10:00 am EDT, April 29, 2019

Is ‘The Perfectionists’ new-viewer friendly?

'Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists' is definitely aimed toward returning fans.

The Pretty Little Liars spin-off series, The Perfectionists, has always been spoken about as a series friendly for new-viewers, yet filled with Easter eggs for returning fans… is this the truth?

Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists season 1 has successfully created a new, compelling mystery for both new and returning fans alike, but many have expressed criticism for Freeform’s “The Perfectionists new-viewer friendly” claims, the subject of which is both a blessing and a curse.

Noticeable effort to explain the background for new-viewers

Over the course of these six episodes, I have noticed a considerable effort on the writers’ behalf to get new fans up to speed on Alison and Mona’s lives and what they were doing on Pretty Little Liars before Beacon Heights

The Perfectionists season 1 episode 6 / The Perfectionists new viewer friendly

Obviously, it’s not entirely possible to catch up a fan on seven seasons’ worth of material within six 40-minute episodes, particularly when there are 3-4 other new characters getting the same amount of focus. Even if The Perfectionists ran for seven seasons itself, with the same episode count as Pretty Little Liars, there would be too many stories and personalities of Alison and Mona to catch new characters up on.

However, the basics have been laid out; Mona has a not-so-pure past with two criminals on the run that may inevitably come looking for her. Mona and Alison are both from Rosewood, Pennsylvania, and they’ve been through a lot of shit in their lives. Alison has a relationship with a woman named Emily, which is on the rocks. She was a mean girl in high school and wants to use her past and her education to help others be better than she was.

Their personalities now are a great starting point for a new series, which wouldn’t have been the case if this was only aimed at returning fans. Alison and Mona are acting almost nothing like they did in the series finale (or entire flash-forward, for that matter), and they’ve become much stronger characters already than they were in the final season.

A spin-off connected to the original can never truly be new-viewer friendly

Honestly, as much as a network or writers claim that a spin-off will be friendly for new and returning fans, it’s kind of impossible to do. One set of fans always wins, and in this case, it’s Pretty Little Liars fans that are winning the battle.

As a returning fan myself, I appreciate all of the references to Mona and Alison’s past, the few conversations/interactions they have had about or with (off-screen) existing characters, like Mona’s phone call with Hanna at the end of The Perfectionists season 1 episode 2. I enjoy the subtle nods to their past, which cause the new characters to turn their heads in shock and confusion, as we see in the trailer for The Perfectionists season 1 episode 7 with mention of Charlotte’s dollhouse.

Of course, as Ava says in the trailer above, new fans are also going to be searching for Alison and Mona on Google to figure out what their nods are in reference to. A respectful spin-off that carries over characters/stories from the original has to bring these stories in with a sense of familiarity from the start. It’s not like, for instance, Ava’s father and how we are just learning about what happened to him.

Mona’s past in France with Alex and Mary cannot restart; it happened, returning fans already saw that story begin, and flashbacks cannot possibly catch someone new to the universe up on what happened, otherwise they would have to show flashbacks of the entire season of Pretty Little Liars to explain Mary and Alex and Mona’s lair.

When creating a spin-off, there are two primary choices: Aim to please existing fans while embracing new fans, or completely start fresh and limit or exclude references from the original series.

The Perfectionists 1x05 / The Perfectionists new viewer friendly

Obviously, it’s clear the goal for The Perfectionists is to please existing fans, so appearances by the existing characters aren’t completely off of the table. With that said, as much as Freeform and the writers may want to try to make the series exceedingly friendly to new-viewers (to bring in a new generation of fans), this spin-off should not be marketed as such.

This is clearly a gift to the existing fans who were heartbroken when the original series ended and their favorite characters’ stories came to an end. And while the goal may be to introduce new fans to the universe, the series thus far has catered to existing fans, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The Perfectionists is watchable to new-viewers, but it will certainly leave them with too many questions to just Google and get a quick answer, so it’s encouraging them to go watch Pretty Little Liars and catch up. (Hopefully the show will be on Netflix for years to come, as it’s a very convenient place for new-viewers to watch the series’ seven seasons.)

What do you think? Is The Perfectionists new-viewer friendly, or is it just watchable? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Freeform!

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