Another tormenter has been crossed off the Pretty Little Liars' list, but was she A? The girls certainly think so.
Season 5 of the addictive ABC Family drama picked up immediately after the finale's shooting, with Ezra (Ian Harding) being rushed to the hospital. Aria (Lucy Hale), Spencer (Troian Bellisario), Hanna (Ashley Benson), Emily (Shay Mitchell) and Alison (Sasha Pieterse) took action to lure out A and it worked. As a gun-wielding Shana (Aeriel Miranda) showed up to the Fitzgerald Family's Broadway theater revealing that she was responsible for the cabin fire, among other things, and trying to prove her love to Jenna (Tammin Sursok), Aria showed up in time to save the foursome by bludgeoning her.
But with Season 5 just underway — and two more at least to come — A's drama is far from over. So who's waiting in the wings to take over? We dialed up executive producer Marlene King for some answers to the premiere's burning questions.
Congratulations on getting two more seasons! Will Season 7 be the show's last or is that still to be decided?
Marlene King: Ultimately, it's a collaborative decision between us as creators and the studio and the network, but the end is in sight and we're talking about what that is.
Have you always had seven seasons in your plan?
King: In the very beginning, it was a five-year plan. When I first pitched the show for ABC Family, it was a five-season arc and then really [after the] Season 3B premiere was so strong, I got a call, saying, "Can you please start thinking now what it would look like if you did seven seasons?" And so we really starting planning midway through Season 3, understanding we'd have two more seasons to play in Rosewood.
You also just mentioned you're skipping the college years. Was that always your intention and when will that be?
King: I know the [four actresses] are desperate to graduate and at least move on with their lives on an emotional level. So it's in part collaboration with them. I don't want to say [when] it's going to be. I'm excited for the fans to see what happens, but it will be a very organic part of how we're playing the story out.
On the premiere, Shana appeared to be A. But is she?
King: Shana is dead and the girls have every reason to return to Rosewood and explore the feelings they talked about in the [premiere] like, "Can you imagine a life without A? Have you ever had a hobby? What would a carefree senior year look like?" They come back and there is no A to torture them ... but it's a life with Alison back, so they've got that A to deal with now.
In the promos, it appears maybe Alison hasn't changed after all.
King: There's a lot [about that] coming up. Toby [Keegan Allen] says to Spencer, "If someone is really toxic, are you allowed to close the door on them?" And that's the question they'll explore. It's not an easy answer; it's so gray. She seems to have changed, but trouble clings to this girl like a magnet, and being surrounded by her is constantly putting these girls in a place of panic.
Aria killed Shana. How will she deal with that?
King: It's definitely going to haunt her. It's a huge thing and we don't take it lightly as storytellers and she doesn't take it lightly as a compassionate human being. Whether it was self-defense or not, she took a life and it's definitely a huge part of her story line this summer.
How will Emily's past with Alison complicate things for her now that she's back?
King: Emily has to go through her own exploration and journey and it really is about her trying to come to terms with: Was Alison my first love or just infatuation? Was it manipulation on her part? And where does Paige (Lindsey Shaw) fit into all this?
Let's talk about Mona (Janel Parish). How will her new band of people fit into the season?
King: Mona is building an army and her intention, at least from what we understood last night, was to bring these people together because now they have one common enemy: Alison DiLaurentis. What Mona does with her army will play out this summer.
Will we see Ezra get out of the hospital this season?
King: You will, [but] there's a scar, there's a bandage and there is pain.
Finally, this is a milestone season — you'll reach 100 episodes. What are you most excited about?
King: Last night's episode was really more of a finale than a premiere and a great way of saying that's what this season is. We did know coming into the season this wouldn't be our last, but wanted to assure fans we're not slowing things down. We're speeding up and this isn't a ride you want to miss.
Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on ABC Family.
Relive A's craziest moments below: