Season four has been touted as “the season of answers” courtesy of executive producer Marlene King, and she reaffirmed that statement at an evening celebration for the hit ABC Family drama at the Paley Center on Monday, revealing that viewers will find out whether Alison (Sasha Pieterse) is indeed dead or alive — and what actually happened the night she disappeared.
Though the stars and executive producers, including Oliver Goldstick and Joseph Dougherty, remained tight-lipped about season four specifics, the crowd was treated to an early look at Tuesday’s opener. The opening scene — which did not include the reveal of what was in Detective Wilden’s trunk for fear of spoilers — featured Mona taking a chip that held the footage that would incriminate Hanna’s mother. The girls, along with Mona, were then seen meeting their “mini me’s,” who all had creepy dolls representing each of the Liars — all thanks to “A.”
“It’s expansive,” Troian Bellisario tells The Hollywood Reporter of the new season. “There are so many new characters and new sections of the world. Instead of picking at the same couple of questions and the same kind of mysteries, all of a sudden, there is an enormous reveal of how much bigger this season is than the girls thought.” Shay Mitchell went so far as calling this season the “darkest” one so far, which means people will be “pointing way more fingers,” she tells THR. As Ian Harding tells THR, the new “A” makes Rosewood a far more dangerous place: “This season it feels like ‘A’ can kill you and everyone you love.”
A happy ending for Hanna and Caleb?: Tyler Blackburn will be heading to Ravenswood later this year, so many assumed the Hanna and Caleb romance was done. Not so, says Blackburn. “They don’t break up,” he tells THR. “They have a solid relationship, so it’s actually heartwarming and interesting how they break off. It’s hard to explain. They don’t break up, but they do part ways.” So “Haleb” fans rejoice, the door is being left open. “It does” [leave things open-ended], Blackburn says, “and it allows for things to go in multiple directions.” (King confirmed this during the Q&A portion.) The final Hanna-Caleb moment (a la Casablanca) was filmed early Friday morning and Blackburn was visibly teary. “It was a little bit sad,” he says, even though he will film a few more episodes before leaving for Ravenswood. (Filming on the season was done out of order.) “I had a moment with Ashley [Benson] where I said, ‘This is real, huh?’ ”
“A” targets Toby’s soft spot: Toby has been a major character for the past few seasons, and yet not much about him has been doled out. That changes this year. “We dive into his past in a way that we’ve never gone in anyone’s past before,” Keegan Allen tells THR of Toby’s backstory with his mother Marion. “It’s really a soft spot, and ‘A’ presses that soft soft. It’s dark, twisted, sad.” It’s also known that Toby’s past isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. “It’s dramatic and shocking,” Allen hints, “and on a level you would not expect. It really adds a whole new layer to Toby that we all didn’t anticipate.”
“Spoby’s” trust issues: Things for Spencer and Toby are complicated — as they should be. “There is a trust issue, but I think it’s remedied by the fact that he was doing it to protect her and I think it strengthens their bond throughout the season,” Allen says, adding that “Spoby” is ultimately “a love story.” With Toby going through some hard times with his past, Allen says Spencer is there for him as support. Does that mean they’ll be a strong unit? “Possibly. I don’t ever want to say that it could be 100 percent,” he says. For Bellisario, there are no doubts the two are “definitely romantic.” “‘Spoby’ is always on the rocks because they’re so passionate and intelligent and not trustworthy. I think they both have paranoid schizophrenia,” Bellisario jokes. “There is always going to be an up and down.”
A new bromance surfaces: While it’s not of the romantic variety, there is a new pairing that will pop up this season. “Toby and Caleb team up,” Allen teases. “We’ve never had two guys on the show partner up without their girlfriends. It’s a very bro-y moment.” Blackburn called their scenes “the most fun.” Surprisingly, Allen and Blackburn never had a true arc together — until now. “We refer to it as the Hardy Boys. They hack together, they eat lots of junk food together; it’s fun,” Blackburn shares.
Tension for “Ezria”: “It’s rough, but good ultimately,” Ian Harding tells THR of where Ezra and Aria are at the start of the new season. “I’m hoping for a sweet payoff. I maybe haven’t seen one yet but the tension is just so thick. Both of them are trying to move on with varying degrees of success. It’s going to be wild.” Who is more successful in moving on? “Oh god, I don’t think either one,” Harding says. “Maybe Aria is going at another guy or throwing herself into a project, such as finding ‘A,’ or Ezra is trying to figure out how to raise his son or teach at this school where my love is in school.” Ezra will serve as a mentor to the other girls as they navigate their college plans, and Harding says, the high school teacher never “makes it about him” — at least not yet. “It’s never like, ‘So what does Aria say?’ He never stoops that low.” (Interestingly, there is a college nearby in Ravenswood, King says.)
“A” goes after the Liars’ parents: After failing to split up the girls, “A” will instead target the parental figures in their lives. “It felt like a great strategy for ‘A,’ ” King tells THR. “The divide and conquer [strategy] and hopefully picking them off one by one, that didn’t work. They just became closer and closer than ever. ‘Now that we can’t separate you, in this way, we’re going to separate you by picking apart your parents one by one.’ “As King reveals, the parents are in danger “in every way” (emotionally, physically and mentally).
Fate of Emily and Paige: “She starts out in a typical romantic place with Paige and their story is a coming-of-age story,” King says. “What are two people who are in love to do as they’re in senior year starting to think about college and where they’re going to go from here — and can they go to the same place or not?” Mitchell hints that “A” will have a major role in Emily’s romantic life. “Whenever ‘A’ senses smooth waters, he or she or whatever likes to mess it up and cause some waves,” Mitchell tells THR. “She definitely does that for Emily and Paige. She ruins something that affects Emily’s relationship with Paige as well.” Bellisario chimed in, hinting at the magnitude at which “A” affects Emily: “I haven’t realized how deep that thing has gone and now it’s really affecting Emily’s life. Now as episodes have unfolded, I’m really upset for Emily — so you have that to look for.”
All-flashback episode?: King expressed interest in doing an all-flashback episode on Pretty Little Liars during the Q&A, saying that she’s “excited about” the prospect.
“Everyone is connected”: According to Pieterse, who was only 12 (!) when the Pretty Little Liars pilot was filmed, shared an intriguing nugget with THR: “I learned in Rosewood that everyone is connected. Everyone.”