If Season 6B of Pretty Little Liars kicked off with an unspoken ode to The Godfather: Part III, season 7, which premiered on Freeform last night, is all How To Get Away With Murder. After flashing forward a few days into the future, we’re greeted by shrieks of panic from Spencer (Troian Bellisario), Emily (Shay Mitchell) and Aria (Lucy Hale), as they frantically plow their shovels into the ground of a dimly lit woods. Sound familiar?
The girls are digging a grave, but it’s unclear for whom. We’re supposed to assume it’s for Hanna (Ashley Benson), but anyone who’s spent some time with Pretty Little Liars, or has an inkling about how television works, knows it’s unlikely that the beloved character would face such a callous demise. And that’s exactly the show’s problem. In its seventh — and presumably final — season, Pretty Little Liars showcases the dangers of stretching a mystery as far as it can go with a loud episode that makes big splashes — but remains completely void of stakes.
After a newly updated title sequence with Benson taking over Hale’s featured position, we’re back to where last season left off, Hanna having just surrendered herself over to A.D. — the show’s newest big bad. In true PLL form, the gang gets their newest mission in the form of a cryptic text: they have 24 hours to hand over Charlotte’s real killer, or it’s the end for Hanna.
They find an easy target in reformed Queen Bee Alison (Sasha Pieterse), who currently lies in a hospital bed under psychiatric care. Alison doesn’t seem to have motive — over the show’s lost years she became close with her estranged sister, and was desperate to get Charlotte released from prison. But, the former teenage tormenter is certainly capable of the crime and just might be the blonde Red Coat who Aria and Ezra (Ian Harding) spotted at the clock tower moments before Charlotte was killed.
As the team, complete with Mona (Janel Parrish) and the boyfriends (Harding, Tyler Blackburn, and Keegan Allen), divides and conquers in order to find out if Alison really is guilty, they finally come in contact with the suspicious Mary Drake (Andrea Parker). Drake reveals herself as Jessica DiLaurentis’ twin and, given her brown locks and affinity for eyeliner, the Liars are quick to assume she’s the ‘evil’ one. Of course, we’re one step ahead of them, and know that Drake has teamed up with Alison’s secretly-British husband, Elliot Rollins (Huw Collins), both dead set on avenging Charlotte’s death.