Pretty Little Liars: Summer School Bosses and Cast Break Down Those Shocking Finale Twists

From that jaw-dropping death to those mysterious masks, the series’ showrunners and stars bask in the final horrific moments of their Season 2 finale.

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Pretty Little Liars: Summer School Bosses and Cast Break Down Those Shocking Finale Twists

Summer may just be getting started, but unfortunately for all fans of this twisty, bloody teen drama, Max’s Pretty Little Liars: Summer School has just wrapped its juicy second season. In an episode filled with hyper-realistic masks, creepy cultists, an overabundance of jaw-dropping reveals, and a whole lot of final girl energy, the biggest twists and most fun surprises all culminated to tie this spinoff’s second outing in a perfect, rose-colored bow—barring those few teases at the very end. 

Before the curtain closes on Summer School’s season finale, two shocking scenes threaten to shake up the PLL universe once more, leaving the door open for a potential third outing on the horizon. Just when Liars Faran (Zaria), Noa (Maia Reficco), Mouse (Malia Pyles), Tabby (Chandler Kinney), and Imogen (Bailee Madison) thought they were safe from spooky villains that go bump in the night, Season 1’s big bad Boogeyman, Archie “A” Waters, has returned from the “dead” (he was reportedly a victim of a prison riot at Ravenswood Penitentiary, but obviously that did not stop him from catching a bus to Millwood), and his first victim while back on his old stomping ground was none other than Annabeth Gish’s iconic Dr. Sullivan. 

Just in case anyone is hoping that the lack of a clear look at Dr. Sullivan’s dead body leaves any room for interpretation, showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is here to squash those hopes and dreams: “She’s dead! Without a doubt.” 

Though, that choice didn’t come without some slight hesitation from the creatives, if only over lamenting the loss of such a talented actor gracing this series. “When you have an amazing actor like Annabeth Gish, you don’t want to kill them off because you want to keep working with them, but it felt right, given her sketchy behavior throughout the season. And, truthfully, [it] also was one of these things where, when Episode 7 became about her very amazing, haunted backstory with ‘A’ and her son Sebastian, it felt like, ‘Oh, what a great thing to be able to put a button on that story!’ It just felt really, really, really good,” Aguirre-Sacasa elaborates. 

As for killing off an original Pretty Little Liars alum, that was never really a big concern, according to showrunner Lindsay Calhoon Bring. “Our intention with introducing the character to our show was not ‘Oh, we really want to find a way to connect the shows this season.’ It really was organic. We knew early on that, with everything the girls had been through, we should put them in therapy. We should have our own Final Girl Support Group, and then, luckily, having that connectivity with Annabeth, who is such a brilliant actress that was on the original show, and to have all the stars align and have her, I think we kinda had to, in this horror show, just write without fear and give her a great story.” 

And, truthfully, someone had to die at the end of this season. The showrunners moved away from killing Wes in order to protect Tabby from even more trauma, and with Bloody Rose still kicking and our final Liars all surviving their night of terror, they desperately needed that shocking, final-moment body drop. “As you’re ending your season, in any horror movie, in any horror show, what’s the best possible horror tag to have? Who would have the most impact? And for us, that was Dr. Sullivan, in this franchise and in this series. We just kinda did it unabashedly, and luckily Annabeth, who is just so wonderful, was so game and excited about it. Which helped us lean in,” Bring explains. 

But, just like the showrunners struggled to say goodbye to Gish, the cast all expressed just how tough it was to accept that they would be losing her presence in a potential third season. “Bailee, personally, I really struggled because Annabeth and I, I mean, we talk at least once or twice a week. I love her with all of my heart, and she was like my buddy bud throughout this whole season, so I really mourned it,” Madison says. 

She continues, “I went in for that scene—I was the second scene that day and this was the first scene, and I went in early so I could just go and sit and watch her. And she’s so funny, she was like ‘I don’t like dying.’ And I was like ‘I don’t like you having to die!'” 

“I love Annabeth so much, and she really kinda became our big sister because she’s such a mentor for us, and she’s so brilliant an actor, but an even better human, and having her around was a humongous gift,” Reficco gushes. Pyles adds, “That’s the really tough part about working on this show, it’s kinda like the Game of Thrones aspect where you don’t know who’s going to die next. And you never want them to die because we love all of our cast members that join us.” 

In their reluctance to truly say goodbye, quite a few cast members pitched a way Gish could return. “I’m hoping that she can come back as a spirit, in my actor heart,” Zaria laughs. “I’m always hopeful that there’s either a twin, like an evil twin, or there’s a flashback, or there’s something. […] I believe in this show’s ability to bring dead people back to life—or actors back to set,” Reficco says. Kinney makes a joke herself about a spiritual return for Sullivan, but does appreciate the way her storyline wrapped in this second outing, “Annabeth Gish is so amazing, but I think she served her purpose for this season.” 

As for Archie, though? There’s no love lost between their Season 1 villain and these Pretty Little Liars. “I have nothing nice to say about ‘A,’ that man cannot stay put,” Kinney laughs, “He cannot let it go!”

“It was a big eye-roll for me that Archie was back. I was like, ‘Not this guy, again!’ Madison laughs, “That was my genuine reaction, I was like, ‘No, he’s got to go, he’s got to leave us alone!’” But Madison echoes Bring’s sentiment about approaching this finale with a fearlessness, “I think it had to happen, this show isn’t going to play it safe.”

Zaria puts words to the dread Archie’s return brings, “It was such a one-two punch, and I think it’s very scary to see what Archie could be up to next because he put us through it [during] Season 1.” And Pyles says bringing that moment to the screen was “cathartic,” even if it spells trouble in the future, “I’m glad we got to have ‘A’ come back in that way, but I also just don’t want to believe it.” 

But, of course, Archie’s return and Dr. Sullivan’s demise was not the only gag to end the season. As the credits roll on Summer School’s second outing, five figures saunter down the halls of Millwood High, adorned in plastic, shiny, creepy look-alike masks of each of our beloved Liars. This, the cast near-universally agrees, is the most exciting aspect of the finale, especially for all the potential these doppelgängers present for a third outing. 

In fact, I hadn’t even gotten to the question before Madison asked if we could talk about the masks, “That’s what excites me! To me, that sets up the third in a really beautiful way. And all of us, as a cast—because they had two alt endings, and it was going be that they were going to pick one or the other—we were very keen on this happening and the fact that it was like a double whammy with Archie and lookalikes like us, that’s the most frightening thing to think about. That, for me, creatively, ticked off every box. I think it would just be so iconic, all of us having to fight against ourselves, in a sense, would just be so twisted and sick.” 

The sentiment is absolutely shared, as the cast all gush over their hopes and dreams for what these masked figures could bring to a potential next season. “I’m just obsessed with the psychological element of the idea of us going head-to-head with ourselves,” Pyles states, “It would be really cool to have the replicas of us lurking in the shadows and doing things to meddle in each of our individual lives. And even if we bring in the computer element of AI Deepfakes, of the horror that we’re facing right now, that would be really badass.” 

She continues speaking to her hopes for Mouse in a potential Season 3, “It would be really lovely if next season those behaviors were amplified even more—if she was trolling the Dark Web. […] I just think the internet and the computer is such a real-life weapon in a lot of ways, and I think to even go deeper with that would be so cool for her.”

Kinney expresses how that tease serves to further expand this world, and how fun it is to build upon this universe with each successive villain, “I think an ‘A’ team would be really cool. It would just only increase the stakes and the threats and the suspects, which just means that increases the entertainment. [Laughs] We’re really excited!”

Zaria echoes that sentiment, “It’s so exciting for me because I feel as though every single time the creators come up with such an inventive way to tell a story or to scare these poor girls. I’m really excited, just having seen the masks, they were already so creepy that I’m like, ‘I can’t wait to see what we could get into if we get the chance!’” 

“I was gagged,” Reficco laughs, “I was flabbergasted! I loved it because it’s such a cool call-out to such iconic horror references that I was just obsessed.”

“We thought the doppelgängers in Us were so terrifying, so the idea of a copycat or doppelgängers of our OG girls would be great. So that’s where that started,” Aguirre-Sacasa explains, “We also thought of the masks from The Strangers, which we are huge, huge fans of as well.” 

But when it comes to confirming who may be behind the masks or if that scene was even reality or not, Aguirre-Sacasa is more coy than the cast: “Whether they are… whether they merely exist in Tabby’s imagination of what her film might be, whether they’re a splinter group of the fundamentalists from Redemption House or Spooky Spaghetti… TBD. But it’s in dialogue with all of that stuff, without giving away too much.” 

Tabby’s creative vision or not, Archie on the loose or not, it’s clear that Max’s Pretty Little Liars still has so much more horror mileage in its tank. Kinney says it best: “We have so many more stories to tell. I think we’re all feeling like we’re just getting started, really.” 

Pretty Little Liars: Summer School is now streaming on Max. 

Anna Govert is the TV Editor of Paste Magazine. For any and all thoughts about TV, film, and her unshakable love of complicated female villains, you can follow her @annagovert.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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