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Creating an Equal Triangle: Pretty Little Liars’ Most Important Homecoming

Any fan of Pretty Little Liars knows that no one can ever actually leave Rosewood for good. Spencer said it herself, “This town has its own particular gravity.” Season seven of Pretty Little Liars was deemed “a season of homecomings” before it even started. From Jenna to Wren, the PLL team is getting everyone they can to come back. Perhaps one of the most welcome returns (at least for ‘Paily’ shippers) was that of Paige McCullers, played by Lindsey Shaw. And after the 7A finale, showrunner I. Marlene King revealed that Paige isn’t going anywhere in 7B.

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For the ‘Paily’ and “Emison’ fandoms, this means war. But, for television as a whole, this is a big step. Why? Think of your favorite love triangle. There was Rory, Dean, and Jess. There was Fitz, Olivia, and Jake. On this season of PLL, we even saw the surprising Hanna, Caleb, and Spencer triangle. They were all excellent and emotionally draining. But now we have a great love triangle, and for once, it’s entirely female.

Coming out of season six, fans were extremely upset over Emily’s love life, saying that her brief relationship with Sara Harvey was too forced. They worried the show was actually “de-gaying” itself.

After 7A, the tables have turned. It’s no secret that Emily had the most luck in the love department this year. She first hit it off with Sabrina, but when Paige and Alison both returned to Emily’s life as single ladies, poor Sabrina really didn’t stand a chance. Now, in the final ten episodes of the series, Emily will have a choice to make.

A triangle like this is long overdue for modern television. While LGBT representation has indeed increased, it hasn’t been given justice – just ask the ‘Clexa’ shippers over in The 100 fandom.

With this Emily-Paige-Ali triangle, we’re seeing a lesbian relationship get the same attention and conflict as a relationship like Aria and Ezra, or Hanna and Caleb. Having this triangle play out on screen – putting the drama on full display, instead of having it as a background story – finally portrays an LGBT relationship just like any other relationship.

More than that, this triangle is believable. Admittedly, the emotional weight of Emily and Sara Harvey’s relationship was a bit sudden. I couldn’t fully root for it. But both Ali and Paige have been incredibly important to Emily since the beginning. The Paily and Emison camps have been going strong for years. There are real emotional connections for both the characters and the fans.

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King is well aware of how devoted Paily and Emison shippers have been, and knew that ignoring that romantic conflict would be counterproductive. In confirming that Paige would be sticking around for 7B, King said, “Having that triangle play out felt very appropriate for us as storytellers as we embark upon these final ten episodes.”

Who will Emily choose in the end? Right now, it’s anyone’s guess. Are we ready for the emotions we’ll likely experience? Probably not. We know that Sara Shepard, who wrote the PLL book series, is a serious Emison shipper. But Lindsey Shaw has hinted that there might be a future for Paily.

No matter who wins Emily’s heart, PLL is doing some real good in putting this love triangle out there. Now we just have to keep our fingers crossed she’s not working for Uber A.

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  1. For sure it would be great if there was an organic lesbian love triangle that felt real and emotionally resonant on TV but I have to disagree and say this isn’t it.

    The other relationships you reference have real resonance because they have all involved actual time spent together. Emily and Alison have never even dated. Paige has been out of the picture for three years and appears to have been brought back just to force Alison into action. Something she’s had five years to do but hey, who’s counting?

    To say this development is good storytelling is to suggest lesbian audiences should be grateful for scraps. Everything about it feels forced and I’m not falling for it.

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