‘Pretty Little Liars’ and the Myth of the High School True Love

(Freeform/Ron Tom)

(Freeform/Ron Tom)

Going into Pretty Little Liars season seven I expected some uncomfortable points, the abductions, the tortures, the murders, it is not always a bed of roses in Rosewood. But in episode two, I felt myself getting uncomfortable for a whole different reason – that they are clearly making the couples get together with their high school loves.

The series had three main couples: Toby and Spencer, Hanna and Caleb and Ezra and Aria, Emily had a long-term romance with Paige who left before they finished high school, because honestly who stays in Rosewood longer than they have to. And then there is Allison, the one who started everything, but also the first girl who Emily truly loved.

At the end of Season 6A, after they discovered that Cece was Big A, the girls split up and went to various colleges, and season 6B started off five years later when the girls were living much different lives and came to testify at a parole hearing for Cece. Toby was dating the daughter of Spencer’s mom’s opposition in the Senate race, Spencer was off in Washington, Hanna was engaged to a man named Jordan, Caleb was in Washington with Spencer, Aria was dating a fellow book publisher Liam, and Ezra’s girlfriend had just died while they were on a volunteer trip for Habitat for Humanity.

I found it a little bit fishy when all the couples were broken up in 6B, especially since Hanna and Caleb seemed the most likely to succeed of the three, they had left Rosewood together, they were always the least dramatic pair and they had the growth ability to stay together, but for drama’s sake they had to split. Apparently Hanna’s career got in the way of their relationship and Caleb got fed up and hightailed out of New York, I would have thought if anyone would be supportive of Hanna and her drive for success it would be Caleb, but apparently not.

Even as the show started moving toward season seven, I could see the characters starting to migrate toward their original couples. Spencer and Caleb were now a couple but as Hanna sacrificed herself, pretending to be Cece’s killer to bait the new Uber A, Spencer was then paired up with Toby, and Caleb was sent to protect Hanna which ended up in the two sharing a kiss, and even Ezra and Aria slept together as they worked on his new book together. So why break them all up, just to get them back together again within a half season?

Sometimes I think back to who I was dating in high school and cringe, I cannot even imagine ever going back to the terrible taste I had when I was young and impressionable, yet I also know people who have been dating since high school and it’s still going strong. My parents met at age 17 and have been married for 45 years, it can work. But for an entire group of friends to reunite with their high school loves is far-fetched, even by TV standards.

I understand the familiarity of an old love, and yes, I also understand the show’s need to pander to the desires of their fan base and ‘shippers’, but I also believe that as we age, we grow and we change. There is no way that all of these couples could or would find their way back to each other (side note: apparently Paige is also returning to Rosewood in season seven).

Some of these couples were toxic from the outset such as Ezra who was Aria’s teacher, and slept with her knowing she was a minor in order to get information on a book he was writing about Allison’s disappearance. Paige tried to drown Emily, among other incidents, but much of this is glossed over to just reunite the couples and to appease the fans.

The second episode of season seven, showed Hanna and Jordan, Aria and Liam, and Spencer and Caleb breaking up, in order to get rid of the excess couples and the audience can immediately see the tracings of the original couples migrating toward each other. And yes, I know this is a popular trope in high school dramas like Gossip Girl, which was also untidily done so that fans would be appeased. But most other teen soaps tend to focus on one or two couples that makes it such as Seth and Summer in The O.C. (leaving interpretation open about whether Ryan and Taylor found their way back to each other), Joey and Pacey in Dawson’s Creek, Haley and Nathan and Peyton and Lucas in One Tree Hill.

I understand that Pretty Little Liars wanted to relay that time had passed and the girls had changed, and what better way to do that than by having them in new romances, but I think by almost automatically getting them to fall back into their old relationships almost as soon as they are in Rosewood was digressing on the characters that we are supposed to believe had matured.

I think that they should have kept one couple together, probably Hanna and Caleb seeing as they were the most stable, perhaps showed a migration back together of another couple who, having grown apart, have found their way back to each other with new dreams and life goals. Or even just focused on one couple entirely. Either way, it seems as if season seven will be the last (if Lucy Hale is to believed) and it appears as if they are setting all the couples up to have a nice tidy endgame. 

Caryn is a 26-year-old journalist from Cape Town, South Africa. She believes people will be more tolerable if they just watched more TV. Otherwise she's obsessed with movies, literally any book, comedy, Marvel, Harry Potter, and Halsey. Her dream is to one day marry Tom Hiddleston, or take over the world, whatever comes first.