Cruel Summer Season 2: EPs Explain Why They Went Anthology Route, Tease Easter Egg Connection to Season 1

It’s going to be a Cruel Summer for two new teenage girls in Season 2 of the Freeform anthology series, which returns with a two-hour premiere on Monday, June 5 at 9/8c.

Following the breakout hit’s first season, which starred Chiara Aurelia and Olivia Holt, it was unclear if the show would continue with their fan-fave characters, Jeanette and Kate, at the center of a new mystery, or if the cast would return to play new personas. Ultimately, the creative team opted to go the full-fledged anthology route, with a new ensemble and a fresh mystery for the second season.

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“We took into big consideration [that] people really loved the cast in Season 1 and were connected to them,” Michelle Purple, who exec-produces Cruel Summer alongside Jessica Biel via their Iron Ocean Productions, tells TVLine. “We actually opened up a room and discussed, ‘What does it look like to continue both these girls’ stories or one of these girl’s stories?'”

Added Biel at the Television Critics Assoc. winter press tour in January 2023: “We struggled with where to go from there because it really felt like [Season 1] really had stuck the landing, and it was a complete story.”

After exploring the idea of expanding on Season 1, “unfortunately, we didn’t find that it would have the legs it would have if we just did the anthology,” Purple explains. “And we really stepped back and we were able to look at the show — the three timelines, the dual perspectives, the mystery, the week-to-week who do you believe? — and [decided] that was something we could hold on to as the core of what Cruel Summer is and find a new story, two new characters to follow.”

Cruel Summer Season 2
Cruel Summer Season 2

Season 2 introduces viewers to Megan (played by The Goldbergs‘ Sadie Stanley) and Isabella (Little Fires Everywhere‘s Lexi Underwood), two high schoolers in the Pacific Northwest who are thrown together when the latter comes to live with Megan and her family as an exchange student, of sorts. Although the girls’ relationship gets off to a prickly start, they soon become close friends. But a love triangle forms with Megan’s best friend Luke (Locke & Key‘s Griffin Gluck), threatening to derail Megan and Isabella’s bond, while a shocking mystery completely changes their lives.

Whereas Jeanette and Kate were at odds and separated in their individual storylines, “Season 2’s friendship is much deeper and much more connected between the two girls,” Biel shares with TVLine. “We really wanted to explore…loyalty and what happens when two young women are extremely close and then something drives a wedge between them.”

The second season takes place over three timelines around Y2K — July 1999, December 1999 and July 2000 — when curiosity about what was going to happen when the clock hit midnight was at an all-time high. As such, technology plays “a big role” for the characters, Biel says, while the uncertainty of Y2K propels the narrative.

“The idea of anything could happen, and the whole idea that the world could end, so maybe that’s the night where you might do things that you never ordinarily would have done, I think that really energized this season,” new showrunner Elle Triedman shared at the TCA winter press tour.

Cruel Summer Renewed
Cruel Summer Renewed

Plus, the time period is not that far removed from Jeanette and Kate’s story, which spanned 1993-1995, so fans should keep their eyes peeled for an Easter egg connection.

“We’re playing in the same world in the sense of it’s just a few years later. So there’s a tie to Season 1, but we’re not going to tell you [what it is]! You guys have to find it!” Purple says with a laugh.

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