Cruel Summer Season 2 sees the series take things a little slower this year

Cruel Summer Season 2 (Freeform)

Perhaps the heat is getting to the Freeform series as its second outing remains silly overblown fun, but at a lesser pace.

In its first season, Cruel Summer was a roller coaster of a television show. It offered a new twist, loop, or drop around every corner. Cruel Summer Season 2, by contrast, feels more like the Slingshot. For one, the journey is much easier to understand and anticipate. Of course, there are still thrills to be hand. Still, it lacks a certain gonzo quality. As a result, this season is better and more logically plotted, but also significantly less likely to leave a viewer’s head spinning.

Megan Landry (Sadie Stanley, who, with her hair lightened for the role, resembles season 1’s Olivia Holt) lives in the small seaside town of Chatham, Washington. Like any good small coastal town, there’s a robust upper class that Megan isn’t a part of. However, her best friend Luke (Griffin Gluck, carving out a niche as the least trustworthy actor playing a teen of this era) is the youngest scion of the town’s best-known wealthy family. When Megan’s mom Debbie (KaDee Strickland) opens their home to exchange student Isabella (Lexi Underwood) for the 1999-2000 school year, it triggers a series of events, love triangles, and risky choices with dire consequences.

Cruel Summer Season 2 (Freeform)
Lexi Underwood and Sadie Stanley help hold up a load bearing column. In no exactly era accurate attire. (Freeform/Frank Ockenfels)

As in Season 1, Cruel Summer Season 2 unfolds during three different periods, separated by six months each. In June of 1999, recognizable but its bright and ungelled color scheme, Megan and Isabella get to know each other and grow progressively closer. In December 1999, swathed in a blue-grey sheen, the two are thick as thieves, but cracks begin to show. By June 2000, their relationship has morphed into a co-dependent bond rife with resentments and manipulations cast in greens and yellows.

Besides easily distinguishing between the time periods (something season 1 and the recent Class of ’09 also pulled), the color schemes fit the context of events well. Summer ’99 is full of promise and devoid of baggage, thus the series’ most natural shades. Winter of ’99 is both winter and a time of increasing ambiguity. Finally, Summer of 2000 charts a friendship turning to something worse, hence the dialing up of colors otherwise pleasantly associated with the season–lush green plants and warm golden sunlight—to oppressive degrees. It isn’t groundbreaking, but it shows a higher degree of thoughtfulness beyond the usual “Oh, is it happening somewhere hot? Make it all sepia-toned!” depth of consideration.

Like that overheated season, [Cruel Summer]’s just more fun when it adds some trashiness to the mix.

The first two episodes, already out, get the story going well, laying out the players while building to a small twist that reveals the true mystery of the season. The next few episodes meticulously build the events of the three timelines. Again, the thoroughness ensures Cruel Summer Season 2 makes sense. Unfortunately, it also robs it of some of the relentless careening energy of Season 1. It also slows things down as Stanley and Underwood repeatedly engage in a series of subtle Spy v. Spy passive-aggressive machinations in Summer of 2000 section. The hushed quality of it could definitely use some of the first season’s dramatic histrionics to jolt it into gear.

However, late in episode 5 through episode 7, the last currently available to critics, the series finds its pulse again. Things start churning and moving. As Y2K bears down in the Winter 1999 era of the story, the Megan-Isabella-Luke trio becomes increasingly unhealthy. The possible motives for the central crime become clear. Most importantly, Cruel Summer Season 2 re-embraces that reckless sense of “throw the kitchen sink in with it.” Suddenly, we’re meeting a paranoiac in the woods and getting tastes of vigilante justice, computer hacking, and increasing “I don’t just love you, I LOVE you” obsessions. It’s like the series remembers that it is a summer show in more than name. Like that overheated season, it’s just more fun when it adds some trashiness to the mix.

Cruel Summer Season 2 is currently hosting a pool party on Freeform.

Cruel Summer Season 2 Trailer:

Tim Stevens

Tim Stevens is a freelance writer and therapist from the Nutmeg State, hailing from the home of the World’s Smallest Natural Waterfall. In addition to The Spool, you can read his stuff in CC Magazine, Marvel.com, ComicsVerse, and The New Paris Press. His work has been quoted in Psychology Today, The Atlantic, and MSN Ireland. And yes, he is listing all this to try and impress you.

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