Pretty Little Liars Season 2, Episode 25 (“Unmasked”)
The Season 2 finale is possibly my favorite Pretty Little Liars season finale and definitely my favorite A reveal episode. My understanding of the decision behind the first A reveal is that I. Marlene King had always intended for Mona to be A, which is well supported by these first two seasons. The original plan was to wait to reveal Mona until the final episode of the series but when they realized how popular the show was, and that they could go on for many seasons, King made the smart decision to reveal her sooner. Trying to keep A’s identity secret for 7 seasons would have been boring. The audience would likely have gotten frustrated and stopped watching at some point.
So I think this was the right place to reveal Mona. It also means that we get to see a much more interesting side of Mona in the following seasons. Mona is probably my favorite character and I love what she becomes post A reveal. Before she is a fun comic relief character, but Janel Parrish really shines in the next season and I cannot wait. The episode also does a good job of keeping Mona’s role as A a bit of a mystery at the end. It raises the question of whether she was acting alone. She mentions there being an A-team which implies she wasn’t acting alone. She also is visited by a mysterious character in a red coat at the end to which she states that she was doing exactly what they asked her to.
The Psycho Homage
Before getting to the A reveal, I want to talk about the fact that half of this episode is just a Psycho homage. Pretty Little Liars loves to pay tribute to old movies (I am not sure that any character on this show is ever shown watching a movie that is in color), especially old horror films. This will continue to be prevalent in the later seasons but this episode contains one of the most blatant homages in the series. Spencer wants to go back through the duffel bag of Ali’s things to see if they missed anything. They end up doing it at Ezra’s apartment because he is out of town and they needed somewhere quiet and private to do it. The other Liars are thrilled to be going through Ezra’s things. While going through the bag they find a pen that says “Daughtery’s Landing”. They look it up and connect it to the half postcard they found which is from The Lost Woods Resort , a.k.a. the Bates Motel.
They realize that Ali must have stayed there when she was on her way back to Rosewood. They go to the motel to see if it has any clues and they are checked in by their very own Norman Bates, a creepy guy named Harold. They check into the room Ali stayed in but it doesn’t provide much clues. While Harold is sleeping, Aria and Spencer sneak into the lobby to check the registration book. Ali checked in the morning she went missing, but no other names they recognize checked in during that time. There are several other Psycho references, including a peep hole from the room next door and someone creeping on Hanna while she is the shower.
A is Unmasked
This first A reveal is definitely my favorite. Considering it is only Season 2 of a show that ended up having seven seasons, obviously there is going to be more than one A reveal. The future ones are not my favorite episodes because they feel more like long information dumps that require way too much explanation. This one though is simple and fun.
When we first see Mona in this episode, the Liars are ditching her… again. Hanna obviously lies to her about hanging out with Caleb after school, but Mona forgives this time just a little too easily. Even though this is the billionth time Hanna has done this to her. Mona though responds by getting Caleb to come to the masquerade to surprise Hanna. He wasn’t going to come originally because his mom was in town, which seems like a lame excuse they invented so that Mona could be seen being a good friend to Hanna. That despite the fact that Hanna has treated Mona like shit, she loves Hanna and wants her to be happy.
Spencer is really starting to admire Mona, realizing that her whole personality is an act. Which should have been a clue to Spencer, who is a little too trusting of Mona for most of the episode. That is part of Mona’s brilliance, she has made herself so seemingly harmless that Spencer doesn’t even question her. Mona has barely been on Spencer’s radar up until now and has certainly never been an A suspect.
Mona tells Spencer a story about seeing Ali in Brookhaven a week before she died. Ali was dressed as Vivian at the time and Mona cluelessly comes up to her, gushing about how cool it is that they are shopping at the same place. But we get a glimpse of the true Mona here when she asks Ali for something in return for her silence. Spencer should have seen this, but she doesn’t. Ali writes down her phone number on the other half of that postcard and hands it to Mona with the promise of helping her to become more popular.
After hearing this story, Spencer decides she trusts Mona enough to tell her her newest A theory, that Ali followed A to the Lost Woods. She realizes that room 2 hasn’t been booked since before Ali went missing, because it has been rented ever since then. She thinks that A is still renting the room so she and Mona head off to the Lost Woods together. When they get there Spencer distracts Harold while Mona steals the key. It isn’t stated but this has to be Mona’s idea, she can’t let Harold see her because he would know who she is. Also it must be Mona’s own key she pretends to steal.
When they go into room 2, they see A’s lair. The first of many that we will see. It is full of pictures and information about the Liars, as well as creepy look-a-like dolls. Spencer and Mona start going through everything to finds clues as to who A is. Mona finds sketches of a black swan costume and guesses that that must be what A is dressed as at the masquerade. Spencer recalls Melissa being dressed as a Black Swan for a charity ball a year earlier which Mona jumps on to throw out the theory that Melissa is A. However, Mona mistakenly reveals herself (or does she?) when she offers Spencer a stick of gum. Spencer declines but then as she is looking through Ali’s diary, she sees that it is bookmarked with a gum wrapper. This may be somewhat weak evidence, a lot of people chew gum, but it is enough to start the wheels turning for Spencer. She tells Mona she will take that gum.
Mona has to go out to the car to get more and while she is gone Spencer continues to put the clues together. She also finds cashmere sweater sets. When Mona returns Spencer with her back turned says she knows she is A. When she turns around Mona is standing there in a black hoodie, looking insane. She knows she has given herself away and instead of denying it, she goes full out. Mona strikes Spencer and kidnaps her. There is also the possibility that Mona wanted Spencer to find her out. She isn’t trying too hard to conceal herself and letting Spencer find clues. Does she want to see if Spencer can figure it out for herself and then recruit her?
Back at the masquerade, Hanna realizes that her phone is set to recored every time it is turned on. Mona afterall is the one that gave it to her. Spencer comes to in the car and secretly video calls Aria so they can see Mona as A. Mona wants to recruit Spencer to the A-team, the fact that she mentions a team is something that Spencer doesn’t question. She tells Spencer this has all been about getting back at them for taking Hanna from her. It started when Aria came back and the Liars reunited. She originally tortured Ali for taking Hanna from her. Then after Ali died, she got Hanna back and the threats stopped. But when Aria came back to town, they took Hanna away again.
Mona and Spencer get into fisticuffs as Spencer tries to get away from her and she accidentally pushes Mona off a cliff. Initially they think she is dead, but she isn’t. When the police arrive so does Dr. Sullivan (randomly). Mona ends up in a psych hospital because per Dr. Sullivan’s diagnosis, “she was living in a perpetual state of hyper reality. The adrenaline rush that accompanied her feeling of empowerment and her high level of intelligence fueled Mona’s ability to be seemingly all knowing and omnipresent”. This is very much a non-explanation that makes no sense but Pretty Little Liars is not going to pretend to have any sort of understanding of psychoses. They simply say Mona has a personality disorder.
After all this we get some of Mona’s inner thoughts and it’s amazing. She basically says it isn’t over and that this is what “we” want them to think. Let them get comfortable thinking they are saved from “crazy Mona”. Then the episode ends with Mona getting a visitor from someone in a red coat to whom Mona says “I did everything you asked me to”. So was Mona just taking orders from someone else? Is the person they really have to fear still out there? Or is this all just Mona’s imagination?
All the Foreshadow
It is fairly obvious that Mona was planned to be A from the beginning. There are a lot of hints and she fits the profile for these kinds of mysteries perfectly. First, she has had established motivation from the first episode. Ali was cruel to her and Hanna has been a flaky friend for the past two seasons. This is something that Mona clearly cares about but she doesn’t harp on it too much. Mona is around just enough to be a character that matters, but not enough to be obvious. She could easily have been the comic relief character. Hanna’s sometimes best friend sidekick. Spencer never really suspects her because why would she? Mona has pretended to be a shallow idiot. She has been careful to keep her anger about Ali and they way the Liars treated her under wraps. She never put herself on Spencer’s radar beyond being Hanna’s annoying other friend.
She also pretended to be getting messages from A to make herself look like another victim. In Season 2, Episode 21 (“Breaking the Code”) Mona is literally sending A messages to herself about Hanna’s mom and Wilden. What was the point of this? The Liars didn’t suspect her so she didn’t need to keep them off her trail. Was she testing Hanna? To see if Hanna would reveal A to her? Mona had to be upset that all this time she knew Hanna was being tortured by A, but Hanna never told her about it. Was she testing Hanna to see if she would choose her or her mom? Or was she simply trying to see what the Liars knew?
There are so many other great moments of Mona’s throughout the first two seasons that once you know she is A, the clues become obvious and make you read certain scenes in different ways. In Season 1, Episode 10 (“Keep Your Friends Close”), Mona invites them all to her birthday party but then forces them to come by making at an A scavenger hunt. Where she leads them down rabbit holes. Also the scene at the train station between Mona and Spencer when they realize they were both on the same train back from Philadelphia (Season 2, Episode 16 “Let the Water Hold Me Down”). Mona claims she was there shopping, but surely she was following Spencer.
Finally during my review of “The First Secret” I said that that episode made it fairly obvious who A was. The exact moment I was referring to was when Mona is dressed as Cat Woman at the Halloween party and Ali doesn’t recognize her. Ali says “Do I know you?” and Mona responds “No. But you will”. Then at the end of the episode Ali gets her first A message saying “Dying to know who I am? You’ll find out”. Also after her encounter with Ali, Mona tells Jenna that she isn’t afraid of Alison and then they look like they may end up being friends.
There are many more clues (Mona is known to be fluent in French, which A is shown learning in Season 1) but these are the ones that really stood out to me. I realized too late I should have been keeping track throughout my rewatch. However, since I feel like they definitely meant for it always to be Mona, all of the clues track. I will keep a running log for the next A reveal to see if it really all does match up, because I am not as convinced.
As with any good PLL season finale, more mysteries are set up than answered. Sure we find out that Mona was A, but that only leads to more questions. Mona doesn’t reveal if she had anything to do with Ali’s disappearance, leaving that mystery still wide open. Garrett is arrested for Ali’s death but this seems mostly to be a set up by Jenna. Unless she knows that Garrett killed Ali and is turning him in. Melissa is weirdly nonchalant about Garrett’s arrest, considering they were making out in the previous episode.
Mona also doesn’t seem to have been working alone. At the masquerade other people are watching the Liars including Jenna, Lucas, and someone in a Black Swan costume. Who is in the costume? She must be working with Mona since sketches of the costume were found in her lair. Before the masquerade Jenna meets up with someone in a park and says “they’re all going to be at the party. You know what you need to do”. Who is she talking to? What is she up to?
Finally the episode ends with the reveal that Maya has been murdered. Her body is found near Emily’s house. How long has she been dead? Was it really her that was texting/emailing Emily? This scene mirrors the Pilot when they find Ali’s body. The same song is playing (Orelia Has Orchestra’s “Suggestions”) and even though I never really liked Maya, this scene always makes me cry.
- Ezra returns to his parents house to figure out what to do with his mess of a life. But in the end he can’t stay away from Aria so he returns and they dance and make out in public, at a school event.
- WB Backlot Reused Sets:
- The backlot of the WB studios has been used in many shows. The town was originally built to be the set for Gilmore Girls‘ Starshollow. It has since been reused in both Pretty Little Liars and Hart of Dixie. I love being able to identify which buildings are reused, but just dressed differently. Considering that Hart of Dixie and Pretty Little Liars were using the these sets at the same time, there are a lot of repurposed buildings shared between the two shows.
- In this episode The Lost Woods Resort is also the Rammer Jammer, and the same set they used for the horse barn in S2, Ep. 10 (“Touched By An A-ngel”).
- Paige is still trying with Emily, but she isn’t interested. They agree to be friends though.
- Dr. Sullivan randomly returns at the end of the episode, just in time to “diagnose” Mona. Toby went to get her and convince her to face her fears of Mona and come back. This part is shoved in at the end and makes no sense. Toby tells Spencer that he was only pretending to hate her. So he could get Dr. Sullivan back? Did he even know about A? Has he just been off doing his own investigation ever since Spencer broke up with him? Whatever the explanation, he gets his big hero moment at the end and gets Spencer back.
- In “The First Secret” we also get the foreshadow of Radley Sanitarium, which though it is not stated in this episode, is where Mona ends up.
- Emily: “guys I don’t trust Melissa as far as I can throw her and Ian’s fetus”
- Spencer: “Fitz is a sucker for a tragic love story”
- Mona: “you bitches underestimated me”
Aria wears a shirt with very long fringe and bright red boots. The next day cutoff gloves are added. At the masquerade Aria is dressed like the Queen of Hearts, Hanna is Juliet, Spencer’s dress I actually like, and Emily’s has a victorian feel.