'Pretty Little Liars' Finale Disappoints For Women's Stories
And while it was relieving to get to the end, meet A.D., and know the Liars are now (SPOILERS) living happily ever after, there was one major disappointment to the conclusion.
Namely, it was the emphasis the show put on the Liars' relationship statuses.
The final moments of the series showed the five women together, acknowledging how they are all happy at the same time. But their happiness wasn't rooted in health or career but in marriages and fertility.
For a show built around five well-developed women with clear aspirations, interests, and health concerns, it was a poor message to conclude on.
The two-hour finale centered around the impending wedding of Aria and Ezra. So already, we have this focus on a relationship.
But showrunner I. Marlene King took that emphasis even further. Early in the episode, Aria drops she's found out she can't have children. This was not a point that came up anywhere else in Aria's story throughout the series.
Meanwhile, we find out married couple Caleb and Hanna are trying to have a baby -- despite clearly having relationship issues. Again, the question of children had never before been brought up in their stories.
We see Alison and Emily are still working at Rosewood High, but otherwise, hers and Emily's personal plots are based on their care for their twin babies.
In the final moments of the episode, the women remark upon shared joys: Aria is married and looking into adoption, Emily and Ali are doing well with the twins, Hanna is pregnant, and Toby might stick around -- giving Spencer a romantic potential.
But there's little mention of anything for the Liars' futures outside of marriage and babies.
In a throwaway scene early in the episode, we find out Aria and Ezra's book might be turned into a movie. But we don't even know if Aria is still working in publishing.
In a fight, Caleb and Hanna mention Hanna's fashion designs are doing well, but that's all we hear about it -- after seasons of following her post-grad career.
Emily and Alison's careers at Rosewood High are mostly used to bring in younger characters for spinoff potential rather than comment on how fulfilled they are with them.
The only person we hear working towards a career is Spencer, who we find out is in law school and working at her mother's firm.
There's no problem with finding happiness in marriage and babies, but the fact it was the only conclusion for nearly all the women on the show is troubling.
Rather than create a fertility plot line out of nowhere for Aria, we could have gotten into her career or how she's reconciling marrying her high school English teacher. We could have heard about Spencer's mental health in the face of newfound family knowledge.
I mean, we didn't even know for sure if Caleb and Hanna overcame their relationship problems. All we knew was Hanna's pregnant, therefore everything must be Gucci.
Over and over again, we are watching series about women end with pregnancies.
We saw this with (spoilers ahead) the Gilmore Girls revival as well as in Girls -- which, for all its talk of modern values, ended with the very traditional myth that all a girl needs is a baby to grow up and feel fulfilled.
Frankly, there just has got to an ending for women other than "she got pregnant."
Meanwhile, these women are, like, 25 years old. They've been through countless traumas, both mental and physical. Wouldn't you want a minute to, like, figure all that out before building a family?
In terms of plots for women in general, first of all, having a baby is never the end of the story, and having a baby doesn't magically make everything wonderful and solve all your traumas and dramas.
Second of all, we are far past the era in which the only happy ending for a woman is a spouse and a child. We are in a time where it's widely understood women also get fulfillment in things like work, health, and friendship -- which is supposed to be Pretty Little Liars' biggest value.
For all its faults, this show has always been amazing about creating realistic women. It's just a shame it didn't end that way.