Cruel Summer is here! You enjoyed this incredible and intriguing show in a two-hour special event with two premiere episodes: 1×01 “Happy Birthday Jeanette Turner” and 1×02 “A Smashing Good Time” and the truth is that Cruel Summer hooked us from the beginning with two parallel stories that are quite different from each other, but that somehow intertwine to end at the same point, leaving us many unanswered questions along the way. Let’s review everything!
Here we go!
As we mentioned in our advanced review, the story of Cruel Summer is told in three summers from two different perspectives and with two intertwined stories that take a reverse path to end at the same point. We first met Jeanette in the summer of 1993. She is a tender and nerdy girl, who has two inseparable friends with whom she starts to get into mischief, although until that moment she had always followed the rules.
That little prank like sneaking into a seemingly empty house is a symbol of the change Jeanette is beginning to experience. She wants to be Kate, that popular girl who has a handsome boyfriend, who is beautiful, and who everyone adore, the one has the perfect life. That’s why she shows up so awkwardly at the mall, Jeanette longs for Kate’s life and who hasn’t wanted to be popular and get that unreachable boy?
Jeanette in 1993 is a girl who yearns to be something more, she longs to grow up, while Kate mysteriously disappears and that changes everything. In the summer of 1994, Jeanette’s wish is fulfilled. Everything has changed and she is no longer that nerdy girl who longed for something more but that she is that popular girl with the handsome boyfriend and the older friends she wanted. Actually, she’s like Kate now. She has the same boyfriend as her, the same friends … the same life.
It’s a bit … creepy if you think about it coldly. It is as if Jeanette has somehow supplanted her and this will be key later. But now, we will focus on this change. Jeanette wanted to grow up, maybe too fast, as we all do, but all the time she was looking for something that she already had. Jeanette wanted more … cool friends but she really had two friends who stood by her side no matter what, she had real friends.
Yet she casts them aside for those new friends, for that new life, for being popular. She especially does this to her friend. Suddenly, Jeanette doesn’t call again and it’s sad to see how people who meant so much to each other, who were like family, no longer have anything to say to each other and are more like two strangers than anything else. Jeanette’s friend is angry and rightly so. She left her behind, there’s no other way to put it.
Jeanette made a choice and it was … to go for that life that she longed for, leaving all her past behind her, including her friends. And a part of me understands her. Being popular for a teenage girl is … like a panacea. We all want to be the leaders and be part of the “cool” group. We don’t think about anything other than that goal, and when you get the chance to get there … you take it, even if it means leaving your old life or your old friends behind.
But, when you grow up, you realize that was a mistake. Jeanette was looking for friends that she already had and exchanged the real ones for some friends who weren’t going to be there in her worst moments. When you grow up, you realize that people matter, not how popular they are. But Jeanette is not an adult, but a teenager, and for that reason, even if I don’t agree with her, I understand her.
For all intents and purposes, Jeanette is the popular girl and she is living Kate’s old life, her old life is behind her, she is happy and Kate is still missing, no one knows what happened to her. Until that changes. Kate appears and that revolutionizes everything again. Because what happens now? Kate is, of course, traumatized, and goes back to her old life only to see how absolutely everything has changed and Jeanette is, for lack of a better word, supplanting her.
But better focus first on what happened with Kate. The director of the institute kept her kidnapped all those years but, she has something shocking to say: Jeanette knew it. She saw her down there, in that basement, kidnapped and suffering and she didn’t say anything. She left her there to rot so that that pig could continue raping and abusing her.
And the viewers were as frozen as the villagers. Really, at first, everything fits. I wondered if it was true. I mean, my rational side told me that Jeanette had a good heart and was no different from any teenager who wanted to grow up too fast, so she wouldn’t be able to find out that a girl is being abused and raped and do nothing to help. Jeanette is not a sociopath or a bad person, so she wouldn’t.
But then there was a voice that told me that in reality, with or without intention, Jeanette was living Kate’s life, she impersonated her, it was what she longed for most, what she wanted most and to protect what one wants most, we would all be capable of doing everything to maintain it. But, would she do that much? At first, I did believe it because everything fit together, in a chilling way, Jeanette impersonated Kate in every aspect of her life but, even so, there was something that didn’t fit. I still couldn’t see Jeanette doing something like that.
And I was right. From what we see, Kate is lying about what happened, she is not telling everything she knows and she has an accomplice. I think that lie, or at least part of it, is what Kate told about Jeanette, I don’t think she saw Kate. Only that Kate wants to take revenge in a twisted way on Jeanette for “stealing” her life and the way to hurt Jeanette the most would be precisely this, make everyone believe that she saw her and let her suffer in that dark basement. Thus, everyone will hate her, the life that she “stole” from her will fall apart and no one will believe her.
It’s just what happens. Kate is successful and no one believes Jeanette, she becomes the most hated girl in America. At first, she tries to defend herself, especially with her boyfriend, she tried to tell them that it was not true, that she didn’t see Kate, that she didn’t know where she was but no one believed her, she didn’t stop screaming her innocence to everyone, but she was already doomed.
So she stopped defending herself. And she sees it. She sees that even her father thinks she did it. He can no longer even look at her face and she feels totally alone. In the summer of 1995, Jeanette is an absolutely destroyed, lonely, lost girl. Why doesn’t anyone believe her?
That is, at first I also suspected her but I gave Jeanette the benefit of the doubt, but in that town, none of the people or “friends” she thought she had or the boy who thought she loved her gives her that benefit of the doubt. Everyone condemns her. Even her family and that’s the hardest thing for her, because not even her father who is supposed to love and know her, gives her that benefit of the doubt. And it doesn’t seem right to me, especially from her family, they are supposed to know her and know what she is like and if she would be able to do something like that or not.
It’s all so unfair … because Kate is lying about this, I’m sure, and she has an accomplice but why? It might be, as we’ve discussed before, to punish Jeanette for “stealing” her life but it feels too excessive. And who is helping her? Who can agree with something like that?
Not even Kate’s past gives us clues. Her path is parallel to Jeanette’s but different, although they both end at the same point: destroyed. At first, Kate apparently has the perfect life, she is popular, she has friends who are always by her side, a wonderful boyfriend, a perfect family … but everything is appearance. Her family is far from being perfect, from being that united family that they appear to be.
In fact, while Kate tries to recover from beginning to discover all the secrets that her family keeps, to overcome that facade, that’s when the director takes advantage of her vulnerable moment and the confidence that her position gives him, to kidnap her. The following summer, we find a girl absolutely broken by a monster, and the last summer, when she is rescued, we find a destroyed girl.
She just survived a huge trauma and her life before hers feels strange, empty. She … needs some time to be herself again because she feels that a part is not going to return, she feels that she is not complete. And maybe she will never be again and she will always feel that she is missing something … but she must fight to move on. She survived and I admire her for that. She now she has to fight to feel alive and at peace again. Safe.
That said, the way Kate lies about Jeanette or hides something big … makes us suspicious of everything. We have seen her kidnapped and broken so that is true, but there is something that Kate is hiding and I think it is not just about Jeanette but something else. In fact, she has an accomplice and that leads us to wonder who she/he is and where she/he met. But most of all, why is she doing this to Jeanette and how far she will go.
These questions will be answered in the next episodes and we can’t wait! Cruel Summer already has us hooked and we can’t wait to find out what happened and what is going to happen to Jeanette and Kate.
And here ends our Cruel Summer review. We will be back next week with a new one!
Agree? Disagree? Don’t hesitate to share it with us in the comments below!
Cruel Summer airs Tuesdays at 10:00 p.m at Freeform and you can stream next day on Hulu.