In the Pretty Little Liars universe, “A” is Alison DiLaurentis, the manipulative queen bee who once trafficked in secrets, ending her texts with a signature initial. “A” is also Mona, the long-ostracized underdog who clawed her way to the top. At various turns across seven seasons, “A” has also been a stalker, a hidden sibling, an originally well-intentioned friend who lost the plot. A bully. A victim. “A” is what happens when the tormented dare to fight back against their tormentors. Maybe there’s an “A” in all of us, a little spark that could be catalyzed into burning vengeance, if only given room to breathe.
Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin, which premieres on HBO Max today, July 28, is the latest spin-off of Sara Shepard’s mid-2000s young adult book series that tells the story of A and the group of girls who get caught in A's wrath. The series has always been about female friendship via trauma bond, of the secrets we keep and how they unravel us from the inside. But in 2022, Original Sin raises the stakes: It’s not only our own mistakes that follow us around, but those of our parents. Co-creators Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (of Riverdale fame) and Lindsay Calhoon Bring (who worked with Aguirre-Sacasa on Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) turn this thrilling teen drama into a slasher, imbuing a familiar story with blood, gore, and endless classic-horror references. And like its iconic horror forebears, Original Sin reminds us that there’s nothing more terrifying than being a teenage girl.
The new group of girls, meanwhile, has more than its fair share of secrets: There’s Imogen (Bailee Madison), a ruthlessly curious, pregnant teen reeling after a family tragedy; Tabby (Chandler Kinney), an outspoken movie buff and filmmaker who has her camera lens in some unexpected places; Faran (Zaria), a committed ballerina who isn’t afraid to go head-to-head with show villain Karen; Noa (Maia Reficco), a fun-loving athlete fresh out of juvenile detention and dealing with all kinds of sh*t; and Mouse (Malia Pyles), a sweet, tech-obsessed loner with a complicated past under her Disney-character demeanor. Together, they can face any enemy that comes for them, whether that’s an incompetent town cop or a vigilante on a killing spree. Friends share secrets, after all. That’s what keeps them close.
The original series catapulted its stars into mainstream fame. As another generation of Liars picks up A’s heavy curse, these rising stars prepare for a new chapter in their real-life coming-of-age stories. (Hopefully, with much less blackmail and murder.)
The Glitter Is in the Air
Each new cast member came to Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin as a fan first. At 16, Reficco wrote “Ezria” — the couple portmanteau for Aria Montgomery and Ezra Fitz — in white nail polish with a heart on her bed frame. Kinney devoured the book series and bonded over the show with friends at lunch in middle school. At age 10, Pyles found in Emily Fields an early representation of what being queer could look like. Madison watched every Tuesday night and even dressed up in A gear for Halloween.