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“A” is at it again.
Pretty Little Liars returns with a deadly episode Tuesday, and if viewers were keeping up with the series’ supplemental web series Pretty Dirty Secrets, hints were dropped in throughout the eight installments about the Halloween special and future season three episodes. The most telling is “A’s” grand plan in the final episode, which showed the gloved culprit mapping out his/her route — the PLLs will be attending a Halloween party aboard a moving train — for the holiday party.
Executive producer Marlene King revealed to The Hollywood Reporter that the looming death — one of Rosewood’s own will not survive the Halloween party — was not always in the cards. Instead, it came naturally.
In a chat with THR, King — who, along with executive producer Oliver Goldstick, was named one of THR’s top 50 showrunners for 2012 — offered hints about “This Is a Dark Ride” and revealed why they decided to kill a character off. (Plus, how she booked Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin for a future episode.)
The Hollywood Reporter: We know someone dies and that the victim is male.
Marlene King: Someone does not come off the train alive. I think some pronouns were used at our [Hollywood Forever] Cemetery screening.
THR: Was it a big discussion that you and the writers had about who got offed during the Halloween episode?
King: We didn’t set out to say, “Someone has to die on the train,” but the story we were telling really lent itself for this particular person meeting their demise. And it really furthers the story that we ended season 3A with and where we’re going in the last half of the season.
THR: There were several hints given during episodes of the web series, particularly the final installment.
King: “A” definitely has a master plan. We started that ball rolling with the closers at the end of the episodes. The closer of the finale, after we revealed Toby (Keegan Allen) to be part of the “A” team, it was “A” buying a ticket to the Halloween train. “A” plans on going to this Halloween party that the PLLs are going to be at, this moving party. “A” started a plan all the way back then.
THR: How did you decide that a moving party would be a good setting for this year’s Halloween episode?
King: It came up last year, about this time. We were knee-deep in our first Halloween episode. I saw an advertisement for a Napa Valley Halloween Train, and I started passing it around. I thought: “Wouldn’t this be really fun? This would be a really great second Halloween.” We knew we couldn’t do a prequel again because we had done that and we thought it was a fun venue. We love to pay homage on our show to classic films, to classic Hitchcock films and thrillers, and there were so many fun places to go with it, we couldn’t pass it up.
THR: How would you compare this Halloween episode to last year’s? Scarier?
King: Last year, Alison (Sasha Pieterse) was still alive, and this year, it’s very much in the timeline. It takes place a few weeks after we ended [in the season 3A finale].
THR: How big of a role will Halloween store clerk Shana (Aeriel Miranda) play now that she’ll be a bigger fixture in Rosewood?
King: She’s definitely coming back into our show. I don’t want to give up how much she does in Tuesday night’s episode, but she’s definitely going to be a presence in our show moving forward.
THR: What adjectives would you use to describe the Halloween episode?
King: It really feels like a movie. It’s thrilling and visual and big. We got to see it on the big screen at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery last week, and we all had so much fun. It does not feel like a regular episode of Pretty Little Liars. It feels like an hour movie.
THR: What was the experience like seeing the episode in a cemetery setting?
King: It was creepy and so appropriate. It’s really old Hollywood, that cemetery; it was appopriate because our characters in this year’s Halloween are dressed like famous, old-time movie and literature stars. It felt like we were taking a walk in time there.
THR: What are some moments in the episode that stick out?
King: Like every great movie, there are so many great moments. The Adam Lambert stuff is fun, and the first time you see the girls — and the guys too — in their costumes, for me is always a plus.
THR: The most unexpected costume viewers will see?
King: Shay [Mitchell]’s (aka Emily) costume is pretty crazy. She’s Barbarella, and it’s very dynamic and knockout. Her costume is just — she leaps off the screen.
THR: You mentioned Adam Lambert. How do you think he did, and will people be surprised?
King: He has a scene with Aria (Lucy Hale), and he sings two songs in the episode. He was lovely on set and kind and gracious to everyone. He was a fan of the show, so it was a perfect fit for us for him to come and be our special musical guest. The surprise was that he just looks like he belongs in our world, especially in a Halloween episode. [Laughs]
THR: Can you offer a hint to how the death comes about?
King: I’ll say there’s a big twist. You might think one person is going to die only to realize, oh my gosh, it’s somebody else. That person does meet their demise. It really goes back to our theme song, “Two can keep a secret if one of them is dead.” This person is about to reveal a huge secret to the Pretty Little Liars, which they will eventually find out in season 3B, but this person is killed because he’s about to reveal a big secret. And that secret involves the night Alison went missing.
THR: You’ve already touched on this a little, but how to the events in the episode fuel season 3B?
King: That’s the big thing. This secret revolving [around] what happened on the night Alison went missing opens the door for the Pretty Little Liars to go down this path in 3B and find out how much this person was saying was true. And they finish the last half of the story that he doesn’t get to tell.
THR: And finally, Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin will make a cameo on the show. How did you land her?
King: She’s a fan of the show. I think she started tweeting with the Pretty Little Liars while she was at the Olympics, and they all sort of shared a fandom of each other. She reached out to us after the Olympics, and we’re thrilled to have her in Rosewood. She’s going to [film it soon].
Pretty Little Liars airs its Halloween special 8 p.m. Tuesday on ABC Family. The series returns for the second half of season three Jan. 8.
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