Poster for Cruel Summer Season 2, with a white teen girl's face halfway submerged in water and a Black teen girl's face in the reflection


Title: Cruel Summer (Season #2)
Released: 2023

Fix: Y2K, Juicy Teen Drama, Time Jump Mystery
Platform: Hulu

Hulu Summary:

Set in an idyllic waterfront town in the Pacific Northwest, the next chapter of Cruel Summer follows the rise and fall of an intense teenage friendship. Approaching the story from three different timelines surrounding Y2K, the season twists and turns as it tracks the early friendship between Megan, Isabella and Megan’s best friend Luke, the love triangle that blossomed, and the mystery that would impact all of their lives going forward.

FYA Summary:

So, before we get into it, you can rest assured that I will *not* be including spoilers for this season in this review beyond the first episode. That’s what the comment section is for, y’all! (Please join me there post haste because I have THOUGHTS.)

Also, in case it’s not clear, this is a completely different story from Season 1, which I freaking relished from start to finish. Like, lip-smacking, juice (from the drama obvs) dripping down my chin, etc. etc.

ANYWAY. Season 2 takes place over a year, jumping back and forth over three time periods: summer 1999, winter 1999, and summer 2000. That’s right, we’re getting Y2Kraaaazy!

In the summer of ’99, Isabella—a gorgeous, cosmopolitan teen who’s lived abroad her whole life thanks to diplomat parents—moves to Chatham (which I think is in Washington?) to live with Megan, an all-American tomboy type girl, her mom, and her younger sister (whom you will quickly forget exists because she appears in like 4 scenes total). If you’re wondering why Megan’s mom decides to invite Isabella to move in, or what kind of weird exchange student program this is, well, you will continue to wonder because the show doesn’t give a shit about justifying itself to you!

Megan is not thrilled about Isabella moving in, especially when Isabella sets her sexy sights on Luke, Megan’s BFF and secret crush. And just when you think Luke doesn’t deserve to be in a love triangle with two beautiful girls, we skip to summer 2000 when it’s revealed that Luke disappeared after New Year’s Eve… and his body was just recovered from the lake.

(Semi-)Familiar Faces:

Three teenagers stand together at an outdoor bar: a slender white guy with brown hair, a pretty blonde white girl, and a pretty Black girl smiling at the other girl

L-R: Griffin Gluck as Luke Champers, Sadie Stanley as Megan Landry, Lexi Underwood as Isabella LaRue

Similar to Season 1, the story depends on two leading ladies being able to carry it, and I think Sadie Stanley (Megan) and Lexi Underwood (Isabella) definitely pull it off.

I haven’t seen Sadie in anything else, but her transformation of Megan over the three time periods is believable and, even for a show this soapy, pretty realistic! It was as easy to root for her as it was to secretly wonder about the darkness of her insides.

As for Lexi Underwood, I was super impressed with her complex performance in Little Fires Everywhere, and while she has less quality material to work with in Cruel Summer (sorry, Freeform), she still makes Isabella a nuanced character as likely to be a heroine as she is to be a villain.

And then there’s Griffin Gluck. First, I’m sorry, but your name is what?! Second, I admit I might be biased against him after watching Locke & Key, and this is a very shallow statement but [*Karen voice*] can I please speak to a casting director? We’re supposed to believe that these two young women, who are incredibly attractive, would be drawn to this guy who is… not? HOW HARD IS IT TO FIND HOT GUYS WHO CAN ACT? I’m not even kidding when I say that the show kinda fell apart for me because I just could not DEAL with Luke.

Speaking of nope, Luke’s dad (played by Paul Edelstein) is one of the most Dan Scott-iest dads I’ve ever seen on TV.

Couch-Sharing Capability: Rowdy Summer

Lord I wish I had watched this with other people, specifically my most vocal and catty friends. Yes, you do need to actually pay attention and hear the dialogue to know what’s happening, but then you can pause it, turn to each other, and dish about your theories or rant about ___ or simply exclaim, “COME ON NOW.” The funnest part of this show is seeing if you can figure out the truth before it’s revealed at the end, and the more people in the room, the greater your chances are of being right and getting to feel real smug about it.

Recommended Level of Inebriation: Tipsy Summer

Chatham teens love to party, y’all, so don’t let them have all the fun! Fill up those red Solo cups and take a drink every time there’s an awesomely Y2K moment, be it an AOL chat or bigass video camera. Yes, you do need to be sober enough to see what color filter the show is using (so you can tell which time period you’re watching) but the girls’ hairstyles are also an easy indicator.

Use of Your Streaming Subscription: Campy Summer

Keeping it vague, I’ll just say that I found Season 1 to be way more satisfying and thrilling than Season 2, but I still enjoyed the ride. The twists and turns were fun; the character arcs were (somewhat) unpredictable; the soundtrack was pitch perfect. And yes, I’m definitely hoping for a third season (though I’m scared of what Freeform considers “retro” at this point).

If you’ve finished Season 2, pretty please join me in the comments for a spoiler-rific convo!!!

Sarah lives in Austin, and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.