How Pretty Little Liars Is Connected to Riverdale, Explained

A recent episode of Pretty Little Liars: Summer School served up a stark reminder that the teen drama shares a universe with Archie Comics meme-worthy television adaptation Riverdale. Here’s how and why the two franchises share this unconventional connection.

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How Pretty Little Liars Connects to Riverdale

With unforgettable dialogue like “That means you haven’t known the triumphs and defeats, the epic highs and lows of high school football” and “It’s not queerbaiting, it’s saving the world”, it became abundantly clear that Riverdale’s cultural impact could not be confined to its eponymous small town. In special crossover episodes with Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and short-live spinoff Katy Keene – both of which deserve reexamination in light of the series’ connection to Pretty Little Liars – Riverdale injected its delightfully zany storytelling into other television universes. While the overall tone of Riverdale and Pretty Little Liars were not too dissimilar, the two came to share a universe rather arbitrarily.

Though not involved in Pretty Little Liars flagship series, Riverdale mastermind Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa came on board the teen mystery for the spin-off of the same name. To distinguish the 2022 series from its predecessor, Season 1 of the spinoff was dubbed Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin, with its current sophomore season subtitled Summer School.

The sixth installment of Original Sin included the franchise’s first Riverdale Easter egg by namedropping the Sisters of Quiet Mercy. Aguirre-Sacasa penned the reference into Original Sin on a whim, telling TV Line: “I assumed that we wouldn’t be allowed to reference Riverdale, since it’s in a completely different universe, but it stayed in”. The showrunner conceded that the two franchises must now exist in the same universe.

Summer School offered a new, familial tie between the television universes when Greg Mantzoukas reported that Riverdale‘s Kevin Keller is his cousin. Here, Aguirre-Sacasa doubled down on his Season 1 Easter egg, establishing a further bond between his television projects. Aguirre-Sacasa’s not the only one on the set of Pretty Little Liars invested in this Riverdale connection, with the showrunner commenting that: “Alex [Aiono], who plays Shawn, is obsessed with the idea of a rivalry between the Millwood High Steppenwolfs and the Riverdale Bulldogs”. Perhaps the epic highs and lows of high school football could serve as a fertile backdrop for Pretty Little Liars next Riverdale Easter egg (or even a crossover).

How Do Lucy Hale and Sabrina Spellman Factor into Pretty Little Liars and Riverdale’s Shared Universe?

One of the first questions that fans had regarding Pretty Little Liars‘ newfound connection to Riverdale was how exactly to explain Lucy Hale’s distinct existence in both universes. Hale starred as Aria Montgomery in Pretty Little Liars and Katy Keene in Riverdale and her self-titled spinoff. However, considering that Riverdale made tongue-in-cheek references to their own recasting of Reggie Mantle, this double-helping of Hale doesn’t seem to threaten the universe’s charmingly blasé attitude toward continuity.

Though playing more minor roles than Hale, Riverdale already ran up against similar instances of actor overlap in its crossovers with The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Nikolai Witschl, Sean Depner, and Sarah Desjardins ranked among the performers included in Riverdale and Sabrina‘s shared acting pool.

Speaking of the iconic teenage witch, many now wonder whether Sabrina Spellman is part of Pretty Little Liars canon due to the transitive property of crossovers specials. Original Sin‘s reference to the Sisters of Quiet Mercy already opened Pandora’s Box by tying Pretty Little Liars to a story filled with superpowers, ghost trains, time travel, and Gargoyle Kings. With Riverdale as a middle ground, it’s not a leap to connect Sabrina‘s supernatural tale with Pretty Little Liars‘ murder mystery. Though all three series are connected through Aguirre-Sacasa’s creative vision, it still feels as though the stars aligned to allow for franchises spread across three different networks to live in such harmony. Long live the Aguirre-Sacasa-verse.

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Tara McCauley
Nerd at large, Tara McCauley's happiest playing or writing about tabletop role playing games. Tara joined The Escapist in October 2023 as a freelance contributor. She covers such TV shows as Fargo and games/fandoms like Dungeons & Dragons. In addition to The Escapist, Tara has gushed about her favorite pop culture topics at CBR, MXDWN, and Monstrous Femme. When she's not writing or rolling dice, Tara can be found catching up on her favorite sitcoms, curled up with a horror comic, or waxing poetic about the WNBA.