PLL: The Perfectionists has something for everyone, whether you've seen the original series or not. While The Perfectionists connects to Pretty Little Liars, it also works as a standalone spinoff, according to showrunner I. Marlene King. She told Entertainment Tonight that you don't have to watch PLL to enjoy The Perfectionists — but if you have seen PLL, you'll catch some fun easter eggs and references. "The challenge for me was coming up with a story that paid homage to PLL, that really honored the brand, but yet felt really new," King told the outlet. "[It’s] a brand-new show with brand-new stories and I think we did a pretty good job of pulling that off."
But there is one major way that The Perfectionists connects to PLL, and that's through Mona and Ali, who were both on the original series. With them, they bring their complicated PLL backstories, which makes sense since the crossover was created specifically to expand the PLL universe. In The Perfectionists books, written by PLL author Sara Shepard, all the characters are brand new and it's a different world than PLL. But as Bustle previously reported, Mona and Ali were added to the TV adaptation in place of original characters Julie and Parker to bring the two TV worlds together.
The spinoff picks up in present time, which necessitated a bit of a time jump since it's been almost two years since Pretty Little Liars ended. Sasha Pieterse, who plays Ali, promised Entertainment Tonight that "it picks up from PLL kind of seamlessly." According to the trailer, The Perfectionists sees Ali still teaching like she was on PLL, only now she's upgraded to university teaching in a brand new town. Mona is also back from her stint working at a doll store in Paris, and she's as mysterious as ever.
However, the passage of time gave both characters the chance to grow up a bit, something both actors say will be explored on the spinoff.
"Mona, she’s got a lot of sides, and keeps a lot of secrets," Janel Parrish told Bustle at a set visit last year. "This time it’s different, I think a lot of times on PLL she was the antagonist and here’s she’s kind of one of the heroes ... so I tried to make her more human and kind of show what makes Mona tick, what makes her vulnerable."
Pieterse agrees that there's been a similar growth for her own character, Ali. "She’s definitely grown up and definitely progressed in a lot of ways and sees things a lot clearer than she used to and I think having kids is probably a big part of that," the actor says.
Besides the time jump and general character growth, there is one other way that The Perfectionists stands out from its parent series. Parrish says, "It’s a lot darker than PLL. It’s a little more realistic, so the stakes are that much higher." Remember, PLL began when the network was still ABC Family, but The Perfectionists is on Freeform from the jump which allows its content to be a little more adult from the get go. That's in line with this new grown up cast of characters at college, and it means that Parrish's promise of an even darker series is likely to hold up.
So, while it has the same great PLL murder mystery drama and two anchoring original characters, the mostly new cast and darker themes will set this spinoff apart and let it stand on its own two feet.
Original reporting by Karen Fratti.