The Pretty Little Liars spinoff doesn't pick up right where the original left off. But there are a lot of references to Mona and Alison's past lives that make it a little unclear exactly when PLL: The Perfectionists takes place. But there are clues we can use to guess how much time has passed since we last saw the girls in Rosewood.
Let's do some teen drama math — if Pretty Little Liars was happening in the present day in a fictional city at the time it was on air, and considering the time jump in its last seasons, that means Pretty Little Liars was happening a few years in the future at its end.
According to The Perfectionists showrunner I. Marlene King, The Perfectionists takes place a few years after Pretty Little Liars. "I think it's almost a real-time time jump," she told Entertainment Tonight. "From the time that we ended PLL [in 2017]... to the time this show will premiere, it's sort of real-time."
It's been enough time for Alison and Emily to split up; for Aria to get pregnant; for Hanna to have a baby; for Spencer and Toby to run away together. That means that The Perfectionists is in our present day or in the near, near future. Maybe about two years ahead? The technology is about the same, so that's really how you tell.
Even though it's only been about a year since the end of Pretty Little Liars, according to King, it's been long enough to Alison and Emily's relationship to absolutely explode. As of right now in Season 1, these two are not doing so well. They have two daughters together, but they're living on separate coasts. It does not seem like a temporary arrangement. Alison and Emily love each other, but is it enough? Transition is always tough. "I think partly maybe why they're having some troubles is that their life is totally different... There is no trouble, except for the fact that they have to piece their lives back together and process everything that's happened to them for so long," Sasha Pieterse, who plays Alison told Seventeen. "There's nothing to run from anymore and they're faced with [figuring out] who they are as people and how to raise kids in that."
Alison has a lot to figure out with her relationship, but she also is dealing with a lot in Beacon Heights. Murders, coverups, secrets — it seems like a day in Rosewood, doesn't it? When the students at Beacon Heights University are panicking about being watching by a secret, evil lurker, Alison is all, "Yeah, been there, done that." Alison is unfazed, and she's no longer a mean girl, making her really fun to watch. As Pieterse told Entertainment Tonight, "That’s kind of what’s charming about her now. She has a lot of wisdom. There’s humor that comes with that, but it’s way more than that. It’s deeper."
A grownup Alison is never where most thought they'd see this franchise go, but fans are into it — no matter when it's all happening.