After Years of Being a Diehard Pretty Little Liars Fan, Here Are My Lingering Thoughts on All the Parents
Pretty Little Liars has been off the air for over two years, and any sane human being would have inevitably moved on with their life by now. I am unfortunately, proudly, tragically no such person. What ever happened to Holden? How did Jenna end up? Is she happy? And how, how, HOW did the moms get out of that basement?
But speaking of the moms, I have long since believed that more attention deserved to be paid to the parents, the unsung heroes who raised these pretty little liars and made for the most riveting teen drama known to television (I say with the utmost love and appreciation). We owe them a debt of gratitude, for without them, this drama-filled show would be for naught. What is truly great about them all is how wildly varied each parent is — from the good to the bad — and how fantastically all of the actors played them. Each one brought something unique to the characters that made us either love them or hate them, and for that, we adore them. Here I present to you the parents of Pretty Little Liars, ranked from best to worst.
Gold-star parent. Save for one minor suggestion that Emily could be "experimenting" with her sexuality, Wayne is the only PLL parent who truly does nothing wrong throughout the entire series. He accepts Emily for who she is far before Pam ever manages, and he plays a consistent and active role in his daughter's life even throughout his deployment. He edits Emily's papers from overseas, shows up at her school just to surprise her, and stops at nothing to protect her, even once scaling the side of a building to save her despite having a heart condition. His blocks of absence only make his rare appearances all the more cherished. He is perhaps the only character on the show who truly does not deserve his untimely death. Rest in peace, Wayne Fields. You are sorely missed.
While Ella makes her fair share of mistakes (leaving her family instead of kicking her cheating husband out of the house, moving to Austria with her creepy boyfriend, remarrying her cheating husband, and so on), she is ultimately a very laid-back and fun mom. She paints, offers genuine advice, lets her children be independent and autonomous, and is exponentially more rational when she finds out that Aria is dating her teacher. Never tries to run the man out of town or anything. Her decisions aren't always airtight, but she has a lot on her plate.
It's still difficult for me to put Pam's season one homophobia in the past, but she does ultimately accept Emily for who she is. While her character leans toward bland and uptight, she clearly always has Emily's best interests at heart. Her mistakes are predominately forgivable and, most remarkably, not ongoing throughout the series. She's no Wayne Fields, but she gives it her best shot.
I hesitate to put Veronica below Pam, because she is a powerful lawyer and role model who raised two incredibly intelligent and strong-willed women. May we never forget her storming in and telling off Det. Wilden for questioning the girls without a parent present. That said, she does lie to Spencer for more than 23 years about being adopted and puts immense pressure on her daughters, clearly favoring Melissa over Spencer. Making Spencer Hastings feel inadequate should be a criminal offense.
Remember when Ashley steals money from an old woman at a bank? Sleeps with a cop to cover up Hanna's shoplifting habit? Cheats on her pastor boyfriend with her daughter's friend's brother? Her life choices are questionable, but I will concede that she will do anything to protect her daughter. An admirable quality, but maybe Hanna should have just faced the consequences of stealing the sunglasses.
There are plenty of legitimate reasons Byron tends to fall short as a parent, including but not limited to having an affair with a college student and forcing his daughter to keep it a secret. This in turn makes him the world's biggest hypocrite when he finds out Aria is dating Ezra and subsequently tries to run him out of town. He wants to come off like a good guy, but I'm not buying it.
Jessica doesn't deserve to die, if for no other reason than because Ali doesn't deserve to lose her mom within days of returning from the dead. But this is also the woman who buries her own daughter in her backyard and buries her alive at that (which, to be fair, is not intentional). And all for the sake of protecting her other daughter, who turns out to be a murderer and kidnapper. She truly is only trying to protect her children, but still, probably not Jessica's best move.
Unlike Wayne's absence, Tom's is inexcusable and unforgivable. He appears in Hanna's life only when it's convenient for him, and chaos ensues every time he does. Lest we not forget that he also refuses to pay his own daughter's college tuition because he assumed she wasn't smart enough to go, instead paying tuition for his manipulative stepdaughter Kate. He also, and this might be my personal favorite part, cheats on Ashley with Isabelle and cheats on Isabelle with Ashley.
Peter is the charming country-club man, the big-shot lawyer, the proud parent of two successful daughters. He appears to be a nice guy on the surface, but it's a suave cover for his slimy past. Peter cheated on his wife with two different women (albeit one was truly accidental — twins, would you believe?), subsequently became the father of three children, uses his money to manipulate people, and lies to cover his mistakes at every turn.
Putting Ken so low on the list took careful consideration, but the decision is one that I stand by firmly. All things considered, Ken is actually a pretty good father to the only DiLaurentis child who is biologically his. He truly gives it a valiant effort when Alison comes back from the dead and he is reinstated to active parental duty. It's a shame, because he may have actually made for a decent parent if he hadn't locked his trans daughter in a psychiatric hospital before she started kindergarten. Nearly every trauma after season two could have been avoided had Ken not sent Charlotte to Radley and embraced her for who she is, and his transphobia automatically makes him bottom tier.
While she did in fact birth three of the most influential characters in the series, Mary is never able to take on the maternal role herself. For the sake of technicality, Mary will be receiving honorary mention instead of a place in the ranks. This is probably for the best, because she's absolutely impossible to place. She makes plenty of mistakes, grave ones, but she also makes some of the most drastic moves for redemption. Making Ali think she is losing her mind is not her finest moment, but once she realizes Archer is a greedy mastermind, she bails on their plans and works to make amends. She later takes the blame for a murder she didn't commit and accepts a life sentence to exonerate her daughter and niece, which I can respect.