After seasons upon seasons of Ezra Fitz (Ian Harding) being kind of a dreamboat — albeit with iffy boundaries about age and teacher-student relations — it was revealed recently that Rosewood's easiest grader has been lying. With all his motives for being in Rosewood when he met Aria Montgomery suddenly murky, can the Pretty Little Liars character come back from such a grievous betrayal? He may not have killed Ali, but he did date her and he did first approach Aria knowing she was only in high school. Can Ezra be redeemed?
The character of Ezra has always been problematic. He is a twentysomething teacher who starts dating his teenaged student. While the fact that actress Lucy Hale was not, in fact, a teenager (but rather a twentysomething) when those hookups began does add a bit of relief, most viewers would still admit that it's at least a little weird. Once a smidgen of narrative distance has been maintained, the glorification of a relationship between a teacher and his student is — at the very least — uncomfortable.
One of the few ways Pretty Little Liars attempted to justify Ezra’s behavior was to argue that he didn’t know how old Aria was when they met at the Hollis College bar. Brushing right by the discussion of how much weight that justification does or does not hold, we now know that it isn’t true. Ezra himself said he knew exactly who Aria was when he met her (and, presumably, her age), and he still decided it was a good idea to make out with her in a bar bathroom. Not only is that totally creepy, it also doesn’t give Ezra’s argument that Ali lied about her age to him a lot of weight. Why would that matter if he didn’t have any qualms about dating Aria, a relationship that was arguably a worse idea given that he occupied a position of power over her as her teacher?
This is a man who has been following and maintaining an intense level of surveillance on a group of teenage girls without their knowledge. That’s going to be tough to come back from, even for a charmer like Ian Harding. So, you better start talking, show. It’s character motivation slips like these that make us question whether Ezra can ever be redeemed — even within the rules of this narrative universe. Ezria may be endgame, but the show is going to have to do a lot of work to get us back on board with this relationship or with Ezra’s character in general.
And it seems that they started trying to do just that with the Season 4 finale, in which Alison DiLaurentis revealed to Aria and the rest of the Liars what really happened between them. Turns out, they never hooked up, at least if Ali's flashback memory of the night she disappeared is to be believed. What's more, after Ezra found out that Ali was alive, he tried to track her down in order to save her. He figured that if he could save Ali, he could redeem himself to Aria. And we were right in the middle of the "awww that's sweet" part of things when Ezra appeared at the end of the episode to try and save the girls from a gun-toting "A" — and ended up getting shot!
Great. Now, in the midst of trying to decide if he can be redeemed, we first have to worry if he'll live. Well played, PLL.
Do you think Ezra can be redeemed? If so, how? Sound off in the comments below!