Pretty Little Liars Was Spencer's Journey All Along, Not Alison's

Photo: Ron Tom/Freeform
Welcome to a post-Pretty Little Liars world. On Tuesday, June 27, fans finally got all of the answers to the questions that the Freeform series had been dangling over our heads for seven long seasons. The big reveal, of course, was the identity of Uber A. It turns out that Spencer (Troian Bellisario) had an evil twin this entire time, and that "A.D." refers to her initials — Alex Drake. The jaw-dropping reveal may have meant the end of Pretty Little Liars, but it also recontextualized how we should have been watching the show. PLL was never really about Alison (Sasha Pieterse) and the lies she told. Instead, it was about Spencer and the bond she shared with her friends.
Pretty Little Liars started out as a classic Hitchcock-esque mystery. Alison, the missing mean girl and one-time ringleader of Spencer, Emily (Shay Mitchell), Hanna (Ashley Benson), and Aria's (Lucy Hale) friend group, was found dead in a grave in her own backyard. While Ali was never really dead, the Liars spent a lot of time searching for answers about their mysterious BFF, who always seemed to have a secret she was hiding. For a while, the Liars thought that maybe Ali was A, the stalker sending cruel text messages and manipulating them to do her bidding. The show was very Ali-centric — until, one day, it wasn't.
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Alison loomed large over the Liars as the "dead girl who wasn't really dead," but her story was almost always told through Spencer's eyes. If Alison was the victim in a classic film noir, then Spencer was the detective — she had a new suspect for Alison's murder every week, and was always trying to find out the answers, even when she herself could be the villain. (For a while, Spencer thought perhaps she was the one who knocked Alison over the head "that night" while in a fugue state.) Yet, for the most part, fans of the show determined to figure out the identity of the multiple villains focused on how Alison was a part of the puzzle — when, in reality, we should have been looking at the way Spencer fit into the story all along.
Yes, Alison was cruel to Original A Mona (Janel Parrish), but what really sent Mona over the edge wasn't Alison's cruelty, but how Ali's friends never thought to stand up for her — even Spencer, whom Mona clearly saw enough of a kindred spirit in that she recruited her for the A Team. Then there was Charlotte (Vanessa Ray), who stole the A game from Mona. While she claimed to be Alison's sister, that wasn't exactly the case: Charlotte was really Alison's cousin and Spencer's half-sister. At this point in the story, Charlotte had already spent a great deal of time with Spencer's twin and her biological half-sister Alex — it was never about wanting Alison for a sister at all.
Some Pretty Little Liars fans may feel disappointed that Alison didn't have a bigger role in the reveal — but when you look back on the series, it was never truly about Alison at all. Spencer was at the heart of all the drama, long before her twin decided to take up Charlotte's mantle. It was Spencer who found herself feeling "at home" in Radley, the place where Mona, Charlotte, and even her own mother spent time. It was Spencer's family who always seemed to have a dark underbelly, and capacity for murder. Alison, on the other hand? Her one-time Queen Bee status may have made it seem like the mystery revolved around her, but she was nothing more than a corner piece to the overall puzzle.
That's why Alex's motives make so much sense. Alex didn't want to punish Alison for some crazy thing she did in her past. Instead, Alex was jealous of Spencer — not only did she get the "perfect" family situation, she also got friends who would do anything for one another. Unlike Alison (who, to be fair, has since shed her Regina George ways and acclimated into the group) Spencer never had to manipulate the other Liars into loving her. Spencer was the ringleader of a group of women who unconditionally supported one another, even through their darkest times.
That kind of friendship is ultimately what the show is about — and why we really should have realized it was Spencer's story all along.
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