“A lot can happen in five years,” series creator Marlene King noted during Pretty Little Liars‘ “5 Years Forward” special on Tuesday. And after learning what’s happened to the Liars since we saw them this summer, I’ve decided that King’s sentiment might be just be the understatement of the century.
In fact, it’ll probably take more than one viewing to fully soak in all of the new information presented in the hour-long special, but let’s see how much we gleaned from this first go-round:
ARIA | When we rejoin Aria after five years, she’s “in a good spot,” says Lucy Hale. “She’s in a new relationship, she’s fallen in love again.” She apparently met her new boyfriend Liam after transferring to a Boston school in pursuit of a publishing career, though Ezra is hardly out of her life. “Not in a romantic way,” Hale clarifies, “but they actually work together.” And, of course, Aria remains haunted by the events of the past five-and-a-half seasons. “Aria is in denial … that she’s fully over this,” Hale explains. “The things these girls have been through … you don’t get over it.”
EZRA | Aria’s ex, meanwhile, isn’t doing quite as well. “Ezra has had an eventful five years,” Ian Harding reveals. “Most people, hopefully, don’t experience what he has.” When Aria left for college, Ezra followed a new lady friend named Nicole down to South America, where they worked with organizations like Habitat for Humanity. Unfortunately, as Harding explains in the special, “that is taken away from him very quickly and very violently.” (R.I.P., Nicole?) When we see Ezra again in 6B, he’s “completely rudderless. He has no sense of who he is and what he’s supposed to do with his life. He falls down a really deep well — into a sea of alcohol, if we continue this metaphor.” (Ezra, an alcoholic? Why do I find that oddly fitting for his character?)
HANNA | On a lighter note, Hanna seems to be doing fan-freaking-tastic when we rejoin her five years later. After interning for Zac Posen, Ms. Marin traveled to Europe, where she met her current boss Claudia Greco, described by Ashley Benson as “the Anna Wintour of fashion.” (Wait… isn’t Anna Wintour the Anna Wintour of fashion?) Anyway, she’s now happily engaged to a non-Caleb human she met in Europe, and Benson says their split was “the saddest part” she’s ever read.
CALEB | Speaking of Caleb, Tyler Blackburn explains that his character skipped the whole college thing because “he’s that smart” and “continued his journey in the tech world.” Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, “Haleb” soon fizzled out, and when we see the two again in 6B, they’re “not in the same place.” On the bright side, Blackburn says Caleb’s friendship with Toby is stronger than ever — they go fishing on the reg! — and he’ll be showing a lot more “skin” (I don’t know why I put that in quotes) than in previous seasons. So… Hanna’s loss is the fandom’s gain, pretty much.
SPENCER | Troian Bellisario says Spencer’s time at Georgetown was good for her, as she “got to actually focus on academics for the first time.” She’s now working on Capitol Hill, probably as a “glorified coffee gopher, but she has high political aspirations.” Sadly, Spencer’s demanding — and geographically inconvenient — career isn’t great news for “Spoby,” yet another ‘ship that does not survive the five-year time jump. “You get to take a romance that’s been working for six years and kind of watch the moment when it all crumbles,” Bellisario says. Upon her return to Rosewood, Spencer moves into her re-re-renovated barn and helps her mom run for a seat in the Senate.
TOBY | He might be single, but Rosewood’s most eligible
rookie seasoned cop is living the high life when we see in after five years. “He inherits … a lot of money … from the house that was blown up,” Keegan Allen reveals. (Remember that?!) With his insurance earnings, Toby “buys three acres outside of Rosewood to start building his dream home.” But just because he’s no longer with Spencer, that doesn’t mean Toby won’t have a lady friend with whom he’ll occupy that new home. Allen says that Toby has a chance meeting — more specifically, he “walks into a robbery and apprehends the suspects — with a girl named Yvonne Phillips who becomes “an important person in his story and his life.” (What would that ‘ship name even be, “Tobonne”? “Yvoby”? This is going to take some getting used to.)
EMILY | We already knew that Emily moved to California after graduation, but was anyone else shocked to learn that she dropped out of school after her dad passed away? I feel like that bit of information was shared a little too casually, but I’m sure the issue will be explored with more depth in 6B. “I think Emily comes back with the biggest secret … that she’s keeping from her friends,” King says. “She’s the most damaged by four years without ‘A.'” I was also surprised — though not altogether unpleasantly — to learn, during Alison and Mona’s never-before-seen encounter, that Emily and Paige attempted to rekindle their romance while out west. (That said, I think it’s pretty obvious things didn’t work out between them.)
ALISON | And then there’s Ali, who has spent every day since the Liars left taking care of Charlotte, as revealed in another never-before-aired scene. In doing so, she became close with Charlotte’s doctor, who she now calls her husband. “I think it’s fun for the fans to see this new relationship bloom, because a lot of Alison’s relationships have been … kind of dysfunctional,” Sasha Pieterse says. “He treats her really well.” That said, because he’s her sister’s doctor, Ali needs to keep their relationship a secret — like she needs another secret to keep.
Like I said, we got a lot of new information thrown at us during this special, so it’s probably good that we have until the Season 6B premiere (Jan. 12, 8/7c) to process it all. In the meantime, how are you feeling about all the big changes in store? Which are you most excited for, and which make you the most unhappy? Drop a comment with all of your thoughts below.