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The Year 'Pretty Little Liars' Grew The F--k Up

In 2015, "Pretty Little Liars" took chances, made some mistakes and put its characters first.

After years of teases, taunts and fake-outs "Pretty Little Liars" finally unmasked A in its midseason finale this past August. Even the fairweatherist of fans knew the importance of A, the show's enigmatic villain -- and you didn't need to watch "PLL" to understand that "Who Is A?" was the Millennial version of "Who shot J.R.?"

For the Powers That Be, the decision to reveal A was a crucial one, because midway through Season 4, the mystery of A's identity was starting to unravel into minutiae. Instead of its driving force, "Who Is A?" had become one of the most mundane parts of the show. Fans felt duped after one too many red herrings (remember when there were multiple Red Coats?), fatigue sent in, and interest eventually waned.

So when co-creator Marlene King announced her plan to reveal the show's central Big Bad at the end of Season 6A, to say we were skeptical would be an understatement.

Once the reveal was in place, though, "Pretty Little Liars" seriously upped the ante -- and we discovered that A's most twisted games were yet to come. The nature of A's dubious behavior was no longer regulated to the B-plot. Instead, it was front and center. The show started to treat A like a character, rather than just a caricature of a bad guy, and the show finally delivered on its promise: at the end of the midseason finale, "Game Over, Charles," A was revealed.

Whether you liked the CeCe Drake (aka Charlotte DiLaurentis) reveal or not is up for you to decide. Personally, there are one too many plot holes for my liking to truly believe this is what the Powers That Be intended back in Season 3, after A stole the game from Mona... But I'm also just happy the show, and the Liars, can move on.

2015 became the year that "PLL" got its groove back, and it's amazing to see what a little narrative structure and a hard deadline can do. King and co. knew that they had 10 episodes to wrap up the #SummerOfAnswers, so they delivered a tightly wound story; one that had a definitive beginning, middle, and end. Where there missteps? Of course there were. That's what growing up is all about. It was by no means a perfect season, but it was extremely satisfying.

There was a renewed sense of fearlessness in its storytelling -- we're not just talking about that "CeCe is A twist" -- and most importantly, the characters were finally able to grow and make a few mistakes along the way. The show even explored, in depth, the heartbreaking effects that PTSD can have on families and personal relationships, as the Liars' nearly succumbed to the emotional trauma A heaped on them in her psycho dollhouse. This year, "Pretty Little Liars" learned to put its characters ahead of its mystery, and that really showed.

There's a reason we sympathized with Charlotte at the end of season. It's because we knew how much pain and personal trauma she had suffered. It doesn't excuse her erratic behavior, but it gave her depth. We'll never fully understand why Charlotte did what she did, and that's OK. That's Charlotte's story to tell. But at least we got more than a one-note villain.

And then there's Ezria. Aria and Ezra's relationship is a point of contention for many "PLL" fans. On one hand, it's illegal. When Aria and Ezra met in Season 1, he was her 24-year-old teacher, while she was only 17. Again, the nature of their relationship was very, very illegal. (Especially when you consider that Ezra used Aria to get info on Ali in the beginning.) On the other hand, in many ways, Ezria was the defining ship of "Pretty Little Liars." It's hard to forget that kiss in the rain, or their key lime pie-making adventures together, but we have to admit that we’re pretty impressed with where the writers took their story line in 2015.

This year, Aria Montgomery grew the f--k up. She realized that she spent so much of her teen years with Ezra that she forgot to do things for herself.

With Aria headed to Los Angeles for the summer, and Ezra jetting off to Thailand with Habitat For Humanity, it's likely that this is the end of Ezria for the foreseeable future. And that's totally normal. Aria's feelings are totally valid, and probably correct: she did miss out on a normal teenage experience being with Ezra. It felt extremely natural that she'd want a break -- and the writers respected her decision. "PLL" didn't bait us with any more "will they/won't they" moments. Aria and Ezra were done, and miraculously, the world kept spinning.

"Pretty Little Liars" has never patronized its viewers. In fact, the show has always relied on the insatiable appetite of its fans to drive the conversation. And for all of its eye candy and enviable fashions, at its core, "PLL" has always weaved subversively feminist narratives.

In reinvesting in its characters this season, "Pretty Little Liars" has been able to tell bolder, more valiant stories -- and most importantly, they've allowed the Liars to grow up and create their own narratives. More of that in 2016, please.


VMAs 2017