Spoilers for The Ladykiller, obviously.
- "Oh what a surprise, it was Nate," SAID ABSOLUTELY NO ONE (I realize some people still did suspect Paige, but still...) The episode actually had me wondering if making the red herring that obvious (The music? The brilliant suspicous camera work? The fact that Paige's finger just happened to cover up the most important part of that message she received?) was intentional, because the effect it had on me was almost screaming at the screen in frustration when Emily told everyone she was going to a cabin in the woods with Nate. This is also one of the few complaints that I have, because I thought the previous episode made it fairly obvious that both Emily and Hanna realized that something was off with him and even without suspecting foul play, there's just no way that Emily would hang out with Nate in a freaking cabin after what happened between the two. I get that this was necessary for the plot but... they could have just not made his creepiness that obvious in the previous episode which perhaps would have retained some doubt as to who actually stalked and killed Maya before the finale. Hanna, friends don't let friends go away into the woods with creepy stalkers alone!
- One of the reasons why I was so sure it couldn't be Paige is the sheer amount of effort the writers have put into creating this massive redemption arc for her character. I don't think she was meant to play such an important part in later seasons originally, so they had to come up with a compelling backstory and a solid explanation for her anger management issues - and they did. Paige works much better as a sort of mirror image of Mona (if there's a spectrum of possible reactions to being bullied by Alison DiLaurentis), someone for whom it would have made a lot of sense to join the A team but who didn't. But I'm not going to lie - I'm pretty sure Lindsey Shaw could play a spectacular villain, but she'll also make a brilliant addition to the Liars, now that Paige knows as much as Caleb does.
- And before I get back to Paige, because obviously that's unavoidable, isn't it interesting that between the love interests, Ezra is the one who knows the least, which coincides with the fact that Aria has been established as the one among them who is really good at lying to the people she loves? It's almost suspicous how little Ezra Fitz knows.
- So... Paige. Both Nate and Paige happened to promise that they were probably willing to kill, and Paige said "there's nothing I wouldn't do to keep you safe" here - and Emily's original reaction to both of them was... a mixture of "you don't know how serious it can actually get" and "Violence is A's forte, and I'd rather not get you mixed up in any of that". Considering that Paige's backstory is about how she reacted to being bullied with physical violence (and maybe harmed herself, even though there was only a hint of that in the previous episode), the way this played out here was beautiful. Paige's contribution to Emily's safety is... subtly nodding when Emily is about to run away from Nate, telling her it's okay, even though it might mean being alone with him and getting killed, and then running interference with the police so that Emily can go off and comfort Hanna, because she understands how important Emily's friends are to her. And even then, even after all the cruel things Spencer has said to her, she is still trying to make a point to gain their trust (and I need more scenes between Lindsey Shaw and Troian Bellisario because the amount of emotion and meaning both of them can convey with only a look is ridiculous). But on to the other grand reveal...
- Is Toby one of the monsters Alison created? There are two options here. Either Toby has been part of the A team from the beginning, which still wouldn't mean necessarily that he doesn't care about Spencer (as I said before, we know very little about the motivations of the A team as a whole and Mona hinted that each of the members has their very own personal reason for being there). He could have been recruited right after Alison's body was found (at least it would have made sense for A to approach him then, considering how involved Spencer was in the whole thing). OR, and that's the more likely option in my opinion, Toby's gone undercover to destroy A from the inside. This sounds like something Toby would do, doesn't it (just like it was very Caleb to bring Chekhov's freaking gun to a showdown and get himself shot)?
- The Caleb-gun thing was also a really interesting reminder of the fact that there are some unspoken rules in the "game" that he doesn't know but the Liars instinctually do? I don't know, something about this was really peculiar. It's the same thing with how the Liars are dealing with Jenna, they know that they are on opposite sides of something, even though they're not entirely sure what, and still, they go to school together and occasionally talk to her and Aria presumably recently played a concert with her. For some reason, despite everything, A isn't the kind of villain you aim a gun at (and maybe that was one of the points the show made with Nate, because that was a completely different story).
- There are a few things that I'm fairly certain of: Toby won't be on the same team as Jenna unless it's for undercover spying reasons, and Toby wasn't the one who MADE THE NECKLACE OUT OF ALISON'S TEETH AND SENT IT TO EMILY. I think Toby built the new lair (because why recruit a teenage carpenter if you're not gonna use him?). There are a couple of open questions about how many members of the A team we've seen (in full A costume) - has Mona broken out of Radley before, or was it just for the special occasion of framing Paige for the murder? If the episode was vaguely chronological, then someone was following Paige, realized she wouldn't make it to the cemetery because Nate kidnapped her, and called Mona to find out what the new plan was (The original plan was to send Paige to the cemetery, have the Liars meet her there and then call Maya's phone) - except Toby was with Spencer throughout the day. There must have been at least one more person.
- A wanted Emily out of harm's way because the Liars need to be alive for the game to play out. It's chilling to believe that Toby would have just walked away and left Paige there to die though.
- Mona just walking out of Radley was awesome. She got all the best music this episode, too, especially The Hawk in Paris' Freaks was perfect. "Boys and the girls and the freaks in the middle". I hope we get a lot more Mona in the second half of the season.
- JENNA. I've always interpreted The First Secret, the title, referring not just to the original secret that Alison had (the story she tells in the beginning of the episode, of the two sisters), but also the first secret shared between the original members of the A team. I might be very wrong about this, but to me, the episode depicts the moment when A is conceived. Mona decides to fight back. Jenna comes to town and instead of accepting Alison DiLaurentis' proposal, she decides to choose her own friends. Lucas was part of it too, somehow. But we don't really know Jenna's role yet. She somehow bridges the distance between the NAT club and the A team (also it would make a lot of sense if Mona had to leave Radley because they were one person short, considering Jenna left Rosewood in the last episode to run away from Nate).
- "WITH A PINK FURRY LAMP, HANNA?"
- It constantly surprises me how fond I am of Caleb. I hope he's okay (of course he is but still)
- It seemed like Spencer was a bit outside the group in the final scene, the fall-out of all of this will be interesting.
- Sometimes the show reminds us of how terrible her family is; because even though Aria's dad is the absolute worst, Ella makes up for most of his awfulness, but the Hastings are just really, really painfully miserable all around. "After almost being murdered in the woods, perhaps it will make all of you feel better to know that I've freed Garrett Reynolds, so he can go back to the people who've been torturing you for months. Yay, lawyers!!"
- Poor Maya though. It's so sad that we only found out more about her after her death.
- Werewolf Toby, scurrying off into the night...
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