Cruel Summer poster

‘Cruel Summer’ Season 1 Ending Explained

Known for its ’90s setting and fascinating storyline, Cruel Summer season 1’s ending left viewers puzzled. The show is laced with themes of contorted lies and half-baked truths, so let’s break down the season 1 finale and explain the ending!

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[Warning: This article contains references about suicide and abduction.]

Cruel Summer is about two Texas teens, Kate Wallis (Olivia Holt) and Jeanette Turner (Chiara Aurelia), who undergo significant events across three summers (1993, 1994, 1995). Kate is a popular girl in town who disappears without trace, with the initially reserved Jeanette essentially taking her place in various aspects of life, like dating her boyfriend Jamie Henson (Froy Gutierrez). Kate reappears a year later, accusing Jeanette of not reporting the crime despite witnessing her abduction by Martin Harris (Blake Lee), the vice principal of their high school. This leads to Jeanette becoming a national villain, and a legal battle between the two ensues.

In the lead-up to the finale, the ending of the trial becomes the focal point of the show. Kate and Jeanette have an honest conversation with each other (finally!) and agree on dropping the charges, ending the court case. Following this conversation, multiple dark truths are revealed, the first being that it’s Kate who kills Martin, her “abductor,” who died in a police shooting as far as the public is concerned. Kate escaped from his house after shooting him in self-defense, after he had changed his mind about killing himself. Kate never reveals the truth about her relationship with Martin before he abducted her, and that he was grooming her since a young age.

On the other hand, Jeanette is relieved after going scot-free, as it is shown that she had not seen but heard Kate’s cries for help when she visited Martin’s house to take the snow globe from him. Jeanette saw this as an opportunity to take over Kate’s life, which she ended up doing. Another confusion that is cleared in the end is about “Annabelle,” a name that constantly comes up in Kate’s conversations with her therapist. “Annabelle” is revealed to be Martin’s gun, with which Kate disposed of him.

Cruel Summer season 1 is available to stream on Prime Video, FreeForm, and Hulu.

(feature image: Entertainment One)


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Evan Tiwari
Evan is a staff writer at The Mary Sue, contributing to multiple sections, including but not limited to movies, TV shows, gaming, and music. He brings in more than five years of experience in the content and media industry, both as a manager and a writer. Outside his working hours, you can either catch him at a soccer game or dish out hot takes on his Twitter account.