Everything We Know About 'Cruel Summer' Season 2

More 'Cruel Summer' is coming to Freeform. But when?

chiara aurelia cruel summer
Chiara Aurelia | Freeform
Chiara Aurelia | Freeform

Ever since Pretty Little Liars went off the air, Freeform was looking for its next hit series. Then Cruel Summer came along in spring 2021, and hooked viewers week-to-week with its addictive mystery filled with holes. The show, created by Bert V. Royal (Easy A) with Tia Napolitano (Scandal, Grey's Anatomy) as showrunner and executive produced by Jessica Biel, follows the mystery that shakes a small Texas town in the early '90s when beloved high school girl Kate Wallis (Olivia Holt) goes missing, and the allegations that arise when another, Jeanette Turner (Chiara Aurelia), proves to be connected to the case. With the complex way the series revealed the truth of the situation across three timelines, the many secrets explored throughout, and its focus on how teenage girls are perceived and vilified, Cruel Summer captured a faithful audience curious about what really went down between Jeanette and Kate.

Considering Season 1 wrapped up with a shocking finale, it's fair to wonder whether there's even more truth to come to light in the teen series. Before you unlock your Password Journal and start theorizing about what's to come of the show, we're breaking down everything we know about Season 2 of Cruel Summer.

cruel summer
Olivia Holt and Froy Gutierrez | Freeform

Will there be a Season 2 of Cruel Summer

A renewal for Cruel Summer came faster than it takes to boot up dial-up or call a landline. Just ahead of the Season 1 finale in June 2021, TVLine reported Freeform ordered a second season. Freeform President Tara Duncan said it was an "easy decision" in a statement to the publication. It definitely makes sense the show is coming back for more, as Deadline pointed out it became the network's most-watched series ever, and only grew in popularity week-to-week. So, there's no need to channel angsty Jeanette circa '95: More episodes are definitely on the way. And soon!

When will Cruel Summer Season 2 be released?

With the news of Season 2 getting a green-lit, executive producer Jessica Biel took to Instagram to celebrate—and share an update of when we can expect it to premiere. According to her post, new episodes should be on the way sometime in 2022. No official release date has been confirmed yet, but considering the show wrapped just recently, give it some time. It would make sense for it to follow a similar release schedule as Season 1, though, so it seems likely new episodes could arrive sometime next spring or summer.

What will Cruel Summer Season 2 be about?

Here's where things get confusing. Season 1 ended with a massive cliffhanger, revealing Jeanette broke into Martin Harris' house on yet another occasion that she never mentioned, and although she didn't see Kate, she heard her yelling for help from the basement. It definitely calls for more answers regarding how deep in Jeanette is as a status-obsessed teenage sociopath. Season 2 could follow that—or it could go in different direction entirely.

When the show was renewed in June 2021, Deadline reported that there's talk of turning the series into an anthology. They reported that Freeform president Tara Duncan is still waiting on hearing the showrunners' ideas for the second season, but "admitted that it could feature a new story with the same cast or, in anthology form, use the device of two points of view using multiple timelines with a new group." The anthology format has become popular in recent years, as seen with mystery series True Detective, The Missing, Fargo, and The Sinner, and the tactic of casting existing cast members in new roles a la American Horror Story is also not uncommon, so it does seem possible that the show could go in that direction.

If that does end up being the case, that doesn't help much with what Season 2 will be about, but you might speculate that, given Biels' involvement, the throughline of the show could work something like the way it does on The Sinner, where Bill Pullman's Harry Ambrose is the one character who appears across seasons. Which character might fill that role on Cruel Summer? Who knows! Could Season 2 possibly be set in the flash-forward world of the '00s or '10s, with new, older actresses portraying Jeanette and Kate in that time period with flashbacks to the years following the ending of Season 1 that allows Chiara Aurelia and Olivia Holt to return? Maybe! Or could it get even darker and take on a completely different kind of crime with an entirely new cast? Anything's fair game but, given the network involved, you can certainly expect round two to continue to dive into issues pressing teens, and unfold in an addictive way.

Although, if you're still fixated on what really happened in the Jeanette and Kate case, it is still possible that we'll head back to Skylin again. Deadline noted "the mystery could return with a new story with the same characters and actors." If that's where Season 2 decides to go, it'll likely dive into when it was that Jeanette broke into Martin Harris' in '94 in Season 1's final scene. On one hand, it did look like summertime, so Jeanette could've been who sent the tip to the authorities that Kate was at Martin's house. The show never totally clarified how the police knew to look into him as a suspect—especially after a year's worth of investigation. If that's what happened, perhaps Jeanette thought it would lead to her friendship with Kate and make her a local hero—not realizing that Kate would deem her an enemy and announce the allegations against her when she was released, which would explain why she always kept that break-in a secret.

Although, on the other hand, that moment confirmed that Jeanette really did have a dark side all along and—especially if she found out where Kate was when she was reigning as Miss Popular in spring/summer '94—didn't want her to return to take back her place in their social group. If that's what happened and the truth came out in Season 2, a whole new frenzy would erupt and Jeanette would likely return to her title as "Most Hated Girl in America." The end of Season 1 showed how much Jeanette loved being glorified and given the spotlight on The Marsha Bailey Show, so if she doesn't want her reputation tampered with again, we could see her go to extreme lengths to protect it.

If the show did return to Skylin, the Jeanette cliffhanger might only be a portion of the season. It's possible Jeanette could try to press charges against Mallory, who also sort of, you know, ruined her life by keeping quiet. Or, probably more likely, another mystery would take the town by storm. It sounded like Martin Harris had a history of abusive behavior that could come to light, or maybe something else affects the characters. Everybody sure does seem to have a lot of secrets.

cruel summer
Harley Quinn Smith, Chiara Aurelia, and Allius Barnes | Freeform

Who in the cast will be back?

As with the plot, it's hard to say who will be back for another Cruel Summer since no details regarding Season 2 have been confirmed. If the show becomes an anthology, it's possible that both everybody could be back and in a different role, or we'll only see a few familiar faces.

Right now, it seems very likely that both of the leads, Olivia Holt and Chiara Aurelia, will return regardless. Holt took to Twitter when the show was renewed to say, "See y'all next year…" so she seems in talks to appear in one way or another. As for Aurelia, she mentioned in an interview with Teen Vogue that she was "super excited to go back" for Season 2. Whether that's as the two secrets-wielding teens we're already familiar with or somebody else, TBD.

With those two returning and potentially stepping back into the Jellies and Doc Martens of Kate and Jeanette, it's fair to assume that just about everyone else in the cast would return, too, if the teen drama continued the story from Season 1. Kate continued to accept Mallory as a friend, even though she was who she saw all along, so Harley Quinn Smith is likely to be back. We would hope Froy Gutierrez's Jamie isn't a burgeoning abuser himself, but he still has violent behavior to account for. Season 2 could very well follow his alcohol addiction and abusive tendencies. Joy Wallis (Andrea Anders) similarly has a lot of learning to do about being a better parent to a traumatized daughter—and considering how many secrets she keeps tucked away behind the curtains of her Texas mansion, maybe we'll learn more about her history going forward. That being said, her husband Rod (Benjamin J. Cain Jr.) and stepdaughter Ashley (Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut) seem likely to be back. The same goes for the Turner family, Greg, Cindy, and Derek, played by Michael Landes, Sarah Drew, and Barrett Carnahan, and Greg Turner's girlfriend Angela, portrayed by Brooklyn Sudano. Plus, the only two super genuine, non-problematic characters, Vince Fuller (Allius Barnes) and Ben Hallowell (Nathaniel Ashton), could return, too. (Although they were just speculating, the cast themselves told Teen Vogue they were hoping for even more focus on Ben and Vince going forward).

The only character who's a big question mark might be Martin Harris (Blake Lee), since he's the only person who was killed off. If the series continues to jump between timelines or feature flashbacks, though, expect to see more of him—or even learn about the crimes he's committed that we're not already aware of.

What about the showrunners? 

Although Bert V. Royal created the series and wrote much of the first season, in July 2021 after Season 1 had ended, The Hollywood Reporter shared that he actually left the series following the pilot. According to THR, he clashed with executives at Freeform over creative differences, so he won't be back for more. Jessica Biel and showrunner Tia Napolitano will be back as executive producers, though. 

Right now, it's still hard to say what that means for Season 2. Royal did create the original story and its characters, so it might make sense that the show is considering turning into an anthology with him no longer involved. On the other hand, THR noted that Napolitano joined the series once Royal exited it and she did bring much of the first season to life as showrunner, so considering that, we could still see more in the Kate and Jeanette saga. 

It's still early, so in the meantime, marathon your favorite '90s sitcom, but continue to check back because we'll update this post as more information about Cruel Summer Season 2 is announced.

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Sadie Bell is the entertainment editorial assistant at Thrillist. She's on Twitter at @mssadiebell.