Pretty Little Liars fans love mystery. Trying to figure out who’s on the “A” team is nothing if not a good time. But now, with only two episodes left in Season 4’s summer run, I’m surrounded by friends and fans who are talking about giving up on the show … if they haven’t already. And let’s just say, it doesn’t have anything to do with the attractiveness of the cast.
But what is it that’s making people throw in the towel? Well, my diagnosis is what will be referred to as the Pretty Little Liars Dilemma: Too many questions, not enough answers, and not enough risk.
The thing with having a show built around one mystery is that you can’t spend four years doing nothing but building more mysteries. Every “answer” we’ve been given thus far – such as Mona being on the “A” team – has only led to more questions. Years later, Alison’s death (a.k.a. the thing that kicked off the series in the pilot) remains a mystery, and now, we have a million more questions about Jenna, Shana, Red Coat, Toby’s mother, and more.
Before Season 4 premiered, showrunner Marlene King promised that it was time to get some answers. And although answers are a big part of the show’s solution, it’s just as necessary that those answers really make an impact. This leads us to the second part of the show’s problem: It refuses to take a risk for fear of upsetting fans.
For example, the possibility of CeCe being Red Coat: Does anyone find that surprising? Do we care? No. We don’t even know CeCe all that well. Wren being a bad guy? Sure, it’s a little disappointing, but nobody’s shocked. The one time that the show genuinely had its audience gasping for air was when Toby was revealed as a member of the “A” team, but even that was short-lived. Fans were so upset that a season later, Toby is “good” again. Now, he spends his days crying and trying to find out what happened to his mom, which is actually very sweet, but once again, it adds another mystery to the mix.
Another example: Making Aria’s father, Byron, a suspect for the “A” team last season was genius. Fans couldn’t stop talking about it – how could a father do this to his daughter?! It was so very evil and so very delicious. A few weeks later? Nope, Byron was good again.
What the audience needs is to lose someone it loves. One of the Liars perhaps? Maybe Ella Montgomery? Dare I say Caleb? Put one of the people we trust most in that Red Coat or that black hoodie. We might not like it at first, but it will keep us interested. And most importantly, once they’re bad, keep them bad.
A week from today, the midseason finale is promising “the biggest reveal yet.” So let’s hope that we’re done with the half-answers. Don’t tell us someone is Red Coat only to decide that’s not actually the case. It’s time to start revealing facts. And why don’t we start with whether Ali is actually dead? It might be nice to finally know the answer to a question posed four years ago.
Do you all agree? How many of you have thought about giving up on the show?