'Pretty Little Liars' Season 1 Overview

A Synopsis of Season 1 of 'Pretty Little Liars'

Cast of Pretty Little Liars

Andrew Eccles / 2010 Disney | ABC Television Group

The popular TV show about four high-school girls in an upscale town seem innocent enough, but we soon learn that they each have secrets.

The Messages

A year after Alison DiLaurentis went missing, her friends begin receiving terrifying messages that include information only Ali knew. But even after Alison’s body is found, the messages continue.

Alison was the “it girl” of Rosewood High School. She took in the eccentric Aria Montgomery; the good girl, Emily Fields; the fat girl, Hanna Marin; and the overachiever, Spencer Hastings. Because of Ali, these misfits found popularity and friendship. However, the four quickly grew apart when Ali disappeared during one of their sleepovers.
The girls awkwardly reconnect when they discover that each of them is getting mysterious notes, emails, and texts from someone who signs the messages with a simple “A.” When they don’t follow A’s instructions, some of their secrets are revealed to each other and the community.

The Secrets

Only Ali knew that Aria’s dad was having an affair with one of his students, and now A knows that Aria is having an affair with her teacher. Aria eventually tells the other girls about the affair but continues to worry the secret will get out to her parents and the school board. A outed Aria's father by sending Ella a letter that told of his affair, and that Aria knew about it.
Only Ali knew that Emily was in love with her, and now A knows that Emily continues to struggle with her sexuality. A outs Emily with pictures of Emily and Maya kissing in a photo booth. Once Emily is out, she starts to feel better about herself, though her mother has a hard time dealing with the fact that Emily is gay.
Only Ali knew that Hanna was bulimic, and now A is threatening to out Hanna’s insecurities. Hanna's mother steals money from the bank where she works with the intention of paying it back as soon as she can. A takes the money from its hiding place in the house and blackmails Hanna into eating cupcakes and hurting people in order to get the money back.
Only Ali knew that Spencer kissed her sister’s boyfriend, and now A knows that not only did Spencer steal another of Melissa’s boyfriends, but she also stole Melissa’s school paper. Spencer tells the other girls about Wren and Ian. Spencer does not trust Ian and soon begins to suspect that he might have killed Ali and might even be A.

The Jenna Thing

Then there’s “The Jenna Thing.” Ali claimed to see the neighbor, Toby Cavenaugh, looking at them through the window. Ali was outraged and the girls watched as she used fireworks to play a prank on Toby. The prank backfired, leaving Toby’s stepsister, Jenna, blind. Ali made the girls promise never to tell anyone what really happened. Jenna and Toby left Rosewood High School, but now they are back.
First Emily and then Spencer became close to Toby. They figure out that Toby took the blame for The Jenna Thing because Ali knew that he'd had a physical relationship with Jenna. Upon investigating further, they find out that Jenna still wants the relationship and that Toby is afraid of her. Toby and Spencer suspect that Jenna is working with Ian. What they don't know is that she is in a relationship with Officer Garrett Reynolds.

The Parents

Emily's parents are Pam and Colonel Wayne Fields. They are a strict military family and Emily knows they are going to have a hard time with her sexual orientation. Wayne was stationed in Afghanistan but is home on leave. Surprisingly, Wayne seems to accept it. Pam, however, thinks it's wrong and wants to "fix" Emily. She comes around to supporting her daughter when she finds out another parent is bullying her.
Aria's parents are Ella and Byron Montgomery. He is a college professor and she is an artist turned high school English teacher. They want Aria and her brother Mike to call them by their first names. They are a happy couple until A informs Ella that Byron had an affair earlier with one of his students. Ella moves out of the house, but one thing leads to another until she and Byron are having a secret affair.
Spencer's parents are Peter and Veronica Hastings. They are high society and care very much about what other people think. Peter is all about winning. Veronica reveals to Spencer that she'd had breast cancer.
Hanna's parents, Ashley and Tom Marin, are divorced. She lives with Ashley, who struggles with money problems since her husband left. She even takes some money from the bank where she works, intending to pay all of it back. She doesn't want Hanna to get in trouble and even goes so far as to sleep with a cop to get Hanna's shoplifting charges dropped. Tom has a new girlfriend, whom he wants to marry. She has a perfect daughter who is the same age as Hanna, and Hanna feels very threatened by her.   

The Friends

Emily's friend, Maya, helps her to realize that she is gay. Emily's mother finds marijuana in Maya's bag and tells Maya's parents. Maya is sent to juvie and when Emily calls, doesn't seem interested in Emily at all. Emily begins hanging out with a fellow swimmer, Paige. Paige wants to have a secret relationship with Emily, but since Emily is out, she doesn't want to hide from people. She sets up a meeting for Paige to talk to Samara for support, but when Paige doesn't show up, Emily and Samara bond.
Aria spends her time either with the girls or with Ezra. Her only other friend is Noel Kahn, whom she considers dating. He gets jealous when he finds out about Ezra.
Spencer's main friend, outside the group, is Alex Santiago, who works at her parents' country club. A manages to drive a wedge between them, though, and he walks out on Spencer.
Hanna is the most social of the group. It is very important for her to be popular, and after Ali's death, she and her bestie, Mona, make themselves over and become the "it" girls of Rosewood High. Mona begins to worry when Hanna spends so much time with Emily, Aria, and Spencer, and even un-invites Hanna to her birthday party. They become friends again after Hanna is hit by a car.
Hanna is also friends with social outcast Lucas, who has had feelings for her for a long time. He gets upset when he realizes she just wants to be friends.
Caleb is the new "bad boy" at school, but he and Hanna strike up a friendship. When it's discovered that he's been living at school, Hanna lets him hide out in her basement. She begins to fall in love with him, and when her mother finds out he's there and kicks him out, he and Hanna go on a campout and Hanna loses her virginity. But then she finds out that Caleb has been spying for Jenna. Caleb leaves a letter with Mona, which she tears up, and leaves. Hanna wrongly believes that he never loved her.

Who Killed Ali?

Detective Wilden re-opens the case after Ali’s body is found, putting the spotlight and more pressure on the girls. Soon the police suspect Toby as Ali’s murderer and the girls suspect that he is A. Toby is almost killed in a motorcycle accident and the girls think it’s over until they get more messages from A.
They get a video that shows Ali with Ian on the night she died. The camera falls to the ground and they hear choking noises and see Ali's hand flop on the ground.

Who Is A?

After a slip-up, Hanna figures out the identity of A, but before she can tell her friends, she is run down by a car. When she wakes in the hospital, she tells the girls that she saw Noel Kahn writing "I See You" on Ezra's car while he was in there with Aria. They soon find out that Noel was just jealous that Aria was with their teacher and that he is not A.
A gets them in trouble by threatening to reveal their secrets, but other times it seems like A is helping them.
The girls decide that A might not necessarily be the same person who killed Ali.

Ian Thomas

Ian Thomas was Melissa's boyfriend the previous year. They broke up shortly after Spencer and Ian kissed. The girls also believe that Ian and Ali had an ongoing relationship during this same period of time.
Ian comes back to town, elopes with Melissa, and they try and easily get pregnant. By this time the girls suspect Ian of Ali's murder. They send him a message from a disposable phone that they have the video and where to meet them. Ian sends a messenger, so he's not arrested.
Meanwhile, he finds Spencer at the church where she went to get Melissa's purse after she and Melissa were hit by a car in Spencer's car. He attacks Spencer and she runs to the bell tower. He is about to throw her off when a hooded figure runs by and pushes him. He gets tangled in the ropes and is hanged by his neck. When the girls get the police, Ian's body is gone.