12:14pm PT by Alyse Whitney
'Pretty Little Liars' EP Talks "A.D." Reveal, "Ultimate Final Twist" in Series Ender
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Tuesday's midseason finale of Pretty Little Liars.]
Pretty Little Liars is going full steam ahead in its final 10 episodes.
When the Freeform drama returns in April, the series will jump right into revealing the fates of Spencer (Troian Bellisario), Toby (Keegan Allen) and Yvonne (Kara Royster). “We are not going to drag it out,” executive producer Charlie Craig tells The Hollywood Reporter.
There are many mysteries to solve before the series ender, including Spencer’s newly discovered family twist: Mary Drake (Andrea Parker) is her real mom. “Spencer is in pretty dire shape at the end of episode 10, but with or without her, we’re going to really learn the entire assorted and exciting details of the House of Hastings,” Craig teases.
However, not all of those mysteries will be immediately solved. Charlotte’s killer will be an “exciting and satisfactory revelation” in the series finale, and returning potential A team member Wren (Julian Morris) will be “part of the ultimate final twist in the final episode.”
Below, Craig reveals more about the series’ final 10 episodes and how he and creator I. Marlene King could have kept the show going past season seven.
How long will we have to wait to find out everyone’s fates in 7B: Spencer, Toby and Yvonne?
You will find in the very first episode who is alive and who is not alive. Those answers you will get very quickly. We’re not going to drag it out, not see some of those characters for five episodes, and then discover what’s going on. We have so much ground to cover in these final 10 episodes that we want to make sure we present the audience right at the top who the players are and what’s going to be in motion.
Was there anything nefarious involved with Toby and Yvonne’s car crash? Was that something with A.D.?
That’s something worth people wondering about, but that actually is not a big factor in what plays out in the second half of this season. A has got a lot of stuff on their plate, and that crash really wasn't a part of an A plan. It’s just tough to leave Rosewood. This has sort of been our mantra all along: Even if you just try to drive out of town, something will compel you to come back. Sometimes it’s not related to A.D. — sometimes it’s just fate that pulls you back into town. That’s something that the PLLs have talked about before, like after that five-year jump. They were living lives outside of Rosewood and then somehow that real world collapsed and funneled them back into this town and they’re still here. Now they have an extremely compelling reason to be back here. In 7B we’ve set up the fact that the police have gotten closer to solving this murder of Alison’s brief husband, Dunhill-slash-Rollins. What was interesting and fun for us to deal with is that for the first time, this is not a crime they’re being framed for by A.D. — this is a crime that they committed. And the police are smarter. We tried to make the forces of good be sharper and really on their game too, so they’ve got an adversary coming at them from both the police and A.D. and A.D.’s helpers. I know it sounds trite, but the stakes are really about as high as they’ve ever been on this show.
Is figuring out Charlotte’s murderer at the forefront, or more Rollins’ murder and the police going after the Liars?
Both. By the end of 7B, we’ll know who killed Charlotte and we’ll learn that in a very dramatic fashion. It will be a driving force right when we come back in episode 11, but that mystery will not be solved until the end. But it will be a pretty exciting and satisfactory revelation. As far as [Rollins’] murder, the police will be on them and A.D. will be hanging their knowledge of that crime over the girls and using it to manipulate them into doing things that A.D. wants, one of which is solving Charlotte’s murder. What’s been most fun for us — and I’m writing the 18th episode now where this really comes to fruition — was really activating Hanna and having her go rogue and take matters into her own hands. That was kind of a departure for us and provided a lot of energy for the first half of the season. We’re going to do the same thing but in a different way by activating Aria in a way that she hasn’t been seen to act before. She’ll be taking some actions and doing some things on her own and taking some risks which we haven’t seen her do before. We’ve had a lot of fun with breaking that story for her. We start to learn more and more about the depths of these women individually and what they’re capable of doing on their own — not just what they’re capable of doing as a unit.
Does Aria go a little more rogue because of what happened with Nicole and Ezra? He did kiss her on national television.
That certainly added fuel to the fire. That was a really rough patch. He did kiss her, and it was an interesting line for us. Ezra has this tie with Nicole; he can’t just cast her aside because she’s been through a lot. That has caused some friction between [Ezra and Aria] and A.D. is definitely going to take advantage of that.
Will the final 10 episodes feel as intensely paced as the midseason finale, or more of a slow burn?
I think they’re paced pretty intensely. We had a whole host of typical stories to tell, but then we realized we couldn’t do those stories for these last few episodes. There was no time left to do a story about Hanna and her mom — we really had to set them aside because the stakes are so high. That has really informed this whole season: There is a clock that begins in the second half of the season that starts running, and we know we have to beat it in order to win. I think that informs and steps up the pace and general energy of the show.
How long did you know that Spencer would be Mary’s child, and how does that impact Spencer’s relationship and trust of her family, particularly Melissa, who has been an A suspect for years?
It impacts it dramatically. Spencer is in pretty dire shape at the end of episode 10, but with or without her, we’re going to really learn the entire assorted and exciting details of the House of Hastings. That whole story of how Spencer came to be is just one surprise after another, which strikes all of our characters and does keep Mary Drake in the mix. She was, in many ways, at ground zero of many of these actions. It’s not going to be easy for our characters to learn a lot of what they’re going to learn, but just like with Charlotte’s death, we’ll know by the end of the season how Spencer came to be, which is not what people expect. Everything will not be what she thought was true. A lot of eyes get opened.
What can you reveal about how Wren returns and his role now that he’s not with Melissa and he’s his own agent coming back to Rosewood?
He comes back in a very surprising way, in a way that I don’t think the character Wren was expecting to come back. Thus, his presence is a mystery to us. It’s really not going to be until the final episode of the series that an explanation for what he’s doing here is revealed, and it will be a whopper. It will not be what you see coming. He doesn’t really have a lot of screen time. We see him just once or twice in the second half of the season, and then we see him in a very surprising exchange in the final episode, which will be the moment that really causes people’s heads to explode in a positive way. He’s part of the ultimate final twist in the final episode.
How long will the big A.D. reveal take? Do we have to wait until the absolute last five minutes to find out?
We will have a really good theory about who A.D. is in the second half of the season and pointing in that direction in the last five episodes. We’re pretty much nailing it down in my episode, 18, but the question is, are we right? Fear not — this is not a situation where we have another season and say, “Guess what? It’s somebody else! We were wrong.” When we’re done with this season, everybody will know in absolute truth and honesty, who A.D. was, why A.D. was doing it, what their plan was, how they'd hoped to accomplish that plan, what went right, what went wrong with that plan, and if they’re alive, what they will do next.
What made this the right time to end the show, and how long have you known this season would be the last so you could plan the big grand ending with Marlene?
We went into the season thinking that just contractually on television, season seven is where they run their course since that’s when everybody’s deals are up. We went into this season not really being sure, Marlene and I, that it would be the end, but deciding that we should plan for it to be the end in the chance that it was. We had contingency plans in, we had plans to introduce some characters, we had some thoughts as to how we could continue it in several ways, but turns out this was the right time to end it. Having really planned for that, we didn’t have to alter anything at the very end. We’ve been been building toward this specific moment that I’ve been describing to you in episode 20 throughout this whole season. That’s one of the reasons I’m confident it will be so well earned and liked and respected, because we didn’t have to suddenly think on our feet at the last minute — we were able to build from the foundation up and we’re happy.
Pretty Little Liars returns for it final 10 episodes on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Freeform in April 2017.