TV Report Card | 'Pretty Little Liars' Season 4 Review

Overview: The 4th season of “Pretty Little Liars” has signed off with its summer finale. The season found hardly any game changing events occur, as the central question remained the focus of the season, is Alison really alive?

Storyline Direction: As promising as the season started out, it quickly digressed into a, been there/done that, rehash of stories that failed to keep interest or momentum. After the season began with Emily falling on a rock and failing to be honest about it, it became clear this wasn’t going to be one of the series’ best seasons. It was annoying deceptions like the previously mentioned that kept the show feeling complacent. The show never evolved once. 

Hanna’s mom inevitably found herself in a predicament that put Hanna in first place as most tortured liar. Emily comes in a close second with Spencer trailing in third as she is busy belittling the intelligence of her friends. With friends like that who needs enemies or A?

Suspiciously and never ballyhooed, is Aria’s constant distance from any of the drama. She is always so busy with drama of her own making that she seems blissfully unharmed by any of A’s antics. The season’s finale hinted that things might take a sinister turn for her in the romance department however, given the show’s switcheroo with Toby being a member of the A-Team, there is no investment or incentive for the audience to fall prey to another stunt, as much as I would love for it to be true.

Nothing really took a turn for the unexpected and Toby’s saga over finding out what really happened to his mother takes the cake as the show’s worst storyline of the season. It never drove any story and watching Toby snivel over it and demand his investigation be kept private by Spencer Holmes was pointless angst from a character that should’ve been gone, long ago.

Also, flashbacks to Ali were relied on to heavily this season. While, the show tried to spin the mystery of whether she was alive or not, the stakes didn’t feel nearly as high, given the amount of time she was seen, it felt like she was very much among the land of the living.

Production Caliber: The production remained tight and the homes never looked more clean or inviting. Sadly, the backdoor pilot for spin-off “Ravenswood” left much to be desired. As our “heroes” had to travel there twice, the awfully grainy and gloom-filled cinematography came off as campy and desperate to be taken seriously. It is up to the subject matter of the script to have that effect not an overzealous lens filter

Performance Quality: The performances this season were solid. Ashley Benson (Hanna) and Shay Mitchell (Emily) continued to be the acting standouts. Benson did a wonderful job conveying the sorrow of Hanna’s distress over her mother’s false arrest and subsequent jail time for killing Wilden. Mitchell was effective as well, playing Emily’s desperation to finally regain control of her life and future.

As for the other leads, Lucy Hale (Aria) was competent but failed to act as anything other than bored with her new love interest, a dojo master. Troian Bellisario was given less dramatic material this season and she handled it proficiently. Sasha Pieterse was fantastic as the devilish Alison playing the mischievous, poor little rich girl routine for all it was worth. Having to play scenes where your character threatens to hold their breath until they die; is not an easy task.

As far as the male actors go, fewer of them managed to handle the season as well. The lone standout was Tyler Blackburn (Caleb) who managed to still be the most likable of the entire crop of Liar love interests.

Drew Van Acker (Jason, Ali’s brother) was severely missed this season as viewers had to once again sit through another season of “Ezria”. The Jason character seemed to be the only one who could woo Aria away from man-child, Ezra.

After looking forward to Sean Faris joining the show, he was barely on and when he was, it was for brief amounts of time. It’s frustrating they wasted Faris meanwhile, giving unnecessary screen time to “the Tobes”.

Musical Score: Quaint indie-pop rang out through the season, always complimenting whatever was happening on screen.

Overall Grade: C, after the disastrous previous season, expectations were along the lines that it couldn’t get worse. Wrong! The show crept with the pace of a show twice its age. With no real character development or shocking plot twists, “Pretty Little Liars” was honestly terrible.

[Image by Freeform/ABC Family]

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