It’s been one week since the big -A reveAl on Pretty Little Liars, and per the Internet, there’s a mixed bag of emotions on who turned out to be torturing this group of teenagers for three (?) years.
***SPOILER – BUT REALLY IF YOU WATCH THIS SHOW YOU SHOULD’VE SEEN IT ALREADY – ALERT***
To me, it seems like 80% of fans are upset that -A turned out to be CeCe Drake aka Charles DiLaurentis aka the transgender Charlotte DiLaurentis, while 20% are happy with the turn of events. When I watched it, I wasn’t immediately angry, or annoyed, or much of anything really. I think the word to best describe it would be… ambivalent?
I’ve seen every episode of the show since the pilot, and stuck with it for six seasons, looking for clues and reading theories, but not going too far down the rabbit hole like those die-hArd fans. I think a theory that most fans concluded was the most likely was that Wren, the hot British doctor, would be A, and that made sense to me. Annddd it turned out that was wrong.
Now that I’ve had a week to digest the whole CeCe/Charles scenario, what I’m really annoyed with when it comes down with it, is this trend of TV writers stringing along their viewers for a long period of time just to result in fan fury. For those of you who aren’t into teen dramas like I am, the best thing I can compare this to is the How I Met Your Mother finale.
Last year, after nine seasons, we discovered the titular Mother dies of an undisclosed disease, and 2030 Ted is telling his kids the story basically as a way to indirectly ask them if it’s okay that he moves on and dates Aunt Robin. Yes, in a spectacular two-hour finale of How I MET YOUR MOTHER, we see Ted meet The Mother after Robin and Barney’s wedding, a fast forward which features Robin and Barney divorcing, Lily and Marshall having another kid (that they probs didn’t really want), The Mother dying (RIP Tracy McConnell), and the show coming full circle with Ted standing outside Robin’s apartment with a blue french horn.
It’s not that I hated that Ted went back to Robin in the end, because, meh, whatever, but it’s the fact that the creators kind of misled the viewer into thinking the endgame was How Ted Mosby Met His Wife, not How Ted Mosby Fell In Love Again. Things were looking up at the end of season eight, when we see The Mother/Tracy McConnell for the first time. It was exciting to see flash forwards of her and Ted happily together, and her meeting the other four BFFs. I was looking forward to their happy ending in 2030. But when the series finale came, fans’ worst fears came true, and Tracy was dunzo. To me, she was used as a plot device, a minor character in the overarching storyline just to show the viewer that in fact, Ted had been in love with Robin the whole eight years we’ve spent watching the show. It was a plotline that had been brought up multiple times in the show, but we viewers dismissed it because it was clear that each Robin and Ted had moved on.
HIMYM creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas revealed after the series finale that they had this plan of Robin and Ted coming together in the series finale since season one. Hey, remember in the pilot when Ted made it clear he called Robin AUNT Robin on purpose, because Carter and Craig wanted us to know that she wasn’t the mother? It clearly implied those two kids didn’t belong to Robin, and thus the viewer was hooked for the next nine seasons to find out who that Mother was.
Although not explicit in its title, Pretty Little Liars has done the same. It’s a mystery drama that in the pilot, is set up that this group of four girlfriends discover their other BFF, Allison, is dead after she went missing. The girls each receive threatening messages from a mysterious -A, and for the next six seasons, we went deep into the world of Rosewood, its many characters, and tried to uncover the identity of this psycho -A.
Those theories that I mentioned before – hardcore fans of PLL take down every note, every detail, scour over every minute clue that is shown in each episode and compile them in one huge Internet Bible as if the world of Rosewood is real. There have been five and a half seasons of twists and turns, and turns and twists on top of those, and red herrings and actual clues mixed in that it makes my head actually hurt.
Pretty Little Liars is in no way considered on the same level as mysteries like Twin Peaks or even classified in Netflix’s Thought-Provoking, Cerebral Dramas. However, the conceit of the actual program, like How I Met Your Mother, is interesting and intriguing, but the execution of the conclusion was nothing less than self-gratification, a bit condescending and overall, disappointing.
The point is, there is so much build up to the end game, not just in PLL, but in other shows like Lost or Gossip Girl, where the entire series is built upon and beloved because you’re hoping for resolution at the end. You put your trust in the writers that they’re leading you on through this (often times) exhaustive journey to be rewarded with a satisfying end. The problem, I think, is that sometimes writers get so wrapped up in their own vision of how their project is going to wrap, that they put fan service to the wayside. In recent years, I can think of shows like Parks and Recreation and Friday Night Lights that ended on notes that were accepted and praised by the fans. Although there are fewer and less ‘dramatic’ stakes for Leslie Knope taking a Washington D.C. job than, say, Emily almost getting chopped up by a buzzsaw thanks to -A, those shows reached endings that were the best outcome for the characters and not a blatant put-upon vision from the creators of the shows. So TV writers who are probably not reading this, I hope that you take into consideration that sometimes dragging out a story just to prove a point isn’t the way to go. And hey, PLL writers, there’s still time – we still have another season and a half for you to win our trust back. Make it count.