The wait is over: The identity of the elusive “A” was revealed on Monday’s new episode of ABC Family’s addictive teen mystery-drama Pretty Little Liars. The fast-paced episode careened through a Psycho homage and a masquerade ball before — SPOILER ALERT! — dropping the bombshell that variously snobby clinger Mona Vanderwall (Janel Parrish) was “A,” the cyber-bully who’d been terrorizing Aria (Lucy Hale), Spencer (Troian Bellisario), Hanna (Ashley Benson), and Emily (Shay Mitchell) since the death of their pal Allison (Sasha Pieterse) in the show’s 2010 premiere.
The reveal, of course, leads to so many questions: Why Mona? What was her motive? Did she have help? Is there a “Team A” now? Will Mona be back when Pretty Little Liars returns for season 3 in June? What’s happening next season? And we should address the other shocker of last night’s episode: Why kill Maya? To answer those burning questions and more, EW tapped series creator Marlene King and executive producer Oliver Goldstick for an exclusive interview to fill us in on all the scoop:
+ Mona? Really?! Yes, really. King says that Mona was the “most logical and also the most satisfying” choice for “A” because she had motive. “There were other people along the way who could have been ‘A’ — and they’re liars and they’re cheats — but Mona was completely abused by Allison and bullied by Allison,” King explains. “The Pretty Little Liars let her do it, and we see that in the pilot, in the very first scene, where she’s running after Allison and Aria and they just don’t even pay attention to her. ‘If you ignore it, it will go away’ — that’s what Allison says. And from that moment, ‘A’ was born.” As for Mona also being “A” in the book series, Goldstick adds: “We felt like we had a certain need to honor the thing that was set up by the author.”
+ What was Mona’s motive? “The motive for Mona really kicked into gear when Aria came back from Europe, because Mona had Hanna for that year and they became friends,” King says. “This fear of losing Hanna again inspired Mona to start tormenting these girls in the way that they tormented her, and then it kind of backfires. She ends up bringing them closer together than ever, so then she’s even more p—ed than ever in season 2. She really wanted to get Hanna back all to herself. Mona hates Hanna the most because the other three were Allison’s friend, but Hanna was her friend. She feels the most personally betrayed by Hanna.”
+ What key moments should fans go back and watch again? There are many, but King points to one in particular from last night’s finale. “In the finale, there’s a moment that I love where Spencer says to Mona — and I forget the exact wording — but it’s like, ‘I know who you are,'” King says. “Mona says, ‘Guilty.’ It was like she was completely giving it up right there. It was at the ball. There are little moments like that if you go back.”
+ When did Parrish find out she was going to be “A”? About halfway through shooting this past season — so, last fall. “Janel kind of suspected it all along, and so she played her role with that in mind, but it was really about halfway through season 2 that I pulled her aside and had a conversation,” says King. “I said, ‘You are ‘A.’ And so she started playing things with that knowledge in mind. We started asking more and more of her, in more complicated scenes.”
+ Is Mona unhinged? Definitely, says King. “You can’t do what she’s done — I mean, Mona hit Hanna with her car — and not be unhinged,” King continues. “There’s a moment in the finale when she’s in the car, and Spencer says, ‘But you hit Hanna with a car.’ And Mona says, ‘It’s easier to forgive an enemy than it is to forgive a friend.’ To me, that sums up her entire motivation right there.”
+ Why kill Maya? “That’s the only backlash I think we’re going to get from the finale,” King says, referring to Maya’s unexpected death in the last few minutes of the episode. “The Maya fans are going to be a little bit upset.” The decision, King continues, was a difficult one. “It was a really hard decision to make because I know Emaya shippers are very passionate about that couple, but it just felt like we had to continue on this journey and it was a step we needed to take to give ourselves more mystery and open up the show to season 3. Plus, it was just great drama. That scene has me on my knees every time I watch it.” Adds Goldstick: “With Allison’s death — and now Maya’s — you say, ‘Are these related? They’ve got to be related.’ If they are related, was it because this person was about to be caught?”
+ Does this mean that Garrett is off the hook for Allison’s murder? Not exactly. “Mona’s incarcerated for being ‘A,’ but not for being Allison’s killer,” King clarifies. “So when we come back, Garrett is still in jail for Allison’s murder. That’ll be dealt with in season 3. And the NAT club still very much plays a part of that. There might be one other member of the NAT club that you don’t know is a member of the NAT club.”
+ Do the PLLs know that Jenna can see now? “We’re going to keep that secret from the PLLs for a while,” King says.
+ Who was the Black Swan at the ball? “That’s a mystery that’s coming back,” King says. “Who was that person talking to Jenna and Lucas? And who is the Black Swan?”
+ Will Mona be around in season 3? For sure. “Mona stays a part of the show,” King says. “You haven’t seen the last of Mona. When I told Janel she was going to be ‘A,’ the next week I got a call from her manager because she knows that in the books Mona dies. Mona is ‘A,’ Mona goes off a cliff, and Mona is dead. So Janel was like, ‘Does this mean I’m dead?’ I’m like, ‘No, you will survive.’ So Mona is not dead because Mona is a beloved character in this show and she’s still a part of the show in season 3.” Mona won’t necessarily be in prison, King says, but “there may be some padding on the walls” of where she is, however. Goldstick adds: “This is a whole different adventure. That was one ride. They’ll get another ride here. Mona’s not going away, just to be clear.” (Goldstick says that killing Mona, like in the books, was never on the table. “We don’t kill people as easily in this show. We do kill some people, but we try to be a little bit more careful.”)
+ Does Mona have help? Is “A” now “Team A”? That’s still murky — and King doesn’t necessarily want to clarify anything for viewers quite yet. “I don’t think anyone should assume anything,” King says, cryptically. “I think our hopes are that we stay super, super quiet before coming back. We’re going to be making episodes for a couple of months before we start airing them [in season 3], and we’re going to have the Pretty Little Liars and everyone keep a little bit of radio silence on the tweeting until we come back because we really want people to be surprised with what season 3 of the show is.”
+ Was the person in the red coat at the end Mona’s accomplice? It’s unclear, but King teases: “Red is the new black. I think that’s the best way to say it: Red is the new black.”
+ Does Maya’s death factor into the mystery of season 3? Surely, surely. “It fuels a lot of it,” King says. “We feel like the Emaya fans deserve some answers and some closure, and that’s what season 3 will embrace.”
+ What else is happening in season 3? “Without giving too much away, when we come back,” King says, “Ezra’s still been Aria’s rock and safe place to land, and they’re closer than ever.” We’ll be introduced to Ezra’s family, including his brother, mother, and father. Plus, the impending birth of Melissa’s baby will become a central plot point in the new season. “That’s a mystery that’ll be solved in a few episodes as we get back.” And Lucas’ return in last night’s episode factors into the season, too. “What’s going on with Lucas?” King says. “He might not be the person you thought he was. I think he has a dark side maybe he’s been hiding.”
Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky
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