It’s not a summer without a touch of cruelty to it. Throw in a thrilling mystery, some shady suspects, and many heart-pounding twists and turns, and you’ve got Freeform’s addictive murder mystery, Cruel Summer.
The return of this sleeper hit kicked off a brand new case that will excite and keep us guessing.
And based on the set-up of Cruel Summer Season 2 Episode 1 and Cruel Summer Season 2 Episode 2, plenty of secrets are rising to the surface. We’ve got a summer of intrigue and drama awaiting us, Cruel Summer fans.
For Cruel Summer Season 2, many of the same elements from Cruel Summer Season 1 returned. Like the color grading through the years, the computer intro (which I’m calling the “archive”), and the time jumping.
These aspects worked before, so I’m glad they weren’t dropped for the new story. These pieces make Cruel Summer feel like Cruel Summer.
One thing that surprised me was how close the different periods were in time.
Cruel Summer Season 1 focused on the summers of three years, but this mystery only focuses on three time periods in one year. We’re following Megan’s and Isabella’s journeys in Summer 1999, Winter 1999, and Summer 2000.
We have to get our stories straight.
It’s an interesting choice because it shows how severely the characters changed in a short amount of time.
Luke’s disappearance (and now murder) hurt the town so much that everyone changed in one way or another. Just look at Megan and Isabella for the most signs; they’re not the same people who started in the Summer of 1999.
There’s excitement in discovering what the characters will do in the shorter windows. The time between summer and winter is small, but the scenes teased something big happened.
And in a similar Cruel Summer style, the biggest thing to overcome for any viewer is figuring out which time period is which.
The series usually relies on three main pieces: (1) the color grading, (2) the music, and (3) the hair/makeup/style. If you can quickly figure out one of these pieces per period, it gets easier to know when one season changes to another.
I learned back on Cruel Summer Season 1 Episode 1 that the best is the hair and the color grading.
Interestingly, Winter 1999 had the darker color version, while Summer 2000 played with a yellowish tone. My best guess is the darkness represents Luke’s impending murder, and the yellow tone is a hint at the police caution tape and how murky everything has become since.
Another big change was how the two main leads spent most of the scenes together.
During our chat with Lisa Yamada, who plays Parker, we learned that there would be a more significant presence to have Isabella and Megan spend more time together. It was a vast change from Kate and Jeanette’s story, where they didn’t have a big moment together until Cruel Summer Season 1 Episode 10.
I liked this move because it added more depth to their relationship and how it affected the plot. The time-jumping seems to be a lot about how two BFFs crumbled under the weight of this murder mystery.
It can’t be a rehash of Kate and Jeanette, who had valid reasons not to be together throughout the three years. This story warrants Megan and Isabella’s bond to be the focus, so it’ll be curious to see how the format will affect closer friends.
Speaking of their friendship, let’s break down their three seasons.
Megan was strangely harsh to Isabella, like a little more than just being a teenager. Sure, she didn’t want Debbie to welcome a foreign exchange student, but Megan could’ve tried harder since Isabella was already there.
She couldn’t even hide the frustration on her face.
Megan: I keep trying to figure out who would’ve done this.
Isabella: I can think of one local filmmaker with a grudge.
Megan: Jeff? Really?
Isabella: I mean, they always talk about women scorned, but men are even worse.
Megan: I don’t know. It doesn’t seem like his style.
Isabella: Well, whoever it is, we’re gonna find out.
Sometimes things are out of your control, but she could’ve made the best out of a bad situation. And Isabella seemed like a cool person to hang out with, someone who was her age and down to hang out.
Megan got lucky in the outcome (in the Summer of 1999).
I loved the balance between Megan and Isabella. Both were playing the opposites attract/balancing BFFs trope.
One friend is usually the fun and carefree extrovert, while the other is the serious introvert. We’ve seen this a few times, like Betty and Veronica on Riverdale Season 7 Episode 9, Schmidt and Nick on New Girl, and Wednesday and Enid on Wednesday.
We didn’t even need the time jump to learn that they would become BFFs. It was written in the stars (or more like Luke’s borrowed fireworks) for them to start their friendship journey.
At least their time at the pool party is starting to chip away at the wall Megan built up.
Megan and Isabella have great chemistry together! Sadie Stanley and Lexi Underwood, who play Megan and Isabella, respectively, seemed to get along well.
The same goes for their pairing with Luke (Griffin Gluck).
It made sense that Isabella and Luke would gravitate to each other; they hit it off really well during their first meeting. But Megan should’ve admitted the truth to Isabella about her feelings for Luke. You could easily tell from all the longing stares that she loves her oldest BFF.
And if she had told her, their friendship could’ve started right away. Strong friendships start with some clear boundaries.
For the first big twist, who do you think created the sex tape of Megan and Luke?
Whoever did it had to be hurt and petty against one (or both) of them. Playing the tape at the holiday party was meant to shame them in front of everyone. So, it had to be someone with an emotional connection.
Steve: Is it the only tape?
Luke: I think you should ask your number one son.
Brent: Ahh, Dad! Luke…
Steve: Is that the only tape?!
Luke: That’s a lie. No, that’s a lie!
Brent seems more like a small-thinker, not someone who would take the risk. I’m glad Isabella and Parker got revenge by smashing all his stuff. If he did record Parker without her consent, which seems like the case since he did it with other girls, he deserved everything he got.
He’s trash, his tapes are trash, and he can follow suit by going with them to the garbage bin on the curb where he belongs.
But did he plant the tape? It’s too early to tell, but there’s more to his shady story. He isn’t clean, no way.
The same goes for their friend, the videographer, Jeff.
Look, we don’t know anything about him yet. He’s another one of the mysteries that could play a part in what happened to Luke.
During the Summer of 1999, he did something to make the girls believe he was scorned. My best guess is that he has a major crush on Megan. He kept recording her with his camera, so it wouldn’t be surprising if that came to light.
Jeff seems too much like a red herring to make the answer that easy. It’ll either be him, or it’s a twist where it’ll lead to someone else.
Isabella pretending to be on the tape to protect Megan will no doubt come back to haunt them. If Pretty Little Liars taught us anything, it’s that complicated secrets tend to rise to the surface.
Only three people know the truth: Isabella, Megan, and Luke. It only takes one of them to spill the beans, regardless if they’re “ride or die” with each other.
I have a feeling Isabella will tell Debbie, which will, in turn, cause a domino effect for the story to come out. Megan entirely changed by the Summer of 2000, so it’s possible everyone turned against her when the truth came out.
It might explain why Megan and Isabella are no longer friends by then. You know, in addition to Luke’s disappearance and murder.
The big twist of the Cruel Summer Season 2 premiere was Luke being the dead body in the lake. Did anyone see this coming?!
My jaw dropped because the pacing and editing made it heavily seem like Isabella was the dead body. Even slight side characters like Brent and Megan’s sister Lily seemed like possible options. Plus, Parker’s ominous words to Megan sealed the deal.
But when Steve confirmed it was Luke’s body, and Isabella walked up beside Megan, it was like a one-two punch of a surprising twist.
An excellent emotional cliffhanger to keep us hooked on a must-watch mystery.
Either one (or both) of Megan and Isabella killed Luke. This outcome felt like the strongest possibility because both characters were so affected by his body being discovered; you could feel the tension in the air whenever they talked.
Plus, Megan cleaning all that dried blood was not a coincidence. She was either cleaning up to protect someone or doing it as guilt for what she did.
Isabella’s Mom: It’s late. Is everything okay?
Isabella: I need your help. I’m in trouble.
My first prediction is that Megan killed Luke, and Isabella is protecting her like she said she would always do as her “ride or die.”
The former BFFs are holding onto a secret, and Megan seems to be the most detached about the situation. She most likely accepted what she had done.
It’s still too early to make a final accusation. We need more clues and scenes of what happened at the New Year’s Eve party. Also, we need lots more music drops and Y2K fashion. Bring on all the references!
Last Thoughts From The Archive:
As I said, the music was amazing! Plenty of nostalgia and choices, like The Spice Girls reference.
Isabella needs to watch out because Sheriff Myers looks ready to arrest her. He’ll no doubt use her past and whatever she did with those pills to seal her fate.
What was Isabella doing with those pills?! She had a lot of them to only simply be using them.
Debbie and Steve were cute together. Hopefully, they can make their relationship work.
Now, over to you, Cruel Summer fans.
What did you think of “Welcome to Chatham” and “Ride or Die”?
Who murdered Luke? Who recorded the sex tape of Luke and Megan? Is Isabella being framed for the crime?
If you missed the latest episode of Cruel Summer, you can watch Cruel Summer online via TV Fanatic. Come back here and share your thoughts in the comments below.
Justin Carreiro is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.