No one ever said that being a "pretty little liar" was easy, but it's about to get a lot harder for this blond Rosewood teen. According to the logline for Tuesday's episode of Pretty Little Liars , "Surfing the Aftershocks," Hanna is going to "question her identity" following Alison's return to Rosewood, making us worry that Ali's return will push Hanna back into old bad habits.
The first episode of Pretty Little Liars picked up a year after Ali's disappearance and Spencer, Aria, Emily, and Hanna all changed considerably from the girls we saw in the flashback. Perhaps the liar who went through the most significant change was Hanna. Prior to Ali's disappearance, Hanna was a shy, insecure girl who was struggling with body image and the stress from her parent's divorce. Instead of being kind and supportive, Ali used Hanna's insecurities to manipulate and make fun of her already-struggling friend. (Remember "Hefty Hanna?") When Ali learned that Hanna had binged on food, she encouraged her to purge and "get rid of it" — a move that was both cruel and dangerous. It's no wonder that Hanna felt insecure around Ali — the mean girl actively tried to make her feel that way.
Hanna was only able to thrive when Ali — her biggest frenemy — was out of the picture. When Ali disappeared, Hanna became one of the most popular girls at Rosewood High. Without Ali to constantly pick her apart and put her down, Hanna was able to gain confidence. Sure, Hanna wasn't always super confident following Ali's "death" — the scars from Ali's toxic friendship and her family issues lingered — but it was much easier to overcome her problems without having a "friend" constantly spewing venom. Hanna "confronted" Ali about being an awful friend during one of her therapy sessions. During the session Hanna officially declared her independence from her so-called friend, and realized that she was good enough all on her own without Ali's "help." Now that she's back, what will her independence from Ali really look like?
It's not surprising that the new episode of Pretty Little Liars is bringing up Hanna's insecurities again. Now that Ali is back, it's natural for Hanna to consider what that means. Ali never missed an opportunity to poke at Hanna's insecurities, and though Ali may have changed significantly over two years, one thing that hasn't changed is her ability to manipulate people. We saw that when Ali lied to her friends about the story she was going to tell to the police, forcing her friends to keep more secrets for Ali. What's stopping Ali from manipulating Hanna's insecurities so she can get her own way?
I would like to think that Ali has grown up in the years since she left Rosewood, but I doubt that a tiger can change its stripes that significantly. If Ali returns to Rosewood High, she might pull the same mean stunts that she did in ninth grade. Now that we know a group of Ali's former victims are forming an army against her, Ali will need to really step up her game if she wants to assert her power — and one way to do that would be to cut down everyone around her.
ABC Family could easily use Ali's return to bring back "Hefty Hanna," but I like to think that the network is more responsible than having one of the characters with the most emotional growth revert right back to her old patterns. After all, just because Ali could go back to her old ways doesn't mean that Hanna needs to return to hers. Hanna has formed strong bonds with people who love and respect her, and she knows what she deserves in a friend. Hanna may have lost weight since Ali left Rosewood, but that's not what gave her the confidence she needed to shut Ali's mean comments out of her mind. Gaining a sense of self gave Hanna the confidence she lacked... and I doubt that it can be broken just because Ali doesn't know how to be a good friend.
Ali coming back home may make Hanna question her identity, but I doubt that it will completely ruin any progress she's made in the confidence department. Hanna's just way stronger than that.
Take that, Ali.