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‘Pretty Little Liars’ Finale: Creator on Last-Minute Change, Why a Death Had to Be Off-Camera

”People will stay in touch and stay friends because of their mutual love of this show,“ I. Marlene King tells TheWrap

(Warning: Spoilers ahead from Tuesday’s series finale of “Pretty Little Liars”)

“Pretty Little Liars” fans were hit with one last twist as the identity of A.D. was revealed during Tuesday’s highly anticipated series finale.

The Freeform drama’s final episode introduced Spencer’s (Troian Bellisario) evil British twin, Alex Drake, who tormented the Liars as revenge for half-sister Charlotte’s (Vanessa Ray) death. Alex, who revealed that she killed ex-lover Wren (Julian Morris), imprisoned Spencer and Ezra (Ian Harding) in her underground fortress before the pair managed to escape.

“All roads led to Alex Drake,” series creator I. Marlene King told TheWrap about how she chose this ending for the show. “Each ‘A’ birthed the next ‘A': When Mona [Janel Parrish] was captured, she talked about the game to Charlotte, and Charlotte then took over the game, and when Charlotte was killed … A.D. [was] born.”

King also discussed how she changed the finale’s ending in the eleventh hour, why a concerned Bellisario called her right before the episode aired and whether there might be spinoffs.

TheWrap: Did you always know that you wanted to end with a twin twist to retain the spirit of the books?

I. Marlene King: We definitely loved paying homage to the twins from the books. The Hastings and the DiLaurentises live so close to each other, their families are so intertwined — it just felt like it was a great, messy place to go.

Did you have to convince Troian that creating Alex was the right move? 

She was really up for the challenge, but she definitely paid enormous attention to detail. She did her homework — she spent almost a year working on that exact British dialect. Yesterday [during the day], she called me to say, “Should I be worried? How’d it turn out?” [Laughs.] And I was like, “You’re going to love it, you’re going to love it.”

What did you tell her about how to play Alex? 

We knew we wanted her to live a life of struggle — we talked about what that would mean and how that would affect her character.

How did you decide on Wren’s fate? 

We knew Wren has some backstory with Charlotte from past episodes, so I really wanted to bring him back — I had my fingers crossed that we would get him for a day or two in the finale, and we did. Ultimately, we were going to have him for two days of shooting, but since he was only available for one day, we had to manufacture his death off screen.

Was the story sometimes affected by the limited availability of recurring cast members? 

Absolutely. We got burned a couple times with some really important story points before, so I knew when we were going to have a third and final “A,” that we needed to make that person a series regular, so we knew they would be available to us when the episode was airing — and often we wanted to have them on screen up until them.

Some fans had guessed before the finale that Spencer had a twin. Was it important to provide enough clues in prior episodes about the twin, so that it didn’t completely come out of the blue? 

Yes. And if you go back and look at those scenes where Troian is playing Alex Drake, there’s always something a tiny bit off with each one, and that’s all intentional.

Was there any concern from the network about having Alex sleep with Toby when he thinks it’s Spencer? 

I wanted to tell the story because, not just myself but the entire writers’ room and studio, the network, we all were excited about that story. I knew the Spoby fans would be upset about in hindsight finding out that wasn’t Spencer in that sex scene in the finale. But it’s her twin!

How was Alex able to create that underground dungeon? 

I did a lot of research on that. There are these people who have crazy, amazing, underground houses — they have these domed ceilings that are daytime and switch to nighttime. I feel like Alex Drake bought that house from Toby [Keegan Allen] with the intention of building this underground bunker where Mary [Andrea Parker] and Spencer would live while she lived up top with Toby. [Laughs.]

The moms discussing their basement adventure was definitely a finale highlight. 

It certainly was the question that I get asked the most: “How did the moms get out of the basement?” I love that fans were that interested in it. We talked about it in the writers’ room — we were debating all the ways that they could get out, but we thought it really was more fun if we just let the audiences make up their own minds but yet have the moms comment on what a dreadful experience it was.

Were there certain unanswered questions or mysteries that you just didn’t get a chance to explain? 

As an entire writers room, I have everybody make their list of all the questions — and even scour social media — to look for questions that haven’t been answered. Other than how the moms got out of the basement, we checked off most of the boxes.

Why did you decide to end with Mona having captured Alex and Mary? 

We thought it was a lot more fun. Originally in the script, we were going to end with the Pretty Little Liars saying goodbye to Aria [Lucy Hale], but then we felt like it really did need a little zing — an extra “PLL” twist that wouldn’t ask a lot of questions, just answer stuff. We came up with the idea that this was Mona’s well thought-out plan to steal the game and ultimately win the game. If you notice, the guy who arrests Alex Drake is Mona’s boyfriend in the doll shop. It’s the same guy! So nobody ever called 911.

How did you decide to have Emison end up together?

Both Emily [Shay Mitchell] and Alison [Sasha Pieterse] have tremendous growth over the course of the series. We’re definitely happy with the fact that they found each other — the ultimate couple, one true pairing!

What do you want the show’s legacy to be? 

I hope it’s less about the mystery, although that’s been a lot of fun, and more about these characters that were so relatable, and the story of their unconditional friendship. And also the legacy of this giant worldwide community that we built of “Pretty Little Liars” — friends, family and fans. People will stay in touch and stay friends because of their mutual love of this show.

It was fun to sort of see “PLL: The New Class” in the finale. Are there more stories that you want to tell from this world?

There’s nothing pending that we’re working on — I just thought it was fun to bring it full circle and pay homage to the pilot, and let our audience and fans know that even though this one chapter in Rosewood is over, the folklore of this town remains this creepy and interesting place where stuff happens.

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