Pretty Little Liars and TV’s oddest time jumps
Sometimes, television writers dig themselves into a creative hole so large there’s only one way to escape – the trusty time jump. Popularised by the cult science-fiction series Battlestar Galactica in 2006, time jumps in television have become more and more frequent since then. One time jump in 2016 that has got everyone talking is the sudden advancement of five years in the sixth season of Pretty Little Liars. The bitchy teenage girls we’ve grown to love are bitchy young women, and everything is completely different.
Done right, a time jump can be a useful storytelling tool. Done badly, and well, we’re left so confused we can barely follow the ensuing plot. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best (and worst) time jumps on television.
1. Battlestar Galactica (2006)
Science-fiction favourite Battlestar Galactica boldly went where no show had been before (mostly) in the 2006 episode “Lay Down Your Burdens”. After a series of explosions and Baltar winning a dodgy vote to become President, it is suddenly a year later and everything has changed. The people of the fleet have settled in New Caprica City, and President Baltar has transformed Colonial One into some sort of bachelor pad. The Cylons are about to invade, and everything has turned to shit.
2. Alias (2001)
At least Battlestar Galactica‘s time jump was somewhat logical. In 2001, Alias deployed the time jump in the final few moments of its second series. After a reasonably successful series defeating the villain and bringing down a worldwide criminal and espionage organisation, CIA agent Sydney Bristol and her fans probably needed a break. Instead, Sydney awoke in Hong Kong two years later, her loved ones and the CIA believing her dead, and absolutely no idea how she got there. Like the worst drunken night ever.
3. Desperate Housewives (2008)
A surprise five year time jump greeted fans of the craziest housewives on television at the cull of season four, which yet again changed everything. We left the ladies after they gave false witness statements to protect Katherine, who had shot Wayne dead after he murdered Ellie and took Bree hostage. Five years later, it’s all different. Bree and Katherine run a very successful catering company, Lynette’s twins are now difficult teenagers, Susan and Mike are no longer together, and Gaby has two children.
4. One Tree Hill (2008)
Much in the same vein as Pretty Little Liars, One Tree Hill took the time jump route as a way to finally ensure the twenty-something-year-old high schoolers finally looked their age. Skipping the college years made more sense than splitting the narrative, which is easily something other high-school themed shows could pay attention to. What didn’t quite work with One Tree Hill however, was the incredible jump in the fortunes of these characters in just four years. In One Tree Hill, four years gave Peyton the chance to become a music producer, Lucas to write a bestselling novel, Haley to become a pop star and Brooke a successful fashion designer. All by the age of 22. Really, the show had been holding them all back before this point.
5. Parks and Recreation (2014)
Parks and Recreation’s time jump thankfully skipped a pregnancy, leaving protagonist Leslie Knope in a reasonably settled position and setting up the final season of the sitcom. As far as time jumps go, this was one of the more successful ones. The sixth season of the comedy saw Leslie fall pregnant with triplets and manage to relocate her dream job from Chicago to Pawnee. The Parks department held the successful Pawnee/Eagleton Unity Concert and Tom tried twice to open his restaurant, the latter time with more success. In three years time, Leslie is a stressed but successful mother of three, raising the triplets with Ben.
6. True Blood (2013)
One bizarre time jump in the realm of One Tree Hill levels of absurdity, True Blood used the excuse of a six month time jump to make some completely illogical changes to the characters’ lives. After a brilliant scene in which we saw Eric full-frontal before he spontaneously combusted, six months passed. Six months was apparently enough time for Bill to write and publish a book about Hepatitis-V, Sookie and Alcide to be in a committed relationship, and Sam become the mayor of Bon Temps. Despite True Blood desperately needing a revival from somewhere, the changes after the time jump still need to make some sense.
7. Vikings (2014)
Vikings said no to the obvious end-of-season time jump, passing four years in the middle of the second episode of the second series after an explosive season premiere. After Rollo is spared despite his betrayal and Lagertha is forced to leave Ragnar after he suggests a plural marriage to her and the pregnant Princess Aslaug, the series spares us all the emotional heartache and picks up four years later. Rollo is in a self-destructive pit of despair, Lagertha has remarried, Bjorn has become an attractive young man (with a new head) and Ragnar and the rest of the Vikings are ready for their next raid.
8. Grey’s Anatomy (2015)
Another show desperate to spare us the emotional heartache of the traumatic storylines it had bestowed upon the characters, Grey’s Anatomy skipped forward eleven months after the death of McDreamy and the months of grief suffered by his widow Meredith. While the 22nd episode of the 11th season “She’s Leaving Home” did briefly go through the seasons of the year to explain what had happened since, the time jump was mostly about Meredith’s recovery process. Basically, series protagonist Mereditch was understandably out of action for most of a year.
9. Fringe (2012)
Fringe wins the award for longest time jump, which in season four saw characters envisage the year 2036, a bleak future where the Observers had taken over the world. Little did fans know, however, that the entirety of the fifth and final season would be set in this future. While Peter, Walter and Astrid woke up in this woeful future, Walter’s memory had been fragmented, and there was no trace of Olivia. The series set out to find her, in an eventful final series that was definitely benefited from the time jump plot device.
10. Pretty Little Liars (2016)
The season premiere we’re all talking about in 2016 is Pretty Little Liars, however, with a new time skip that – you guessed it – changes everything. The only thing that hasn’t changed are their appearances, which are now suitable for the twenty-somethings they’re supposed to be. After the shocking reveal of A, the girls all went their separate ways and broke up with the boyfriends we’d spent six years investing in. Aria is now a writer and no longer with Ezra, Hanna has split from Caleb and is now engaged to someone she met on her travels while working in fashion, Spencer and Toby are over and Spencer is now realising political aspirations working at Capitol Hill, Emily has dropped out of school after the tragic death of her father and now works as a bartender, while Alison is now happily married to Charlotte’s doctor and on good terms with her sister. That’s a hell of a lot to take in! Only time will tell if this time jump has been a good or bad decision.
What do you think of the massive changes in Pretty Little Liars? What is the most ridiculous time jump you have seen in television? Tweet us your thoughts at @tvguideshows.