Goodbye, Pretty Little Liars | Emily Bashforth

Goodbye, Pretty Little Liars

TV shows come and go. I don't know how many there have been since televisions were invented but I know there have been a lot and programmes have evolved heavily since the black and white days. Storylines are more intense, actors are more skilled, costumes are more extravagant, sets are more elaborate, budgets are higher, stunts are more death defying, technological developments make the impossible seem possible, taboo topics are touched on more frequently and audiences just generally love TV shows today in a way that they did not previously. TV shows are more than that now, they're a real part of all of our lives and, choose the right one, and you could find something which changes your outlook on everything.

Ideas for TV shows are pitched every day, some shows make it to air, some never even get past the storyboard stage, some get cancelled after one season, some were only meant for one season, some last forever but never really get anywhere, some seem to only still be in existence because the writers don't have the heart to cancel them, and some become globally successful. However, for a TV show to become a worldwide phenomenon, it has to be unique, it needs a good plot, authentic characters, it needs something which keeps audiences coming back each week, whether that's cliffhangers, humour, romance or action. For a TV show to really be taken to the hearts of the people, it must be special. One TV series in particular which truly was taken to the hearts of millions has been Pretty Little Liars.

As I write this, the last ever episode of Pretty Little Liars has just aired. So...that's it. It's over. After seven seasons, countless -A threats, many deaths, a lot of relationships, constant twists, turns, shocks and "OMG" moments, after seven years of laughter, tears, heartache and happiness, the show has reached its end and Pretty Little Liars is now, so to speak, to be taken to the grave. 
As Alison emotionally said in one of the shows final ever scenes, "this feels like the end of something" and, truly, it does. After watching PLL for a few years now, I feel a hole in my heart and a void in my life already, knowing I'm not going to be tuning into a new episode next Tuesday to watch the liars run wild in a crazy -A world. Pretty Little Liars was more than something I just sat down to watch each week, as I know it was to millions of others. What it was exactly, I'm not entirely sure, and I struggle to put into words the impact this show has had and the sheer magic it has created. Pretty Little Liars was something I really engaged with, I was immersed in the world of Rosewood, I related to it and it took over my life in the best possible way, even if it did give me a lot of sleepless nights as I racked my brain trying to figure out WHO THE HELL -A WAS!

This show was one of a kind and I worry that, now that it is over, I will not be able to fall in love with another show in the same way that I did with PLL. However, in a way, I don't want to. Pretty Little Liars brought me some of the happiest memories and I shall always hold dear in my heart the smiles it brought me. This show became a weekly escape and almost like a best friend, in a way. It was something I could watch for one hour to completely transport myself into an alternate world in which my problems didn't matter and in which I could live through these five other girls rather than having to be myself for a short space of time. I truly bonded with Pretty Little Liars, as a show, in an unimaginable way. It wasn't just because I was hooked on wanting to know who -A or A.D. was. It wasn't just an entertainment drug which I needed a fix of each week. As enthralling and gripping as it was, I formed a connection with Pretty Little Liars thanks to its storylines and characters. I loved being able to watch a show which so openly discussed the issues surrounding sexuality, family, friendships, loss, love, and mental health, in fact, I suppose the whole show centred around mental illness, in a way. I loved being able to establish a real relationship with the characters thanks to the struggles they were facing because, for the first time in my life, I didn't feel like I was watching actors play characters, I simply felt like I was watching real people act out the lives of real people. As hyperbolic and over the top as some of the plots may have seemed, at the core of Pretty Little Liars was the characters and their own lives. I know it's totally unrealistic for someone called -A to be targeting you and to torture you by locking you in a doll house and but strip all the craziness away and you've just got five girls trying to figure themselves out as they grow up and encounter hardships. It was refreshing to see actuate portrayals of real life problems, for the harsh realities of mental health to not be romanticised, for family dramas to seem relatable, for relationships between lovers not to seem too unrealistic and unattainable and just to feel like I was genuinely watching five young girls who could've easily been my classmates. These girls suffered with eating disorders, body image dysmorphia, illness, love triangles, sexuality confusion, substance abuse, physical abuse, torment, death of loved ones, stalking, violation, family secrets being exposed such as finding out their parents aren't actually their parents... You name it, these girls have endured it, and I liked that. Not because I enjoyed seeing them suffer but because it made the show less of a show and more something I could connect with. I became a Pretty Little Liar.

I have watched the characters in this show grow up as I have matured myself and I feel as though they have all taught me things along the way, like how to accept myself for who I am, how to fight for what I believe in, how to remain loyal to those who love me, how to never give up in pursuit of my dreams and how to remember that it's okay not to have everything figured out as all will fall into place soon enough. Aria, Spencer, Hanna, Emily and Alison are iconic characters which have become a part of all of us who watched them. So iconic, in fact, that they could never truly die, regardless of the fact that their story is over. Their story continues within us and we decide what they go on to do next by taking the skills and lessons they have provided us with to shape our own paths. The Liars can never cease to exist because we love them so dearly, therefore, they shall remain within us always, and that's immortality, my darlings. 

Saying goodbye to this show and a "see you later" to these characters was heartbreaking. Leaving behind a chapter in the lives of myself and these actors was never going to be easy but the fact that saying goodbye was so hard makes me realise how lucky I am to have had something that I cared so deeply about. And, honestly, I couldn't have thought of a better way to say goodbye to such a wonderful show than with the finale that was created for season 7B. I cannot imagine the blood, sweat, tears, stress, nerves and more stress which went into creating such a highly anticipated final episode but I do know that every one was worth it as we said goodbye to PLL with a finale to end all finales. Thank you to PLL for providing your audience with such a fitting farewell, from the funny scenes, the parallels with this episode and earlier seasons, the brilliant plot twists and of course the A.D. reveal, which was something everyone was waiting for. Everyone had their theories and whilst one of mine turned out to be true, it was bigger and better than I could have ever expected. The episode was executed to perfection and showcased the talents of the actors and crew fully. Admittedly, I did have to pause the episode a few times to figure out what was going on and draw a mental family tree to fathom who was related to whom but, otherwise, it was beautiful. No one does a "WOAH HOLD UP THIS IS CRAZY" moment like Pretty Little Liars and there were plenty of those in the final episode, not to mention a lot of tear-jerking scenes which have left me a shell of a human being. The show has come full circle and, whilst I remain with questions which I doubt will ever be answered, it was satisfying to see this part of the characters' lives come to a close as they venture on to do new things and it was wonderful to end the episode with a sense of "these characters are gone but the world in which they lived continues forever."

To Marlene, the heart and soul of Pretty Little Liars who brought Sara Shepherd's books to our TV screens, thank you. Thank you for bringing the world of Rosewood alive and continuing to keep us hooked each week, hungry for more. Despite the negativity and impatience from PLL fans which you received, I have always revered your optimism, kindness and compassion. I admire your hard work and commitment to your show as creating something as complex as Pretty Little Liars isn't something one can do half heartedly. This show became your world as much as it did ours and thank you for all the time you spent shaping it into something magical beyond words. I thank you for the characters you gave us, for the memorable moments, the "HOW DID SHE EVEN THINK OF THAT!?" moments and the moments which will always set PLL way above any other TV show in the hierarchy. You are a true gem of a creator and the world would have been a greyer place had you not loved Pretty Little Liars enough to want to invest your time into it to bring us all happiness. 

To the rest of the Pretty Little Liars crew, I thank you for the scripts you wrote, for how realistic your dialogue was and how comedic it could be. I thank you for keeping us on our toes with your cliffhangers and for wrapping us around your little finger with every word. I thank the directors for topping their work as the episodes progressed and for continuing to create this obscure yet oh so relatable world for us to admire. I thank the set and costume designers for pouring your all into every stitch and paint stroke to bring these characters alive and to give them a home. Your creativity never ceased to astound me and the lengths at which you would go to make something marvellous were inspiring. To anyone who played a part in the making of PLL, whether it was big or small, whether it was one episode or one hundred, thank you and congratulations, as you so very deserve the same amount of credit as those on screen. 

To the cast... To Ashley Benson, thank you for your portrayal of Hanna. Thank you for bringing us joy with your iconic one liners..."Please, Jenna can't hear us, she's blind." Thank you for giving us all outfit envy every episode as we all wished we could live inside your closest. Thank you for brilliantly portraying the struggles young girls face with eating disorders and body image issues. Thank you for showing it is possible to overcome insecurities, to find love and happiness, that it is possible to achieve your career goals but it may just take a little longer than first expected. Thank you for showing us what love and kindness looks like whilst also defending those you care for and refusing to back down for the sake of a quiet life. Thank you for giving young girls a role model and for bringing light into a often dull world. 

To Shay Mitchell, thank you for portray of Emily and for allowing us to join her on her journey as she grew. Thank you for depicting the struggle young girls frequently face of figuring out their sexuality and, in doing so, refusing to be ashamed of it. Thank you for forcing Emily's family to accept her as she is and for living her best life unapologetically as she realised her own happiness should be her priority. Thank you for showing that being positive and kind is always possible, despite there being so many people around you wishing to bring you sorrow. Thank you for always remaining true to yourself in a world which tried to change you and for staying loyal to your friends no matter what. Thank you for perfectly portraying heartache and sadness as well as anger in times of pain. You showed that it's okay to feel things and that, despite being the happy one in the friendship group, it's okay to be down and it's okay to get mad when those you love are being threatened. 

To Lucy Hale, thank you for your portrayal of Aria. Thank you for never being afraid to step out of the box in terms of fashion and for refusing to conform to the norms laid out by society. Thank you for expressing your creative side through writing and photography and for showing it is possible to make something of yourself within the creative industry. Thank for you for remaining true to your love and for showing us that, if something or someone is meant to be, they will always find their way back to you. You provided us with many joyful moments simply by being your bright shining self, which is something I will treasure. Thank you for lighting up our TV screens whilst making us feel everything that Aria felt, whether it was happiness or heartbreak, we shared it too, which is surely only a testament to your acting ability. 

To Sasha Pieterse, thank you for your portrayal of Alison. She was the character who evolved the most and it was a pleasure to watch her mature and learn lessons along the way. It was entertaining to watch her as the high school bitch but also to see her grow into a young woman, find love and settle down. It was fun to watch her come to terms with her sexuality, to learn to love who she is, to learn that she doesn't have to live life on the run in pursuit of drama, to learn that it's okay to cry and not to have a facade up 24/7 and that it is possible to find happiness, as we are all worthy of love, regardless of our own struggles. As well as watching Ali grow, we watched you grow, as you began the show at the same age that many of us began watching it. It has been a blessing to see you mature into a sophisticated young woman and to see your acting skills only better as you got older. I thank you for taking us on your life journey with you and for being the perfect Alison because, honestly, nobody else could've played Alison DiLaurentis but you. 

And last but never least, to Troian Bellisario, thank you for your portrayal of Spencer. She was always the character I bonded with the closest and which I related to the most deeply due to her demons, struggles, opinions and life experiences. I saw myself in Spencer a lot of the time and she was always someone I longed to reach out and hug. You were the perfect Spencer...you ARE Spencer. You filled her shoes exquisitely and I thank you for all the fantastic performances you delivered each episode. Thank you for showing us, through Spencer, that recovery IS possible and for reminding us to remain close to those who care about us because there will always be people around us who want to support us on our journey to being our best self. Thank you for reminding us that no one has it all together, that everyone has flaws and obstacles, despite how perfect and polished they may seem on the exterior. But thank you for reminding us that it's okay to not have it all together and that human beings are allowed to feel things for we are not made of stone. Thank you for being yourself, always, and for refusing to let outside forces to stop you from fighting for what you believe strongly in. Thank you for showing us that happy endings do come, no matter how much one may have suffered, and for making us all a little Spencer each time you were on screen. I could never fully explain the remarkable acting talents you possess, they simply have to be watched with the eyes, for you are a diamond in the industry. 

Thank you, Pretty Little Liars, for all you have taught me, all you have brought me and all you are yet to teach me as I move forwards into the future. Thank you for being such a huge part of my growing up and for being my comfort blanket in times of need. The impact of this show, the most social show in history, astounds me every day, and I can only thank social media for creating such a large, tight knit community of warm, loving people. The PLL Family has become an army I feel proud to have been a part of and there isn't a single doubt in my mind that some of its members will go on to become the worlds greatest in espionage because DAMN, some of you guys had good theories. Over the course of seven years, Pretty Little Liars challenged stereotypes, it broke barriers and it, in a way, was somewhat revolutionary. This show gave young people, girls particularly, a whole new set of role models, role models who embody everything society needs and who provided girls with something realistic to admire. The show presented women in an empowering way, fighting their own battles ALL of the time, defending themselves, putting themselves in danger and sticking to their guns despite their voices sometimes not being heard. These girls were fearless as they searched for answers and showed those younger than them that a little bit of girl power goes a long way. They were smart, brave, loving, comedic, empathetic, quick, witty, strong and, most importantly, themselves, throughout and made the world stand up and pay attention to the fact that young girls are powerful. Thank you, PLL for creating such an inclusive show and family, for all sexualities, genders, races and people of all backgrounds and for refusing to discriminate. You connected people with your show, which many do not.
Goodbye, Pretty Little Liars. For all that you are and all that you were, I am grateful. Thank you for making a TV show feel like home for one hour each week, which may not seem a lot in the grand scheme of things but which really meant a lot. Thank you for being a breath of fresh air and for creating characters which will leave behind a beautiful legacy. Despite the fact that you often made me want to tear my hair out, you were a blast, and I sincerely look forward to supporting each cast and crew member with their future endeavours. It breaks my heart into a million tiny pieces to know that, for a while at least, the world of Rosewood won't exist, but I shall cherish the memories it created for me until I die. i love you, Pretty Little Liars.  Oh, and thank you for teaching me not to lie and to just always go to the police should anything bad happen, like, seriously, that was the most important lesson I have learnt. 

Spencer, Aria, Hanna, Emily, Alison, Toby, Caleb, Ezra, Melissa, Mona, Wren, Jessica, Mary, Alex, Pam, Veronica, Ella, Ashley, Peter, Byron, Wayne, Ted, Garrett, Wilden, Charlotte, Bethany, Lucas, Archer, Paige, Jenna, Shauna, Maya, Nate, Sara, Mike, Jason, Meredith, Noel, Ian, Kate, Shaun, Jackie, Tom, Tanner and to any other character I may have missed, sleep well.

Now, shall we start watching all over again from season one? Yes, let's. And remember, never trust a pretty girl with an ugly secret. 

Xo -E.

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