The five teenagers who are the liars of the ABC Family TV show Pretty Little Liars have a dirty secret, one they cannot share with anyone because of a haunting figure named only “A.” This omnipresent being tortures the five girls, their family, their friends, and much of the fictional town of Rosewood, Pennsylvania.
At the start of the series, Alison DiLaurentis, one of the five students at Rosewood High School and the leader of the liars’ pack, has gone missing. Throughout the five seasons since, a mysterious A has schemed to ruin the liars’ lives: their college interviews, love interests, and family members.
A leaves hints and clues for the liars to follow, paths that occasionally lead to the deaths of friends and family, or the jailing of the liars themselves. As the liars dig deeper into the lies that A has left for them, they move closer and closer to mortal danger. Plots shift, viewers’ heads spin, corpses pile up, and so do the failed guesses as to who this A might be.
In 2011, when the first season aired, 2.87 million viewers watched each episode. Since then, the viewer numbers have slowly creeped down. In 2014, the viewers dipped down to 2.53 million viewers by the end of the season. Some viewers apparently gave up on the series, with its endless tease, figuring they would eventually find out who the A character was through a friend, family member, or the Internet. The girls have stayed in their senior year of high school for the past two seasons, and viewers now have senioritis. If the producers of the show want to keep their audience, they would be well served to make sure the characters are changing and maturing, and not count on the suspense of A’s identity to keep people in their seats.
Then again, A has switched personalities and characteristics so many times, and the mystery has become so confounding that one almost can’t stop watching the show. Episode after episode, one hopes for the big reveal, knowing that the four central liars will be safe, but everyone else will probably end up victims of A. Pretty Little Liars is a winding mystery built around the simple question of which minor character will die next. The mysterious A haunts the hallways, houses, and closets of Rosewood, and also haunts the television screens of viewers who just can’t quite quit without knowing.