In Defense of “Spaleb” (Or That Time Pretty Little Liars Jumped Five Years Forward and Broke Up Fan-Favorite Ships)

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Pretty Little Liars’ five-year time jump this winter season has all the fan favorite relationships in turmoil. But really, what can you realistically expect after five years out of high school and their hometown? Despite two years translating to five and half seasons, technically they’ve spent more time off in the adult world than they did in their high-school relationships (both friend and romantic). So why is everyone up in arms at the prospect of Spencer and Caleb getting together?

Well, first let’s look at the fandom. I think if you did a poll on which “ship” fans rooted for the most on PLL, “Haleb” (aka Hanna and Caleb) would win. I’m even a Haleb shipper! But I think that comes from Hanna and Caleb being my two favorite characters on the show so the fact that they get to be a couple just brings all kinds of juicy fun feelings as a viewer!

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But honestly, I really don’t have a problem with “Spaleb.” People are angry online because “you shouldn’t date your friend’s ex” (which is, honestly, good advice). Some are creeped out and find it gross. (But I think that’s just because they’re so obsessed with Haleb that they’re not seeing beyond it).   Others feel like it isn’t realistic or is too rushed. But I have to disagree with all of these assertions and here’s why.

  1. Spencer didn’t just fall in love with Caleb and start dating/hooking up with him right after he and Hanna broke up. It’s been YEARS. Long enough for Hanna to have moved on to the point that she’s engaged to another guy and looks quite happy. I feel like there might be a time limit on dating your friend’s exes. Like if it’s been 3 years and you don’t even talk to your friend that much (except for when you’re sequestered in your hometown because of your potential involvement in a murder case), it’s probably okay to fall in love with your friend’s ex. I mean, let’s be realistic here.
  2. It’s not one-sided at all. I feel like in the first 3 episodes of this half of the season, PLL did a great job of setting up Spencer and Caleb’s “history” over the last 5 years. And it’s a really believable story. They went through hell in high school in their own way. They meet randomly while traveling the world for school/life experience. And they cling to one another because of a sense of camaraderie and history. They know what the other went through without having to do all the embarrassing and traumatic explaining. And so they have adult experiences together for a few years. It’s not too far of a stretch to find them developing feelings for one another with time. (Maybe it’s just not the best idea to get together while you’re both hanging out in your hometown with a murder investigation going on and your exes running around too).
  3. They actually had chemistry prior to the “Five Years Forward” time jump. In the last few seasons, we found Spencer and Caleb being paired together several times doing detective work. It was always platonic and understandably so, but they were friends first. And friends with similar interests. They’re both—how do I say this nicely—the smartest ones of the group. Hanna, Aria, and Emily are all wonderfully talented girls, but Spencer’s got the lock on “school smarts.” And she’s “tech-y” like Caleb. So you can see where their interests might overlap in the world outside of high school drama.

In all honesty, I find it kind of romantic and sweet that two friends from high school would meet again a few years later on the other side of the world when they’re not bogged down by the stress and trauma of being stalked by a crazy person and reconnect and fall in love. Because if PLL were reality, none of those high relationships would have lasted anyway. I mean, there’s a slim possibility, but since all the girls (but Alison) went off to different states for college, it’s inevitable that they’d change and grow apart from their high school beaus. For once, I feel like PLL actually depicted something close to reality. And for me, that’s kind of a win!

You don’t have to like Spaleb. You can hope and pray that “Haleb” and “Spoby” is end game. (I know I’m rooting for “Ezria!”) But let’s not call it disgusting. Life (and five years) changes people. I’m just glad PLL is finally acknowledging that!

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