Pretty Little Liars, more affectionately known as PLL by its fanbase, ran for seven seasons from 2010 to 2017. The show followed a group of friends as they tried to simultaneously solve the murder of their leader as well as identify an anonymous person threatening them via text. The anonymous source⏤known as “A”⏤was someone everyone knew about during PLL‘s prime. In some places copycats even popped up, but they weren’t threatening death or kidnapping people. Usually it was just a student trying to get back at a bully. No matter what it was, it only proved Pretty Little Liars‘ cultural impact on the teenage community from 2010 to 2017.
One thing that fans always looked forward to were the Halloween episodes, which always fell on the thirteenth episode of the season. Many shows of this era released holiday-themed episodes, but what was special about Pretty Little Liars‘ was that they were never “filler” episodes. Each Halloween episode held meaning and relevance to the plot, and looking back (now that we know who A is), they were even more important than viewers initially realized.
There were three Halloween episodes in all, and putting them in order from “worst” to best is a lot easier than uncovering A’s identity. That said, there are some major spoilers for the series below, so tread lightly if you haven’t finished watching.
3. “Grave New World” (Season 4, Episode 13)
There were two distinct plots going on in “Grave New World,” one of which involved the liars trying to figure out if Ali was alive or not. This episode also served as an unofficial pilot for the show’s unsuccessful spinoff, Ravenswood. It tried to add in Supernatural elements with Tyler Blackburn’s character, Caleb, to set him up for his own show. This only backfired, as it took away from key moments of Pretty Little Liars.
Considering Caleb was dating Hanna and she was the one who ended up getting trapped, it was frustrating to see him not even involved in that plot, especially since they were a fan-favorite couple. Hanna was trapped in the underground caves after chasing Red Coat with the other girls. There’s not much Halloween surrounding this episode, which is why it’s ranked it’s in last place as far as Halloween episodes go. It’s also the episode where we found out that Alison was alive, which definitely gave it some bonus points.
2. “The First Secret” (Season 2, Episode 13)
This was our first taste of a Pretty Little Liars Halloween special and it was delicious! It was still early in the series, so we were still learning the characters’ background stories, which is why this episode flashed back to before Alison was killed. In this episode, we met a seeing Jenna for the first time who blatantly challenged Alison. We also got to see, instead of hear about, how mean Alison was, even to her closest friends. We saw reiterations of scenes that had already been shown, such as Aria and Ali discovering Aria’s dad cheating in the car. We were also introduced to new moments from the past, such as Emily lying about having sex to cover up the fact that she’s gay, Alison flirting with Ian while he holds a camera, and Ali rigging the student election so Spencer could win.
The height of “The First Secret,” though, was when the girls left Noel Khan’s Halloween party in order to help Ali. She was in the abandoned house and was heard screaming, and when they arrived, she frantically let them into a locked room only to leave and try to get cell service to call the police. In the end, Alison told them that it was just a prank, laughing it off even though they were clearly upset. When she went back to the party, though, Noel apologized for not showing up at the house, which alluded to Ali and the girls being in actual danger that night.
1. “This Is ‘A’ Dark Ride” (Season 3, Episode 13)
“A Dark Ride” refers to the Ghost Train that the characters are on for the majority of the episode. Whether it’s the costumes, the concept, or the fact that Adam Lambert not only performed but comforted Aria when she needed it, “This is a Dark Ride” was the superior Pretty Little Liars Halloween special. It found the girls at a party on the train and, because it was Halloween, many people were in masks, which is always a recipe for disaster on the show. Spencer was thrown in a closet, only for the man’s mask to come off and reveal Garrett, who gave her more information about the night Alison was murdered.
A is for Aria, the star of this episode, and she was left alone on the train after Ezra told her that he had an interview and couldn’t make the train party. After his set, Adam Lambert talked to Aria and comforted her, which made her feel better and let her guard down, leading to a masked Queen of Hearts drugging her drink. Cut to Hanna, who was still hiding her relationship with Caleb from A as they made out, only to cut back to a now-missing Aria. Frantic, the girls searched the train after receiving a threatening text from A that led them to assume that A had killed Aria. When they finally found her, it was Garrett who died and Aria had been locked in the crate with his body.
The finale of the episode was what really pulled it all together. Just when you thought it was over and everyone was safe for Halloween night, the camera panned over to where Alison was buried alive, and the last shot was a hand shooting out of the ground wearing Ali’s bracelet.
There are great things about the Halloween episodes of Pretty Little Liars, and also a few not-so-great. Overall, they had some of the best themed specials of any teen show. The costumes and plots were always creative and well-thought-out for the overarching plot of each season. There was almost always a big revelation in the Halloween episodes, giving fans something to look forward to. When it was announced that season four would deliver the last Halloween episode, fans were crushed, but at least we have these three episodes to enjoy whenever we want!