PLL: The Perfectionists Season 1 Finale Flips the Show On Its Head

Showrunner I. Marlene King weighs in on that unexpected ending and what might come next

By Lauren Piester May 23, 2019 1:00 AMTags
Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists, Janel Parrish, Sasha PieterseFreeform

Sasha Pieterse told us the season one finale of PLL: The Perfectionists would involve "a lot of experiments," and boy she wasn't kidding. 

It turns out that almost everything that happened this season, including the murder of Nolan Hotchkiss and the apparent confession of Jeremy to that murder, were experiments being done by someone called "The Professor." 

Who's the Professor? What does he or she want? All of that is unclear, but now whoever they are has all the material they need to blackmail the Perfectionists and Ali and Mona into continuing those experiments, which started with forcing them all to reveal their greatest fears. 

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Naturally, we now have a lot of questions. Which things were done by the Professor and which were that pesky Dana Booker? What does this mean for the direction of season two (assuming the show is renewed for a season two)? Why is anyone doing any of this? 

In a phone interview with showrunner I. Marlene King, we got a few of our questions sorta kinda answered. Specifically, it sounds like those fears everyone just listed off there at the end are going to be pretty important going into season two.

Those fears were: 

Alison: "I'm afraid I'm too broken to be fixed." 

Caitlin: "I'm afraid I'll fail, not just at school but in life." 

Dylan: "I'm afraid I'll have to go home." 

Ava: "I'm afraid I'll become like my father." 

Mona: "Dying before I find out who you are, bitch." 

Here's what else we learned from King...

E! News: First of all, it's been very interesting this season to see these young people tortured by adults, instead of fellow teens, like on PLL. The adults were always more like nuisances on that show. 

King: Well, they're in college now. It's a more grown up show, and they need a more grown-up adversary I think. 

So what can you tell me about the Professor? And are there clues planted throughout the season about what this person is up to? 

Well the Professor sort of says it, right. "Welcome to the experiment, phase two." So I think the PLLs and the Perfs are questioning the whole first season, was that Dana Booker torturing us, or was that the Professor torturing us? But they're sort of putting it all together now and realizing there's a much bigger thing going on than what they originally thought. 

And assuming there is a season two, what can you say we're in for with this Professor? 

Well I'm assuming there will be a season two. And I think you know, Dylan says it in this finale, right? He's like, we are human lab rats, and Mona's like, it's psychological warfare. There is an experiment happening that the Professor is controlling, and the Professor is going to use the fact that he has these characters on the hook to do what—I say he, but it's he or she--wants them to do. So the Professor is kind of like the master manipulator right now. 

How would you compare the Professor to A? 

Even better at the game. 


Is the Professor someone we've seen before, since we know he or she was at the cafe? 

I'm not gonna answer that. I want to just wait...I love the question, but we'll talk...but I'm glad you want to know. 

Are there clues to the Professor throughout the first season?

There's definitely a roadmap to discovering who the Professor is. 

One thing I really enjoyed this season was watching Mona go from being the fun mystery character to having a love interest and really becoming friends with Ali. What was that like for you to build her into more of a person? 

It has been such a joy. I have always thought Janel did such a great job taking care of the character of Mona and it's really been a joy to get to give her more to do and watch the character grow, and the beauty of moving forward is we're going to learn more and more and more about Mona as she evolves in this new world. 

And I was happy to see her get her job back in this finale, because I was like, really? After everything that happened on PLL, we're going to fire Mona for sleeping with a student? 

Yeah definitely fun to see her outsmart Claire. I think there will be payback. 

So will we see them as kind of rivals going forward? 

Definitely a possibility. 

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Now I want to talk about Ali a little bit, because as sad as it was to see her get divorced, it does seem like you've taken that as an opportunity to grow her up and help her move past all of the stuff she's been through. 

Yeah, it's actually, as a writer, one of the greatest parts of the job in television. You get to spend—in success—many many seasons with a character, and you get to create a journey for them, a path for them to go down as we explore more about who she is. I think her greatest fear, right, was that she's too broken to be fixed. So season two for Alison is really going to be about self-discovery. 

(See the rest of our chat about Alison and her divorce here.) 

Mona and Alison both have played a game like this before. They've been on both sides of it where they've both been the lab rat and the manipulator, in a way. So how are they going to help these newbies to the game as they're trying to figure this out? 

Alison and Mona are definitely sleuthing mentors, and they will continue to mentor the Perfectionists as, you know, mystery solvers, but also personally. They've gone through so many trials and tribulations of their own. So they're kind of the parents in this world, right? They're the grown-ups the Perfectionists are going to look up to, and sometimes they'll disappoint our Perfectionists, because they're flawed characters too. 


Poor Jeremy. The Professor said he's been dealt with, but can you say anything about what that means? 

You'll have to wait and see what that means. Just like Caitlin says, "what do you mean he's been taken care of?!" Fans are going to have to wait and see what that means. But you know, he's the Brit on our show, so I know everyone's like, oh, we can't trust him from the beginning. 

How are the Perfectionists' personal lives going to go as they're trying to figure out this experiment situation? 

Well, we've learned all of their greatest fears and that's their truth, right? So those fears will sort of set the template for where we start in season two. To grow as people, they're going to be tested, and they're going to have to hopefully overcome their greatest fears. 

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I think Beacon Guard might be the most terrifying thing on any of your shows. 

Right? It's pretty terrifying. But we live in a world where technology plays a huge part in our lives. It keeps us safe, but it also makes us vulnerable. And that's a theme we're going to continue to explore on the show. 

People have been pretty worried about Taylor, since she created Beacon Guard and seems a little bit unstable

Just a bit.

What can you say about her? 

She's a very complex character. She's kept a lot of things close to her chest. Obviously she's learning to trust Alison, so she tells her about her father's death and that she ultimately created Beacon Guard and went down a rabbit hole that she couldn't get back from for a while. So I would say everyone's a suspect on this show. It's the Pretty Little Liars universe, so everyone's a suspect.  

I mean, especially given the fact that she was 14 when she created this insanely complex security system. So she's capable of a lot, right?

I think it's safe to say she is a genius, in the way that Mona is a genius. They could hack into the Pentagon if they wanted to. 

So will we see them teaming up or going against each other in season two?

It's like, sometimes when somebody is very similar to you, you really don't like that person, so they kind of mix like oil and water, but it's going to be fun to watch them have more interactions on the show. 

PLL: The Perfectionists airs on Freeform.