It's the beginning of the end for "Pretty Little Liars." As the beloved teen show cruises to the end of its defining mystery, Tuesday night's (March 24) epic finale gave fans the crucial answer they've been waiting five seasons for: Charles DiLaurentis is A. There's only one slight problem. We have no idea who the heck Charles is and how he came to be the Big Bad, Uber A in Rosewood.
Speaking to MTV News, "Pretty Little Liars" executive producer Joseph Dougherty helped us wrap our heads around the show's latest reveal and he even teased what's ahead for the Liars -- and Charles -- in season six.
MTV News: We know Charles stole the game from Mona in season three, but has Charles been there from the very beginning?
Joseph Dougherty: This person is not a stranger to Rosewood in any way, shape or form. I think it's safe to say that, like the Liars themselves, this person's history in Rosewood goes back before the beginning in the series.
MTV: Have we met Charles before? Perhaps under a different name?
Dougherty: Here's the thing. This is what we like about the next 10 episodes -- as I become increasingly coy in this conversation. We're going to give everybody everything they need to figure it out, and there's a distinct possibility that someone is going to get the theory right. And if they get it right, then we're going to be really proud of ourselves and proud of them. So I'm not actually going to say whether or not you've locked eyes on Charles before.
MTV: We know the next 10 episodes will wrap up the original mystery, so is it safe to say the first half of season six will unravel Charles' story? Will his motivations as A become clear?
Dougherty: Wrap up sounds like we're just going to be making a sandwich. I think we're going to be doing something much more aggressive! But, yes. It will. You weren't expecting a one-word answer, were you? [laughs] It usually comes back, again, to something Alfred Hitchcock said, which is, "The stronger the villain, the stronger the piece."
That now means, the more complicated the villain. And to end up in a place where the Liars start to understand the motivations that have lead this person to behave the way that this person has, it's satisfying. We've always tried to go for something more emotionally interesting, and one of the ways you do that is saying, maybe there are motives and reasons for this behavior, which is pretty severe. I always come back to Norman Bates. He just had a hard time relating to people!
MTV: This guy's entire existence has been kept a secret, so it's only natural that he's going to go a little mad.
Dougherty: When I think about this, one of the things that I like about it is that, beyond explanations of A, you're going to get a better understanding of why Ali grew up to be the person she grew up to be, why Jason is the man he is now... People thought the Hastings' house was full of machinations, but I think what was going on down the lane might have actually been more severe.
MTV: We can understand Charles' fascination with Ali, but why the Liars? Why did he want to punish them?
Dougherty: The key to that is in Ali's relationship with the girls. That's where Charles' fascination stems from.
MTV: Let's talk about that prom scene. It was so delightfully creepy. Spencer mentioned that it was same theme as Melissa's prom seven years ago. Does that tie into the Charles mystery?
Dougherty: When you look at those things, you have to look at those dates and those points in time as those before and after moments. I honestly can't remember when Melissa's prom was in relation to the pilot. I'm a little confused, so I can't really give you a clear answer. But everything is specifically chosen. I think it has more to do with lost opportunities than Melissa.
MTV: Will season six pick up right where the finale left off, with the Liars still locked inside A's creepy dollhouse?
Dougherty: Yes, it does!
MTV: Will they eventually find their way out?
Dougherty: Yes, they do, but we're not saying when that happens. Although, I don't want anyone to be concerned that we're going to spend the entire season in the dollhouse. We are not going to be doing that. In order to do what we want to do, in terms of resolving the overarching stories, we do need to return to Rosewood.
MTV: Marlene King has already confirmed that there's going to be a major time jump in season six. Are you excited to explore the Liars' lives post-college?
Dougherty: Absolutely. One of the great things about this is how it's never gotten boring for us. We always knew that we were going to reach a point where we finish the story and then we're going to catch our breath and take this opportunity to move forward -- literally. Reboot is the word that gets thrown around.
Here's my model for what's going to happen between these two seasons. Very early on in the process, I thought we were telling a Stephen King novel. If the girls were boys, this would definitely be a Stephen King book. And what usually happens in a Stephen King book about groups of kids is that the book then jumps forward and you realize that they're young adults now but there's still unresolved issues. I think that's very similar to what's going to happen on the other side of our story, in the second half of the season. It's the second half of the Stephen King novel that we've been writing all these years.
MTV: I'm sure the cast is very exciting to play their own age.
Dougherty: I believe the words are "champing at the bit." There's already been discussions of hair and clothing. So you know they're serious about it!