“Pretty Little Liars” recap 3.13: The Dark Knight Rises

Toby and Spencer are channeling Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, and if you didn’t start gasping for air when you saw Spencer walk into the room, then surely to Mona, your heart stopped in your chest when she did the full Marie “Slim” Browning from To Have and Have Not, talking about, “If you need me, just whistle. You know how to whistle, don’t you?” (The rest of that line is: “You just put your lips together and blow.”) (Here.) (Also, no, Spencer. I don’t know how to whistle. I don’t even know my own name when you make your voice even huskier like that.) Spencer extricates herself from Toby’s death grasp on her waist to shriek at Aria, “How could you possibly think that we would be wearing the same thing?” Uh, because sometimes you dress like The Great Gatsby characters on random Tuesdays, Hastings. Come on.

There’s a burlap baby-face zombie in the corner and a Noel Kahn dressed like Prince Harry, I think, in the middle of the room. They are each making that one terrifying face they always make. Jenna is dressed like a pirate, eye patch and everything, because it’s never too soon to be ironic about that time the Liars threw a bottle rocket at your face and destroyed your eyeballs. Noel smarms about how his parties usually have a better spread and also homeless teenage lesbians living in secret compartments behind the bookcases, and then he chokes on a grape. Spencer and Toby sort of awkwardly hug him and tackle him to the ground, which  does not stop him from choking, surprisingly enough. But it’s OK because he’s just horsing around. A fake devil bursts forth from his chest and he and Jenna laugh like a warm up for when a real such thing springs forth from Jenna’s uterus one of these days.

Emily and Paige make their entrance and I realize, for the first time ever, why swearing was invented. Emily is Barbarella* (weapon: space gun). Paige is Marlene Dietrich (weapon: swagger). And, listen, I have believed everything this show has ever asked me to believe. Alison DiLaurentis can bend time, fly a plane, shapeshift, and run a 4.12 40-yard dash while filming a homemade porno and baking brownies. Fine, no problem. Mona Vanderwaal can break every physical barrier in the universe because she’s got adrenalized hyperreality. Absolutely, she can. Parents don’t exist some days. Fax machines are still a viable means of communication. Byron Montgomery could seal the deal with someone like Ella. OK, cool. Tell me more. But when you ask me to believe that Emily Fields walks into a room doing the full Fonda on the arm of Paige McCullers doing the whole Dietrich and the entire place doesn’t go totally silent except for the sound of so many lesbians fainting dead away, I call shenanigans.

*(I mentioned on Twitter that Barbarella is streaming on Netflix, and you really should do yourself the favor of at least watching Jane Fonda’s legendary weightless striptease in the title credits. The whole movie really is like if the 1960s Batman TV show and modern day Pretty Little Liars had sex in a TARDIS and gave birth to a Time Lord who looks like Jane Fonda.)

Two things strike me about Emily and Paige in this scene: 1) Contrast their entrance here to their conversation at last season’s masked ball. Paige was suited up there too, but disguised in a mask, and when she reached out for Emily, it was awkward and unsure and so very apologetic. This time, Paige is proudly gender-bending — chest out, head high — with Emily Fields latched securely onto her arm. It’s just such a lovely juxtaposition. 2) It should go without saying by now that PLL treats its lesbians just like everyone else, but I would be remiss not to mention how remarkable it is that they don’t shy away from sexualizing Emily in this episode without glorifying the male gaze and sexualizing Paige in this episode without any butch panic. Like, you know Caleb and Hanna are doing it in that dentist supply closet and you know Emily and Paige are doing it in that train car in a little while, but there’s no winking and nodding and hand-wringing to/about the coveted dude advertising demographic. Sex positive, queer positive, female empowered TV, guys. High five, you classy, forward-thinking writers!

Hanna says Paige and Emily look like a wedding cake from outer space, and if I didn’t already have “Hogwarts” picked out as the theme of my wedding, that would be a real contender. Jason shows up dressed like James Dean, but Spencer doesn’t have time to make us feel gross about how she has so much chemistry with her brother because it’s time to board the shuttle to the Ghost Train.

First stop: Adam Lambert’s performance car. He sings and sings and the Liars dance and dance. Remember when Adam Lambert was on American Idol and the producers were like, “Feel free to clothe yourself in a skintight catsuit made of hell demon hide and set yourself on fire and rearrange Johnny Cash’s entire musical catalogue so it sounds like the soundtrack for snake charming on Mars, but please don’t tell anyone you’re gay because Americans aren’t ready for anything weird“? Anyway, this is one of his tamer performances and it’s catchy and everything, and who doesn’t want to see Paige act like the best kind of dork with a top hat, but I wish it were a little shorter. The Phantom of the Opera creeps on Hanna and gropes her ass and she promises she’ll chop of his hand if he does it again.