Freeform has announced today that it is renewing its summer hit series Cruel Summer for Season 2. In addition to dominating our weekly Power Ranking throughout its run, we at Paste placed the series sixth in our list of the 20 Best TV Shows of 2021 (So Far) and have loved the fact that it also helped revive theory culture with its weekly episode rollout. Speaking of which, the show—which also airs next-day on Hulu—was that platform’s most-watched first season title from a linear network.
The series follows two teenage girls through three summers in the mid-1990s. The popular Kate Wallis (Olivia Holt) is kidnapped and then rescued almost a year later, while the nerdy Jeanette Turner (Chiara Aurelia) “takes her place” in the social hierarchy and appears to be complacent somehow in the disappearance—which upends things once again. The show skips among these timelines as it slowly uncovers the truth in compelling ways, including thoughtful considerations of disturbing topics such as grooming. But it (rightfully) shies away from gratuitous depictions of such violence, and instead relies on intense emotional fall out and therapist-driven discussions of the trauma.
The first season finale, airing Tuesday June 15th (and Wednesday on Hulu) seems set to wrap things up for this particular story, though, and Freeform has not given an indication as to whether the show will continue as an anthology (a new mystery set across multiple timelines) or with its current characters. Of note, Cruel Summer EP Jessica Biel is also the EP of the series The Sinner, which (after a successful first and limited season) continued as an anthology with a single connecting character. Frankly, I don’t think Cruel Summer even needs that, and instead could use this unique storytelling framework to investigate a completely new crime. Continuing with this particular story feels like it would have no choice but to devolve into melodrama, or would feel too ham-fisted to introduce a second crime to provide a new mystery. But we shall see—in showrunner Tia Napolitano we trust!
In the meantime, stay tuned for our Cruel Summer finale coverage, and if you haven’t caught up on the series yet what are you waiting for?
Allison Keene is the TV Editor of Paste Magazine. For more television talk, pop culture chat and general japery, you can follow her @keeneTV
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