8:00am PT by Philiana Ng
'Pretty Little Liars' Midseason Premiere: Friendships Tested, Rocky Romances and Risky Deals
With the reveal of pot-stirrer "A" looming, the girls are feeling the pressure on Pretty Little Liars and it's quickly affecting their friendship.
[Warning: Mild spoilers ahead.]
Tensions are running high when the ABC Family drama returns for the final episodes of the second season. Weeks following the events of the summer finale, Aria (Lucy Hale), Hanna (Ashley Benson), Spencer (Troian Bellisario) and Emily (Shay Mitchell) -- making orange jumpsuits fashionable -- are serving out a community service sentence in the opening scene of the midseason premiere, thanks to a deal hatched up by Spencer's attorney mother.
"There's a change in dynamic between the four of them," Hale said in August. "You get to see them where there's almost against each other, which we've never really seen. You go on to learn why they're acting that way."
Co-star Benson added: "The second half, we're separated for a bit."
In one of four clips released by ABC Family, it shows just how "separated" the foursome are. While picking up trash, Emily proposes the idea that they make a deal with "A," who has been terrorizing the group for two seasons. But Spencer is reluctant.
Emily goes one step further and claims that if the police finds reason to arrest them in connection with Alison's (Sasha Pieterse) death, Spencer's mother would do all she could to throw the rest of them under the bus to save her daughter. "And you would let her," Emily declares, before the two friends get into a physical fight. It's just the start of more unfriendly encounters, but is it as real as it seems?
Fans of the show went into a frenzy after it was revealed that the person (or people) behind "A" would be unveiled by the season 2 finale in March.
Executive producer Marlene King was coy when The Hollywood Reporter asked in late August about the possiblity of such a thing happening, but said this: "I think it’s going to be huge. I think we’ll have two huge moments -- three actually -- when we reveal who killed Alison/who is 'A,' because it may or may not be the same person. Now that we have a grasp on what season 3 is going to be, that is going to unleash a mystery that is going to be as big of a question as who is 'A' – at least we hope."
The young-skewing cable network renewed Pretty Little Liars for a third season in November.
Here are three other crucial plot points to keep in mind during the midseason premiere:
1. Ezra and Aria's relationship coming out?: The rumor mill is swirling in Rosewood after people find out that Aria's former English teacher Ezra (Ian Harding), now teaching at Hollis College, had a relationship with one of his students. Aria's mother (Holly Marie Combs) threatens to let word slip out, but what she doesn't know is that it's her daughter who's the student, not Spencer. Aria, with her brother Mike (Cody Christian), and Ezra have an uncomfortable encounter on the street and their cover is almost blown.
2. Stormy waters for Spencer and Toby: Toby (Keegan Allen) is unwilling to let go of Spencer that easily, going against her wishes. "You have to stay away from me," Spencer tells him when he makes an unwanted visit and attempting to give her a thoughtful, homemade gift. "What I want for you is to forget about me. ... If you really want to worry about somebody, why don't you worry about your sister [Jenna] and that cop boyfriend [Garrett] of hers?"
3. Caleb returns: After going away to visit his mother in California, Caleb (Tyler Blackburn) is back, making Hanna a very happy girl but putting Lucas (Brendan Robinson) in an awkward place. But can the three of them actually get along?
Pretty Little Liars returns Monday, Jan. 2 at 8 p.m. on ABC Family.