Like many fans, I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with these two infamous Pretty Little Liars characters.
The Perfectionists is Freeform’s new spin-off series of their hit TV show: Pretty Little Liars. The show follows two of the original characters, Alison DiLaurentis and Mona Vanderwaal, along with various new characters whom attend Beacon Heights University. The spin-off is currently one episode away from the Season 1 finale and, unfortunately, has yet to be renewed.
From Rosewood to Beacon Heights
Alison and Mona are two of television’s most complex characters and are notorious for switching sides between good and evil. Love or hate them, these two women are incredibly entertaining to watch and are finally getting the chance to show what they can do. Until The Perfectionists, admittedly, I was not Alison or Mona’s biggest fan, as I felt they had both betrayed the other girls far too many times. The constant back and forth between helping the Liars and hurting them made it difficult to ever truly root for them out of fear they would deceive and double-cross Spencer, Hanna, Emily, and Aria yet again. (And it was too hard to “love to hate them” and enjoy them as villains when we never really knew how long it was going to last before they were on the good side again.)
It would’ve been one thing if their character progression from evil to slightly less evil was consistent, but because they weren’t main characters, their development was all over the place and it was hard to know which Ali and Mona to expect each season. This isn’t any shade to the original show; the fact is they were just supporting characters, so there wasn’t enough time to advance their stories like with the other four girls.
Even if Ali or Mona did something good, the audience was always left wondering if their intentions were good, as the show often alluded to them having ulterior (and corrupt) motives. This made it challenging to ever fully sympathize with either character even when they were the victim because, most of the time, they were considered villains and had it coming. There are, of course, exceptions to this: Mona didn’t deserve to be held captive for 6 months in a dollhouse, and Alison didn’t deserve to be forcibly impregnated by “A”, but I digress.
An example of this back and forth was the amount of times Mona stopped playing the game only to start it back up again or Mona convincing the girls she was “all better now” and on their side now, only to turn around and drive Spencer to Radley, form an Army to taunt them, or fake her own death to frame Alison for murder. As for Ali, she was immensely different in flashbacks than she was when she returned to Rosewood. Her whole story arc was about being a better person and how being gone made her realize what a terrible friend she was, but then she continuously manipulated the girls, even replaced them with a new group of friends at one time, and accused them of Charlotte’s murder in the flash-forward.
Speaking of which, the people Alison and Mona were at the beginning of the flash-forward on Pretty Little Liars is not who they were in the series finale. And the people they were in the series finale is not who they are on The Perfectionists. They’re constantly changing, which is fine, but the problem was always that we never really got to see what got them from Point A to Point Z, so it was often hard to follow their stories and left me unable to connect with either character.
However, on The Perfectionists, both Alison and Mona seem to have found themselves, or are at least closer to finding themselves than ever before. The aspect the original show was lacking is actually what’s helping drive the new show because both of them are now leading the series, their personalities are more grounded, and their character growth is more consistent. Rather than Mona being on the A-team every other episode and Alison manipulating the girls who are supposed to be her best friends, they’re grown ass women who have learned from their pasts and want to use it to help others.
That being said, Ms. DiLaurentis and Ms. Vanderwaal are far from boring. Even in the beginning of the show, Mona makes a point to say that Alison needs to tap into her old self if she wants to be able to solve this mystery. We’ve gotten to see a balance between their many personality traits, and it’s been so refreshing. Alison and Mona are still dynamic and interesting as ever, except this time around they’re getting more of the focus and consistency they deserve.
Janel Parrish and Sasha Pieterse have been part of Pretty Little Liars since the beginning and it was about time they got the recognition they’ve earned over the years. These women are both extraordinarily talented and no one could play their characters better than they do, which is why I originally decided to give The Perfectionists a chance in the first place. That and Pretty Little Liars ending left a void in me that only another Pretty Little Liars series could fill. All it took was one episode and Marlene King had sucked me back in.
Apart from just getting more screen-time, the spin-off has shown us a different side to Alison and Mona. They’re being humanized in a way they haven’t been before, at least not to this extent. I’m personally not a fan of Mona and Mason’s relationship (because he’s a student), but it’s been sweet to see Mona all giddy and excited about someone because she’s rarely had that. It shows a more caring and compassionate side to her that after a decade with these girls, we only saw with Hanna and Mike. We’ve also had to watch Alison struggle through being apart from her family and adjusting to life in a new town filled with just as many secrets, which has had a similar effect.
The story that has had the most impact on my newfound love and appreciation for Alison and Mona is their unlikely friendship. In Beacon Heights, they really only know each other, which gave them the opportunity to lean on one another in a way they never could before. Now, with the addition of the mystery they’re trying to solve together, they’ve bonded in a similar way that Spencer, Emily, Aria, and Hanna did on Pretty Little Liars. Although Ali is supposed to be “best friends” with the four girls back in Rosewood, and Mona with Hanna, it never truly felt that way. Alison and Mona were always on the outside, trying desperately to be in the circle but were never really in the circle. Which is why, should The Perfectionists get renewed, I’d love to see this friendship continue to grow and the two of them to inevitably become each other’s best friends. It’s what we deserve.
Lastly, and I never thought I’d say this, the only people I trust on the show right now are Alison and Mona. They’re the most reliable, and their intentions in Beacon Heights seem genuine. Somehow, even with their rocky history on the show, they’ve won me over.
Not only do the actresses, Janel and Sasha, deserve a second (and hopefully longer) season, their characters do too. It would be a shame if their stories came to a close just as their new chapter in Beacon Heights is beginning. Alison and Mona are nothing short of fascinating to watch, and have earned the chance to finally be the center of attention and tell their stories.
Has Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists given you a newfound appreciation for these misunderstood and dynamic characters? Have you always loved them? Or are you still on the fence? Let us know in the comments down below!