'Pretty Little Liars' Boss on Finale: 'We Pushed Our Fans to the Breaking Point' (Q&A)

Executive producer Marlene King addresses the fates of Ezra and Mrs. DiLaurentis, teases a new couple in trouble and previews the season 5 theme ("emotion and intrigue") in a postmortem chat with THR.
Eric McCandless/ABC Family
"Pretty Little Liars"

[Warning: Spoilers ahead from the season-four finale.]

Pretty Little Liars wrapped up the fourth season with death (maybe), rooftop fights and "A" revelations. Billed as "the season of answers," the ABC Family mystery drama sure filled in the blanks.

"This is the first finale where it felt like people were universally satisfied and that is really just fantastic, which is what we set out to do," executive producer Marlene King tells The Hollywood Reporter the day after Tuesday's finale. "We pushed our fans to the breaking point and they really deserved these answers. It's a great opportunity for us to spin the show in a new direction."

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Following the episode, THR readers picked Ezra getting shot by "A" and Mrs. DiLaurentis' burying Alison alive as the two most shocking moments in a finale poll. In a chat with THR, King addresses some of the finale's biggest developments (Mrs. D! Ezra!) and answers a few of the biggest questions.

Ezra sacrificed himself for the girls by taking a bullet from "A." Is this his way of redemption?

It feels like fans are taking it as such. For me, I watched it again last night with Lucy [Hale] and Ian [Harding], the actors, and they said, "God, I forgot how emotional the scene was." You really realized that -- not thinking, just doing -- going with her feelings, Aria is completely, totally still in love with this man.

You definitely got that when she rushed to his side after he was shot. Is that a sign of things to come for the two?

These two are like magnets who attract each other for hopefully the run of the show because I think they are soulmates.

Prior to getting shot, Ezra said that he knows who "A" is. What's the likelihood that he's right?

Believe it or not, you won't have to wait a long time for those answers. A lot of those answers will come. Season five starts off as "The season of answers 2." You find out a lot more in the first episode when we come back. It really is a two-parter. We just released the title today because we didn't want to give away that the girls were in New York, not Philadelphia, so the title of the new episode is "Escape From New York."

So is Ezra right in who he thinks "A" is?

I can't tell you that!

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A lot of fans were freaking out at the end of the finale when Ezra's fate was put into question.

They were crying. We were at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York [last night] and people were sobbing. It was like holy goodness!

Knowing that Ian will be back in the new season, how big of a role will Ezra have?

Ian yesterday was like, "How long do we keep this a secret -- if I live or die?" I said, "Well, you'll be at the table read tomorrow and people will probably be taking pictures of that, so let's just try to give it a day." He is a very important character in this show and continues to be in season five.

How accurate are his observations in his research in this whole "A" thing?

He's seen a lot and he's seen all of Fitzgerald money to be an uber-sleuther, I call it, and his very legitimate lair. I never talked about Ezra's lair before, but we had so many discussions about making sure that when you look back in hindsight it was a very different lair -- it wasn't Mona as "A's" lair. It was really Ezra's war room.

We've seen different sides to him this season. How will this near-death experience affect his outlook on Rosewood and the "A" situation?

Ezra started out writing his book and we haven't really said it out loud, but he hasn't had a chance to really explain to Aria. We always thought in our minds as writers that when he fell in love with her he stopped writing the book and when they broke up, he went back to it and that's probably when he found out "A" is still around and really more than writing the book, became kind of obsessed with finding "A" to protect Aria and the girls.

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With Alison returning to Rosewood, how elaborate do the stories get in regard to explaining her resurrection?

That's season five. It's really emotionally layered. It's our most emotionally complex season so far. Part of the journey is going to be discovering has Ali changed, is Ali the Ali we saw last night? It's all part of what we're exploring and what does her dynamic bring to the group and what the group brings to her.

One of the more emotional scenes in the finale came when Alison revealed that it was her own mother who buried her alive. Is there more urgency on Alison's part to find out why Mrs. DiLaurentis did that?

"Why would my mother do that? Who was my mother protecting?" She even says that -- Sasha [Pieterse] did such a great job with the line when she said, "You know I've never been able to say these words out loud." She's so tortured by this traumatic incident that this is the first time she has a chance to tell the girls that it was her mother.

While Ezra's fate was hanging in the balance, can you confirm that Mrs. DiLaurentis is dead?

She sure seems dead, doesn't she? (Laughs.) There's definitely a reason for what seems to be her demise and it's part of the mystery.

It looks like she's being dealt the same hand Alison was when she was buried alive.

It feels very much like karma, doesn't it?

Is the Alison and Emily of it all going to be revisited now that Emily and Paige are no longer involved at the moment?

Paige is not gone from our world -- she's definitely still a part of it. We see her in the first episode back this summer. There's going to be an interesting Paige/Emily/Alison storyline that we're going to explore that we're excited about.

Melissa said that Toby went to London specifically to bring her back to Rosewood. Is there more to Toby's trip we should be asking about?

We'll find out this summer what that trip was about and the truth to all those stories. I never trust anything Melissa says.

There are some theories floating around about what Melissa whispered to her father at the station. What can you divulge there?

On the day the actor [Torrey DeVitto] did tell the truth about something and she whispers it out loud and I made sure in post we cut it out so nobody could hear it. (Laughs.) We wanted it to be real for the actors so they really understood the gravity of the situation.

How significant is the N.A.T. Club part of all this in season five?

It's still very much a part of a lot of what was happening that night. We haven't seen the last of the N.A.T. Club.

How important are the content of those videos in season five?

It might be. It's not the important part of the first couple back. We're really more dealing with Alison is back in our world, so a lot of emotional drama.

Lucas is back finally in the new season. What can you say about his return and what he's been up to?

Yay! He has a pivotal role in our premiere. He plays a very important part of the story and it's really exciting to have him back.

And in another hint, a Pretty Little Liars couple will head down a dark path together. Any more teases there?

There will be a couple who spirals together as opposed to our usual formula where the girl saves the boy or the boy saves the girl or the girl saves the girl in Emily's case. In this case, neither is saving each other for a while.

This season had arguably the darkest storylines thus far on the show. Was it a natural effect of these girls growing up?

The girls are growing up, our fans are growing, our stories are growing and it feels organically like it's tonally shifting in the right way.

If season four was the "season of answers," what's the common thread for season five?

It's emotion and intrigue. For me, season four has been the best so far, and the goal for season five is to be even better than season four.

Pretty Little Liars returns June 10 on ABC Family.

Email: Philiana.Ng@THR.com
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