Nerds Gets Spooky: All Aboard, ‘Pretty Little Liars’! This Train Ride Has Ghouls

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Image courtesy of Freeform.

There’s a funhouse located in the fandom archives cataloging episodes focusing on the spooktastic holiday that is Halloween. Whether it’s comedic beats that serve as the best treats for even sarcastic ghouls or the gore-splattered upon its next victim, these episodes are sure to bring spine-tingling nostalgia. We’ve shuffled through a few of them already with our Nerds Gets Spooky series. However, when it comes to revisiting these horrors, they noticeably belong to two distinctive categories. The ones that used to scare us but don’t anymore and those timeless pieces where no matter how much we proclaim we’re not afraid of the dark, we’re bound to dive under the covers after the credit titles roll.

Image courtesy of Freeform.

As much as it’s a teen-drama centered around the ins-and-outs of four high school girls’ relationship, Pretty Little Liars knows how to bring the shriek when it comes to bloodcurdling screams. It doesn’t matter if it’s paired with heels when running through the woods for the thousandth time, way up high on a chair lift with your ex-teacher/boyfriend turned, er…maybe psychopath, or my favorite … stored away in a dollhouse; they know the paranoia (yep, we were all that! Paranoid) of being unable to guess correctly who -A is. It inevitably forced us to look over our shoulders continually. So, if that were their lives on the daily, you can imagine the scale Marlene King, the creative genius behind the television series, amped it up to for these Halloween specials. If you weren’t the real-life incarnation of a maddening Charlie Kelly taking to a red-stringed board, Tumblr, in this case, mapping out a detailed theory post, then you were working out exit strategies if -A were to ever jump out of your screen. All in all, a PLL fan was never sleeping!

So what exactly spooked the fans? There’s an unlucky number taking form in the number three as not only did Marlene cap that off for Halloween specials since she obviously felt bad for us, it is also where the scariest hang out amongst the seasons. If you didn’t calculate it, that’s season 3. Oh, and guess what episode number it is? Uh-huh, 13. Now that we know we’re never letting Marlene hang around the number three again, the episode in itself, “This Is A Dark Ride,” involved all of the central characters. They dressed up to pile onto a ghost train where they celebrated a school dance to the background croon of Adam Lambert. That takes us to another reason the series is binge-able: cultivating a lookbook full of styles that could rival even those living in the Upper East Side. Hanna is, of course, Marilyn Monroe. Aria’s from the pages of The Great Gatsby, Emily and her girlfriend at the time, Paige, should be in out of space, and finally Spencer as Ava Gardner. If the only thing you know about the characters is how to tell them apart, then the costumes alone would give an inside look into each of their personalities.

Image courtesy of Freeform.

Since the passengers have taken their seats, we advise you to take out your plastic pumpkins where the best treats, we’re looking at Hershey’s, live as we point out the horrific truth as to why this episode was it. Well, for starters, beasties aren’t always furry as the original -A, Mona, drawls out a monologue as to why she loves Halloween so much: “I love Halloween. All the dressing up, being other people, tricks and treats, treats that turn into tricks.” She indeed went from a treat to a trick when she put on a mask she painted during her stay at Radley to cheat her way on board and snuggle up next to Hanna, who thought she was actually her boyfriend, Caleb. It’s one of the many scenes when you’re not quite sure who’s under the mask, as another is when Spencer is trapped in a corridor with a masked-figure suffocating her. We later suggest it’s Officer Darren Wilden, as he was involved with Garrett’s death — the same Garrett who is found dead curled up next to Aria in a box later on in the episode. Why? He spilled a little too much information to our Spence — information that is surrounding the night of Ali’s disappearance, how he was with Jenna, and if that isn’t a great alibi, we don’t know what is.

It’s also a tad strange to watch this episode in retrospect knowing all that we do now and in the process laugh at ourselves because while the series finale was something, the theories we had up our sleeves were definitely also elaborate. I mean, the scene where Adam heads over to have a conversation with Aria despite the train being so loud he’s unable to hear her properly. She takes to writing her name out on the foggy window beside her, and one of the letters, that “A,” is looking a lot like how a certain hooded figure writes out their initial. Now, I’m not saying having her as the big baddie final -A would’ve been worth the wait, because unless she does indeed have a personality disorder, nothing says plot hole than trapping yourself into that wooden box.

Image courtesy of Freeform.

Then, there’s the great twin theory. In walks a tiny blonde ghost into Ashley, Hanna’s mom’s house, who she doesn’t quite know isn’t apart of the living until she touches her hand and receives a freezing response. She laters tells Pastor Ted (remember that relationship?), who responds that he’s not supposed to believe in ghosts due to his religious background. The other tale that you’ll be sure to sink your theory fangs into is when suspicious characters surround all of the girls, they wait for the police after calling them about Garrett. There, a body bag falls with detailing marking out “CeCe.” Marlene was giving out blaring clues. And still, here we thought that the season’s -A was Paige. We leave this episode with a true in fashion Ali flashback as her hand shoots through the dirt, proposing that she was buried alive.

This episode has every Pretty Little Liars trope at its peak, having all of the murderous mask-wearing anonymous figures lurking around on a train while the liars, none the wiser, try to outsmart them only for a much bigger reveal towards the end. Gotta give props, though. If there were one episode where one of the four liars wouldn’t have made it out alive, then this would’ve been slotted in. As we’ve reached our terminal station, be sure to head over to HBO Max, where you can watch all 7 seasons, and read along to our other Nerds Gets Spooky articles here.

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By Rachel
Joining the Nerds and Beyond team back in February 2019, Rachel Finucane graduated university with a Bachelor of Arts (Humanities) majoring in Screen Arts. She’s been passionate about all things television and film-related since penning her first Neighbours fanfiction aged twelve, before inevitably taking that pen to dabble in fashion, sports, and music. She can be spotted on Twitter at @rachelfinucane_.
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