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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the two-hour series finale of Pretty Little Liars.]
It’s the end of an era for Freeform’s long-running show Pretty Little Liars. During Tuesday’s two-hour series finale, all was revealed — who the notorious A.D. villain was as well as what led them to torment Aria Montgomery (Lucy Hale), Hanna Marin (Ashley Benson), Emily Fields (Shay Mitchell), Spencer Hastings (Troian Bellasario) and Alison DiLaurentis (Sasha Pieterse) throughout their young adult years.
So who is the infamous A.D. that the mystery has alluded to for so long? Spencer’s twin sister, Alex Drake, was unveiled as the villain in the black hoodie, confirming a popular fan theory.
After giving birth to three daughters, Mary Drake (Andrea Parker) sold Alex to a family in England as a scheme to buy herself out of Radley Sanitarium. Alex was later abandoned again and placed in an orphanage. Unaware of who she was, Alex was discovered by Wren (Julian Morris), the ex of Spencer’s sister Melissa, while working as a bartender in England. Shocked over the revelation, Wren introduced Alex to Charlotte (Vanessa Ray), also known as “A.” It was there that Alex developed a kinship with her new sister, bonding over their shared abandonment and spite toward Spencer and her friends.
Becoming “A.D.” was Alex’s tactic to not only avenge Charlotte’s death, but live the life she yearned for. With the help of Mona (Janel Parrish), the Liars were able to end Alex’s game and have her arrested. Although arrested, the show’s final moments revealed that Mona had imprisoned Drake and Alex, proving the game wasn’t over.
To break down how everything ended, The Hollywood Reporter dialed up creator and executive producer I. Marlene King to discuss how the mystery’s ending came to be, the other possibilities for A.D., the legacy of PLL and what’s in store for life after Rosewood.
How did you come to determining who A.D. was? Were other options considered?
The entire writers room thought a lot about this and part of it was actors’ availability. When you don’t own certain actors and they’re not series regulars, you never know if they’re going to be available to you. There were times when I loved the idea of Wren being A.D., Melissa being A.D., a combination of those two, but ultimately we never knew if we were going to get those people in these last 10 episodes and that sort of started discussion that A.D. really needs to be someone who’s a series regular, and fans were always wanting it to be one of the girls … which makes no sense to me because they really would be torturing themselves — the mythology would never work. So that’s when we thought, well we love twins on this show and making it a twin of a PLL is sort of having your cake and getting to eat it too, so it’s almost a “pretty little liar.”
When the series first started, it centralized on Alison’s mystery, yet when the series ended there was a focus on Spencer’s mystery. Was that always the intent for the story or did that just spur naturally as the seasons went on?
It came naturally. It evolved that the families were intertwined, because the relationship that Mr. Hastings had with Ali’s mom and aunt, those two families were so messed up and they lived side by side, and I feel like it was just a natural way to merge their stories into this big giant mythology.
One of the most heart-warming moments of the finale was learning that Emily and Alison had twins. Was there a reasoning to why they would have twins, given the big reveal?
Sara Shepard [who wrote the book series PLL is based on] had multiple sets of twins in her books, and it was our way of almost circling back and paying homage to them. We hinted at twins and played out the twin theories a lot on the show, and it just felt like a natural thing to do. It was like, “Of course they’re going to have twins! It’s the finale!”
Apart from the main characters, fan favorites of the show were Maya and Wren. In a scene, Emily speaks to Maya’s niece and then later it’s revealed that Wren is the father of Alison and Emily’s twins. How did the idea of those surprising factors come to be?
The actress who played Maya St. Germain’s niece is a fan of the show, and she had taken the Warner Bros. tour and she has a friend … and literally this woman tweeted me, “You gotta meet my friend. She looks just like Maya St. Germain!” And that was like three years ago, so it’s like some how some way, we’ve gotta get this girl on the show.
Why was Wren chosen to be the father of Emily and Allison’s twins?
We always knew he would be the father of the twins, because he’s a doctor, plus it’s like who doesn’t want little Wren babies?
In the end, Mona gets the last laugh. Why was it important for her to continue playing the game, despite it being toxic to her health?
It’s just who Mona is. She gets lost in the game, and we wanted her to win the game. Even though it’s messed up, she’s so happy in the end. We really wanted her to win the game.
In the end, there was an homage to the pilot of sorts with the sound of a text message — which led to you making a cameo. Was that always the plan?
It was fairly last minute! I think when I wrote [the finale], it wasn’t my idea. I think somebody else said, “You really should do that” and I was like “OK!”
What was the most challenging piece of the finale to write?
Definitely the most challenging thing to write for the finale was the goodbye scene with the PLLs in front of the church. I put it off until literally my producer was like, “You have to write that scene.” So I waited until the very last minute, because I knew that was my goodbye as a writer to Pretty Little Liars.
How much did you take into consideration what the fans wanted to happen when wrapping up the story?
I’ve always thought, in large part, that the vision we had as the writers on the show — and myself as the creator — was clearly in line with what the fans wanted. You know, we’re fangirls too, we love the show. I’m the biggest fangirl of Pretty Little Liars there is! So if I’m true to myself, it usually works out that most people are happy, and I knew that all of our fans don’t agree either. There’s a lot of ‘shipping wars online and whatnot, so I just hope that those people were satisfied.
Was there anything that you didn’t get to tie up? The mom’s apparent epic escape from the basement perhaps?
(Laughs.) We thought no matter what story we came up with, nothing would be as fun as the fans imagining in their minds whatever they had to do to get out of that basement that led Pam to not drink for a year.
After seven seasons, what do you hope viewers take away from the series as a whole?
I hope they take away just the emotion of it. Less the mystery and the “Who is A?” and “Who were the A’s?” and then the mythology. It’s more just these characters that we fell in love with. I think that’s what kept us on the air for as long as we were. The PLLs did such a great job bringing their characters to life and taking such good care of their characters, as well as the writers. I hope it was the friendship that these girls had, this unconditional love they had for each other, is to me what’s the most special about this show.”
This show seemed to break a lot of barriers, whether it was a strong presence on social media or discussing topics that weren’t necessarily explored before, such as Emily’s sexuality. Why do you think the show became such a pop culture phenomenon?
I don’t think we had had a show for a long time that just dealt with teen girls and young women and what it’s like to grow up in this age of social media, and it just felt like we were at the right place at the right time, telling the stories that resonated with young women and men.
You’re reteaming with PLL author Sara Shepard to develop her book The Perfectionists for Freeform. Is there a world in which that is connected to Pretty Little Liars?
You know there might be some truth to that, but my hands are tied and I’m not allowed to talk about it just yet. So hopefully we will get to share some news soon!
What did you think of the PLL series finale? Sound off in the comments section below.
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