarium that’s been the “Heart of Darkness” for Pretty Little Liars for years.
Mom Jessica DiLaurentis (Andrea Parker) was a constant visitor. And when Charles hit his teen years, Jessica helped Charles officially transition to Charlotte. Who then called herself CeCe and befriended both her sister Alison and brother Jason, neither of whom knew they had another sibling. CeCe was the one responsible for Alison’s apparent death, mistaking her for someone else. Later, she became convinced that Alison’s friends weren’t sufficiently upset that Alison was gone. So she started torturing them. And even when Alison turned up alive, CeCe kept up her game, mostly because she was obsessed with making the girls her playthings.
Though many fans are unhappy with the CeCe revelation, it is consistent with the plot points Pretty Little Liars has established over the past few years. Indeed, the writers made an heroic effort to tie up loose ends in an information-packed finale. Fan outrage is a bit difficult to comprehend, to be honest. CeCe is a logical choice and the writers came up with plausible motivations for her various actions.
Episodes have long toyed with the notion of whether A was male or female. The CeCe revelation let the writers have it both ways. The difficulties that CeCe endured because of gender identity issues went a long way toward humanizing A, making her more than just a shadowy villain. Her exile from her family and desperation to have some kind of connection with her sister make her less cartoonish. Of course it’s still Pretty Little Liars. The show is outrageous by design. But locating some sympathy for the devil in the throes of all the revelations increased the impact.
It’s likely that any ending the writers selected would have been deemed unsatisfactory by the Pretty Little Liars rabid fan base. Expectations may have been too high. The desperation for a twist that was mind-blowing instead of logical was a bit of irrationality that’s hard to overcome. The show became a victim of its own success and the intense fan connection its courted for several years. That’s a problem with long-form serialized storytelling in general. Expectations build so high that satisfying them may not be a realistic goal, even if, objectively speaking, the conclusion makes sense.
If there was one legitimate criticism of the finale, it’s that stars Troian Bellisario (Spencer), Ashley Benson (Hannah), Lucy Hale (Aria) and Shay Mitchell (Emily) were curiously sidelined for most of it. They spent the bulk of the hour watching CeCe tell her story to Alison on a video monitor. Only in the last few minutes did they turn up at the scene of the action to help prevent additional tragedy. Considering how proactive the characters have been before now, making them passive spectators instead of the agents of the revelation felt like a misstep. And none of the girls’ key relationships got any spotlight. Their S.O.s didn’t even appear in the episode.
In spite of the knocks Pretty Little Liars is taking from some fans, the show crafted a decent conclusion to its long-form mystery that will hold up in years to come. If the finale wasn’t perfect, it got the job done.
Originally published at thunderalleybcpcom.ipage.com on August 12, 2015.