*All of our episode recaps contain spoilers*
I owe you an apology. As a Pretty Little Liars fan I should know better than to go where the story is leading us. To think that Kieran is the masked killer isa rookie mistake; and I am by no means a rookie (not that I guessed A was Cece). My apology comes not from a reveal, but from the efforts of this episode to portray Kieran as guilty. I am ashamed, and I hope you can forgive me and learn to respect me again in time.
The episode began a year prior with a flashback to a breaking and entering at Lakewood County Municipal Records. The killer made for the evidence room, going straight to the box pertaining to Brandon James. He flicked through and stole pieces of documentation and, more importantly, the infamous mask. A security guard was on duty at the time of the burglary, but was so engrossed in a sexy time magazine issue that his four other senses fell useless. In a Halloween podcast of ‘Autopsy of a crime’, Piper told the listeners that the theftof the mask was never reported; and if she was Sheriff Hudson, she would be looking into the chief suspect’s whereabouts around the time the mask went missing.
If she were Sheriff Hudson, she would also cancel the annual Halloween dance. Hud gave a press conference informing the town as to the trick or treating rules – home by sun down and no masks allowed - and the fundraising nature of the dance. Piper challenged his decision, arguing that, if Branson is in fact innocent, the dance would be irresistible to the killer. He told her that having the kids in one place is safer than trying to cover a dozen house parties. I agree with him again. What is happening to me?! No, seriously. Help me. I’m even starting to find Weasel kind of cute. When he told Brooke, his interim housemate, that his Wi-Fi password is ‘TheJakeStopsHere’, I chuckled. It’s not funny!
Confronted with the possibility that the killer may be her first child, Margaret ordered a DNA panel on Branson and a maternity test for her. Emma told her mother that she wanted to talk to Branson, insisting that “if he did these things to hurt us, then he’s going to have a reaction when he sees me”. No. No. No. Everyone knows a serial slayer is as cool as a cucumber. I reject your reasoning. But when a poor proposal is presented to poor judgment, then of course it will proceed.
Needless to say, the interrogation was futile. Emma was not open to the possibility of his innocence, and so took each answer as an implicit confession of guilt. In fact, his response to each question committed him to neither clean nor bloody hands. I must say, a nonchalant/badass attitude is actually quite becoming on Branson. Quite becoming, indeed…
Emma told Audrey and Noah about her half-sibling and put forward the theory that if Branson is’ family’, it would explain why he is targeting her. Despite being the one to have found the evidence in his classroom, Audrey is not convinced he is the killer. There is no connection between him and Rachel, and she is not willing to jump on the Branson bandwagon until his guilt has been proven beyond a doubt. Noah, on the other hand, has already hopped aboard and is deconstructing Branson’s name; “Brandon’s son… Bran-SON. That redefines hiding in plain sight”. Tell me, is character favouritism a problem when I am willing to deem an innocent man guilty because of one (amazing) remark?
Remember when Noah told Sheriff Hudson that survivor stalking is seriously rude? I wonder where he stands on ‘mother of the deceased slayer’ stalking? Piper found Brandon’s mom – Cassie – by tracing her social security number and interviewed her in the hope that she would find a connection between the past and present murders. “She’s a little incoherent”, but that didn’t stop Emma from organising round two. It began well, but then Cassie mistook Emma for her mother and we learnt her true feelings towards her son’s love interest. “I kept Brandon home to keep him safe. He met you and begged me to let him get a job with the bowling alley, ‘cause you were sex. Walking and talking. He’d do anything for you. You got him killed”. Emma was mid-flee when Cassie started to sing her own creepy rendition of the Daisy song. “Oh he loved that song. And so did his boy”. That’s right - Brandon’s boy. He came to visit his grandmother, “and he wanted to know all about his daddy”. She could not remember his name, so Emma did what should never be done – she gave a name. I hate it when people do that. Just shut up. Let them figure it out on their own. Of course if you say Seth, she can just agree. That does not mean it was him. In fact, it definitely wasn’t. Cassie said the boy who visited her was “so handsome. Just like an old time movie star”. Branson is handsome, but he isn’t movie star handsome.
Now Kieran… He is movie star handsome; but I have bid that conspiracy farewell. Audrey, however, is saying hello to it. If we momentarily assume that Branson is the killer, there is no obvious reason or motive for the murder of Rachel. But there could be. Rachel documented everything, so there is chance she caught Branson doing something on tape; if so, it would explain why he killed her – to clean up loose ends. Okay, you can stop assuming now. I need all your attention for what I am about to tell you. Bi-curious and The Virgin did find interesting footage during their ‘raw footage film festival’, but it wasn’t of Mr. Branson. It was of Nina and Kieran.
Hold that thought, we need to check in with Hud. He compared the call log from the burner phone found in Branson’s classroom to Emma’s phone records. The origin of the calls was the southern edge of Wren Lake, a location far from both Branson’s house and the school. Without witnesses to tie Branson to the calls, this information would be ideal for his defence case. So Hud went to Wren Lake, but he did not come back. He made the mistake of trespassing in the killer’s hideout and was knocked unconscious by the unhappy homeowner.
It’s dance time! I don’t know how much time passed between Emma and Kieran’s reconciliation and the dance, but they’re already at the ‘couple’s costume’ stage of the relationship! BIG STEP. They went as Mia Wallace and Vincent Vege, and in full commitment to their personas’, they did the dance. It was truly horrible to watch. Brooke had no desire to go to a party “in a rec centre, with no booze and wall-to-wall cops’, so she organised an after party at her place, much to the dismay of Jake, who dressed up as Robin Hood for her. But none of this matters because Audrey is out for blood. As far as she is concerned, Kieran is “a stranger whose parents died mysteriously, and who was at a bar with the first victim, and who seduced our young ingénue the killer’s obsessed with”. I am yet again overcome with the shame of having believed his guilt. When will this feeling pass?!
She told Emma, who repudiated the video and her friend’s opinion – at first. Locked in a slow-dance embrace, Emma questioned Kieran, and he gave us his version of events. It was right before he began school. He and Hud got in a fight, and he went to a bar. Nina was there - beautiful, drunk, and bored. The two struck up a conversation and she told him she was 23 and worked in IT. Emma recognised that as Nina’s typical bar story, which always resulted in an amorous evening. Kieran was an anomaly, but his word was not enough to dispel Emma’s doubt. See, this is why you don’t rush couple’s costumes. Their relationship was doomed from the moment they took that step.
The evening went from bad to worse for Emma as Piper showed up with some troubling news. She wanted to be sure about Branson so she visited Cassie again, this time taking the school yearbook so she could show her his picture. And surprise surprise, it was not him. Piper then showed her shots from the vigil, and Cassie pointed out Kieran. At that moment, a video appeared on the projector of Sheriff Hudson tied to a tree and covered in blood. Seth Branson had also ‘escaped’ from jail and left a blood bath in his wake. Never before have the two seemed so innocent.