“Pretty Little Liars” – a show that for seven seasons prided itself on engineering implausible yet addicting twists that kept its cult-like following coming back for more – ended its run on Tuesday with the five young women at the center of the series joined in a group hug as one of them prepared to embark on her honeymoon.
“For some reason, it feels like it’s the end of something,” Ali (Sasha Pieterse) tells her friends.
Indeed, it was.
When it debuted in 2010, “Pretty Little Liars” was quick to gain attention for its youth appeal – featuring high school drama, outlandish thrills and powered by the group’s tormenter, a villain known only as “A.”
The constant flow of mystery and intrigue may have been the hook that kept “PLL” – as fans would abbreviate it – at the top of Twitter trending topics. But the life blood of the show was always the young teen girls who may have looked like they’d been plucked straight from the pages of a Teen Vogue, but fought with endless conviction to protect themselves and their friends from harm and danger.
Sure, they would fight amongst themselves at times, but their friendship was always a North Star of hope.
“Pretty Little Liars,” which began with the girls as teens and followed their journeys into young adulthood, made a powerful statement about enduring female bonds. The show pit the girls against a number of almost cartoonishly evil foes, but they were no match for the Rosewood quartet.
Before “Pretty Little Liars,” young teens had the likes of “Gossip Girl” to fill their hunger for fabulous OMG-entertainment. But even that show, which had a female friendship at its core, was rooted in a cattiness that “PLL” mostly tried to avoid.
“I do hope that we showed our fans what friendship looks like: girls supporting girls, women supporting women,” showrunner I. Marlene King told Teen Vogue in May. “I didn’t want the girls to be catty with each other. I wanted them to have mature, healthy relationships.”
While stories about female friends are in larger supply these days thanks to a wave of television created for and about women, there will be a hole where “Pretty Little Liars” once stood.
During Tuesday’s finale, “PLL” network Freeform ran several promos for a series called “Bold Type,” about a trio of young women trying to make it in the magazine world. It’s not a stretch to say those who tuned into “Pretty Little Liars” for its more bombastic qualities will not find their fix in this series, but it was clear that Freeform was trying to make a connection with the younger “PLL” base who wouldn’t necessarily see themselves reflected on a show like “Big Little Lies.”
The jury is out on how TV history will remember “Pretty Little Liars,” but when it comes to teaching young women about the power of having like-minded, murderer-battling badasses at your side, this series undoubtedly gets an “A.”