The moment of truth has arrived for fans of Freeform’s enthralling drama Cruel Summer. Tuesday’s finale promises to answer most of the questions swirling around the previous nine episodes about what social climber Jeanette Turner (Chiara Aurelia) knew and when she knew it in regards to the mysterious disappearance of popular high school student Kate Wallis (Olivia Holt). If you’ve been following the jaw-dropping plot twists since the Jessica Biel-produced series premiered on April 20, then brace yourselves for impact. If the name Annabelle or a certain “You Go Girl!” necklace draws a blank stare, there’s still time to catch up on the entire season on demand with Sling.
Flashing back and forth across three pivotal summers - 1993, 1994 and 1995 - in the lives of two teens on opposite sides of the social spectrum, Cruel Summer intertwines a pulpy mystery with a very frank depiction of grooming and the lasting effects of sexual trauma. When fresh-faced, peppy Kate is found locked up in the basement of local vice principal Martin Harris (Blake Lee) a year after vanishing all eyes turn to Jeanette, who transformed from a shy, awkward girl with a mouth full of braces during her absence into a stylish, confident cusp of a woman with Kate’s boyfriend and besties by her side. Spurred on by Kate’s shocking admission that Jeanette failed to report her kidnapping, Jeanette is ostracized by family, friends and the country at large as the media paints her as the most hated girl in America.
Each time jump reveals layers of just what the actual truth - on both sides - entails. Neither character is as innocent or guilty as they seem - yet no one in the orbit of this monstrous crime goes untouched by one man’s abusive behavior.
We talked to Chiara Aurelia ahead of the finale about fan theories, how Jeanette worshiping Kate contributed to her own downfall and who she’s rooting for (Hint: It’s not Jeanette).
Cruel Summer airs Tuesdays on Freeform at 10 pm ET. Catch up on the first season on demand.