Pretty Little Liars Goes to College

Manhattan, New York
United States

It’s been two years since viewers caught their last glimpse into the twisted, drama-filled lives of the Pretty Little Liars- or so we thought. The Freeform show, which entertained viewers for seven years, was so popular that it secured a spin-off; Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists. The new series is also based on Sara Shepard’s books and takes place a few years following the PLL finale in a fresh setting- Beacon Heights. The pilot episode, which premiered on March 20, introduced viewers to the mysterious world of Beacon Heights University where “excellence is not an option; it’s a requirement.”

The Perfectionists centers on three students attending the top-tier college; Caitlin Lewis (Sydney Park), Ava Jalali (Sofia Carson), and Dylan Walker (Eli Brown). It also features original characters; reformed mean girl Alison DiLaurentis (Sasha Pieterse), now a professor, and (evil?) genius Mona Vanderwaal (Janel Parrish), who is just as creepy as ever. It follows in PLL’s footsteps- there’s a murder, secrets, and mystery. However, from the moment it starts, it’s obvious that this show is even more dark and intense than its predecessor (which is a hard feat to accomplish). This isn’t high school anymore, and the mood reflects that. The students’ lives are full of secrets and stress as they strive to live up to the ideals that their school sets for them while balancing their personal lives. There are even some easter eggs for the observant PLL fan. For example, Mona mentions that her reasons for remaining in Paris “escaped her” (suggesting that Alex and Mary Drake escaped the dollhouse Mona built for them). Emily and Alison’s relationship is shown to be in trouble, and the classic (literal) writing-on-the-wall returns. The second episode offers more details about the core liars’ present-day lives (Haleb! Spoby!) as well as the classic PLL funeral text.

Everything from the scenery to the music is gorgeous, and the series is sure to be a hit. To be honest, revamping such a beloved show made me nervous, especially with an all-new cast. However, the new characters are multidimensional and interesting, and they have a great dynamic with the original characters. The two worlds blend seamlessly- the easter eggs don’t seem forced. Having been a devout fan of PLL, it’s pretty cool to be able to grow up with the characters. I watched the series through high school, and The Perfectionists premiered during my first year of college. Still, I don’t think watching PLL is a prerequisite for checking out The Perfectionists- anyone would enjoy this. I. Marlene King, the show’s creator, mentioned that it’s a social commentary on our societal obsession with perfection. It shines a light on the struggles students (and people in general) face in attempts to be what they think the world wants them to be, and the ripple effects of that. The pressure is cranked up, the stakes are higher and the lies are heightened. Definitely tune into Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists on Freeform, every Wednesday at 8/7c.