Pretty Little Liars: Game Over Charles
August 12, 2015 5:58 AM - Season 6, Episode 11 - Subscribe

Who killed Toby’s mother? Who hit Alison in the head with the rock the night she went missing? Who is Red Coat? Who killed Bethany? Who is the Black Widow? Why has “A” been targeting the PLLs all this time? After years of torture, Alison, Aria, Emily, Hanna and Spencer finally come face-to-face with their tormentor and learn the story of how and why Charles became “A.”

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posted by Bulgaroktonos (15 comments total)
Ugh. I was hoping they would not do this, but they did. The choice can be rehabilitated, in that CeCe's gender identity seems tangential to her being a crazy villain, but why bother? The world didn't need another duplicitous trans person.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:05 AM on August 12, 2015

Yeah, totally agree. I was super, SUPER pissed at this. It was both transphobic and narratively hackneyed. They can try to handwave it away by being like "oh, the problem was her father's rejection of her and reaction to her gender identity, not anything about her" but it still portrays trans people as evil and I am really, really upset about it. It also ended up confirming that, in fact, she did need to be in a mental hospital NOT because of her gender identity but because she's awful and I'm afraid people will conflate those things.

I was also disappointed that it wasn't really anything about the characters. I mean, I get that it was a game for her or whatever and she's got a skewed sense of fun but I think that is a disappointing explanation. Why these girls? Seriously, all that? It's beyond sociopathic. What an unsatisfying explanation.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:24 AM on August 12, 2015

NEW ENDING TO THE EPISODE: They follow Ali and whomever she met at the prom to a cell at Radley. It's CeCe! And she's Ali's trans sister! She ran away because she was rejected by her father. She started a new life for herself with money she got from her mother. They did have that funeral to bury Charles so Charlotte could start her life unfettered by her unhappy past. She founded the Carissimi group to make money and support other young women in similar situations through philanthropy and scholarships from her private fortune. Hanna is the first straight cis recipient of a scholarship because CeCe felt so badly about how A was treating them, but could never out herself as Ali's sister because it would put them all at more risk. CeCe bought Radley to refurbish it and reopen it as a community home for LGBTQ teens. She explains this to Ali/Mona/Sara/all the Liars as they listen in shock. So CeCe IS a DiLaurentis but is NOT A? So who is...

Suddenly the door slams. CeCe panics -- "oh my God, he found me! He knows who I am! We're all in danger!" "Who? WHO IS A?" demand the other girls. "It's -- it's my father." she tells them. There's a pause, and Spencer says "Wait. Mr. DiLaurentis is A?"


When we return, there's that kind of expositiony music playing. IT TURNS OUT that Mr. DiLaurentis was so upset that he had a trans daughter that he became unhinged and started to believe that HE is Charles. He thinks Charles isn't dead because he's basically doing a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde reverse-Psycho thing. His hatred of his daughter and his own twisted, evil brain has activated his latent misogyny. He now hates all women, especially women around the age of his older daughter. He killed Bethany for befriending a young CeCe and validating her identity. He also, in his madness, started conflating his two daughters so his obsession with Ali is in fact based in part on his obsession with CeCe. He killed his wife because he hates women and because he blames her for accepting CeCe for who she is. "Charles" (actually an aspect of Mr. DiLaurentis) is obsessed with Ali in the same way Mr. DiLaurentis is obsessed with CeCe. He locked them in a dollhouse so he could control them the way he wishes he could control all women, especially his daughter. CeCe was in danger, she fled the country, in the hopes that if she ran away it would calm him down and he'd stop hurting other people. It didn't work, and of course she couldn't call because Mr. DiLaurentis is tapping all their phones and stuff, so she came back in person to warn the Liars. And now she's back and Mr. DiLaurentis is crazier than ever, and they're all in danger...and they've been so caught up in listening to this fascinating tale that they are surprised when all the cell doors slam and LOCK THEM IN (this conversation was happening in Radley where CeCe took Ali since she thought it would be a safe place since she owns it now). BUT IT WASN'T! The doors lock, cut to the drunk moms, still in the basement, panicking now, not sure how they're going to get out, and -- commercial!

We return to the eight (Liars, Mona, Ali, Sara, CeCe) girls locked together in a Radley cell. Mona pulls a set of lockpicks out of her shoe, tries to open the door, and says "it's useless -- they're electronic locks". Hanna shouts "you're not going to get away with this, bitch!" Emily says "Is Mr. DiLaurentis a bitch?" Hanna says "A is a bitch no matter who he is". Mona says "Wait! With all of our jewelry, we have a lot of metal. We could make an induction coil to short-circuit the magnet on the lock (scientists, please fix this part)." Hanna says "Perfect, I'm wearing a ton of gold." Spencer says "Gold is non-ferrous. It won't help." but CeCe, Mona, and Spencer all work together to create some sort of electromagnet to bypass the lock. They get out! They run down the corridor! They see Mr. DiLaurentis in his black hoodie! But Red Coat steps in front of them to block the path! OH MY GOD! Red Coat removes her hood to reveal -- MAYA! (note: I'm flexible on this, it can be someone else if you want.) Emily hesitates. Maya says "You wouldn't hurt me, would you, Emily? I was your first girlfriend." Sara Harvey shouts "Yeah, but she's with me now, bitch!" and punches Maya! So Emily finally has a happy relationship! CeCe and the Liars rush towards Mr. DiLaurentis but he has a gun! They all stop and wait, cautiously. The gun swings from Liar to Liar. Spencer says "Mr. DiLaurentis, please! We can talk about this!" He laughs manically "You? My wife cheated on me with your father. Why would I ever talk to YOU?" It becomes clear that the boundary between the Charles and Mr. DiLaurentis parts of his brain is eroding. "Please, Mr. DiLaurentis" says Hanna, who can pretend to have sympathy for A if it will help her friends, "Please, put the gun down." Mr. DiLaurentis swings the gun towards her. CeCe steps forward -- "Dad, please" she says "Please, let them go..." "YOU!" Mr. DiLaurentis is crazed with hate "You're the worst of all! I'll kill you! I'll kill..." and as CeCe cringes in terror and the Liars move to protect her, all of a sudden Mr. DiLaurentis is taking down by a leaping figure from the shadows! It's a man and he shouts "YOU KILLED MY MOTHER! I WON'T LET YOU KILL MY SISTER TOO!" and it's Jason! He dives for Mr. DiLaurentis and the gun goes off just as Jason tackles his father! It misses all of the girls but goes through Jason's shoulder! Mr. DiLaurentis goes to shoot Jason again but suddenly makes an "urk" sort of noise and his eyes roll heavenward. Flash to Mona, looking down at him, having just knifed him in the back. CeCe runs to an injured Jason and asks "Are you okay?" Jason winces and says "I'm fine. Why didn't you tell me...why didn't you tell me you're my sister?" CeCe says "I was afraid. I'd afraid you'd react like him." Jason looks at his father, shakes his head, and says "No. I'm nothing like him." Ali joins them and the siblings embrace, all together for the first time, as the police enter the area, guns drawn, followed by the drunk moms who they have released from the basement after Tanner figured out where they were and the camera pans up to get a wide angle of Sara and Emily kissing, the other Liars and Mona hugging, Maya unconscious on the floor, and blood draining from Mr. DiLaurentis' dead body as his children hold each other and begin the process of healing.


THAT is how this thing should have gone down.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:15 AM on August 12, 2015 [4 favorites]

Ugh I know I'm biased because I wrote it but I actually like my version way, WAY better. I wish I could publish it somewhere or link it but everyone I know who cares about PLL reads these threads already anyway.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:33 AM on August 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

My friend and I have long been quoting Teen Girl Squad's "I'M FIVE YEARS OLDER AND IN COLLEGE!!" line every time Cece appeared, so I was happy to scream it again when she showed up, and then again at the end when they were all FIVE YEARS OLDER AND (out of) COLLEGE with the bangs to prove it.

Weird ep though. More thoughts later, I really just wanted to drop in and scream I'M FIVE YEARS OLDER AND IN COLLEGE!!
posted by yellowbinder at 2:12 PM on August 12, 2015

I've been wanting to quit PLL for quite a while now, but after this finale I'm done. Transphobic and disappointing.
posted by SarahElizaP at 10:12 PM on August 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yup, this was everything I did not want. I don't know if it'll make me quit PLL completely, because I'd probably need some sort of transdermal for that at this point, but *damn* was it disappointing.

The Charles/CeCe character was inchoherent and awful. It felt like something that came from a fundamentally transphobic place, but that'd had a few thin and superficially sympathetic bits of drapery added in an (utterly ineffective) attempt to cover that up.

It also made no sense.

A major tent-post of the Anti-Cece-As-Charles position is the bit in 4x10 (The Mirror Has Three Faces) where, in response to questions from Spencer on Toby's behalf about Dr. Palmer, Mrs. DiLaurentis recounts a few details about CeCe and Ali's relationship. Jessica reports that she said to Ali:

I get a phone call this afternoon. "We have your daughter here," they tell me. "We think she may be a danger to herself. She wants to stay here." So I run about three stop signs. I'm trying to get your father on the phone. I'm terrified that you've hurt yourself. Then I get there she's dressed head-to-toe in your clothing, but it's not my daughter sitting in Radley. It's Cece Drake."

She then goes on to talk about Ali and CeCe "Wearing each other's personalities."

Given what we now know, it's impossible that Jessica was telling the truth-- which would be fine, except that it also makes zero strategic sense as lie. The last thing Jessica should have wanted to do is lead Spencer (of all people) to start thinking in terms of connections between Cece, Radley, and Dr. Palmer/Marion Cavenaugh-- let alone connections between CeCe and Ali. It's just bone-stupid.

And, of course, that's not the only inconsistency.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 3:48 AM on August 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Here's the theory I'd been chewing on, prior to this week's episode, (aka, 6x10, "Game Over, Marlene.")

At some point during his stay in Radley, Charles stopped trying to recapture his connection with his family of birth and started trying to manufacture a new family of his own. My idea was that when he was about 16, in around 2003, Charles intentionally got a girl from Radley pregnant, and (through means fair or foul) was able to get her to conceal it until it was too late-- at which point, Jessica parachuted into the situation and arranged for a secret birth. As a pediatric nurse, Marion Cavanaugh was pressured into helping, but something went very wrong, and because of Jessica's refusal to risk exposure by bringing in doctors, the girl died. Jessica told Charles that the baby died too, but in reality, she spirited him away somewhere. (Perhaps the team who ostensibly carried out Charles's organs for transplant actually carried out the infant.) (Guilt over her participation in this eventually drove Marion Cavanaugh to suicide.) Convinced that the future of the institution was on the line, and eager to conceal the scope of this cock-up, a trusted higher-up at Radley created a small, secret staff to care for Charles in solitary confinement deep within the bowels of building. Here, dolls and old movies were Charles's primary companions-- but of course, the walls of Radley have always been permeable, and Charles was occasionally able to escape into Radley proper, or into the world at large.

On one of his forays into Radley proper, he meets Bethany Young. The two form a desperate bond, and ere long, Bethany becomes pregnant. The two decide to escape Radley together, so that they can create a home and be a family. But to do that, they'll need money-- money that, Charles believes, his mother will be happy to provide in exchange for his silence about her years of deception.

For help with the escape and the confrontation, Charles turns to Cece. CeCe was a childhood friend of Charles's, and though she was never permitted to visit him in person, the two exchanged cards and letters for years. Unbeknownst to Charles, CeCe had spent her entire adolescence thinking of him as her secret, true love-- and his supposed death devastated her. When he popped back up, complete with pregnant child-bride-to-be, CeCe cracked. She agreed to help, but not before rage overwhelmed her reason.

When Bethany and Charles arrive at the DiLaurentis house on That Night, CeCe deftly manages to separate them, and Bethany ends up confronting Kenneth alone. Kenneth does not believe a word, and (given that his mother, rich, old Mrs. D from Atlanta, is widely known to be on her deathbed) he suspects a shakedown. He summons Wilden, who has been in his pocket for years, and asks him to "take care of the situation." Wilden begins to comply, though not exactly willingly, while CeCe covertly watches. When Wilden finds himself unable to tune up a pregnant teenager, CeCe steps in and promises to get the girl back to Radley discreetly: But instead of doing that, CeCe kills her.

Charles witnesses the killing, but (due to Yellow Top Blindness) he believes that Ali is the killer, not CeCe. Enraged and broken, he lies in wait for hours, and when he has a shot at Ali, he takes it. Then, devastated beyond imagining, he runs. CeCe goes after him, but loses him. She spends over a year tracking him, and she sometimes gets close, but he always slips through her fingers. During this time, she finds out about Charles's secret child.

When Ali sightings start happening in Rosewood, Charles is drawn back, and CeCe follows. After they reconnect, she convinces him that if he can get enough leverage (using both Ali and the Liars) he may be able to find out where his child is-- but of course, her real aim is to cement Charles to herself permanently.

In the past, when I've put together PLL theories, I've spent a lot of time pulling quotes and cites together to support my speculations. This time, I didn't, and I'm really glad. Why freaking bother, when it's obvious that the PLL Show Bible is three sticky notes, a faded print-out of a LOLcat, and an old taco wrapper with two meaningful scribbles and a large grease stain.

Cripes, why have I spent so much time caring about this?
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 4:08 AM on August 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't know if it'll make me quit PLL completely, because I'd probably need some sort of transdermal for that at this point, but *damn* was it disappointing.

This is exactly how I feel. I'll probably keep watching because I'm basically an addict but I won't get any joy from it anymore. As soon as I saw CeCe all the tension was dispelled NOT because the reveal had finally happened but because it was a really obvious and fucked-up choice. Why is the trans person always the villain? I think It felt like something that came from a fundamentally transphobic place, but that'd had a few thin and superficially sympathetic bits of drapery added in an (utterly ineffective) attempt to cover that up is completely right. Like, "look, we aren't transphobic because we acknowledge that Mr. DiLaurentis was a bad guy for rejecting her! See! So it's totally okay that we think that 'trans person' is a huge crazy plot twist and are making her psycho."

In terms of alternate endings, I really like your theory although this part:

Wilden finds himself unable to tune up a pregnant teenager

Is a little implausible. The rest totally checks out.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 5:38 AM on August 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

I understand why the Wilden piece might sound implausible, but I used to have (vehement past tense) a whole sub-theory about Wilden's story, and in that context, it scans a bit better.

My idea was that he'd entered the police force as an entitled and cocky but essentially innocent kid-- but that he ended up making some really bad decisions and killing a civillian early on. (In the wake of the Nate thing, if you'll recall, Wilden told Pam Fields about being cleared after a shooting.)

In my theory, shooting in question, which was the product of ignorance, fear, and inadequate training, was objectively 100% bad and Wilden knows he should have gone to prison for it-- but it involved DiLaurentis real estate, and as a result, Kenneth was in a position to massage the situation and pull him out of the fire. This, he did-- but as a result, Wilden is now, essentially, a DiLaurentis family retainer.

In my mental version of the show (Palmcorder Little Liars), all of Wilden's subsequent actions spring from this: He harasses Hanna and Ashley at Kenneth's behest, because of the huge-on that Kenneth developed for Hanna after she reported seeing Ali. He finessed the investigation of Marion Cavanaugh's death on instructions from Jessica. He silences Garrett on Kenneth's orders, because while Kenneth strongly suspects him of Ali's murder, Kenneth doesn't want a full investigation, for fear of raising questions about the missing Bethany Young. And Wilden's on the take, partially because Kenneth wants leverage on certain people: (Most of the bribes are reported to Kenneth, who is also provided with physical evidence. These go into dossiers that Kenneth keeps.)

But as Wilden does these things, he is also trying to create a path to freedom for himself. At heart, he's an everyday asshole, but he's not the monster Kenneth needs him to be. (Note that while we often see him threatening and harassing people, we very rarely see violence. This is because, deep down, he doesn't have much stomach for it. He's totally capable of lashing out in fear, but he's not so good at cool, deliberate brutality.) Also, he is well-aware that if one day Kenneth goes down, he'll go down too.

So he skims the bribe money because he knows he may soon need to use it to disappear, and he gets himself a few sets of alternate identity papers for the same purpose. And after That Night, he starts his own secret and rather ham-handed investigation of Ali's disappearance- partially because he needs to understand what happened (he did play a part in it, however small) and partly because he hopes that if he can document the whole truth, he'll end up with enough leverage against Kenneth and Jessica to save himself.

During the course of his personal investigation, he learns that Jenna and Shawna are privy to some important DiLaurentis family secrets having to do with events in Georgia,* and he forms an alliance with them. He also learns from them about Charles's existence.

Hoping to expand their alliance, the three decide to reach out to CeCe. (For purposes of this theory, the Drakes are long-term associates of the Dilaurentis family who also have ties to Georgia.) But Jenna and Shawna only know about Charles the institutionalized and ostensibly deceased child. They know nothing about the Charles of today. They don't understand about Bethany. (Wilden was told to take care of her, but he wasn't told who she was or why.) They don't understand about the missing baby, and they certainly don't know about Charles and Cece's current folie à deux. This lack of knowledge proves fatal to Wilden.

This, in turn, leaves Shawna and Jenna in a state of flailing desperation. Still not understanding that Charles is a player, Ali goes from being their enemy to being their bête noire, and CeCe does all she can to feed that fear.

Believing themselves to be in constant, mortal danger from Ali and her helpers, Shawna and Jenna make plans to put an end to Ali before she can put an end to them. When the meeting in New York is set up, Shawna and Jenna see it as an opportunity they can't afford to let slip away.

In my now-deprecated overarching theory, the events of That Night, once fully revealed, would also bring to light a generations-old web of crime, deceit, and miscellaneous skullduggery on the part of the old and powerful families of Rosewood and the Pennsylvania Mainline: The DiLaurentis/Day families, the Fitzgeralds, the Neufelds, and the Hastings, plus maybe the Vanderwaals, the Cavenaughs, and the Marins-- and Season 7 would be taken up with a good bit of that.

But if course that's not what we're getting. @#%&.

*Note: elsewhere in the internets, I have posted a heavily footnoted thing about Shawna and Jenna knowing about Charles, Jenna's reasons for coming to Rosewood, etc. It's unlinkable, but if anyone really wants to see it, I can paste it here. Do be aware that it's long as hell and IMO, none of it really matters anymore.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 4:49 PM on August 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

My 15-year-old niece's credit-roll hot take: "So much happened but nothing really happened."

However, she also says she's "probably" done with the show, partially for the letdown of the reveal, partially for the crazy evil trans trope, and partially because of all the statements the creators made about A that turned out to be false. (Case in point, they apparently promised at one point that A wouldn't be transgender.)

Anyway, last night I was over at my brother's house and my niece and her friend were excitedly discussing a PLL fic that had just updated.

"I thought you guys were done with the show?" I asked.

"We...are?" They looked at me in a way that suggested that they weren't just confused by what I said, but genuinely worried about my mental state. "But we'll never be done with the fandom."
posted by Ian A.T. at 12:22 PM on August 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Wait, this wasn't the done forever finale?
posted by ktkt at 12:45 AM on August 24, 2015

Nope! This was actually a half-season finale, because PLL seasons make less than no sense, but the show resumes, after a five year time jump, in the winter. I'm sort of hoping that this episode and the time jump puts the CeCe plot mostly behind them, but it's PLL so god only knows.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:14 AM on August 24, 2015

Oh man, I just realized Fanfare had this after the MeTa, and I wanted to say thank you to all of you guys posting your alternate theories, because the bullshitness of the A reveal made me want to freaking scream. I know I'm super late to this game, but seriously, thanks.
posted by corb at 2:36 PM on November 20, 2015

I'm sure no one is still reading this, but just in case...

I just binge watched the entire series in a few weeks. I'm not super satisfied with this episode, but before that one, I was all in. I haven't been this obsessed with a tv show in a long, long time. My wife and I aren't exactly what I thought was the prime demographic for this show, and we just randomly started watching one day, but we were blown away.

So now I'm wondering if there are others shows we've been dismissing that we'd love. Any suggestions for other shows closeted PLL fans would enjoy?
posted by primethyme at 8:57 PM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

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