Who is “A,” the elusive, technologically savvy antagonist on Freeform’s wildly popular Pretty Little Liars? After seven seasons, we may never truly find out. Since the show began in 2010, viewers have been shocked by the reveal of two “A”s thus far — not to mention a plethora of “A” minions — who each had their own personal motives for torturing the Liars. But since PLL’s season-six premiere, an Über-A has been bringing the ruckus to Rosewood and beyond. We’re actually aware of the motive this time around, and it’s quite simple (for a change): The unknown figure wants to know who murdered Charlotte DiLaurentis, and they’re willing to kill — or at least send some infamous text messages — to discover the truth. The second half of PLL’s final season won’t premiere until April, so until then, we decided to investigate the most plausible “A” suspects on our radar. We encourage you to leave your theories in the comments, too.
1. Alison DiLaurentis
An oldie but a goodie. Even Alison’s friends have never really been able to shake the idea that their former dictator is responsible for all the terrible things that have happened to them since they were tweens. Ali was persecuted by “A” for years, so maybe after Charlotte died, she decided to take a page out of the villain playbook to find out who murdered her cousin (née sister) and take vengeance on them. We know that Hanna didn’t stay in the Radley Hotel the night Charlotte died, like she said she did. Maybe Ali knows that too, hence the kidnapping. Elliott imprisoned her in a hospital for a crime she didn’t commit, and now he’s taking a dirt nap. And Alison’s contentious relationships with Jenna Marshall and Noel Kahn likely mean that they know too much to stay alive (RIP Brant Daugherty). Or what if she killed Charlotte as vengeance for being Big A? The pursuit of her killer might just be a red herring.
Perhaps most damning: While all the Liars have gone through their share of strife, Emily has definitely gotten off the lightest. And who is the Liar that Ali loves best? That’s right! The group’s leggy emotional weak link. One of the most stupendous fan theories to crop up lately is that Ali is — wait for it — pregnant with Emily’s child. But didn’t Emily’s donated eggs go missing? You bet they did … because “A” took them! Maybe in addition to tracking down her sister/cousin/friend’s killer, Ali’s side hustle is convincing Rosewood’s hottest lesbian that they are the One True Pairing meant to raise a child who looks suspiciously tan considering who her biological parents are supposed to be. She did tell Emily that she’d love to have her at RHS as the swim coach, where she’d work just down the hall. And best of all, Paige would hate it so, so much. Paige is the worst, so this is the best theory.
Besides, Ali told us everything we need to know in the season four Halloween special: “You’re always better off with a really good lie.” Impregnating yourself with your secret love obsession’s baby after stealing her donated eggs is a pretty goddamn committed lie, and the pretense of carrying your scary former husband’s baby generates enough sympathy to throw everyone off the trail.
2. Byron Montgomery, Peter Hastings, or Kenneth DiLaurentis
Let’s pour one out for the dads of Rosewood. Well, not really, because they’re all terrible in their own special ways. Byron did some dirty deeds with a lady who wasn’t Ella, and was blackmailed by Alison for it; Peter has slept with the entire female population of Rosewood; and Kenneth is still MIA while his daughter gets institutionalized and bankrupted by her fake husband. (Lest we forget, he was also the one who convinced Jessica to put Charlotte in Radley back in the day, despite being completely wrong on the reasoning. He is the reason “A” was born, people.) Those dirty deeds are enough for anyone to put these dads on their bad side, but why exactly would any of them be inclined to torture a bunch of 20-somethings?
The answer is simple: One of them is Charlotte’s father.
We conclusively know two things about Charlotte’s family lineage: Her biological mother is Mary Drake, and she was born while her mother was institutionalized at Radley. (A few years later, Mary gave birth to Spencer, also at Radley.) Jessica and Kenneth were Charlotte’s adoptive parents, but we do not know who her biological father is. Picture this scene in your mind palace: When Mary was institutionalized, Byron, Peter, or Kenneth made a visit to Radley for whatever reason and was somehow introduced to her. Something sparked, visiting hours turned into sexy-time hours, and nine months later, Charlotte (then Charles) was born. Her father was aware of who she was — and perhaps even maintained a secret relationship with her — and her death sent him into full-on paternal psycho mode. All roads lead back to Radley, after all, and it doesn’t help that “A.D.” can literally stand for “Aria’s Dad” or “Alison’s Dad.” Daaaaad!
3. Mona Vanderwaal
C’mon, it would be so satisfying if our girl Mona proved to be the mastermind of the “A” game. Mona is the only person on this whole damn show with an inkling of consistent, psychotic brilliance — has she ever been a single step behind the Liars? — and her on-again, off-again screen time has only added to the intrigue. (Also, Noel would definitely be powerless to escape Mona’s control in the room where Hanna held him captive.) Between her Machiavellian creativity, polarizing sarcasm, and grade-A costume-wearing skills, it’s totally plausible she would return to torment the Liars once again. May her intellectual tête-à-têtes with Spencer live on forever.
4. Lucas Gottesman
We hate to throw stones at the nerd, but that’s exactly what we’re going to do. As we know, “A’s” resources and technological know-how are preposterously limitless. Although Lucas was a pawn for Mona’s faux A-team back in high school, he has since amassed an incredible fortune after selling a tech start-up, putting him in prime position to create a surveillance and psychological terror infrastructure all his own. Who needs the Carissimi Group when you’ve got that VC money? Also, we’re in the A.D. era of “A” now, which means we don’t have to cling to the tired old motive of “Ali bullied me in high school.” This is Revenge Fantasy 2.0. This is Über-A. And what has Lucas always wanted more than revenge on Ali? To possess Hanna Marin’s heart.
Think about it: He played the hero by offering up a condo for Hanna when things got tense at home. He partnered with her to start a fashion line of her very own (close to Rosewood, close to him). He agreed to be her alibi the night Charlotte was killed. He even let her borrow the car that she ended up killing a guy with. And she’s financially and professionally bound to him! But why would Lucas imprison Hanna in a shed and cattle-prod her? Because crazy people are crazy. Like, “it rubs the lotion on its skin” crazy. If Hanna is sufficiently shoved back in the PTSD closet, she might fall into his conveniently open (and very rich) arms. And he’s been close with Jenna in the past, making her an easy possible accomplice. If Lucas is the Big Bad, then Caleb better sleep with his eyes open. His death would be the coup de grâce to shattering Hanna’s psyche.
5. Wren Kingston
As the devilishly adorable smarmy Brit, Wren is almost too easy to name as “A.” But that’s exactly what makes him so suspicious. Wren is one of those distinctly PLL characters whose presence is much bigger than his actual screen time. There’s always some kind of threat of Wren screwing up the Hastings family dynamic by hitting on Spencer, or possibly being the mastermind behind a twisted campaign of murder and deception. When Spencer was visiting London, Wren and Melissa were still together. But later on, we learned that Wren broke things off after getting a call from Charlotte — whom he perhaps knew from Radley — that detailed what Melissa did to Bethany Young. And Melissa was once a suspect in Charlotte’s murder.
There’s also the theory that Elliott and Wren are connected, possibly even related. (Do all men in the United Kingdom know each other?) Even if Elliott was just playing doctor, Wren is a real one, and he could provide medical intel from overseas. If Wren and Elliott both had a strong vested interest in Charlotte, they could be murderously interested to finding her killer. Also, that would likely mean Wren has been in cahoots with Mary Drake this whole time — whom he might also know from Radley. Secret siblings are a favorite plot twist in the PLLverse, and actor Julian Morris has promised a return of Wren before the show ends. Could such a fan-service move answer these “A” questions? It’s possible.
6. Caleb Rivers
Lucas, Caleb, and Mona are the only people even close to having enough tech smarts to be “A,” figures so cunning that the U.S. government should have keyed into them years ago for recruitment. Caleb has a wealthy family in California and seems to have done well for himself in the flash-forward timeline by working as a security specialist in Manhattan. So he definitely has the means. He’s been the Liars’ brain for hire for years, and knows as much about them as they know about each other. If he’s “A,” he must know even more than that. Also, no one has been less forgiving of Ali or Charlotte than Caleb, and when Charlotte got out of Radley it’s possible he felt compelled to stop her return to evil power. Once the deed was done, he could just plant (another) seed of doubt that Ali is a stone-cold killer.
And even more than Ezra, Caleb has the cover of being Perfect Boyfriend. He’s protective and sensitive and fearless when it comes to shielding Hanna and her friends from danger (particularly Spencer, cough cough), which is ultimately easy to do when you’re the one meting out the danger. As for locking Hanna away and torturing her: Waiting as the devoted suitor once she “breaks free” is a sick but super-effective way to pull her back into his grasp. Disposing of figures like Noel and Jenna feels obvious, too, since there won’t be any love lost between Caleb and those two. Maybe Perfect Boyfriend left Ravenswood a more changed man than we thought.
7. Spencer Hastings
No Liar has sparked more “A” speculation than Spencer. She’s the only one smart enough to mastermind such an intricate plan (Emily certainly couldn’t), she has a history of emotional instability, and she spent time in Radley before you could buy drinks in its lobby. Also, every other Radley patient has made a habit of ruining people’s lives in Rosewood (see: Mona, Mary Drake, Charlotte). Spencer will either be the Liars’ only hope or their undoing.
We know that Spencer is the biological daughter of Mary Drake, and we’ve always known that she is very smart and very rich, two things “A” needs to pull off all of those elaborate long cons. She has intimate knowledge of her friends, their homes, their family members, and their lifetime of secrets. In other words, she is in the best position to exploit everyone. She also tanked her mom’s political opponent. Tumblr user the Outlast compiled a comprehensive list of all the reasons why Spencer is Über-A, complete with references to the college term paper in which she mapped out a death that looks just like Charlotte’s; a screen grab of the IMDb page for the movie Hidden in Plain Sight, which was written by a man named Spencer Eastman (you know, because Spencer is hiding in plain sight); and her appreciation for Shakespeare and the movie Basic Instinct. The introduction of an evil twin seems a bridge too far, though: How many havoc-wreaking children could Mary Drake really have? Nevertheless, giving yourself a nonfatal gunshot wound is a really bold way to clear yourself of any A.D. speculation. That’s just the kind of gusto we’ve come to expect from Spencer over these seven years. And it would be a landmark crusher if this face peering up from a hoodie was the last image we saw of PLL.
8. Mary Drake
Think how good the Mary long con would be if she really did turn out to be “A.” Her whole life has been overshadowed by her sister, Jessica DiLaurentis, who was murdered in season four. Mary was committed to Radley for “unknown reasons,” and gave birth to at least two kids during her time there. But what if Jessica was the one who was protecting her — remember, right before she died, Jessica tried to send an email to someone that said “I can’t protect you anymore” — and Mary made her first “appearance” by vengefully killing her sister after years of torment and anguish. (Hey, Radley can’t save ‘em all.) Years later when Charlotte is also murdered, she and Elliott’s initial monetary scheme to control the Carissimi Group isn’t quite good enough to avenge her daughter’s murder, so maybe she turned to violent sleuthing while pretending to be aghast with Elliott’s torture of Alison in the hospital. (Also: Hanna is abused in that secluded shed and conveniently stumbles upon Mary after escaping? Hmm …)
Meanwhile, Mary has managed to sweet-talk her way into staying at Alison’s huge house, which is loaded with DiLaurentis family secrets. And plus: Why in the world was she at the blind school when Jenna and Noel were hunting down the Liars? Maybe to shoot her other daughter, Spencer, and make it look like Jenna did it in order to gain her trust. Again, remember I. Marlene’s King’s age-old adage: “All roads lead to Radley.” Mary was in Radley for a long time. At this point, Mary is arguably the matriarch of Radley. Her maternal instincts are kicking into overdrive, and she will do anything it takes to find Charlotte’s killer. Hell hath no fury like an angry mother.
9. Aria Montgomery
Our hapless leather-jacket enthusiast has been an immensely popular “A” candidate since the show began, mostly because … their names are alphabetically similar. (Seriously, just google “Aria is A.” It’s an endless void of fun.) Lucy Hale put it best when we talked to her in March: “Her name starts with an ‘A’ and that has obviously been a very popular letter throughout the course of our show. Aria was the one ‘shushing’ in the title sequence. It’s the little things like that. And out of all the girls, she’s the one who’s missing in action a lot. Spencer is always there, she’s in the battleground. But Aria sometimes isn’t there, and that raises a lot of eyebrows for some people, too.” It sure does, Lucy!
But the old Aria isn’t the new Aria — this “A” has a completely new motive. Aria, in full badass mode, tore into Charlotte when the Liars were invited back to Rosewood to testify on her behalf. Aria was not having any of Hanna, Spencer, and Emily’s nice words about their years-long torturer — did they not remember the Dollhouse? — and said she would fear for her life if Charlotte was released from the mental hospital. Charlotte was released anyway, but she was killed shortly thereafter. Perhaps this birthed Aria’s plan to punish her friends for letting their torturer back into their lives, under the clever façade of investigating her murder. (Also, just throwing this out there: A.D. could also stand for Aria Drake. Twist!) We’re still suspicious that Montgomery finally packed up to Iceland shortly after Alison’s death, so this would certainly bring the narrative full circle in a bizarre fashion.
10. Jason DiLaurentis
The familial bond — and one-time romance — with his cousin Charlotte is a pretty compelling motive for wanting to find out who killed her. (See: the dads, Mary Drake.) But when that bearded hunk of man meat returned from Africa and stormed into the DiLaurentis household to tell Mary Drake to back the hell off from Alison, the collective female PLL population let out a collective swoon and nearly forgot about his shady past with the N.A.T. Club. This beautiful man could never do such a terrible thing to the Liars, right? He loves Aria, for crying out loud!
11. Ezra Fitz
When Ezra came back from the jungle after he thought Nicole was dead, he was in a bad, bad state of mind. His girlfriend of five years was gone. Aria was out of the picture. Filled with all kinds of rage, he slipped deep into the bottle. But if Ezra is “A,” he wouldn’t really be looking for Charlotte’s killer. He would be Charlotte’s killer, while Elliott and Mary Drake served as foolish henchmen who didn’t realize their boss was the murderer they were searching for — a classic “A”-style deception. As we know, Ezra used to keep a super-creepy stalker lair, and lied to Aria and her friends for a very long time while he spied on them for a novel. Earlier this year, Ian Harding even said he thinks it would be great if Ezra just snapped and decided to take vengeance on Charlotte. Ezra has the scary pedigree, and turning the Dream Boyfriend Mr. Fitz into a super-killer manipulator would be a brutal last laugh for I. Marlene King.
12. Melissa Hastings
Spencer had to do a lot of Melissa defending in the first half of season seven, but the elder Hastings sister has been in and out of the “A” spotlight so many times over the course of the show that it’s highly unlikely she’s Über-A. Essentially, her past is too hot for her to go all super villain without being a prime suspect. And with the actress, Torrey DeVitto, currently slaving away at NBC for Chicago Med, I. Marlene King herself expressed doubts that she would be able to bring Melissa back to Rosewood for one last hurrah. But who knows, Marlene could be lying to us.
If PLL has taught us anything, it’s this: Never disregard seemingly normal characters who are thrown into Rosewood at a moment’s notice. (Remember “Nate St. Germain” from season three? He was Maya’s stalker and wanted to kill Paige! Kudos to Emily for stabbing him in the stomach.) Riffing off that, Sabrina is so normal, so low-key cool, that she has us a little suspicious. And it doesn’t help that she looks similar to Charlotte — perhaps she’s an old friend (or secret family member?) waiting to avenge her death. Perhaps she’s faking a romantic interest in Emily to get close with the girls. Sure, it would definitely be unfulfilling if she winds up being “A,” but we’re keeping our eyes on her.
14. Andrew Campbell
Who? Oh, yeah. No way. He has a history of being a super-lurker with shifty eyes, but he’s just a MacGuffin.
15. Pepe the Dog
Pepe has been mercilessly haunting the Liars for abandoning him during the time jump. Woof woof, bitches.
16. Maya St. Germain
Look, Maya is dead. She’s been dead. I. Marlene King has confirmed this multiple times, and, frankly, is really annoyed with all of your silly Maya-related questions. She’s not going to be undead. Time to let her go, Emily and Maya shippers. She’s less likely than Pepe the Dog.