Pretty Little Liars returned to ABC Family — sorry, FREEFORM — last night. If, like me, you're still watching PLL after all of the twists, turns, dropped plotlines and an A reveal that was...unexpected, to say the least, that means you're deeply committed to Rosewood's residents in all their absurdity. For all of the winter premiere's issues, we diehards will follow these characters to any corner of an abandoned doll factory the earth, and it was nice to meet the new fetal-adult versions of Aria, Hanna, Spencer, Emily and Alison. It was nicer to meet some than others. (Spoilers ahead). 

Ali's replaced Ezra as Rosewood High's hottest teacher. After a roam through the school's haunted hallways (could've done without the heavy-handed flashback VOs from seasons past), we find the bad-girl-gone-good reading a Shakespearean sonnet. Literary parallels are one of PLL's enduring strengths (to wit, its recurring love affair with To Kill a Mockingbird) so close scrutiny of the poem may foreshadow some of the season. Hey, you know who I don't care about? Dr. Rollins. Please send Wren in, and shut the door behind you.


Alison's subsequent letter to the girls, asking that they return to testify for Charlotte's release, is another nod to both PLL past and future: When Ali was "dead," they saw her journal scrawlings as an evil map key. Now she reaches out to them directly, and sweetly: "I wanted you to know that I touched something you touched; that we were connected." It's also the first time we see the other Liars in all their perfect-hair glory; Emily wins as she's slinging Mai Tais at a California tiki bar in a shirt that ACTUALLY SAYS "If You Like Pina Coladas." They all come when Ali asks, of course, because this show's always been about female friendship, and all the emotional support and power dynamics that can come with it.

Here's who's doing great: MONA, Hanna (engaged to a rando, BOOOO), Aria (despite her PTSD), Spencer, Hanna's mom (who, brilliantly, turned Radley into the town's hottest restaurant), Spencer's mom (running for Senate), Toby (smiling, building a house, 100% hotter out of Bumbling Cop Mode).

People who need an upward story arc, STAT: Ali, Emily (a pill popper, and we eventually learn that college didn't agree with her), Caleb (staying in the Hastings' guest barn, WAY too close to Spencer for my comfort), and...Ezra. Remember last summer, when Ezra met Emily's friend Nicole at the Brew, and decided to go help her build Habitat for Humanity houses? Well, she was "dragged off by revolutionaries," never seen again, and he returned to Rosewood a broken man. Oh, Ezra.

At Charlotte's release hearing, the girls kowtow to Ali's request, telling the judge that A doesn't scare them anymore. Liars gon' lie, but it's still disappointing — kudos for Aria for telling the truth, and to Lucy Hale for the monologue she delivers to say so. Despite Charlotte's mixed reviews, she's freed.

Here is where the show fully drops the Lifetime movie-esque tone it plays with in the episode's first half, and comes full circle to the series premiere. As in the pilot, the girls get too blackout drunk to account for their whereabouts, and someone dies in those missing hours. That someone is A.

Proof of death. (Hulu/Freeform)
Proof of death. (Hulu/Freeform)

REALLY? Multiple seasons of mental and physical torture from Charlotte, and we'll never see a redemptive arc that involves her at all? That's a bummer — but in retrospect, this show needed a death to keep the Liars in town. Who else would it have been? But still: Really?

The Liars —ostensibly there to support Ali, because who attends their mortal enemy's funeral? — sit together in a pew, looking askance in their all-black mourning wear, just as they did in the very first episode. As in the pilot, someone's escorted inside, and it rattles their cage: But it's not Jenna this time, it's rotten egg Sara Harvey. Does anybody remember "what happened" with Sara? Have they even revealed what The Sarah Thing Is?

In front of the church post-funeral, Lorenzo steps into Wilden's role, informing the Liars that Charlotte's death has been ruled a murder and they need to stay in town. A black town car's window rolls up — Jenna? Sara? this was confusing — and the girls all look up at the ol' church tower.

"I wanna go home."
"We are home."

You sure are.

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