The 'Pretty Little Liars' series finale tackled fertility and it was the realest the show ever got
There is no denying that Pretty Little Liars had some absolutely ridiculous storylines in its seven-year run, but things got surprisingly real in the series finale Tuesday night.
"I can't marry Ezra," one of the series' leads, Aria, says to her friends during the first half of the two-hour episode.
Aria and Ezra — portrayed by Lucy Hale and Ian Harding, respectively — have been an item since the pilot episode of the series. Angry parents, crazy stalkers and secret books couldn't tear apart this couple, who began their romance with a forbidden student-teacher relationship. The series finale jumps ahead a year to find the couple, nicknamed Ezria by their fanbase, preparing to walk down the aisle. Yet, there was Aria, on the night before her rehearsal dinner, sobbing that she couldn't go through with the wedding. Why? She found out that she would never be able to have children, something she had yet to discuss with her husband-to-be.
From there, the episode moves over to Hanna and Caleb, another longterm couple (played by Ashley Benson and Tyler Blackburn, respectively) who appear to be struggling a year into their own marriage. The problem on the surface seems to be with the fact that Hanna's invited her old friend Mona to live with them after she's released from Welby State Psychiatric Hospital. But there's an underlying issue eating at the couple — they're stressed out from trying to get pregnant themselves.
It's a shock to see these two power couples in such vulnerable and realistic situations, especially considering the whole show was originally based around a high school student who was buried alive by her mother in an attempt to protect the mom's adopted transgender niece. In fact, the series has been so out there from a plot perspective that even when the show's creative team took on the very real problem of bullying it never seemed all that realistic. The Liars' tormentor, Spencer's British "evil twin," created an electronic board game that had the power to stab a player or spray them with poisonous gas — that actually happened on this show.
And how can we forget about Emily donating her eggs, having them stolen by the evil twin, and then Alison being drugged and secretly implanted with them? This show has never shied away from absurd, only-on-TV storylines. That's why it's so surprising and refreshing that the topic of fertility comes up in the finale. Pretty Little Liars, which started with its main characters in high school, proved that it could grow and mature (at least in parts) with its fanbase.
If a story about a woman struggling to get pregnant is written into a movie or TV show, it's too easy for that woman to be portrayed as either obsessed with taking someone else's baby or tormented by their surrogate, who may or may not be trying to steal their husband from them. What about the real-life emotional struggles of getting pregnant? Pretty Little Liars obviously is not the first show to treat this touchy storyline in an effective way, but it's important that the writers found a way to work it into the finale and drop the campy plot twists for a moment.
For Aria, her last struggle on the show is coming to terms with the fact that she'll never be able to have children. It's revealed in the finale that over the course of the one-year time jump she had a pregnancy scare. The couple never previously talked about having children, but like other couples, it's just assumed that that would be the next step they'd take. Aria not only found out that she wasn't pregnant, but that she was infertile. When Ezra finds out the news before the rehearsal dinner, he's initially supportive, promising that they can adopt, use a surrogate or go to fertility clinics. But his attitude changes when he discovers the next day that she's been holding onto this secret for weeks. She went for a second opinion, third opinion and beyond — all alone. She endured the whole process of testing by herself out of fear that she'd disappoint her future husband and that he'd leave her before their wedding. He says that they should have endured it together, but for Aria, the burden was hers to bear. She was the "failure." She was the one letting everyone down. She was the one unable to carry their children, not him.
Meanwhile, Hanna and Caleb's situation is another reality that many couples face — when you're able to get pregnant, but it isn't happening right away. Coming to the decision that you're ready to start a family is an exciting one. You're ready to jump in bed and pee on a stick the next day. So when a pregnancy doesn't immediately occur, it turns into an elaborate game of tracking your menstrual cycle on an app — or two — to find out when you're ovulating. Then when you do have sex — on specific days only — you're chanting weird fertility rituals that worked for your ancestors and doing handstands to get things moving to the right place. It takes the fun out of the whole experience and can lead to doubts that you're even ready to take this next step with your partner.
That's where Pretty Little Liars fans saw Hanna and Caleb. While Hanna's focused on her ovulation app and holding her legs in the air, Caleb's getting upset about their lack of communication. Their argument of course turns to the issue of having Mona stay with them, a move that Hanna never discussed with him. It prompts Caleb to ask if she's prepared to have a baby with him.
And Hanna's response is priceless:
What really tied the episode up nicely was Hanna announcing in the final moments that she and Caleb are expecting their first child together. It's established that all of her friends are happy for her, but there's also a nod to make sure Aria's taking the news well: Is she able to handle another one of her friends getting pregnant? Despite the emotional subject, Aria does seem OK with it. The series is over, so we won't be able to follow what's next for Aria, but she and Ezra appear to be on the right path.
The series ends with the couple going through with their wedding — after the gang rescues Ezra from evil British Spencer — and promising to start looking into adoption after they return from their honeymoon. They'll never be able to experience pregnancy for themselves as a couple, but they're accepting the hand they've been dealt and aren't letting it ruin their dream of starting a family.
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