Marlene King gives us Paily, Ali and other “PLL” intel before tonight’s season finale


Don’t relax just yet because we’ve got one more episode in the thrilling fourth season of ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars.

While there are a lot of emotional balls up in the air–including last week’s break-up between Emily (Shay Mitchell) and Paige (Lindsey Shaw)–there’s also the fact that the supposedly dead Alison DiLaurentis (Sasha Pieterse) is definitely alive and in tonight’s episode we finally find out what’s been going on with her these last few years.

To find out as much as we could about the spoiler-heavy show, out creator Marlene King talked with AfterEllen about what’s to come on all fronts and how the show will be changed forever after tonight’s episode.

The Paley Center For Media's PaleyFest 2014 Honoring "Pretty Little Liars"

AfterEllen: Whenever we get to the finale or any big episodes, it’s always called the game changer, and it’s always called the biggest moment. Is this truly the game changer of the series?

Marlene King: It’s the game changer of the series. What’s so fascinating is where the finale leads us. The finale and the season five premiere are very much sort of a two-parter. It feels like one very big episode, and by the end of the finale it leads us in this place where once [the writers] got back into the room and started talking about choosing sides, we were all so excited. We had smiles on our faces, we’re like kids in a candy store.

And there’s so much great new story to tell but we leave the finale knowing Alison is alive, but knowing what happened on the night she went missing, and some of that is truly shocking. Some of those revelations are those moments where you can’t stay seated while you’re watching the scene, you have to stand up.

AE: Will we look at Alison differently after this episode?

MK: Yes, you will. Alison has been missing for two years, she’s been gone for two years. She’s been alone for two years, and you will find out why she stayed gone all this time.

The Paley Center For Media's PaleyFest 2014 Honoring "Pretty Little Liars"

AE: I don’t want to skim over the fact that you directed the finale so when you direct an episode of the show, how do you come at it differently that you do as a writer?

MK: After having directed, it changed the way I write, I think, and I’m very aware now when I write an episode and I’m not directing to be more user-friendly in some ways, but this is one I wanted to direct, because it feels like this is the ending to many of the stories we started in the pilot and so it felt very fitting to be as close to this episode as possible, and really be as close to the girls.

For most of the episode, I was on set with the girls, just off to the side, because there are so many things that are so emotional. There were two days where we’re doing scenes, and the girls, all five girls, were constantly in tears. It was really an emotional roller coaster for us and it felt very important to be close to them as they went through these moments with their characters.

AE: Would you say that it was gratifying for you as a director and as a writer to pay off a lot of these things that have been building since the show began, really?

MK: It was thrilling. I truly did have a smile on my face the entire time I wrote the episode, and the entire time we were directing it, The Pretty Little Liars and Sasha Pieterse, everyone had so much fun on this one and everyone really delivered, and we really bonded it over it, and there were moments that we recreated like the barn from the pilot, and the girls are in the same clothes they wore, and it was like being transported back in time. That night especially was such a special moment for us because we played out things that happened in the barn that we didn’t get to see in the pilot, and the girls immediately went back to where they were sitting, their positions on the couch, Lucy on the floor…it was like time stood still.

Screening Of ABC Family's "Pretty Little Liars" Halloween Episode

AE: It sounds like this episode is going to be very Ali-centric, but do we get to touch on some of the other stories, like, you know, Emily and Paige essentially broke up in the last episode. Does that get touched on some more in this episode?

MK: It doesn’t. It’s really all about answers, it’s all about what happened the night Ali went missing, and what’s going to happen once they find out this information.

AE: Spencer’s (Troian Bellisario) still in a very fragile place after everything she’s gone through in this crop of episodes. Is she still on shaky ground in this finale?

MK: Well, Spencer comes into the finale thinking she’s the one who hit Ali that night, so as Alison reveals more about what happened, she starts to understand the truth of that night, but then, in true Alison fashion, Spencer brings this up right at the beginning of the episode, and Alison’s like, “Wait for it, Spencer, wait for it.” We’re just like, “Oh, my God, really?”

AE: Alison’s such a little control freak!

MK: Yes, she is, but she’s very genuine in this episode, and her story is a very heartfelt one and it’s really fun and refreshing to see that too. The Alison in our show has been the Alison the girls remember. She is sort of a heightened personality because that’s how they remember her, she was such a big presence, and such a looming presence, and so when we catch a really spend an entire episode with Alison DiLaurentis now in the present, we’re going to see that she’s not the person now that they remember or is she? Time will tell and people can really change.

AE: I always feel like the parents are way more involved that we realize, there’s always hints at that. Does that come into play at all with the parents?

MK: Yes. There are a couple of parent story lines that are woven into the finale that we are surprised by.

The Paley Center For Media's PaleyFest 2014 Honoring "Pretty Little Liars"

AE: The fact that CeCe’s brought up at the very end of this last episode that we saw. Are we seeing CeCe in this episode?

MK: CeCe is in the finale. She plays a very important role in the finale.

AE: Are we seeing Mona (Janel Parrish)? Is Mona in this last episode?

MK: Mona is in the last episode, and I will tell you one of my most favorite scenes in the episode is a Mona scene.…it just raises the hair up on my arm as I think about that scene. She’s a sympathetic villain, as I like to say.

AE: I know you’re working on the first episodes of Season 5. Anything you can talk about, is it going to feel like a different show?

MK: It’s so exciting. We’re having so much fun in Season 5, because we know Ali’s alive, we know she’s back in our girls’ lives, and it just shifts the entire dynamic, and it’s so much time to explore what that’s going to mean to everyone, what it means to our mystery, what it means to our characters and their relationships. It’s like breathing this giant breath of fresh air into the show. It feels like, in some ways, an all-new show.

AE: By the end of the finale, how is the relationship between our four girls? Is it strong? Is it fractured in a big way? Are they united? What can you tease about that?

MK: It feels like it’s getting off to a very honest start. All these secrets that have been kept for so long are finally out in the open, and it’s really refreshing.

Pretty Little Liars airs tonight at 8 p.m. on ABC Family.

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