‘Pretty Little Liars: Summer School’ Review: TV’s Best Group of Final Girls Returns

Pretty Little Liars Summer School

There’s no doubt that television for young adults is dying. Just when it appears that there’s a new and fresh take on the teen genre, a cancellation is announced before the series is even given a chance to grow legs. Along with this, what we often do get is a show that is clearly written by adults who aren’t only out of touch, but don’t seem to care about making their characters authentic. Thankfully, Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin shocked audiences and critics in 2022, elevating the dying genre it finds itself in, and the series’ second season Summer School is no different. 

Beginning six months after the events of Original Sin, the first episode of the season feels like a mad dash to wrap up these events. But, once the dust has settled and Imogen (Bailee Madison), Tabby (Chandler Kinney), Faran (Zaria), Mouse (Malia Pyles), and Noa (Maia Reficco) finally feel safe, the drama–and scares–rap up again. Perhaps one of the scariest things the group is initially faced with is the idea of summer school. In trying to survive the series’ first season, the girls have let their grades slip and have failed all their exams. So, on top of summer jobs and kindling romances, each must spend their summer mornings attending make-up classes. 

The Slasher Influences on Pretty Little Liars: Summer School

That’s just the beginning of the Little Liars’ dreadful summer, as a new A—now called Bloody Rose—begins to haunt their every move. Donning a red bandaged disguise and stalking various teens of Milwood, it’s impossible to ignore that Bloody Rose is a spin on various slasher villains. Their appearance, and subsequent kills, feel like a love letter to classic horror films like Night School (1981) and I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997). By laying its inspirations bare, this second season honors the horror genre while allowing itself to stand tall amongst the gaggle of teen television series. 

While the girls come to grips with the fact that a new stalker has emerged, they’re also still reconciling with their trauma from the previous year. It’s a slow journey, but by the series’ third episode, they—some more reluctantly than others—begin to embrace the idea that they may be the final girls of their own stories. It makes for some of the most interesting arcs in teen television, but it’s undoubtedly Farran, who was slightly underused in Original Sin, who becomes the show’s hero. Zaria plays her perfectly, hitting emotional beats in a way that many young actresses her age attempt to. She’s the fierce glue that is holding the group together, and as her story unravels she continues to light up the screen. 

Where The Series Succeeds

Summer School, while a fun campy ride, is ultimately about taking the reins of your life into your own hands. Each of the girls struggles with finding a place in the world after their lives are upended. While some deal with it by hunting for their new foe via online forums like Spooky Spaghetti (the show’s own version of Reddit/Creepypasta) others want to forget, but not forgive the people who destroyed their lives. It makes for an intriguing watch that allows each cast member to show off their strengths and makes their characters stand out amongst their differences. 

The main success of the show hinges not only on each singular character but how they work together with one another. They all not only feel like real teenagers but also ones who truly care about each other. All the girls have great chemistry, and it feels like they love each other on screen and off. It feels different from its predecessor for this reason, with these Little Liars truly feeling like a united group. Their care for each other may lead to the end of them, but in the meantime, viewers can bask in the glory of some of the strongest female bonds to grace the small screen in a long time. 

Where The Series Stumbles

Despite the great character arcs and the heightened horror elements, the pacing of the series has run into a problem that many shows in the streaming era have. Shortened seasons caused by streaming trends unfortunately hinder the show’s pacing, which in turn obstructs the series overall. The original Pretty Little Liars aired from 2010 to 2017, which allowed each season to sprawl a whopping 20 to 25 episodes. It’s a shame that this is the status quo for not only Summer School, but young adult television in general. With shortened episodes, shows like this aren’t able to fully get off their feet. What unfortunately happens here is an overstuffed second season that you can’t help but wish was allowed to unfold how shows from the 2010s did. 

If this were the case, Pretty Little Liars: Summer School would be a near-perfect series. But, because of its eight-episode run (five of which were screened for review), the show’s narratives and characters suffer under the stifling weight of its episodic unfolding. Despite this, the show remains one of the best teen television shows out there. From its ode to the slasher genre to the chemistry between the main group, the second season of this spinoff is even better than the first. In a perfect world, Summer School would be allowed to blossom with a 20-episode run, and in turn, be able to reach its full potential. In the meantime, each neon-soaked chase scene will delight horror fans, and if the show is to be renewed for a third season, there’s no doubt that it will continue to do justice to the films it’s inspired by.

Pretty Little Liars: Summer School is streaming now on Max with a new episode airing every Thursday.



From its ode to the slasher genre to the chemistry between the main group, the second season of this spinoff is even better than the first.



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