Pretty Little Liars: Summer School: A Final Girl Season That Deserved More Episodes

Pretty Little Liars: Summer School on Max, episode 7
Pretty Little Liars: Summer School on Max, episode 7 /

Pretty Little Liars: Summer School lives and breathes the Final Girl formula throughout its eight-episode run. The story's main villain is Bloody Rose, a masked slasher killer who has taken "A's" place as the Liars' newest problem. But, does season two only having eight episodes undermine the mystery?

Season two is busy as it balances school work, a mysterious and dangerous Church scheme, new romances, and a serial killer on the loose. However, the finale, "Final Exam," happens to draw a light on just how short the season feels.

As Imogen, Tabby, Noa, Faran, and Mouse finally get around to discussing their suspects for Bloody Rose toward the season's conclusion, it feels like this group has barely done any investigating or questioning at all. Granted, MAX's iteration of this story is less about the Liars investigating the mystery and more about them escaping death at the hands of a dangerous killer. But, the amount of episodes do harm the overall story at times.

Certain plot lines, like unraveling the truth about Bloody Rose or the development of Noa's romance with Jen deserved more time to brew, rather than feeling like it was crammed into the season.

"Final Exam" does unmask the season's big killer, and explains the motivation behind their actions. But, the big reveal comes off as more anti-climactic than shocking, and that is entirely due to the season's number of episodes. There is not enough time to offer this villain a significant amount of build-up, and due to that, such a revelation would have fallen flat no matter who was underneath the mask.

In the context of the show, the villain's identity works quite logically when the puzzle pieces are finally brought together. But, there is not enough time to unpack the realities of the situation because the entirety of this mystery only exists within the context of eight hours of television. Rather than red herrings that keep the audience guessing the identity of the villain, Pretty Little Liars: Summer School chooses to emphasize its horror movie inspirations by offering each of the main characters their own Final Girl moment.

Noa's romance with Jen, and how it plays against her cheating on Shawn, is a controversial element to the story, and one that is not given the time it would need to be explored. Exploring Noa's bisexuality is one thing, but to pair it up with a cheating plot line falls into problematic territory. It also does not help how the show writes each of the characters. While Shawn is supportive of Noa and is willing to take her side over his own mother, Jen is breaking into houses and stealing money from work. Noa repays Shawn's generosity of paying Jen's bail by cheating on him with Jen.

Noa and Jen's romance is entirely based on a point in their shared time in juvie that the audience is not privy to with the exception of one quick flashback and Noa's explanation that she and Jen had been together then too. It does not help that Noa's main plot this season surrounded this controversial love triangle that even fans could not get behind.

Shawn's escalation from kind to angry enough to punch a hole in the wall feels out of nowhere, especially considering the audience does not even get to witness Shawn and Jen's altercation. Instead, Noa's guilt toward breaking up with Shawn earns an immediate turn around and results in her destroying his car with a baseball bat. It certainly shows that Noa has firmly chosen to be with Jen. But, it feels far too quickly escalated to be organic, especially since it takes so long for Noa to break up with Shawn.

Mouse also falls into a trap as well, with her main plot point seeming to be how many times she could reference the horror website "Spooky Spaghetti" in a single episode. Granted, is there more room in the season's length for her to be doing anything else? Mouse is mostly a plot device as she scours this website for information. But, in the end, could it be said that Mouse's storyline really went anywhere?

With more time in the season, perhaps this could have grown into something more. Or, the show could have developed another subplot for Mouse to undergo. Pretty Little Liars: Summer School could have leaned more heavily into Mouse trying to hide the daily danger she finds herself in from a grandmother who could have been written to be more aware that something suspicious or dangerous was occurring with her granddaughter. There is no time for that in this season though, not when so much time is devoted to Final Girl chase scenes and the disturbing references to "The Reckoning" that appear on "Spooky Spaghetti."

Even Ash's role, as the only main significant other truly aware of the horrors that came with "A" and Bloody Rose, seemed to be boiled down to the only one of the Liars' partners who is above suspicion in questioning who is affiliated with Bloody Rose. While it is positive that Ash remained a loyal member of the group, and not someone at all connected to the center villain, the only love interest that Pretty Little Liars: Summer School does a decent job setting up as a potential suspect is Christian, a movie-lover with a hobby of making his own horror masks.

Jen had an entirely different element of drama she brought to the show, and Johnny is never truly shown to be suspicious in general.

One of the biggest storylines that could have utilized more screen time was the decision to give Dr. Sullivan a plot twist worthy of Ezra Fitz. In Freeform's Pretty Little Liars, Spencer Hastings spirals upon the realization that she has made a massive break in the case of realizing the horrifying truth that Ezra Fitz is "A." The pieces of the puzzle make sense, and everything fits together perfectly up until the moment that Ezra reveals to Aria that he is not "A," but had been stalking the girls the entire time in the process of writing a true crime book that revealed the truth about Alison DiLaurentis' disappearance.

It is a massive betrayal, but one that works because this revelation comes near the end of season four, featuring a character that had been included from the first episode, with each season holding roughly twenty episodes. Ezra's big betrayal had been given a build-up that offered more fear to his role in the mystery. But, Pretty Little Liars: Summer School not only does not have that backstory to base Dr. Sullivan's actions on, but this decision completely undermines her original character and shows that Pretty Little Liars: Summer School did not learn from this storyline's outcome with Ezra years previously. Why would Dr. Sullivan want to write a book about this generation of Liars?

Dr. Sullivan in Millwood is supposed to be the same therapist as her time in Rosewood, and at no point in Freeform's iteration of the story, or character, is it suggested that Dr. Sullivan would ever betray her clients in such a manner. Perhaps Pretty Little Liars: Summer School could have gotten away with it if the series spent more time developing who Dr. Sullivan became in the aftermath of her son's murder. Instead, she just comes off as suspicious for no reason in a way that could have worked had she been an entirely different person. But, when connecting the two shows like this, requires more time and backstory devoted to that character to explain such a specific character choice.

Even Kelly's pacing is all over the place. Kelly's dedication to a newfound love for the Church and religion is already established when season two begins, but it is development that the audience misses out on. How did Kelly become so connected to the Church? When did it happen? What occurred in her relationships with the other members of the Church that allowed her to feel easily integrated into the space?

Due to limited episodes, none of that gets to be explored, and instead, Pretty Little Liars: Summer School subjects its audience to an already brainwashed version of Kelly that shows no remorse about staging her friend's mother's suicide in the very house she died in. Except for when the show needs Kelly to change her tune and recognize her mistakes, which of course, happens just in time for the big ending.

Kelly has spent most of season two disconnected from the rest of the girls, so the decision to bring her back into the fold, in any way, deserved more episodes to explore, rather than just thrusting this change upon the characters.

Pretty Little Liars: Summer School had a mostly solid premise with significant connections to its first season. But, the series deserved more episodes to tell its story and give a more solid foundation to the events taking place, especially considering the great work it does in continuing to portray what this chaotic group of Liars can look like in moments such as trying to help Faran in the aftermath of her test with Bloody Rose and seeing them bicker over each other's significant others before putting their friendship first.

These are characters and storylines with so much potential to thrive, and there have already been fantastic instances of friendship and trust showed between this group of girls. However, in order for this series to truly flourish, this season, and any future seasons that may come, deserve more episodes for their mysteries and storylines to prosper.

Next. "Trying" Is Apple TV+'s Best Comedy Under The Radar. "Trying" Is Apple TV+'s Best Comedy Under The Radar. dark