Cruel Summer Premiere Recap: Grade Freeforms Mystery Drama from the 90s


It’s still spring, but Freeform has had a gruesome summer with the two-hour premiere of the curvy psychological thriller on Tuesday.

The series takes a nostalgic time-hopping approach to storytelling: Episode 1 is told from Jeanette’s point of view on June 21, 1993 (and ’94 and ’95), while Episode 2 switches to Kate’s POV on June 26th during the same three Years. Now that we’ve set the show’s schedules, let’s summarize in chronological order:

1993 | Jeanette (Tell me your secrets, Chiara Aurelia) is a clumsy, athletic teen who celebrates her birthday with best friends Mallory (Harley Quinn Smith from Supergirl) and Vince (Allius Barnes from PEN15) who make her a “You Go Girl! ” To buy. Necklace as a last minute gift. Jeanette’s mom (Sarah Drew of Grey’s Anatomy) notes that it looks cheap – but it turns out to be very important. (More on that later.)

Jeanette discovers her beautiful, popular schoolmate Kate (Olivia Holt from Cloak & Dagger) at a kiosk in a mall and clumsily pretends to be shopping at the same stand. When Jeanette blurts out it’s her birthday, Kate is surprisingly cute and wishes her a happy birthday before fumbling with hot boyfriend Jamie (Froy Gutierrez of Teen Wolf). After that, Jeanette, Mallory and Vince decide to cross an item on their summer to-do list that looks more like a mix of daredevils. So they break into a house that Jeanette’s father (Michael Landes of Lois & Clark) has just sold to new assistant principal Martin Harris (Blake Lee of Parks and Recreation), who catches her almost red-handed. The rush to break the rules seems to spring to mind for the good girl.

In the second episode, we discover that that same year, Kate deals with the revelation that her mother (Andrea Anders of Better Off Ted) is having an affair. The information sends Kate down a drunken Tailspin, and so she ends up on the sidewalk in front of Martin’s house.

1994 | Jeanette – without braces and now with shiny, straight hair – is woken up on her birthday by Jamie, who is now her boyfriend. Kate has been missing for a while and Jeanette has apparently taken over the blonde’s life and become besties with Kate’s friends after breaking up with Mallory and Vince. But when Kate is miraculously saved, Martin held her! – Jeanette’s new life is beginning to fall apart. In a shocking moment, Jamie hits Jeanette, thinking she had something to do with Kate’s disappearance. At the end of the first episode, we find that Kate stated on national television that Jeanette saw her while she was being held, but she did nothing to help her. “Jeanette Turner, I hope you rot in hell,” Kate says straight into the camera as Garbag’s plays “Stupid Girl”. It’s a “gasp!” Twist – but couldn’t it be the truth?

Rumors of Jeanette are circulating around town in Episode 2, but Kate hasn’t hit TV with her allegations yet. (I think. #Timejumpproblems) Jeanette tells Jamie – who is back with Kate – that she hasn’t seen the other girl and suggests that maybe Kate’s trauma was responsible for the misunderstanding. Kate spies on the couple’s secret meeting and kiss. When Kate finally speaks to the police, she picks up Jeanette’s “You Go Girl!” Necklace to prove that Jeanette was really there. Hmmm … The police then ask how well they knew Martin before the kidnapping. “Not at all good,” she replies / lies.

1995 | Jeanette is now the most hated person in the country, and she has the angry, shaggy haircut to go with it. She obsessively watches the VHS news about Kate’s disappearance while Jamie sits in his car in front of her house like a horror. Her father – whose happy marriage seems to have fallen apart in the past two years – wonders if his daughter is a sociopath, and Jeanette’s lawyer advises her to be more personable.

Meanwhile, Kate is all about grunge plaid and piercings as well as The Cranberries’ “Zombie” and she has thrown off her filter. She logs into a kidnapping victim chat room and asks what would happen if people knew she was not being completely honest. That question could be answered because Jeanette is suing Kate. While Kate sees the announcement on the news, the episode flashes back to her in a gorgeous red dress, knocking on Martin’s basement door, asking him to open it. In 1995, Kate bursts into a primal scream.

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