‘PLL: Summer School’ Bosses & Chandler Kinney Break Down Tabby’s Final Girl Run. Also: Who’s the Next Killer?

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[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Pretty Little Liars: Summer School’s Season 2 finale, “Final Exam.”]

Max’s Pretty Little Liars reboot just closed the book on Season 2, and Chapter 18 left us with a lesson in not messin’ with Chandler Kinney‘s Tabby. And how to do horror sequels right.

After seven episodes of being stalked by Bloody Rose Waters—the gruesomely masked woman revealed to be the mother of Tabby and Imogen’s (Bailee Madison) murdered rapist, Chip Langsberry—the story took a major twist in the season finale as we learned that Tabby’s former movie-theater boss Wes (Derek Klena) was also in on the bloodbath: He was filming it all for his “untitled Millwood Massacre” feature and had riled up Spooky Spaghetti users online to lead “a reckoning” with the Liars. (Think January 6, but for cinema-incels.)

This all led to a showdown between Tabby, Wes, and Bloody Rose’s acolytes that was straight-up horror-movie madness. Fittingly, it was also a perfect way to clarify the connection between this season’s killings and the show’s original antagonist, Rose’s other son, Archie. There was a candlelit church-set confession, a jump through a stained glass window, a chase through the woods where Tabby kicked eight layers of masked-moron butt, even a rundown ramshackle hideaway that gave Tab shades of Jason’s cabin from Friday the 13th Part 2, complete with a nod to the film’s score.

Speaking of that underrated sequel, Wes even met his eventual demise at the end of a very Voorhees-esque pitchfork, courtesy of a Tabby hellbent on stopping A) a killer who planned to B) use a Black woman’s trauma for his whitewashed shade of storytelling. It was a delicious death.

Chandler Kinney in PLL Summer School

Max

“Season 1 was Imogen as the ultimate Final Girl, and we focused on the death of her mother and solving that mystery,” explains Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who co-created the reboot with Lindsay Calhoon Bring. So when they approached Season 2, it became clear “that Tabby would be sort of the secret, ultimate final Final Girl” this time around.

“Knowing that we were heading towards a reveal of this all being a movie and that Tabby is our resident amazing black female filmmaker, it felt like everything was going in that direction,” echoes Calhoon Bring. This way, Aquirre-Sacasa adds, “We could be in dialogue with horror-noir tropes that we talk a lot about in [the show] and that really informed kind of the reveal of Wes as the villain and his crazy philosophy about filmmaking. And also, Chandler is such an incredible actor… She was so ready for that last episode and she was so dialed in. It was a brutal shoot, as you can imagine. And she was so there and ready for it. It was incredible.”

Max

What nobody was ready for was the actors’ strike last May, which meant filming part of Summer School well after the leaves had changed. “We were originally set to shoot this during summer, which would’ve still been hard and taken a toll, but Chandler’s out in the middle of the woods, in the freezing cold in the snow playing summer,” says Calhoon Bring. “She’s fighting people, she’s running from people and she’s giving a tour-de-force emotional performance in the church over and over and over again. And she just showed up, so ready, so prepared, so excited to tell Tabby’s story in this way. And we couldn’t be more thankful for her. And we just thought she absolutely killed it.”

Max

Kinney’s investment shows. Not just in the physicality of the performance, but also in her character’s determination not to be silenced once again. “I think this whole story for Tabby has been one of reclaiming her power and her voice,” agrees the actress. “It was already so incredibly hard to face her assaulter and then try to be what she feels is ‘a normal girl’ after going through something as traumatic as that. Now she’s once again being silenced, her story’s being erased and she just continues to be undermined and belittled and diminished by her boss and those around her. So she’s actually kind of in a constant state of fight throughout this season, fighting for her voice and her story and her truth. This [showdown] is the amalgamation of all of those moments and that whole journey for her. And you see that she’s willing to die for her truth.”

Max

If you’ve seen the finale, you know that Tabby lives to fight another day, as do her fellow Liars, who have had their own share of scary-movie heavy lifting to handle this season, thanks to Rose’s Saw-like “trials.” And there have also been some far more personal developments. Adorable Mouse (Malia Pyles) is firmly rooted in our favorite ‘ship with Ash (Jordan Gonzalez), a stronger-than-ever Imogen has figured out how to move on after giving up the baby that resulted from Chip’s rape and laid down the law with Dr. Sullivan (R.I.P.), Faran ([Zaria) has left dancing behind to unleash her inner boss-bitch at the Millwood Swim Club and served us a friends-t0-lovers treat with Greg (Elias Kacavas), and Noa (Maia Reficco) is now living her own (possibly fluid?) best life now that she has reunited with juvie gal-pal Jen. And while we think Noa can do better than that one, there is nothing better than the idea of frenemy-turned-ally Kelly Beasley (Mallory Bechtel) becoming one of the gang.

“She is our honorary Liar, and she’s a great Liar,” agrees Kinney. “Mallory is insanely talented and also I’m kind of like a fan of the idea of [her dead sister] Karen coming back in some capacity in the future. I mean, come on. We love an evil twin, so we’ll see. But yeah, she’s pretty killer.”

Almost literally, reveals Calhoon Bring. “It’s a testament, I think, to how great Mallory is because she’s someone that we thought could be the killer. But we love her so much and once you go there, it’s hard to go back. We can’t burn her.”

Max

Especially since the Liars may need her more than ever. Should PLL get renewed, the showrunners have already planted the seeds for a Season 3 that is wall-to-wall with homicidal threats. We already saw the return of Season 1’s “A,” the homicidal Archie Waters who escaped during a prison riot and headed straight for Dr. Sullivan’s office, and the end credits hinted at a posse of weapon-wielding, copycat troublemakers in PLL masks.

Max

“One of the things we wanted with[the finale] is to make sure that we left a lot of possible villains out there,” says Calhoon Bring. “Archie’s still out there. Mrs. Langsberry is out there. Wes is out there. And then these five girls we’ve introduced…their looks were actually kind of inspired a bit by The Candy Girls from The Purge movies. Those amazing, iconic young girls dressed in masks were terrifying. We thought, God, the iconography of that is great!”

“Could they be a splinter group from Spooky Spaghetti?” teases Aguirre-Sacasa. “100%. Absolutely.”

Pretty Little Liars: Summer School, Max

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