Who doesn’t like a good teen soap opera? If you like Dawson’s Creek, One Tree Hill, or even The OC, it was most likely because you were drawn into the tangled and dramatic lives of these individuals living in a gorgeous coastal town overflowing with Americana.
While most television series nowadays take a grittier approach to teen dramas, turning them into mini-adults, The Summer I Turned Pretty firmly belongs in the realm of soapy, low-stakes teen drama. There are no serial murders, no unexplained deaths, and no weird unknown figure pursuing them. It’s all about the bonds that link, and designer Jenny Han understands that.
Season 2 is a welcome return to Cousins Beach after a great first season. Though the second season includes some deeper issues, such as the kids’ grief after a tragic tragedy, it does not take away any of the fun and youthfulness that these characters exhibit. Belly (Lola Tung), Conrad (Christopher Briney), Jeremiah (Gavin Casalegno), and Steven (Sean Kaufman) must not only deal with big changes in their personal lives but also undertake a life transition.
The Summer I Turned Pretty Season 2 Trailer
High school is coming to an end for them — or has already come to an end for Conrad — and they are transitioning into adulthood, which is a terrible thought. Summer, on the other hand, has always been a romantic period. Susannah (Rachel Blanchard) transformed the beach home into a safe haven, and summer is a bubble comprised of clean white furnishings, beach outings, and a massive Fourth of July barbecue.
The titular event occurred during Season 1. Belly, who is back in Cousins Beach for the summer with her brother Steven and mother Laurel (Jackie Chung), has “turned pretty” and has finally piqued the interest of her long-time childhood sweetheart, Conrad. Growing up with Conrad and his brother Jeremiah, the group obviously has a lot of baggage and history. When Jeremiah expresses his interest in Belly, she is quickly thrust into a love triangle. Season 2 continues to push her deeper, with a continuance of the triangle that will likely have viewers wondering who they want Belly to choose at the end of it all.
It’s a tribute to the show that the love triangle between Belly, Conrad, and Jeremiah works. Conrad, as much as we like him, spends much of the season openly lamenting and suffering in quiet, providing little to no assistance to Belly. While Season 1 emphasized Conrad as the ideal pick for Belly, Season 2 provides a solid defense for Jeremiah. Tung and Casalegno have hot chemistry, but giving both lads a shot with Belly is what builds a fascinating love triangle. At the end of the day, we’re supposed to be just as confused as Belly about who she desires the most.
While the love triangle remains the show’s backbone, Season 2 adds new characters, including Kyra Sedgwick as Susannah’s sister Julia and Elsie Fisher as Julia’s kid, Skye. Conrad and Jeremiah must deal with the possibility of Julia selling their childhood vacation house as a result of the new faces.
Skye, their cousin, joins the circle of friends, which now includes Belly’s closest friend Taylor (Rain Spencer), and Cousins local Cam (David Iacono). With Susannah gone, the dynamic with Julia has shifted dramatically from Season 1. Her entrance uncovers a more convoluted background for Susannah’s family and adds to the drama when she is cast as the season’s adversary.
Fisher and Sedgwick both fit in well with the cast. Given Julia and Susannah’s difficult history, it would have been good to see Skye build a solid relationship with their cousins, and while Fisher had a strong debut, there feels like a wasted opportunity when it comes to family relationships.
This is a widespread complaint about The Summer I Turned Pretty Season 2. There are more characters to build when there are more characters engaged. The other romances, except Belly, Conrad, and Jeremiah, aren’t quite as intricate or subtle. We may have had complete episodes dedicated to characters like Taylor, Skye, and Cam back in the days of the 22-episode seasons, but as it is, they swiftly fade into the background.
Unfortunately, the series suffers from a lack of time to get into the meat of some of the stories, which is likely owing to the low number of episodes. Given Susannah’s importance in everyone’s lives, we don’t have enough time to observe how her boys cope with her death together. We don’t see enough of Julia’s reaction, and the show passes up an opportunity to show us more of Laurel and Julia’s relationship in general, which has more simmering beneath the surface. There is just not enough space for these arcs to breathe.
On top of that, Season 2 introduces the plot of the home being sold as a motivation for the kids to band together against Julia, but the characters finding out how to outwit their aunt becomes a confusing mess, especially since it never feels like the house would be lost.
The Summer I Turned Pretty Season 2 is at its best when it focuses on the young characters. Scenes of all the kids together fooling around, playing games, or competing against one other feel more real and natural than two adolescents attempting to master the complexities of homeownership to theatrical ends. Leaning into the idea that these characters are at an ephemeral stage of life while blaring every Taylor Swift tune under the sun is where the show excels. It has the atmosphere of teen TV at its peak, which is a positive indicator that the program understands its demographic.