It Still Stings: Spencer Hastings Deserved Better from Pretty Little Liars

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It Still Stings: Spencer Hastings Deserved Better from Pretty Little Liars

Editor’s Note: TV moves on, but we haven’t. In our feature series It Still Stings, we relive emotional TV moments that we just can’t get over. You know the ones, where months, years, or even decades later, it still provokes a reaction? We’re here for you. We rant because we love. Or, once loved. And obviously, when discussing finales in particular, there will be spoilers:

As unarguably the smartest member of Freeform’s Pretty Little Liars quartet, Spencer Hastings (Troian Bellisario) consistently faced the worst consequences from the villainous “A”’s vicious attacks—rivaled only by Hanna Marin (Ashley Benson), who was also put through the wringer quite a few times throughout the series’ seven-season run. Spencer solved the most complex clues, becoming the only member of the group to truly push them toward learning the identities of their stalkers. But it was all worth it in the end because she got her happily ever after, right? Wrong. Until the very end, Pretty Little Liars tortured and abused Spencer, making her the most traumatized and battered Liar, with very little to show for it by the time the credits roll on the series’ two-part finale. 

First and foremost, Pretty Little Liars’ most heinous crime towards Spencer was her ending. The series’ final twists were particularly brutal given the timing. With just 10 episodes left before the gates to Rosewood close forever, Spencer learns that her birth mother is Mary Drake (Andrea Parker), the late Jessica DiLaurentis’ twin sister and murderer, and that her parents had been lying to her for her entire life. This left basically no time to delve into this revelation and how that inevitably and irrevocably changed her relationships with Veronica (Lesley Fera), Peter (Nolan North), and others.

Then, of course, salt is poured into the wound during the latter half of the two-part series finale that brings Spencer’s identical twin out of the shadows. Alex (distracting accent in tow) kidnaps Spencer, as she has her sights set on “becoming” Spencer and completely taking over her life. Alex somehow feels justified in blaming her twin for getting the “better” life, even though the only thing Spencer did was be delivered from the womb first. All in all, this half-baked twist wasn’t truly worthy of the series finale’s grand reveal, leaving Spencer with just another giant family secret wrecking her life with no time to unpack it.

We also can’t forget about the fact that Alex is Spencer’s second sister to be unmasked as her tormentor, as the reveal that Mary is Spencer’s birth mother also unearthed that final A Charlotte—a.k.a. Cece Drake (Vanessa Ray)—was actually her biological sister, not Alison’s. How does one recover from that? Unfortunately, this doesn’t get any time to be explored because it’s all shoved in as time is ticking to a close, which is ultimately a shame. It would have been invaluable to the effectiveness of the series to see Spencer cope with these major shake-ups and, for possibly the first time throughout seven seasons, receive comfort from those in her life after learning such world-shattering information. Instead, it’s dropped in at the end of the show. Or, what isn’t revealed in the series’ final moments is brushed past and ignored, and her friends and family are either too busy or just don’t care. (We still haven’t forgiven Aria for having no reaction whatsoever to Spencer being kidnapped in the series finale, only concerned with Ezra.)

Plus, it’s impossible to ignore the mess that Pretty Little Liars made of Toby (Keegan Allen) and Spencer’s relationship in the flash-forward. While the other couples reunite early on, and Emily (Shay Mitchell) and Alison (Sasha Pieterse) finally get together, Toby marries another woman who then dies shortly after. After, he’s sexually assaulted by Alex as she pretends to be Spencer before the series finale delivers some acceptable interaction for the couple—but it’s not nearly enough. The only way we know Spencer and Toby end up together is a passing line before the show comes to a close, which is incredibly disrespectful to both the fans and the characters. Spencer deserved some real, on-screen happiness with all of the swings their enemies had taken at her (and nearly being framed for a murder that Hanna committed).

But it wasn’t like that final season was the first instance of Pretty Little Liars placing outsized torture and heartache onto Spencer, especially compared to her fellow Liars. It happens consistently during the entire show, right from the very beginning. A’s attacks on Spencer were often the most jarring and usually left the most devastation in their wake, as Spencer was the one most capable of stringing the clues together to identify their unknown attacker and needed to be thrown off to keep the story going.

Take the dollhouse, for instance. Throughout those three weeks, Spencer is kept awake constantly and, on the one opportunity A allows her to sleep, she’s made to believe she hurt someone after Noel (Brant Daugherty) drenched her shirt in “blood.” Of course, this was in addition to the standard torture that the other girls also went through. By comparison, Aria getting a stylish new haircut in her sleep—one she decides to keep into adulthood—is laughable.

The consequences of A’s attacks on her also frequently extend to the other members of her family, worsening her already fraught relationships with them. And if A isn’t attacking her family, then her friends or Toby are the targets. Spencer becomes everyone’s punching bag at some point, even if it’s over something she had little to nothing to do with. It’s hard to even think of an episode after Season 2 where someone, usually Hanna, isn’t yelling at her. Yet, Spencer remains the most compassionate and forgiving until the very end, even towards those who don’t deserve it. (And to top it all off, despite being painted as the mastermind by the cops on multiple occasions, Spencer is the only Liar to not have killed someone by series end.)

In conclusion, Pretty Little Liars burned Spencer right until its final moments, and that is a wound that will always sting. Like her friends, she deserved to be happy, with the person she loved, and healing from everything that happened throughout the series. Instead, Spencer is left with an even deeper well of trauma and her relationship with Toby is still on the rocks after so many years apart. Frankly, it’s even more disappointing than the many plot holes littering this overlong series. Spencer deserved a better, more thoughtful send-off, worthy of everything she had gone through, just like her friends received. 

Jay Snow is a freelance writer. He has published many places on the internet. For more of his thoughts on television and to see his other work (or to simply watch him gush again and again over his love for the original Charmed) follow him @snowyjay.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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