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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

This article contains mild spoilers for “Cruel Summer,” so read at your own risk!

Earlier this year, commercials for “Cruel Summer” were absolutely everywhere. I couldn’t figure out what exactly it was about, so I decided to give Freeform’s new show a shot. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one because “Cruel Summer” is the most-watched debut show ever on Freeform. Honestly, I was very skeptical at first because Freeform has been very hit or miss for me in the past. However, any doubts I had about this show were erased by the second episode. To put it simply, “Cruel Summer” blew me away. 

This show centers around difficult and triggering topics, such as child grooming and domestic abuse.

“Cruel Summer” is a ten-episode show that follows the stories of Jeanette Turner and Kate Wallis from 1993 to 1995. At the beginning of the show, Kate disappears in 1993 and Jeanette takes over Kate’s role as the popular girl. In 1994, Kate is found in the basement of the high school’s assistant principal, Martin Harris. Then, Kate accuses Jeanette of knowing about her abduction and not doing anything, so the whole country turns on Jeanette. Little by little, the truth is revealed, keeping the viewer intrigued and satisfied.

One of my favorite elements of “Cruel Summer” is the characters because of their moral ambiguity. They all had lots of layers, making them feel like real people. There wasn’t one character who was totally good or totally bad, with the exception of Martin Harris. My personal favorite was Kate. Her storyline was compelling as she is an unreliable narrator. Olivia Holt did a fantastic job making her sympathetic. In contrast to this, I couldn’t stand Jeanette. From the first episode, I knew I wouldn’t like her. I found her to be annoying and very hard to feel bad for. Martin Harris is despicable, and the writers did an excellent job making him that way.

In addition to the characters, I loved the storytelling format. Switching between the three years added something unique. To keep the timeline, the hairstyles and the lighting would change depending on the year. This was a little confusing at first, but you get into the groove of things after a few episodes. Since it was set in the 1990s, it gave the show an interesting vibe. The costuming and the music worked to immerse the audience in the setting. Also, it grounded the show in reality because it made it feel like it really happened, as though everybody knows the story of Jeanette and Kate.

The plot was very twisty and always kept me on my toes. While I had some theories on the ending, I never knew if I’d be right. I was never bored while watching. Usually, a show will drag for a few scenes or episodes, but “Cruel Summer” didn’t do that. It felt like putting the pieces of a puzzle together while watching this show. Everything unraveled at a good pace; nothing was revealed too quickly or too slowly. In the end, all loose ends were tied. And can we talk about the final seconds of the last episode? I had chills.

I don’t have too many complaints about this show. I did find Jeanette, Joy Wallis and Jamie Henson to be obnoxious at times, but not to the point of being unbearable. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time watching “Cruel Summer.”

Since its conclusion, it has been renewed for a second season that is set to premiere in 2022. Whether the story of Jeanette and Kate will continue or if we will follow new characters has not been determined yet, but I’m super excited to see where the series is headed. 
Would I recommend you give “Cruel Summer” a watch? Absolutely! As stated earlier, this show addresses some heavy issues, so it is best to look into proper trigger warnings. You can find the first season on Hulu and on Freeform’s website if you want to check it out for yourself!

Nickie Johnson

George Mason University '22

Nickie Johnson is a senior at George Mason. She is majoring in history and hopes to one day become a school librarian. This is her third year writing for Her Campus, and she has loved every minute of it! She is involved in GMU's Honors College and the George Mason Chapter of Educators Rising Collegiate. In addition to writing, Nickie loves watching movies and reality television, performing showtunes in the mirror, and reading.