Hey guys! Recently, I finished watching Cruel Summer on Amazon Prime Video which released its first season mid way through 2021. I had been endeavouring to watch it ever since I first saw the trailer and I finally found time to do so over Christmas. The show follows two girls, Jeanette Turner (Chiara Aurelia) and Kate Wallis (Olivia Holt), and documents the events that lead up to Kate’s disappearance and the events that unfold after she is found. As with many thriller shows such as this one, the twists and turns throughout were endless and as a viewer, I was gripped to the plot of the show and desperate to uncover the truth about Kate’s disappearance. Here is my review of the show’s first season!
Cruel Summer was split into 10 episodes and most of them jumped through time during a single episode. For example, episode one is all about Jeanette’s birthday and showed the events that unfolded during it in 1993, 1994 and 1995. This helped to demonstrate how the characters had developed over the course of the three years. Kate and Jeanette both grew up and matured a lot after all they had gone through and while there is still some healing that is needed for both of them, they have become better people by 1995.
Kate went missing towards the end of 1993 and was found again in 1994. She was the perfect girl who had the perfect life with the perfect family, the perfect friends and the perfect boyfriend. Or so it seemed. In reality, Kate seemed lonely in her perfect world which leaves her vulnerable to the schemes of Martin Harris (Blake Lee), the high school’s assistant principal, who sets his sights on her as his target. In 1993, he talks to her several times and begins to groom her. By the beginning of 1994, she ends up trapped in his basement and needs serious therapy after she is found as a result. Their relationship is the epitome of an inappropriate dynamic and they both know that it is wrong and continue to draw nearer together as a result. The actor and actress who play the characters did a fantastic job of portraying the power imbalance so in no way does it ever seem romantic or special. The fact is that Martin is clearly a very disturbed character with some dark secrets whose motives for preying on Kate are widely unknown and unexplored in this season. Maybe the viewers will find out more about his backstory in season two…
On the other hand, Jeanette is a social interloper who is desperate to know what it feels like to be popular and wanted. In 1993, she centres in on Kate’s life and looks for every way to try and insert herself into that narrative. After Kate goes missing, she sees an opportunity and takes it. It is disconcerting how seamlessly she fits herself into the Kate Wallis void, befriending Kate’s friends and circling in on her boyfriend. But as soon as Kate is found again, her time in the Sun is over. She is kicked back away into social obscurity to make room for the true Kate Wallis who returns like she never left. While the change in the nerdy 1993 Jeanette to the popular 1994 Jeanette was vast, 1995 Jeanette is on a completely different spectrum. She is a bitter young woman who feels abandoned by everyone and has to learn to rebuild the important relationships in her life. This feels like the real Jeanette. Not someone who is desperate to be someone else like she was in 1993 or someone who is putting up a facade like in 1994. The 1995 Jeanette is learning to love herself and fight for herself in ways that she never had to before and this makes her much more of an authentic person.
The main question that the show centres around is whether Jeanette saw Kate while she was at Martin Harris’ house. Kate is adamant that Jeanette saw her and she even announces this on national television during an interview. Jeanette is adamant that she didn’t see Kate and the callous accusation is so deeply damaging to her that she files a lawsuit against Kate to sue her for an extortionate amount of money. The two girls are pitted against each other consistently throughout the plot which really emphasises how society and the media often does this in every day life. Even the audience are encouraged to pick sides and choose to believe either Jeanette or Kate. The scene in episode 10 where they meet in Martin Harris’ house to discuss the events that happened there is one of my favourite’s as it’s the first time we see them interact as equals. They are no longer the nerdy girl and popular girl of 1993 or the bitter rivals that they became in 1994. It’s the first sign that they could actually put all of the events in the past and forgive each other.
The plot has many twists and turns that I’ve not disclosed in favour of encouraging you to go and watch it without any spoilers. But as much as I was shocked at many points during the show, the very last scene of episode 10 hit completely different. It gave me chills as it unravelled everything that the whole narrative had been built on up until that point. It was the perfect ending to such a great story.
Thank you for reading this post! Have you watched Cruel Summer? Let me know in the comments! There’ll be another post out soon but until then bye for now!
Amelia Grace a.k.a Amelia in Hull