PLL: Summer School: Ranking the Pretty Little Liars from boring to badass

Which of the five Pretty Little Liars (and their honorary frenemy) is the best in Summer School? Here's how each one measures up based on intrigue and strength.
Pretty Little Liars: Summer School on Max
Pretty Little Liars: Summer School on Max /

It took two years for Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin to release its sophomore season, Summer School. The new season continues on from the the idea that the Liars and their mothers have irrevocably damaged the Waters family. But it also attempts to explore how teenage girls would really react to living through a massacre.

Although this season has had its weak episodes, it has provided the opportunity for fans to get to know the main characters a little better. Any show with five main characters is going to struggle to give them all engaging plots, especially with the shortened seasons that are now standard for streaming series.

Now that there has been around eighteen hours of content revolving around the Millwood Liars, it's time to see how the girls rank. Which ones are iconic badasses, and which just didn't shine in Pretty Little Liars: Summer School?

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During Original Sin, Noa had one of the more interesting plot dynamics. She had gone to juvie and was at the mercy of Sheriff Beasley through no fault of her own, which was an interesting place for the character to start. Having to inform on her mother to save her own life was one of the first season's best scenes.

Unfortunately, Noa's character has lost a lot of her appeal in Summer School. The most obvious example of this is that her love triangle was so widely disliked. The cheating angle was dragged on for too long to stay interesting, and many fans dislike who she chose at the end of it.

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However, that alone is not what takes her to the bottom of this list. It's less who she chose, and more that her romantic drama was her only significant plotline this season. While the others worked on ways to stop Bloody Rose, Noa was worried about how to break up with Shawn. It felt incredibly shallow, and she rarely got more depth than that.

Noa is at her best when she's trying to negotiate her role in other people's crimes. Who is she willing to sacrifice herself for, and when is she willing to cross lines herself to protect those she loves? While that could have been a part of her love triangle, it wasn't. Instead, her time onscreen was often the least interesting this season.

Noa's character is absolutely salvageable, but it just wasn't good enough this season to deserve any higher place among the other Liars. Ultimately, her storyline in Summer School was boring and felt like it would have fit better in the original Pretty Little Liars than in its new iteration.

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Mouse is a great character, but how much can you honestly say you learned about her this season without using the phrase "SpookySpaghetti?" Last season, she had one of the most complicated backstories of all the Liars, given the way her 'attempted kidnapping' influenced her life.

This season, Mouse has become more of a plot device than a character. She primarily functions as a way for the writers to communicate new information to the audience and other characters, particularly by having Mouse explore SpookySpaghetti. Whenever a new development arises, Mouse finds it and tells the others.

Beyond providing information, Mouse has had little direction. Ash and the other Liars are concerned for her, given her online obsession, but that rarely goes anywhere. Yes, the name is getting incredibly annoying to hear, but it's not paranoid to keep an eye on a website with legitimate information about people looking to hurt you and your friends.

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Mouse had two engaging angles in the first season. First, she was the nice girl, the one who was more hesitant to take extreme measures. Second, she was grappling with her role in her mother's lies about her parentage. Both of these plots seemed to disappear this season, because the Liars are consistently reactive, rather than proactive, and because her mothers have been gone the whole time.

There are still plenty of interesting directions to take the character, but PLL: Summer School wasn't concerned with pursuing them. Mouse isn't unlikable, but she also isn't as likable as she was before. She's just kind of there, which is an unfortunate place to be at the end of two full seasons.

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Kelly Beasley is an honorary Liar, frequently just outside the orbit of the five main girls. This gives her the opportunity to have unique story arcs, as her awareness of events is often very different from theirs. She is not the target of the killers, but she does get caught up in their plots all the same.

Because of this, she is essentially the PLL reboot's version of Mona Vanderwaal. As a friend of two of the characters, she is on the outskirts of the drama, with the opportunity to help or hurt if she chooses to get involved. She's a bit conniving, which makes her easy to hate. But that moral grey area also makes her more interesting than some of the others.

In season one, the biggest question about her character had nothing to do with her actual personality. Was she truly Kelly Beasley, or was she Karen? While that's an easy question to ask, especially given the franchise's history with secret twin swaps, it made it hard to know who Kelly actually was.

Pretty Little Liars: Summer School. Cr: WBTV /

The newest season has helped with that. On the one hand, most people pretty much accept that Kelly is Kelly at this point. But more than that, audiences get to learn who she is and how she handles the death of her sister and father. Kelly is not a good person. She came up with the plan to Carrie Imogen, and she weaponized the Liars' struggles against them to process her pain.

However, she's not necessarily a bad person, either. It's going to be incredibly hard for her to recover from her actions (especially if she's really dead), but that's exactly what makes her so engaging. Like her or hate her, she's had an interesting plot arc, which earns her a middle spot on this ranking.

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Imogen began the series as the de facto main character, since the worst of events happened to her. She's the one who lost her mother, who was pregnant with her abuser's child, and who was personally targeted by the season's killer. But being in such a central role means that Imogen is under a lot of scrutiny moving forward.

Throughout season one, she was the most active character. Imogen took on the role of investigator, digging into what happened to Angela Waters more than any of the others because of its possible connection to her mother's death. Even when she took crueler actions (like releasing the video of Karen), it was possible to sympathize with her.

In Pretty Little Liars: Summer School, it's been harder to understand where she's coming from. Although she is clearly still navigating her trauma from the previous year, she seems most invested in moving forward. Imogen just wants to have a fun summer with Johnny and her friends. There's nothing wrong with that, but it can be disappointing compared to how invested she was in season one's mysteries.

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She's still a good character, and even one of the more complex ones. Her paranoia manifests itself in nightmares and traumatic hallucinations, which feel realistic for someone who has been through as much as she has. However, she is very inconsistent. Imogen can be perfectly happy one minute and then trying to cut off her dad's fiancee's finger the next.

Looking over the last season, Imogen has been a strong lead character with a lot of growth still to come. Although she is not my favorite character, she's far from the worst, and I'm eager to see how she develops if the show is renewed for season 3.

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Tabby was created to be a horror fan's favorite character, and she's done a stellar job at that across both seasons. She is very similar to Randy Meeks and Mindy Meeks-Martin in the Scream franchise, laying out the rules and navigating the terrifying situations accordingly.

However, what makes her such a compelling character is her need for justice. After being assaulted in the first season, she actively seeks out information about who hurt her and stands up for others in similar situations. While pursuing this mission, she displays both bravery and compassion.

In the second season, Tabby has had a slightly messier plot line, because she often shares plot points with the other characters. Like Imogen, she has a new job-based love interest, who she has to navigate trust with. Like Faran, she has to fight for recognition in her career, despite the racism and sexism of her boss.

Pretty Little Liars: Summer School on Max, episode 5 /

Despite that, it never feels like the writers lose track of who her character is. She has consistent interests and personality traits through both seasons, and they are generally enjoyable characteristics. While she has some of Imogen's recklessness, Tabby usually makes smart decisions that keep the plot moving forward.

As the last member of the group to face a Final Girl Test, it seems like Tabby is being set up as the "final Final Girl" more than ever. This is especially true with the introduction of an in-universe horror movie theme if a third season happens. She is moving into the leading role, and I couldn't be happier to see her take it.

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Without a doubt, Faran has been the most active of the Liars across both seasons, willing to start fights because she knows she'll be able to finish them. In a season that frequently kept the characters in defense mode, it's been great to watch Faran fight for control.

Faran was one of the weaker characters in the beginning of Original Sin, because she didn't have as critical of stakes as the other characters. Her part in the ballet performance was less important than Imogen and Tabby's assaults or Mouse's abduction. But though she was less targeted, she was eager to join the fight.

Chronic pain is a serious part of many women's lives, but it didn't translate onscreen as obviously as some of the other characters' struggles. But her relationship with Kelly, who she simultaneously was suspicious of and sympathetic toward, shined. Both were harmed by their parents' exacting standards, and both were learning to claim their own lives.

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Of all the characters, Faran has probably grown the most in season 2. Her arc with her mother was resolved, so it made sense to see her moving forward. Choosing exercise over dance and eventually the other Liars over her insecurities were both exciting arcs to see play out as they made sense for her character's development.

Although Faran might be a little too reckless at times (like in her eagerness to face Bloody Rose alone), she is undoubtedly a badass. She is ready to defend her friends with words and actions, and she feels like a serious threat to any killer foolish enough to attack them. For Summer School, at least, Faran is the definitive Pretty Little Liars MVP.

The full season of Pretty Little Liars: Summer School is now streaming on Max.

Next. Pretty Little Liars: Summer School: Ranking the love interests from killer vibes to endgame. Pretty Little Liars: Summer School: Ranking the love interests from killer vibes to endgame. dark