What I thought about: Cruel Summer (t/w: grooming)

I don’t think I’ve ever been more shocked, stunned, and disappointed in a season finale cliffhanger than the one in this show. And now you get to watch me review it without spoiling it for you.

How did Kate Wallis end up here? The truth may shock you.

What’s it about?
In 1993, Jeanette Turner is living her best, if slightly nerdy and unpopular, teenage life. By 1995, she’s one of the most hated people in America. What went wrong? We actually find out quite early on: In late 1993 the popular, pretty, and wealthy Kate Wallis goes missing – kidnapped, in fact, by the principal at her school, Martin Harris. When she’s eventually rescued towards the end of 1994, she accuses Jeanette of having seen her chained up in Martin’s basement, locking eyes with her before walking away without alerting anyone.

Each episode in the series looks at a significant event in the characters’ lives which, due to the circumstances, plays out differently in each of 1993, 1994, and 1995. In 1993, Jeanette is on a mission to up her coolness by competing with her friends to complete a list of challenges (mostly petty crimes and pranks). But in 1994, she’s a totally different person, filling the void that the now-kidnapped Kate left behind. Literally – she has Kate’s friends and even her boyfriend. And things are going well. In 1995, however, Kate’s allegations against Jeanette have reverberated around the nation, ruined her relationships with friends and family, leaving her fighting to tell the truth in court.

What do I like about it?
Props have to go to the actors, Chiara Aurelia (Jeanette) and Olivia Holt (Kate) – it must have been challenging to convey three different personalities and they do it so well. You might think Jeanette’s change from nerd to popular girl is a sharp contrast, but if you look closer, you will see that she was developing her confidence in lying early on in 1993, still displays an element of self-doubt in 1994, and only drops her lip quiver in 1995.

I also think the show handles the topic of grooming pretty well, although I’m no medical expert in this area. Kate wasn’t especially vulnerable – she had friends, she was well liked, she even had a boyfriend! And, as the show carefully conveys, the kidnapping wasn’t anywhere near as violent as you might think. All of that culminates in a very disturbing penultimate episode dedicated to the time Kate spent trapped in Martin’s house. I actively squirmed throughout that one.

What do I not like about it?
The timeline can actually be really hard to follow – it often felt like we were really only guided by Jeanette’s completely different hairstyles in each year, and the harshly-done desaturated and darkened filter placed on the 1995 scenes. Even with these, it can be difficult to know where you are – the 1994 scenes include a mix of pre and post-rescue of Kate, and the narrative style shows the same event (and therefore the same setting) happening across three different years.

I am also really fucking disappointed in the ending, but I haven’t worked out if that’s because it’s so good or because I hate the writers for it.

Worth a watch?
It’s a bit of a slog at 10 hours, but if the premise interests you then I think you will find this quite a deep and captivating show. Give it more than the first episode, too, as it starts off slow.

By the way…

  • There are side plots in this show but none of them are particularly relevant, which added to my confusion when watching.
  • Olivia Holt was cast as a replacement for Mika Abdalla. I don’t know why, but Olivia was a great choice so there’s no complaints from me.

628w

Let’s check in with the binge

Wow, it’s been a while. 7 months to be exact. What have I been doing in that time? Still watching stuff, I assure you. Read on to find out…

I know you’re all eagerly awaiting my review of Corncob TV’s Coffin Flop

Have you ever realised that, as an adult, there is very little time for leisure, once we subtract the day job; sleep; chores; food; exercise; and socialising out of the 24 hours we get in a day? Well, I realised that in February of this year, after my leisure and socialising time combined into one great big time vacuum known only as VALORANT (look it up). I was watching less TV, and I also had significantly less time to write about every single thing I did have the time to watch.

So first off, a new rule: I no longer have to write about everything I watch in detail. Some stuff is honestly just so mediocre (or old and therefore already written about online all over the place) that it’s just not worth it and it’s certainly not fun to write about for more than a few sentences. I will, however. still include everything and say a little something about them all, because I still want this blog to serve as some kind of archive.

I will say I’m hoping to write some longer form reviews for shows such as: Atypical (Season 4), Control Z (Season 2), The One, and Brand New Cherry Flavour. For now, I’ll leave you with the first in a line of micro-reviews for everything else I don’t write a dedicated post about:

Teachers

An initially interesting (and charmingly early 2000s) comedy about a bunch of slacking teachers, this show fizzled out as more and more of the original cast were dropped with every new season, to the point where I stopped watching near the start of Season 3.

Disenchantment (Season 3)

The fantasy comedy cartoon from Simpson’s creator Matt Groening continued in fine form as we saw more of the world inhabited by Bean and her subjects, with much of this season set in the bizzare-for-many-reasons Steamworld. I’m looking forward to the next one.

Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel

An incredibly chilling true crime documentary about the disappearance of Elisa Lam while she stayed at the crime-ridden Cecil Hotel. Watch some rather odd figures retell the story of their time at the hotel, and look on in shock at the creepy CCTV footage. Great for true crime fans like me.