Pretty Little Liars Review: “Shadow Play” (Season 4, Episode 19)


Pretty Little Liars took a break from their regularly scheduled programming to side step into the mind of Spencer Hastings (Troian Bellisario). And, yes, it was just as complicatedly brilliant as it appears on TV – all dressed up in monochromatic colors and old-fashioned garb, no less.

Spencer has always been credited as the smart one on the show. And with good reason. It’s not that the other Liars don’t contribute in their own ways, they absolutely do, but Spencer has been at the forefront of developing some of the most accurate theories to-date. If that statement makes her sound a bit like a scientist, it should (at least in the context of the world that is Pretty Little Liars). She comes up with a hypothesis based on the information as her disposal, she investigates to test the theory, and then she comes up with a conclusion – sometimes it doesn’t pan out, but most of the time it gets her and her friends one step closer to finding whatever version of the evolving truth they’re looking for. Although ‘closer’ is a relative term since the entire show is a mystery wrapped in an enigma covered in a question. Find one answer and eighteen more line up at your feet.

We’ve seen Spencer struggle with some of her more prominent flaws before, but Pretty Little Liars keeps returning to the theme of her not being able to accept failure. The only time she came close was when she believed that Toby (Keegan Allen) was dead. Ripping at the heartstrings can have that effect on teenage girls. Besides, this trait possibly being encoded in her DNA, her entire character revolves around it. The idea that Spencer could fail and let everyone down is not in the PLL vocabulary. She may not be sheltered from emotional fallout, but her cunning and logical traits always seem to outweigh the negative effects of Ali’s (Sasha Pieterse) disappearance/death/resurrection and A’s evil plans.

Even now, despite the overwhelming obstacles in front of her, she remains a resilient character. She is even willing to resist natural urges, like sleep. It’s definitely not healthy, but her ability to commit is astonishing. When it comes to Ali, there’s more to it though. Ali wasn’t wrong when she made reference to Spencer’s leadership qualities. Even when Ali was the head of the group, Spencer, more or less, was able to stand up to her. That’s not something that the other Liars can really boast about. She had Aria (Lucy Hale) under her thumb, Emily (Shay Mitchell) was head over heels in love with her, and Hannah (Ashley Benson) was her little pet project. Spencer is the one piece of the puzzle that doesn’t always fit perfectly into place.

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