The season finale of Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists pulled back the curtain on what the real mystery was all along. British Hotchkiss Industries employee Jeremy (Graeme Thomas King) — who also happens to be the secret boyfriend of Caitlin (Sydney Park) — may have "confessed" to killing Nolan (Chris Mason), but as fans have learned from seven previous seasons of Pretty Little Liars, one should never trust a first confession. Caitlin, Ava (Sofia Carson), Dylan (Eli Brown), and their new mentees in lying, Alison (Sasha Pieterse) and Mona (Janel Parrish) will have a lot more than just Jeremy to deal with. In season finale "Enter the Professor," it's revealed that a villain named "The Professor" really killed Nolan, and that it's all a part of a twisted experiment that he (or she) is playing with the Beacon Heights residents.
Sounds a lot like A's games from original flavor PLL, right? That's exactly what makes the ripped-from-an-Agatha-Christie-novel villain so compelling: They are just familiar enough for fans to know how wild a ride we're about to embark on, but different enough to realize we shouldn't expect A's exact old tricks.
Over the phone, Pretty Little Liars creator I. Marlene King talks about when the Professor first came to fruition, what we can expect from our beloved "ships," and where the yet-to-be-renewed series could go from here.
Refinery29: When did you know that the Professor would be the ultimate villain?
I. Marlene King: "We always knew who the Professor was, but the way we were going to tell the story unfolded when we got the writer’s room together and started talking about what does an A look like in this world. When we landed on this idea of the Professor, all the hairs on the back of our necks stood up a little bit — we were like, ‘Oh, this is it.’"
Nolan is more of a true villain in the Perfectionists book series, written by Pretty Little Liars author Sara Shepard. Here, he is a bit more complicated.
"I’m hoping that in season 2 we explore more Nolan flashbacks with our main characters and maybe some characters we haven’t met yet. I think his mother, Claire Hotchkiss [played by Kelly Rutherford] is an incredibly manipulative person, so genetically, I think he’s a little prone to be a master manipulator, and be good at it. Ava understood Nolan better than anyone. Like she says [when she forgives Dylan for sleeping with Nolan,] Nolan was a really complicated person, but passion is what he did best."
There seemed to be a connection between Dylan and Luke (Nick Cassidy), Dylan's former high school bully. Will Dylan’s boyfriend Andrew (played by Evan Bittencourt) have some competition?
"Luke is in Beacon Heights for a reason. He’s not going to pack up that food truck and leave quickly. He came because he is truly remorseful for what he put Dylan through. As much as Dylan doesn’t want to look back at the past, he’s going to be forced to confront it even more."
Taylor (played by Hayley Erin) seemed to be jealous when she saw Alison flirting with a professor. Was that intentional?
"That look was definitely intentional. People didn’t misread that. Alison is going to be on a long journey, and she’s already set herself up for self discovery. Hopefully she sets herself up for a new relationship [down the line.]"
Fans were angry to see that Emily and Alison divorced in the spin-off, but in reality, Shay Mitchell, who plays Emily, was unavailable to do the Perfectionists. What do you say to fans who struggle with this part of the story?
"I think that if someone is so upset to the point of tweeting hate, either at me or at the actors or at other fans, then it’s not worth it. This is supposed to be fun, and entertaining, and joyful. There’s a business side to it, and a certain practicality to [ending that relationship onscreen.] Personally, I love the character of Alison. The best thing for her is to swallow that bitter pill of needing to separate from Emily so she could go and have a rich full life. Otherwise, she’s not going to have to live a life.
"I think some fans don’t realize that without conflict, there is no show. You can’t always be happily ever after, it would be really boring. I’m hoping this is a long journey, and you never know — maybe Alison will end up with Emily, and that will be her endgame."
What themes do you want to explore should The Perfectionists have more seasons?
"There are a few overall themes that we’re going to continue to explore. The first is friendship. These characters had to earn their friendship, which is now super solid, and we’re going to be rooting for them. If this show were an ice cream sundae, the friendship would be the ice cream. We all want friends who are like family. We’re going to continue exploring what that looks like. We’re also going to explore technology. What can keep us safe, also makes us more vulnerable. Then there’s this idea of perfectionism, and social media. There’s Instagram, which shows everyone’s picture-perfect lives, but that’s impossible. We will model our characters going through this need to feel perfect but stumbling and failing, and realizing it’s okay. They’re better for it."
The Perfectionists has included some fun text messages between original PLL characters on Twitter. Can you talk about including this second-screen aspect of the show?
"I wrote most of those text messages along with our staff writer. They’re real. I have more fun with those text messages than anything — it’s so fun to keep characters [from the original PLL] alive. They’re really just fun character reveals, but the one on [Wednesday] does involve a little bit of mystery."
Any chance that the Professor could be someone from the OG PLL series? Some fans suspect Lucas (Brendan Robinson), since he's also a tech guy.
"Both worlds are in the same universe, which leaves us open for a lot of different possibilities. Everything is possible in terms of characters hopping back and forth."