Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin Betrays Viewers in the Series Finale

The following article contains spoilers and mentions of sexual assault.

Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin recently aired its season one finale and there is a lot to unpack. There are murder attempts, reveals of secret identities, broken trust, and nonstop thrill. Imogen, one of the new Liars in the reboot, gives birth to her baby after spending the entire season pregnant. A few episodes back, she ultimately decided to give her baby up for adoption after realizing she’s not ready for motherhood. In one of the final scenes of the finale, we find out who ends up adopting the baby.

And it’s fucking Aria and Ezra from the original Pretty Little Liars.

For those of you who may not know, Aria and Ezra are one of the main couples on the original show. Aria, a young teenager, meets Ezra, a fully grown adult, in a bar where Aria pretends to be of legal age. They flirt, make out in a bathroom, and go about their nights expecting to never see each other again. The next day, Aria goes to her high school English class and finds Ezra, who happens to be her new English teacher. Despite this, they continue their relationship. It’s a sick story of grooming, statutory rape, and an unhealthy student-teacher dynamic that’s glorified. Aria is portrayed as the cool teenager who gets to have a scandalous, yet exciting, relationship with an adult rather than a victim who lacked sexual agency. The writers frame their relationship as a forbidden love story where the characters have to fight all obstacles to be together. I. Marlene King, the executive producer and showrunner of the original Pretty Little Liars, even once called them “soulmates”.

TV has a long tradition of showing romantic depictions of student-teacher affairs. It is a problem because it is normalizing the sexual and emotional exploitation of vulnerable young people and makes it difficult for survivors of these situations to be taken seriously. However, it seems like TV shows are finally stepping away from these harmful narratives and showing student-teacher relationships for what they really are: dangerous and abusive. Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin shows this through Tabby, another girl who’s a part of the new generation of Liars. She works at a movie theatre called The Orpheum, and it is her dream to study film at NYU and become a filmmaker. Her boss at The Orpheum, Wes, knows that it’s her dream and has connections to NYU professors since he studied there. Wes serves as a mentor to Tabby not because he genuinely wants to help her pursue her passion, but because he is sexually interested in her. Wes is written as a predatory creep and when he tries to make advancements toward Tabby, she is portrayed as an uncomfortable young girl who wants to get away from him. It is a complete contrast to the romantic overtones of Aria’s and Ezra’s relationship.

Sexual violence overall is a major theme in the Pretty Little Liars reboot. Imogen and Tabby are sexual assault survivors. Angela Waters, a mysterious figure who is connected to the search for “A”, is also a sexual assault survivor. However, none of what the girls experienced is used merely for the sake of the horror genre of the show. While horror has a huge problem in portraying sexual assaultPretty Little Liars: Original Sin manages to subvert the trope of the female victim by not letting any of the characters be defined by their sexual assault. They’re not just survivors. While Angela commits suicide prior to the show’s current setting, Imogen and Tabby live full-fledged lives and have agency. Tabby particularly establishes her agency through filmmaking — the stories she creates are of women taking back their power. The girls’ trauma is also taken seriously and is portrayed with layers of complexity and grace.

So it feels like a slap in the face when Imogen and Tabby talk about how thrilled they are to drive to Rosewood and meet the highly-esteemed Aria and Ezra, the parents-to-be of Imogen’s baby. It feels like the show betrayed and undermined everything it stood for by continuing to affirm the relationship between Aria and Ezra. It is disrespectful to viewers who experienced sexual violence.

Ironically enough, Imogen would despise Ezra and would have never given her baby to him and Aria if she knew the origins of their relationship. To have Imogen, a survivor of sexual assault whose pregnancy happened because of rape and someone who passionately stands against all forms of sexual violence, allow this couple to adopt her baby is disgusting and, frankly, a poor writing choice. If the writers wanted to make a connection to the original series, they could have had any of the other original liars or other characters from the show be the ones to adopt Imogen’s baby.

There’s been instances where creators go back to a show they worked on and change details or correct any errors they found post-production. If those who worked on the Pretty Little Liars reboot truly cared about how sexual violence is portrayed in the show, they would edit the mentions of Aria and Ezra out of the show. A public apology on Twitter or Instagram is not enough. It may seem like such a small detail that bears no significance to the story, but it disempowers the show’s overall message on sexual violence.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!

Lily Alvarado

Lily Alvarado is a queer Boricua whose heart was born and sings in The Bronx, New York. Her titles include grad student, educator, decolonial feminist, breaker of generational cycles, and lover of reptiles.

Lily has written 22 articles for us.


      • They chose Aria because she’s the only one out of the original liars who can’t have biological children. That being said, I agree with everything written in the article, it was a horrible choice and the only way to fix it would be for Imogen to find out the truth about Fitz and change her mind about letting him adopt.

  1. I’m not surprised, this was I. Marlene King’s OTP amongst the original romances and she always defended this thing to the death in spite of it being creepy and wrong from the start and only getting worse the longer it went on. So of course this was the one that made a cameo instead of literally any other romance from the original show.

  2. It’s so weird because it seemed like this show was trying to correct on some of the pushback received from the original (like having Wes as the older guy actually being portrayed as a creep etc). Yet in addition to this Aria/Ezra thing, they also once again made a queer person one of the main villains? Because *of course* the reason Beasley assaults Angela Waters is because he can’t handle being gay. (Insert eye roll)

  3. It was truly so bizarre to me. Especially when Tabby goes into Ezra’s bookstore earlier in the season it feels like a warning, almost like intentional set dressing about her anxieties and trauma.

    At times it feels like the team working on this show didn’t watch the original PLL and just had someone who barely remembers it give them an outline. Although I do like the hard horror slant it’s given over the horror of being a teenage girl of the original, I do find it hard to see how it can be considered a reboot/spinoff/whatever when the connection to the original is so tenuous. It’s relying so much on ‘A’ and ‘Liars’ but those don’t really seem to be the strength of the show and can often feel shoehorned. I love the ‘sins of thy mother’ thing they did and how the cycles of bullying can replicate themselves outside of high school mean girl territory.

  4. It’s a horror show. What could be worse than Ezra adopting a BABY GIRL? I personally feel that the writers on the show know what they are are doing and are implicitly attempting to right the wrongs of the Aria/Ezra storyline.

  5. I know I’m going to get backlash for this, but I don’t think “victim” is the right word for Aria. She knew he was an adult, he never pretended to be her age. Once she found out he was her teacher, she actively pursued him. She wasn’t just going along with his pressure. Yes Ezra is disgusting and as an adult he should have stopped it, but Aria wasn’t a little child. She was a teenager who fully knew that what she was doing was scandalous and did it anyway. It cheapens the word “victim” to use it here. Listen, I’m a mom. Try telling a teenager not to do something. They will roll their eyes and ignore you. They think they have it all figured out. I acted the same way with my mom. I thought she was so old fashioned and couldn’t understand a thing. Now I know… teenagers gonna teenager.

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!