Cruel Summer





Emily Clark

TV Series Review

How far would you go to have the life you’ve always dreamed of? Would you change your hair? Switch from glasses to contacts? Ditch your old friends for new ones? Allow someone to be kidnapped and tortured?

Jeanette Turner isn’t guilty kidnapping Kate Wallis. But she is guilty of taking over Kate’s life after the pretty, popular girl disappeared in the summer of ’93. She filled the vacuum left by Kate and took over her spot as school queen bee—expressing sorrow at Katie’s disappearance but, in reality, she wasn’t sorry at all.

Technically, that’s not a crime. But when Kate is found a year later, she accuses Jeanette of knowing where she was and failing to report it to police, resulting in Kate’s prolonged abuse at the hands of her kidnapper.

Again, technically, not a crime. However, it does bring Jeanette’s moral principles into question. And now, all those people Jeanette became friends with in Kate’s absence—particularly Kate’s boyfriend, Jamie, who fell in love with Jeanette after Kate’s disappearance—hate Jeanette.

Jeanette says Kate is lying. Now it’s up for the courts to decide. Because now, two years later, the girls are suing each other for defamation of character. And it’s one girl’s word against the other.

Defamation of Characters

Cruel Summer is a mystery. It showcases the events of the summer Kate disappeared, the summer she was rescued and the summer she and Jeanette go head-to-head in court. And at this early juncture, it’s still a bit of a mystery what really happened.

What’s not a mystery is the content of the show. Each episode is prefaced with a warning about depictions of domestic violence (which is completely warranted since we see a young man punch his girlfriend in the face, giving her a bloody nose and black eye). And while we don’t know exactly what happened to Kate, it’s safe to say that none of it was harmless.

Parents have affairs, and the teens are just as sexually active as the adults. And although most of this sensuality takes place offscreen, we still hear plenty of morbid details and see plenty of smooching (including between some same-sex couples). Language is another issue, with uses of just about every word but the f-word.

Like I said, it’s still a mystery whether or not Jeanette saw Kate in the house where she was held captive. But it’s not a mystery that Cruel Summer isn’t for everyone.

Episode Reviews

Apr. 27, 2021: “Off with a Bang”

In 1993, Jeanette and her friends spend the summer doing things they’ve never done before. In 1994, Jeanette tries to convince her boyfriend that Kate is lying. And in 1995, she reconciles what happened in the past in an attempt to fix her future.

We see several gay couples dancing together at a club. A boy looks at an adult magazine. A girl is called a “slut.”

A boy is threatened by his ex-girlfriend’s brother and dad after they discover he hit her. Kate screams at Jeanette when she spots her at a traffic stop. Jeanette talks about how people want her dead.

A girl steals her mom’s marijuana stash and Jeanette flushes it down the toilet. However, we later see her posing with a joint. Someone talks about getting “contact high” from marijuana.

Jeanette breaks into someone’s house and steals a yearbook. A boy lies under oath. People question why Kate is watching movies about kidnapping and torture. A girl wonders if she set evil forces into motion. We hear uses of the s-word, “a–,” “p-ss” and “h—,” as well as misuses of God’s name.

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Emily Clark
Emily Clark

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and indulging in her “nerdom,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything she loves, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.

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