'Pretty Little Liars' EP on the Big Alison Reveal, Ezra's 'A' Factor and What's Next

Executive producer Joseph Dougherty talks to THR about the aftermath of the Halloween episode.
ABC Family
"Pretty Little Liars"

[Warning: Spoilers ahead from Tuesday's Pretty Little Liars Halloween episode.]

Pretty Little Liars took a ghoulish turn in its latest Halloween episode by answering one of the series' biggest questions.

Aria (Lucy Hale), Spencer (Troian Bellisario), Emily (Shay Mitchell) and Hanna (Ashley Benson) discovered that their friend Alison (Sasha Pieterse) -- long thought to be dead -- was still alive, after seeing her with their own eyes following their eerie trip to Ravenswood. With Ezra (Ian Harding), aka "A," close behind, what is the Liars' next move?

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Executive producer Joseph Dougherty jumped on the phone with The Hollywood Reporter to discuss the aftermath of the Alison reveal, Ezra's continued shadiness and what's in store for Rosewood in 2014.

The big reveal from Pretty Little Liars was the fact that Alison has been alive all this time. How much discussion was there about how to make that reveal?

There were lots of discussions but something we've had in the works for a while. Season four was designed -- both halves of it -- to be a season full of answers. We knew that we were at a point where we had to start answering some questions, start solving mysteries and start making some new mysteries to keep the show fresh and alive and keep coming back.

Were you ever toying with not bringing Alison back from the dead?

I'm fairly confident that [executive producer] Marlene King always knew that she was alive. And in my own mind, I was pretty sure she was alive too.

Were there any key clues that should have clued us into Alison's state?

For me, it goes all the way back to the first season when she shows up in Hanna's hospital room dressed as a candy striper and you're not 100 percent sure if she's there or not. But if you look closely, you realize that Alison took a drink of water and her lipstick is on the glass. We've been doing things like that. And last night specifically, Alison confirms that it was really her in the hospital room in season one.

Now that the girls know their friend is alive, where do they go from there?

I think they're torn to different levels because yes, she's alive. That means they haven't lost her and she wants to come back, but why has she waited so long to tell them? It's like, now we have to do what we have to do to get her back so we can ask her what's going on.

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Who has the most difficulty dealing with this new reality?

Each one of the four has a different [reaction]. I think they're all separately torn and that's one of the things that drives the second half of season four -- how they deal with this reality and what it means for them personally.

Another looming question is Ezra's "A"-ness. What are we supposed to make of his shady actions during the Halloween episode?

I think it's time to look back at everything he's done in a new light and to try to figure out points where his behavior doesn't match and what could be his possible motives. Right now, the audience is a little ahead of the girls.

Mrs. Grunwald (Meg Foster) had an interesting line when she told Aria, Emily and Spencer that "one of you" has been touched bysomeone who one could presume to be "A." Was that a direct reference to Aria?

You have to give Mrs. Grunwald a little poetic license. She could mean several different things to any three of the girls who were present in the room at the time when she tells them that.

How likely is it that the Liars will find out about Ezra?

I think they're very smart, and I think that as they try to solve the new mystery of Ali being alive, they're going to be stumbling. They're going to be finding out some very difficult things about some characters that will be hard for them to reconcile unless they admit that there's a possibility that this is the truth.

What are the big questions we should be asking when the show returns?

What did Ali mean when she says, "I want to come back but I can't"? What could possibly be preventing her from coming back? Why didn't she ask them about this sooner? What's changed to make this the time when she comes back? My favorite question -- and it's right there when we come back in January --if Ali's alive, who's buried in her grave? Somebody's dead. Who is that? Do we have to find out who that is to find out what happened is one of the avenues the girls are exploring.

How has Alison managed to stay away? Will that be addressed?

It's part of the new mysteries. What was going on? What was she doing and why? What sightings were sightings of her? What sightings were sightings of other forces? Was she out there alone? Was she getting help? If she was getting help, was it somebody we know? Who knew about this before the Liars found out last night?

Pretty Little Liars returns Jan. 7 on ABC Family.

E-mail: Philiana.Ng@THR.com
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