The trio of once-dead girls deserve their time in the spotlight.
There’s no question that Alison DiLaurentis, Mona Vanderwaal, and Taylor Hotchkiss are the most compelling characters on Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists. All three women are incredibly intelligent, fascinating to watch, and can be ruthless when necessary. It would be a shame to waste their talents and complex personalities by making them stand in the background of the show that they’re clearly carrying on their backs.
One of the biggest problems on the original show, when it came to Alison and Mona, was that the two of them were constantly being pushed aside to make room for the Liars, and even irrelevant characters like Shana, Lucas, Nicole, Travis, Jackie, etc. (I could go on forever). Any time that Alison or Mona would get even a minor storyline or some semblance of character development, it was usually dropped within a few episodes and never to be spoken about again. We never got to see how either girl got from Point A to Point Z.
One day they would be “good” and on the Liars’ side, and then the next they’d suddenly be “evil” again. One second Mona would be a seemingly mature, level-headed campaign manager, but the next she was lashing out at the girls and working for “A” again. I get it, Alison and Mona have a lot of personalities; however, the problem is that we never got to see the progression from one personality or mood to another. It was always just the flip of a switch. On Monday morning, Alison would be forming a new group of friends to replace the girls or making them look guilty of murder, and then Tuesday night she’d be having a sleepover with Hanna. Those kinds of extreme changes made it hard to follow both Mona and Alison’s stories, and made it impossible to fully believe and trust them when they said they’d changed.
Truthfully, the two of them just didn’t fit with the four Liars, and there was too much history there for either of them to ever be fully forgiven and reacquainted with the group… especially Mona. That’s why when it was announced that the Pretty Little Liars spin-off, The Perfectionists, would take Mona and Alison across the country and give them a fresh start and their own chance to shine, I was intrigued. Finally the most interesting, misunderstood, and often underutilized characters were going to have their turn to be the primary focus and actually have fully formed storylines, as opposed to random subplots that don’t go anywhere or even make any sense. However, yet again, it seems like Alison and Mona are being pushed aside to make room for the less dynamic characters.
I understand that viewers needed to be introduced to and get to know the new characters in order for the show to work, but The Perfectionists seems to be struggling to find a balance. Granted, it’s not as bad as the original show as Mona and Alison are actually main characters on the spin-off, but the problem remains: the characters with the most enticing background and identities aren’t getting proper attention, whereas the more lackluster characters are getting too much. Mona wasn’t even really allowed to leave her apartment for the first four episodes, and when she finally did, all her scenes quickly became about Mason (who also had some of the worst and most rushed character growth on PLL, but that’s a separate issue).
Practically all of Alison’s scenes had either Caitlin, Ava, or Dylan in them. Even Alison’s divorce from Emily only got like 15 seconds of screentime, opposed to Dylan and Andrew’s never-ending (3-5 minute) scenes of them just laying in bed and Ava’s seven flashbacks per episode. I’m pretty sure fans would’ve loved to see the events that led up to Alison and Emily’s unnecessary divorce, or even a one-sided phone call of them talking about how they felt, rather than having to listen to Dylan play Andrew’s song for the 10th time. Important and monumental aspects in these girls’ lives (like having children across the country, getting a divorce, and the risk of being stalked/tormented by people you used to hold captive) were simply not shown or glossed over in a matter of seconds.
I still see fans wondering about that final scene in the pilot where Mona rushes into the bathroom and appears to be talking to herself (until it’s revealed she is talking to someone in a room full of surveillance cameras), even though we got an explanation for that scene on The Perfectionists Season 1 Episode 8, but since it was so brief and over-hyped in the pilot episode, no one even noticed. If you blink, you miss it, which isn’t uncommon for Alison and Mona’s, and now Taylor’s storylines.
Just like on the original show, all of their stories are being rushed. Mona played a few chess games with someone she had never met and then was suddenly in love after their first in-person conversation. The writers genuinely expect us to believe that in the midst of being stalked and framed for murder, a couple of chess games with one of BHU’s students was enough to win Mona over? Even if, somehow, after all the shit Mona gave Ezra for sleeping with one of his students, Mona was interested in Mason, THEY ONLY SLEPT TOGETHER TWICE. That isn’t love, sweetie, and the Mona we know and love would know that. But just like before, there’s no progression and we don’t get to see how she got from Point A (having a one night stand) to Point B (being in love with one of her 19-year-old students who they constantly referred to as “children” and “these kids”).
It’s fine, I’m not bitter or anything.
Not to mention there’s now the added factor of their stories being written off-screen. Between cast interviews, random tweets from the writers, and worst of all, the text conversations on the PLL Twitter account, every viewer has a different idea of what’s actually going on. Such a small portion of viewers read those “text conversation tweets,” meaning hardly any PLL fans are actually up-to-date on the show, even if they watch every single episode live. They need to stop writing about these characters off-screen and put that energy into developing them on-screen. If it’s not going to be mentioned or confirmed on the actual show, keep it. Telling us stuff online is such a cop-out way of writing these characters (and the original characters). It’s simply easier for them to string together a quick tweet than it is to actually write in dialogue, character development, and fully explored storylines.
And then there’s the infamous Taylor Hotchkiss. Unlike Alison and Mona, she wasn’t sidelined on the original show to make room for the less intriguing characters, but she surely is being sidelined now. Not only was she not even really on the show for the majority of the season, she didn’t even make a single appearance in the season finale, unless you count that weird, 30 second bonus scene. After literally shooting someone, and possibly killing them, Taylor was still written out of the final episode of The Perfectionists Season 1 (which possibly was the series finale, if it’s not renewed). We know so little about her and already she’s a million times more captivating than a lot of the other characters. Much like Alison, there’s a whole year of when she was faking her death that we know next to nothing about, and she also clearly struggles with a similar mental illness to Mona that was hardly touched on until the end of the season.
Personally, Taylor was my favorite new character, and it’s a shame that we didn’t get to see more of her hiding out from Claire and Alison, one-on-one scenes of her and her mother, or even her reaction to Nolan’s death. We got to watch everyone else’s reaction, but not his own sister’s? I’m sorry but the Perfectionists were literally talking about ways to kill Nolan right before he was murdered, so I really didn’t feel for any of them. Some of the time spent on watching Ava grieve definitely should’ve been given to Taylor. Taylor arguably knows more about Beacon Heights, Beacon Guard, and this whole mystery than anyone, but she was consistently written off and disappearing. It felt very reminiscent of the original Pretty Little Liars when Mona, the smartest character next to Spencer, was always left out even though she could solve the mystery twice as fast as anyone else. Make it make sense.
Taylor is also the only character with a connection to everyone, so shouldn’t she be at the center of the show?
It would be one thing if the writers were just pressed for time because the episodes were so action-packed and a bunch of things were going on, but that was never the case. Yes, they only have 10 episodes
which is far too little if you ask me, but if they had time to show us Dylan and Andrew lounging around in their apartment twice per episode, Ava’s Christmas flashbacks with Nolan that served literally no purpose, and Caitlin “strip-studying,” they could’ve at least shown us the aftermath of Taylor shooting Jeremy before getting shipped off to some “spa.” Also, if anyone should be getting flashbacks with Nolan, shouldn’t it be Taylor? We hardly got to see them together at all, and considering her love for her brother is what drives her, they need to explore that relationship more if they want us to care and believe in their sibling bond.
There’s a lot of changes that need to be made going into Season 2. Most importantly, The Perfectionists needs to give more screen-time to the characters that deserve it: Alison, Mona, and Taylor.
They’re without a doubt the most interesting and experienced characters, yet remain to have the least amount of focus. The next season needs to examine both Mona and Taylor’s minds, and why exactly they both “go down the rabbit hole.” It needs to explain what exactly happened between Alison and Emily that led to them divorcing after only a year of marriage, and how she’s maintaining a relationship with her children. If Alison is going to move on then her sexuality needs to be further explored, along with Mona and Taylor’s sexuality considering it’s been teased that they might not be straight. We need to know more about how Mary and Alex escaped from Mona’s clutches and if they’re still a threat.
The writers need to show us more of Taylor in general, both on her own and with different people, so we can get a better grasp on who she is. Above all, The Perfectionists Season 2 needs to slow things down when it comes to character’s story arcs. No more falling in and out of love overnight (I’m looking at you Emison and Monason). No more enemies to best friends in a couple of hours. No more rushed storylines.
Aside from just deserving more focus than they’re getting, Alison, Mona, and Taylor are by far the most entertaining to watch, and that’s what TV shows are all about right? Entertainment? Why waste time on flat, one-dimensional characters when the trio of girls back from the dead are standing right there!?