Kate Wallis (Olivia Holt) is the girl everyone else in school wants to be. Smart, attractive, popular, kind, accomplished, and well off, she seems to have everything she could ever want or need. That is, until one “Cruel Summer.”
Set over the course of three years — 1993, 1994, and 1995 — “Cruel Summer” follows the disappearance of Kate, the assumption of her role as Queen Bee by previously nerdy Jeanette Turner (Chiara Aurelia), and the fallout of Kate’s return.
As with “Clickbait,” this Freeform show exposes the rot underneath seemingly perfect suburban lives. Additionally, it explores how public participation — this time via television instead of the internet — can twist and complicate a situation, bringing about even worse ends.
If that’s not enough to capture a potential viewer’s interest, the inventive triptych storytelling and strong performances make for a captivating viewing experience. Every time you think you’ve gotten ahead of “Summer,” a revelation from a different year exposes how much you still don’t know.