main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Kickstarter Message
TV Tropes Needs Your Help
Big things are happening on TV Tropes! New admins, new designs, fewer ads, mobile versions, beta testing opportunities, thematic discovery engine, fun trope tools and toys, and much more - Learn how to help here and discuss here.
View Kickstarter Project
Series: Pretty Little Liars
Pretty Little Liars is a television show based on a series of young adult novels by Sara Shepard. The series follows the lives of four girls Spencer, Hanna, Aria, and Emily whose clique falls apart after the disappearance of their leader, Alison. A year later, they begin receiving text messages from someone using the name "A" who threatens to expose their secrets including long-hidden ones they thought only Alison knew.

The TV series premiered in the summer of 2010 and as of 2014, is in its fifth season, with a sixth and seventh season on the way.


  • Absentee Actor: Only four regulars (no prizes for guessing which ones) have appeared in every episode so far.
  • Academic Athlete: Emily and Spencer.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Spencer, Melissa and Mona (blonde), and Emily (redhead) are brunettes, and Hanna and Kate (brunettes) are blondes.
  • Adorkable:
    • Lucas
    • Mona as well, in flashbacks before Alison went missing.
    • Spencer, in flashbacks, down to the giggles and glasses.
  • Adult Child: The majority of the adults on the show display the emotional maturity of the average teenager when it comes to handling money, relationships and family secrets, leading to some parental hypocrisy when they punish their teenage children for behavior as irresponsible as their own.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys.
    • Caleb for Hanna, but he's a subversion. Once you move past the fact that most of his money comes from crime, he really isn't that bad a guy.
    • In the eyes of Rosewood Toby is this for Spencer.
  • All Men Are Perverts - sometimes it seems that Rosewood must be the perverts capital of America. The number of characters who lust after teenage girls is truly staggering - one is even a police officer and he dates a high school student without anyone raising an eyebrow. Many of the rest of the male characters have cheated on their partners.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Spencer in "UnmAsked."
    • She also winds up alone with Ian in the Season 1 finale.
    • Emily with Nate/Lyndon in the Season 3 mid-season finale.
    • Subverted in 311/312 with Emily and Paige.
  • Alpha Bitch: Cece, Kate, and early Season 1 Mona. Alison is a Deconstructed Character Archetype: her behavior gained her and her friends the disdain of 90% of the town, and she has multiple enemies in the A-team that want her dead. Her own friends have gotten fed up with her antics and are now against her. Heck, her own mom saw someone hit her over the head with a rock, and bury her alive to cover for that person! Talk about being disliked.
  • Alternate Continuity: A combination of Adaptation Decay and Adaptation Expansion.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Hanna seems to be pretty interested in other girls and is also offended when Shana doesn't flirt with her.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Emily. Caleb.
    • Ambiguity removed for Emily in Season 4 when she describes her racial/ethnic background outright.
  • Ambiguously Evil: Almost everybody at some point or another.
  • Ambiguously Gay: There's much speculation over whether Alison was just manipulating Emily or actually has feelings for her and was an Armored Closet Gay.
    • Mona seems even less ambiguous toward Hanna
  • Anti-Hero: Alison. The liars can also be seen as this.
  • Apologetic Attacker: Hanna kicks her boyfriend in the nuts by accident thinking he is A, then apologizes when he takes off his mask.
  • Ascended Extra: Many of the key characters from the show were killed off or played minor roles in the books including Mona, Ezra, Jenna, and Toby
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Alison. She might have been only 15 when she died, but she managed to make so many people hate her that just about every other supporting character in the show had a motive for her murder.
    • Jenna, who coerces her step-brother into an unwanted sexual relationship goes blind before the series starts and receives a lot of sympathy for it.
    • The Liars, themselves, who don't deserve the torment they get but did let an innocent boy take the fall for a felony they knew they were responsible for. And who stood by as Alison tortured half of Rosewood.
  • Attempted Rape: Ben tries to rape Emily, but Toby Cavanaugh saves her.
  • Author Appeal: The show contains a lot of lesbian characters and the producer Marlene King is an out lesbian.
  • Badass Bookworm:
    • Ezra, of a Non-Action Guy variety. He repeatedly refuses to change Noel Kahn's grade, even when Noel threatens to tell the principal about Ezra's relationship with Aria. He sits at his desk, stoic, while Noel tells the principal, ready to face the consequences with dignity ... but as it turns out, the principal doesn't believe Noel's story, since he has a history of cheating and lying.
    • Spencer.
  • Batman Gambit: In "Through Many Toils, Troubles, and Snares", the girls pull off a rather impressive one on A by pretending to fight and quarrel with each other over fake evidence of A's identity, leading A to approach Emily with a deal. It doesn't quite work out like they'd hoped, since they don't learn A's identity, but they do come away with A's cell phone. A is understandably disturbed by this development.
  • Berserk Button: Hanna goes off on Caleb for insulting Justin Bieber
    "You don't know the Biebs. You don't understand the Biebs ... or his hair."
  • Berserker Tears: Emily cries when she stabs Nate after a long chase through the lighthouse.
  • Betty and Veronica:
    • Emily had plenty of those, including some switcheroos. Maya was originally the Veronica to Ben's Betty. After Maya was Put On The Bus, she became the Betty to Paige's Veronica. Samara was the Veronica to Paige's Betty. by the time Ali returns to her life, she becomes a Veronica with some shades of Betty to Paige's Betty.
    • Emily herself was the Betty to Paige's Archie and Shana's Veronica. we later find out she was the Veronica to Shana's Betty for Ali.
    • Aria with Ezra (Betty) and Jason (Veronica). Before his true colors were shown, early in season one, Noel was her Betty to Ezra's Veronica.
    • Teased to with Hanna as Archie to Caleb's Betty and Wren's Veronica.
  • The Beautiful Elite: Many of the characters on this show are very attractive.
  • Bi the Way: Maya, Jenna and Ali.
    • Averted in Emily's case because it was revealed that she kissed Nate/Lynden out of grief and emotional vulnerability rather than sexual attraction to him. Actually is bisexual in the books though.
  • Blackmail: The messages A sends contains information on the girls secrets and they threaten to reveal them if the girls do not comply with what A wants them to do.
  • Big Bad: Mona Vanderwaal in season 1 and season 2. Red Coat for season 3 and the first-half of season 4. Jessica Dilaurentis and Ezra Fitz for the second-half. Alison Dilaurentis became this near the end of season 5.
  • Big Eater: Hanna is forced to eat a whole box of giant cupcakes so A won't spill her secrets which makes her reminisce on her binge/purge days with Ali.
  • Blatant Lies: Mona's statement that Red Coat was always wearing an Alison mask, however in unmAsked, she was visited by Red Coat in Radley. It's very unlikely that they would have let someone wearing a mask that looks like a dead girl into a mental rehabilitation facility.
    • In the second season, Hanna threatens to sic her mother on Caleb's foster parent, claiming she's a lawyer with Dolce, Gabbana, and Leibowitz.
  • Book Dumb: Hanna. She once claimed that she couldn't even spell Louisiana, let alone know anything about its history. Surprisingly, it's revealed in season 5 she scored very high scores in her SATs.
  • Brainy Brunette: Plenty - Lucas, Aria, Ezra, Mona, Caleb, Ella and the entire Hastings clan.
  • Blind Seer: How does Jenna know so much, yet sees so little?
  • Blondes Are Evil: Alison, Kate, and Cece. Meredith, the woman who has an affair with Byron, seems to have no regard for Aria or Ella's feelings. Averted with Hanna and Jason.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: Toby is Spencer's protector but he is really much better at luring her into the arms of "A".
  • Bury Your Gays: May be specific for lesbians of color. Maya was killed off in the season 2 finale, and Shana was hacked off in season 4. So far, Emily is the only non-white gay character to survive.
  • Brother-Sister Incest:
    • Melissa and Jason made out prior to the events of the series. It was later revealed that they share a father.
    • And let's not forget Jenna's forcing her stepbrother Toby into a sexual relationship.
  • Bus Crash: Maya who was last seen a few episodes earlier before it was revealed she was dead.
  • But Not Too Black: Maya.
  • Canon Foreigner: Caleb, Paige, Garrett, Cece.
  • Casting Gag: Ashley Marin's daughter is played by a girl named Ashley.
    • Ashley Marin once was in a murder-mystery soap, but last time, she was the victim.
    • Claire Holt as a girl who dates a swimmer.
    • So Lucy Hale's nemesis from Sorority Wars decided to get back at her by screwing her dad? That sounds about right.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Alison's flying lessons.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Taken quite literally. It's how Aria kills Shana in Season 5.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: A truly impressive example: The leader of the A-Team has been in Rosewood since day one, teaching English at the local high school and maintaining an on-again off-again relationship with Aria.
    • Cece, who only shows up in season 3.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Several Rosewood High students have disappeared without explanation such as Ben and Sean.
  • Cold Opening
  • Continuity Nod: "The First Secret" contains a scene from the pilot of Ali and Aria catching Byron cheating.
  • Conveyor Belt of Doom: In "Now You See Me, Now You Don't", Emily is put in a coffin and placed on one of these, with a giant saw at the end. The other Liars desperately try to free her, but she is only saved when (one) Redcoat turns off the power.
  • Creator Cameo: Sara Shepard, the books' author, appears as a substitute teacher for Ezra in the episode "Please Do Talk About Me When I'm Gone."
  • Create Your Own Villain: Emily ultimately admits, they made Mona the way she is.
  • Creepy Child: Seth in "If These Dolls Could Talk".
  • Creepy Doll: The dolls that A sends to the girls, and the dolls in the doll shop especially the one resembling Alison near the end of "If These Dolls Could Talk".
  • Curse Cut Short In "It's Alive" Hanna says "This is bull—", only to be cut off by her mom.
  • Dark Secret: The main characters and many of the recurring characters have skeletons in their closet.
  • A Day in the Limelight: "The First Secret" is pretty much all about Alison, as is "A is for Answers".
  • Dead All Along: Remember when Ali was missing? Oh yeah, she was actually dead. Buried under her parent's gazebo since the night of her alleged "disappearance". That is , until "A dAngerous gAme, when we find out she's really alive
  • Dead Person Conversation: note 
    • Hanna has one with Alison while she is in the hospital, and then another in season two of the show at her therapist's encouragement. The latter is somewhat of a Crowning Moment of Awesome for Hanna.
    • Emily has one of these with Alison in the second season after passing out.
    • Spencer has one with Alison while sleeping off some pain meds in the second season. Played with in that the scene gives us some reason to believe that Alison may have really been there.
    • Aria has one with Alison in the third season while hopped up on drugged tea.

  • Deadly Prank: The girls and Alison planned on using a firework to play a prank on Toby. It backfired, blinding Jenna in the process and leading her to harbor resentment towards the girls.
  • Death by Adaptation:
    • Maya who had lived in the books was killed off in the season 2 finale.
    • Wilden, who is still alive in the books, was found dead in the Season 4 premiere.
    • Inverted with Mona, who fell to her death in the books, but survived the same fall in the Season 2 finale.
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype: Alison may either one of AlphaBitch or an exaggeration. She made so many enemies that she nearly died because of her actions, and her only friends seem to fed up with her now.
  • Demoted to Extra: Mike used to appear regularly with the Montgomeries, but now it seems that he's always staying with whatever parent Aria isn't with at the time.
    • Byron in Season 4 because Chad Lowe wanted to focus more on directing.
  • Determinator: Spencer. Despite so many of her theories about Alison's killer or A's identity turning out to be wrong she keeps on relentlessly pursuing every lead. Jenna once said that Spencer reminded her of a hungry terrier.
  • Distressed Damsel: As it's in the horror genre, the show frequently puts its heroines in dangerous situations. However,as the show progresses, the girls learn to take active roles in dangerous situations. For example, in the third season alone, Aria struggles to free herself when locked in a box with a corpse and partly succeeds. When Emily finds herself stranded in the woods with a flat tire, she chases the mysterious hooded figure responsible, rather than running from it. When Aria finds herself drugged and locked in her room, she breaks a hand mirror and wraps one of the shards in cloth to make a shiv.
  • Dirty Cop: Darren uses some questionable methods while he is investigating the murder of Alison although he doesn't do anything that is actually illegal. After Hanna gets arrested for shoplifting her mom starts a relationship with Darren to keep Hanna from getting in trouble. Thankfully she kicks him out of the house eventually. He usually targets Hanna for interrogation and harassed Emily in one episode. Garrett as well.
  • Disappeared Dad:
    • Averted in the case of Aria in the show, as her father refuses to leave the family when he and Ella separate.
    • Tom Marin who has not been mentioned for some time.
  • Disney Villain Death: Subverted. Mona falls off Lookout Point in a fight with Spencer, but she lives.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The girls were friends with Alison during her heyday of blackmailing, torturing, and menacing everyone in Rosewood. For this, they are stalked, blackmailed and nearly killed by the A-team.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Averted. Jenna doing this to Toby is viewed as being a very horrible thing to do someone.
  • Drink Order: A non alcoholic example is the Liars' regular coffee order.
    • Emily drinks a straight Americano. Maya, Alison and Cece refer to her as "Americano" at a certain point in the series. Her simple taste is supposed to represent her unassuming nature, and also refer to the fact that she herself isn't straight (it was even lampshaded by Cece).
    • Artistic Aria always orders a soy Latte. Her vegan diet is described in the seires is yet another aspect of her general hipster-ness.
    • Girly Hanna always orders a Latte, sometimes with whipped cream (which goes back to her days as unpopular Hefty Hanna).
    • Overacheiver Spencer is known for her notorious Must Have Caffeine ways, and always orders a strong drink. Her dependence on caffeine is somewhat reperesntative of her tendency for prescription drugs abuse.
  • Dysfunctional Family: The Hastings family is always one upping each other. Love is about what you can achieve, not what you feel.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: When Hanna and Caleb are in the shower (he's bathing, she isn't) and he turns around, she likes what she sees...
  • Mr. Fanservice:
    • Inverted; don't think that male viewers haven't noticed the four leads justify a name change to Gorgeous Little Liars. The other females in the cast aren't exactly hard on the eyes either.
    • Also played straight; most of the men on the show are plenty attractive enough to keep up with the women (which is to be expected, this being made by Alloy Entertainment and all).
  • Evil All Along: Mona and Nate/Lyndon.
  • Evil Former Friend: Mona was Hanna's best friend and has turned into her worst nemesis!
  • Exact Words: Word of God promised in "A dAngerous gAme" the viewers would find out who killed Alison. It turned out that no one killed her because she was rescued from the grave
  • Fair Cop: Darren and Garrett
    • Better examples would be Holbrook and Tanner
  • False Friend: Mona is Hanna's best friend but only uses this to gather information on how to take the girls down as "A".
  • The Fashionista: Mona and Hanna. When Spencer's room was searched by the police Hanna and she mentions the cops taking some of her shoes, Hanna's immediate reaction is to ask if the Tory Burches might not have been confiscated too. This becomes something of a running gag when she later notices her therapist wearing Tory Burch boots too. Aria is an indie version of this trope.
  • Film Noir: Spencer went into a coma and had this type of dream.
  • Finding Judas: Toby? Come on! We all felt sorry for you.
  • Five-Man Band: While Alison was still around, She was The Leader, Spencer was The Lancer, Emily was the Big Guy, Aria isTheSmartGuy and Hanna was The Chick.
  • Firey Redhead: Ashley Marin.
  • Flirty Stepsiblings: One-sided with Jenna and Toby.
  • Flying Under the Gaydar: Emily briefly flirted with Spencer's College-appliciant helper in order to get free tips after her swimming scholarship fell through. Spencer called her out on it.
    Spencer: I'll tell you something I'm not confused about: The fact that this entire weekend you have conviniently forgotten to mention that you're gay.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In the Halloween episode, the story that Ali tells the boy she and Hanna are babysitting will definitely jump out to anyone who has read the books, assuming the producers are going to keep that plotline intact.
    • Lucas accidentally showing Hanna an online betting site before he shows the pictures of her collecting trash during her community service.
    • Also Noel gives a speech about female bullying vs male bullying in "The Naked Truth"
    • The fact that Ezra maintained a secret relationship with Aria for multiple seasons is eerily telling once you learn that he also had a secret relationship with another plot-relevant teenage girl.
  • Four Girl Ensemble: Hanna is the sexy one, Emily is the sweet one, Aria is the snarky one and Spencer is the lancing Team Mom. However, each one of the girls has shades of a different role. Hanna is The Ditz, Emily is boyish one, Spencer is a Deadpan Snarker with mild shades of Fille Fatale and Aria is very preoccupied with self-searching and artsy expression.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Aria (Melancholic), Hanna (Sanguine), Spencer (Choleric), Emily (Phlegmatic).
  • Fundraiser Carnival: A variation appears in place of Foxy.
  • Gender Flip: Jenna and Toby's roles are switched.
  • Girl Posse: The girls were this to Alison before her death. Often lampshaded.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Melissa and Spencer. Using the word war is only a slight exaggeration in this case.
  • Halloween Special: One each for the second and third seasons. The second season episode was a standalone prelude episode, while the one in the third season picked up right after the mid-season finale.
  • Has a Type: Hanna's estranged father shows up in the fourth episode of the first season to talk to Hanna about her recent behavior. Also, he has a new fiancee who looks a lot like Hanna's mother, with a daughter who looks like Hanna.
  • Heel-Face Turn: Paige and Jason. Maybe Jenna too, but like everything else about her, it's hard to tell.
  • Heroic BSOD: Aria after Ezra's mom tells her that's she ruining his life.
    • Spencer when she finds out that her boyfriend Toby is part of the 'A'-team.
    • Emily after Maya is killed, and again after she kills Nate, who killed Maya.
    • Aria again in "Now You See Me, Now You Don't" after failing to rescue CeCe Drake from falling. It's brief though, as it quickly becomes apparent that CeCe is alive.
  • Heteronormative Crusader: Emily's mom. Her dad says "I'm not happy about this, either.", but he's clearly much more open and accepting of the situation than her mom, who cries in the pantry because Emily and Maya were playing footsy under the table at dinner. She tries to be okay with it for a while...
  • Hidden Villain: A is the main antagonist of the show as they constantly blackmail the girls and have even attempted to kill them on several occasions. Their identity still is a mystery. Mona was revealed to be working for somebody who is the real mastermind behind the whole A scheme.
  • Hollywood Nerd: Lucas and in flashbacks Mona, who are both Type 2.
  • Homage:
    • The season 2 finale unmAsked is one giant Homage to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, complete with a creepy motel, a taxidermist motelier, and even an (almost) shower scene.
    • Even mother makes a reference!
    • The climatic bell-tower chase between Spencer and Ian in the season 1 finale is an homage to Hitchcock's Vertigo.
    • There's a Shout-Out in Season 3: Emily takes a job at the Rear Window Brewery.
  • Hospital Hottie: Wren.
  • Hot Teacher: Ezra.
  • Idiot Ball: Many problems that these girls face would be solved well ahead of time if they'd just approach things rationally or take common precautions — such as calling the police every now and then. Think we're exaggerating? When Aria's realized that Ezra's son has been abducted by someone posing as her, she merely follows the clue the kidnapper leaves for her rather than calling the police.
    • Dr. Anne Sullivan holds it as well in Season 2: Her office completely lacks any kind of security system. Granted, this is seemingly a problem the rest of the population of Rosewood has too, but it's especially striking when displayed by a psychologist who is responsible for confidential patient files.
    • Hanna may well have the Idiot wrecking ball for Season 4. Even though A has gleefully set up innocent people in the past repeatedly, she still steals her dad's (stolen) gun from her mom's closet, despite her mom telling her she didn't kill Wilden several times, and attempts to bury it. Cue police arresting her, and finally getting the very evidence needed to arrest her mom. And while we're at it the entire mess with Wilden can be traced back to her "subtly" telling him that she knew his secret and was going to tell everyone. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
  • Informed Ability: It's well known Spencer plays Field Hockey but we never actually see her in games like we do with Emily's swimming.
    • Same goes for Aria's writing skills. The show features her singing and her artistic ventures - photography and sculpture, but not writing, which is supposed to be her number one passion.
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation: Lucas suffers this badly. Apart from Hanna, he has literally no friends. Then Caleb comes along and they form something of a bromance.. then Caleb hooks up with Hanna, the girl Lucas is desperately in love with. Mona was also a victim of this in her Loser Mona days.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Mona claims that she started the A scheme as a means to get back at the girls, not for their treatment of her, but for the fact that Hannah was spending more time with them and less time with her, even though they'd barely hung out together at all after Alison's death and it was in fact the A scheme that brought them together again. Justified though, as it's implied that Mona was taking orders from someone else and her claims about her motivations are a lie.
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: This happens in pretty much every episode via bullying texts/emails/random notes blowing in the wind from the evil "A".
  • Jail Bait: Ezra is a paedophile/hebephilile with an attraction to Jail Bait. He hooked up with Alison when she was at most fourteen years old. He then sets out to get Aria to fall for him, when she was only a year or two older than Ali was.
  • Jerkass: Alison definitely crosses into this trope. The reason why she is popular is because she is attractive, smart and charismatic.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: And yet she seems to really care for the four girls. Her appearances in the present that suggest she may be alive seem to indicate she might have Took a Level in Kindness
  • Jerk Jock: Noel
  • Just Friends: Hanna and Lucas.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: When Emily first meets Samara at a cafe.
    Samara: Did Paige not tell you I'd be here?
    Emily: No, she did, I just didn't expect you to be so... punctual.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Two duos with the four liars. Spencer and Aria are dark, Hanna and Emily are light. Also, Hanna is the light to Mona's dark, and Emily is the light to Maya's dark.
  • Love Triangle: Oh, where do we start - almost all characters were involved in at least one.
    • For Aria, the first part of Season 1 had Ezra/Aria/Noel. In the last episode of the season, we get introduced to Aria/Ezra/Jackie, which is further developed in Season 2. Season two also had Ezra/Aria/Jason. We later got Ezra/Aria/Wesley, Maggie/Ezra/Aria, a downplayed Holden/Aria/Ezra and Jake/Aria/Ezra, because she simply can't get over that guy, no matter how many times they break up or how illegal it is.
    • For Hanna, it started out with Sean/Hanna/Lucas, then there was Caleb/Hanna/Lucas. After Caleb was Put on a Bus to spin-off series-ville, Hanna attempted to deal by directing her feelings towards Wren, Holbrook and Travis, while still harboring feelings for Caleb. Mona's possible romantic feelings for Hanna are so far still in the realms of Fanon.
    • Emily is probably in the triangle lead. First there was Ben/Emily/Maya, then Ali/Emily/Maya, followed by Paige/Emily/Maya (with Samara thrown in the mix later on in the season). Then A pushes Emily into creating Samara/Emily/Samara's hot friend, which broke the whole thing off entirely. By the time Emily and Paige got back together, we got ourselves some Emily/Paige/Shana, as well as a very creepy post-mortem Emily/Maya/ Nate/Lynden. All that on top of the pre-series Shana/Ali/Emily. Currently it's all about the Emison/Pailey Ship-to-Ship Combat.
    • Spencer had three main ones, all had some serious ick factor - Melissa/Ian/Spencer, Melissa/Wren/Spencer and Jenna/Toby/Spencer.
    • Ali added some spice to that, seeing how it was really Melissa/Ian[[Spoiler:/Ali]]/Spencer all along. Fanon later insisted that Ali/Ezra/Aria was also a thing.
    • Mona had Jenna/Noel/Mona.
    • Even the parents got in on the action - we had Ella/Byron/Meredith, Ted/Ashley/Wilden, Ashley/Tom/Isabel and Veronica/Peter/Jessica.
  • Lipstick and Load Montage: The opening credits, and it's a corpse that is dolled-up.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Emily, Samara, and Maya. Averted with Paige in the first season, but played straight in later seasons.
  • Les Collaborateurs: The A Team.
  • Les Yay: Invoked by Alison, in order to manipulate Emily.
  • Mama Bear:
    • Pam Fields defends her daughter from Paige's father. At the time, she hadn't really changed her views on homosexuality, she just had a reaction to someone hurting her daughter.
    • Ashley Marin as well. There seems to be no line she won't cross to protect Hanna.
  • Love Interest Traitor: Toby is one of A's accomplices and Spencer's greatest love.
    • Topped by the reveal that Ezra, Aria's love, is A.
  • Lured Into a Trap: Spencer goes to meet Toby in the Fun House at a carnival and gets shoved into a tiny space instead.
  • The Man Behind the Man: "Unmasked" reveals that Mona is not A but really just their pawn when the real A visits her at the end of the episode.
    • The leader of the A-Team is revealed to be Ezra.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Toby tries to warn Darren that Jenna is this.
  • May-December Romance: A few of these occur:
    • Aria and Ezra
    • Spencer and Wren
    • Darren and Ashley Marin
    • Alison and Ian
    • Spencer and Ian
    • Averted with Hanna and Holbrooke and with Hanna and Wren.
  • Milestone Celebration: Downplayed, as the promos for "Miss Me x 100" make very little of the fact that it is the 100th episode compared to similar episodes of other shows. Instead, it mostly focuses on the upcoming confrontation between The Liars and Team Mona.
  • Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: How Toby Cavanaugh is played at first. Later on, he drops the "Misunderstood Loner" part. And as of Season 3, maybe the "Heart of Gold" part too.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Spencer drinks a lot of coffee.
  • Name Drop: The jump rope song at the beginning of "Through Many Dangers, Toils, and Snares" is clearly about the girls.
    Ding dong, the bell / Someone fell / Pretty little lies / That liars tell
  • The Nicknamer: Alison frequently gave nicknames to people. They included Jenna the Jerk, Hefty Hanna, Pigskin for Paige, and Hermes for Lucas.
  • Nice Girl: Emily.
  • Nice Guy: Lucas but as of "A Hot Piece Of 'A'", he doesn't seem so much like this anymore.
  • No Dress Code: Some of the outfits the Liars (and other female characters) wear include very short skirts and cleavage; this probably would not be considered acceptable at a real high school.
  • Noodle Incident: "The Jenna Thing", although it is revealed bit by bit throughout the first half of the second book, after which it turns into a gradual series of Reveals.
  • Obfuscating Disability: Jenna continues to pretend she is blind, even after her surgery.
  • The Omniscient: A knows all of the main characters secrets and where they are at all times. Justified in that Mona works for someone else meaning there is more than one person involved in the A scheme.
  • One Head Taller: Noel Kahn who is played by 6'1 Brant Daugherty and Aria who is played by 5'2 Lucy Hale.
  • Or Was It a Dream?:
    • Hanna is visited by Alison while she is in the hospital in a weird surreal dream-like state leaving us unsure where it was real or not. In the books, Alison really did visit Hanna because she was still alive.
    • Emily has one of these with Alison later after passing out from inhaling too much carbon monoxide. It's unclear as to whether or not Alison really IS alive or if Emily was just dreaming.
    • Emily was rescued by someone and the fact that she was dragged away rather than carried suggests her rescuer was female.
    • Spencer's "dream" is the most ambiguous. The only possible reason that doesn't make the viewer think that Ali was 100% alive is the fact that Spencer was on pain meds. The bottle was left open as was the door to her house.
  • Parental Betrayal: Aria's Dad, Byron was with Ali the night that she died and goes to great lengths to cover it up
  • Parental Neglect: Spencer's parents are often missing when she needs them the most. When they are home they tend to neglect her in favour of Melissa. They also allowed Ian to live in their house, despite Spencer being terrified by him. Toby and Jenna's parents are literally never seen and apparently don't mind their teenage daughter dating an older guy. Aria's parents generally mean well but didn't notice Mike's depression or Aria being terrorised by A or her having a relationship with her teacher.
  • Perky Goth: Aria was one before Ali went missing.
  • Playing Gertrude: Nolan North is only 14 years older than Torrey Devitto and only 15 years older than Troian Bellisario, and 16 years older than Drew Van Acker
  • Political Correctness Gone Mad: Invoked by Paige's father. He claims that the only reason Emily won the coveted position of anchor on the swim team is because she is lesbian. Which is ironic because Paige is also a lesbian (though she was in the closet at that time).
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: "Grave New World" for Ravenswood
  • Posthumous Character: Alison had been killed before the first episode and she only appears in flashbacks or dreams.
  • Product Placement: The Microsoft Kin phone, Aria used it and showed off its Facebook app.
  • Preppy Name: Aria Montgomery, Spencer Hastings, Maya St. Germaine, and Mona Vanderwal for the girls. Ezra Fitz, Byron Montgomery, and Holden Strauss for the guys. Also Samara, who is an actual prep student.
  • Put on a Bus: Caleb literally leaves on a bus near the end of season one, after writing a letter to Hanna which Mona is supposed to deliver. In the season one finale, he returns at the request of Lucas.
  • Put on a Bus to Hell: Maya is sent to juvie camp after Emily's mom finds marijuana in Maya's bag and lets Maya's parents know about this. She returned in the episode before the summer finale.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Jenna and Aria.
  • Race Lift:
    • Emily is portrayed by Shay Mitchell who has mixed Filipino and Irish heritage. In the book, Emily is just plain Caucasian. Her mother even makes racist remarks about Maya.
    • Also applies to Mona who is played by Eurasian actress Janel Parrish.
    • Emily's father is Asian in the show.
    • Wren is the opposite. He was Asian in the books, but white in the show
  • Romantic Two-Girl Friendship: Emily and Alison had this.
  • Room Full of Crazy: With a touch of Stalker Shrine, A's room in the finale of the second season.
  • Save the Villain: The Liars have developed a habit of this:
    • First, Spencer tried to save Mona from falling off a cliff.
    • Second, Hanna pulled Jenna out of a fire, then helped Spencer save her after she was nearly drowned. Note that Jenna's villainy is still ambiguous, making these mostly perceived examples on the part of the characters.
    • Third, Aria attempted to rescue CeCe Drake from falling when the rope she was attempting to use to escape snapped. Though it later turned out that CeCe wasn't a villain.
  • Second Love: Emily and Paige after Maya dies.
  • Schoolgirl Lesbians: Emily fits this trope with more than a few girls. Emily and Maya, Emily and Alison, Emily and Paige, Emily and Samara.
  • Secret Relationship:
    • Emily and Paige have one of these in the first season.
    • Spencer and Toby are forced to pretend they aren't still dating in the second season.
    • Same goes for Aria and Ezra.
    • Ian and Alison.
  • Secret Identity: A is the identity of who is stalking the girls and Alison adopted an alias which was Vivian Darkbloom.
  • Series Continuity Error: In the pilot, Aria orders a cheeseburger despite being declared a vegan later in the first season.
  • Sexy Shirt Switch: Spencer is seen wearing Toby's shirts almost as often as he is. It's even lampshaded in one episode
  • Shout-Out
    • In "Touched by an A-ngel", Hanna says she "isn't in the mood to play Veronica Mars."
    • Hanna also remarks in an episode that she's "done playing Charlie's Angels" and calls Spencer Lucy Liu.
    • Lucas, the kid who falls for the popular girl who gets with the jock like in the 80s Corey Haim movie Lucas.
    • Dr. Anne Sullivan is one to The Miracle Worker
    • During one of Emily's flashbacks in the Remains of the A, there is a quick shot that resembles Edward Hopper's famous painting Nighthawks.
    • Several to Twin Peaks, including an FBI agent named Cooper and a video of Alison that closely resembles (in its content as well as its relevance to the plot) one of Laura Palmer (of whom Alison is arguably an expy).
  • Sex for Services: Hanna's mother engages in this to get her daughter out of shoplifting charges.
  • Signature Sound Effect: When the Liars' cell phones ring at the same time, 10 times out of 10, it's a text message from "A."
  • Sinister Silhouettes: Played with. A isn't actually shown in silhouette, but is made to look like it by wearing a black coat and black gloves anytime she appears.
  • Sinister Surveillance: A is pretty much always watching the girls as they have access to their phones, computers and seem to know what they are up to at any time.
  • Sixth Ranger Traitor: Mona pretends to get texts from "A" and bonds with the girls over it. It is later revealed that Mona is A
  • The Smart Guy: Spencer. Also, Caleb.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Toby Cavanaugh, Mona Vanderwaal, and Jenna Marshall. Although, Mona manages to outlive her book counterpart by two and a half seasons. She's Killed Off for Real in 5A's midseason finale.
  • Spin-Off: Once called ''Ravenswood was launched in October 2013.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Alison, In-Universe. Despite being dead, she's still constantly in the local news
  • Sunglasses at Night: Jenna has always been seen with her sunglasses on.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Trista and Samara share many similarities.
  • Take My Hand:
    • Spencer tries to save Mona this way in the Season 2 finale. She isn't able to, but Mona lives.
    • Aria tries to do the same with CeCe Drake in Now You See Me, Now You Don't, but fails. Again, CeCe lives.
  • Tall, Dark and Handsome: Noel Kahn, Ezra, Garrett, Toby, Caleb, Darren and Lucas in the books.
  • Teacher/Student Romance:
    • Aria and Ezra of course.
    • Plus Byron had one before the series with his student Meredith.
  • Teens Are Short: Aria, Jenna, Mona, and Maya
  • Teen Drama: Marketed like "Desperate Housewives for teens".
  • The Usurper: Spencer is going out for Academic Decathelon Captain after Bradley is mysteriously injured but little does she know she is running against the most unlikely candidate, Mona who wins by psyching Spencer out.
  • There Are No Therapists: Well there are therapists, they just tend to make things worse. Wren might actually be evil.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: A hilarious tumblr dedicated to lampshading the constant and never ending use of the word on the show.
  • Toplessness from the Back: Spencer indulges in the practice.
  • Treacherous Quest Giver: A gives the girls treacherous quests to cover-up their secrets.
  • Treachery Cover Up: Mona pretends to be crazy and pleads for the girls to forgive her for trying to kill Hanna.
  • Troubled, but Cute: Toby and Caleb.
  • True Companions: The Liars are like this. They'll do anything to protect each other. In "Now You See Me, Now You Don't", Emily also makes it clear that this attitude extends to Alison, despite how she's treated them in the past.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: None of Liars ever seem to wear the same outfit twice.
  • Welcome Back, Traitor: After helping A do her dirty work, Lucas spills to Hanna after she confronts him about it in his bedroom.
  • Wham Episode:
    • "Eye Of The Beholder" has Jenna Marshall end up in the hospital when someone lures her to the DiLaurentis house with a text message and then sets it on fire. Fortunately, Hanna and Spencer save her.
    • "If These Dolls Could Talk" tops it. It starts with Spencer getting visited by Alison (which may or may not have been a dream) and also features Aria's parents threatening to send her to boarding school before Ezra gets fired and has sex with Aria. Also Spencer, Emily, and Hanna are ready to turn in Melissa when police show up arrest Garrett because Jenna gave Toby page 5 of the autopsy. Oh, and Jenna can now see.
    • "Single Fright Female" reveals Ezra has a son and Paige is most likely part of the A team. Plus the end shows that there is more than one A
    • "The Lady Killer" reveals that Toby Cavanaugh is part of the A-team, while Paige was the person he and Mona intended to set up as Maya's murderer, who actually was unsurprisingly Nate
    • "A dAngerous gAme" Toby AND Ali are alive. Mona makes a Heel-Face Turn and Aria and Ezra break up. Lastly, someone tries to kill the girls and Mona before Ali pulls them from the fire.
    • "Now You See Me, Now You Don't" tops them all. Cece Drake is Red Coat, Alison is alive, and Ezra is the leader of the A-Team. Alison is also apparently trying to protect the Liars from the A-Team.
    • "Taking This One to the Grave": Mona uncovers evidence suggesting that Alison is now working as A, then she is murdered.
  • Wham Line:
    Mona: I've done everything you've asked me to.
    • From "Taking This One to the Grave":
    Mona Vanderwaal was murdered.
  • Wham Shot: "Now You See Me, Now You Don't" gives a pretty jarring one. The leader of the A-team, also known as "Board Shorts", the guy who had a secret fling with Alison the summer before she was killed? It's Ezra.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Spencer gets from both Jason and the Liars in "Dead to Me"
    • Emily lets Spencer have it in "Close Encounters" for snooping on her meeting with Alison and scaring the latter off. By the next episode, Emily still is not speaking to her. As Emily is easily the nicest and most forgiving of the Liars, this should be taken as a sign that Spencer has really messed up.
  • Vertigo Effect: When Emily discovers the bracelet made of teeth.
  • Your Cheating Heart:
    • Byron cheated on his wife with a university student named Meredith.
    • Ian kissed Melissa's younger sister Spencer and had a relationship with Alison.
    • Wren also cheated on Melissa with Spencer.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Toby tries to run Lucas over after he stops cooperating with Mona's threats
    • Mona is eventually ousted from The A Team, and becomes their new victim. To hammer this home, an attempt is made on her life in 4x02.

PopularTeen DramaPrivileged
Baby DaddyCreator/ABC FamilyRavenswood
PramfaceSeries of the 2010sPrimeval
The PretenderAmerican SeriesPrey

TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy