‘Cruel Summer’ Boss Breaks Down The Season Finale’s Shocking Ending Twist: Who Was Lying? 

Exclusive Interview

The final ‘Cruel Summer’ twist was downright jaw-dropping. The ‘Cruel Summer’ EP spoke EXCLUSIVELY with HL about the game-changing moment, the Annabelle reveal, and more.

Jeanette knew. The final seconds of the Cruel Summer season finale showed Jeanette breaking into Martin’s house yet another time, this time after Christmas, but this time was different. Jeanette thought the house was empty, but she heard Kate yelling for help in the basement. Instead of unlocking the door and helping Kate, Jeanette left her there.

HollywoodLife got the chance to talk EXCLUSIVELY with Cruel Summer boss Tia Napolitano about that epic finale twist, Mallory being the one to “see” Kate on Christmas, Mallory and Kate’s kiss, and more. Plus, we had to ask about season 2. Read our full Q&A below.

Chiara Aurelia
Chiara Aurelia in the season 1 finale. (Freeform)

Regarding those final few seconds, was it always the plan for Jeanette to be lying the whole time, or had you thought about maybe shifting it to where she was telling the truth? 

Tia Napolitano: It was not always the plan for Jeanette. It was something we came to in the development process when we were already rolling in on season 1. We really wanted to tell a complete story and have every piece of the mystery and the truth told by the end of episode 10. And then we thought, well, what’s the most interesting truth? We kept twisting it and twisting it until we came up with that final ending. We ran it through Chiara [Aurelia]. We sort of ran it through our logic and emotional brain and the things we’d already shot and what we had envisioned. It just seemed to fit in the most perfectly interesting way.

Jeanette and Kate had their confrontation and we learned it was Mallory who actually saw Kate. Did Jeanette know about Mallory or did that revelation come along at the perfect time for her? 

Tia Napolitano: Jeanette did not know about Mallory. I think the thing I love about that interaction with Kate and Jeanette is that is they are putting together pieces of truth together. It’s Jeanette and Kate up against the mystery for the very first time on the same side. Jeanette knows that Mallory’s followed her there. Mallory tells her later, so I think Kate and Jeanette are realizing together.

Jeanette goes on The Marsha Bailey Show eerily dressed like Kate. She even says to Kate through the camera, “I forgive you.” Does Jeanette have any regrets about lying to Kate? 

Tia Napolitano: I do think in Jeanette’s deepest heart and her private moments that guilt definitely eats away at her. I don’t think that she is a psychopath or sociopath. I think she made a bad decision as a teenager, a really bad decision. You’re the first person that’s asked about The Marsha Bailey Show, and I just love her mimicking Kate. Even the way, you’ll notice in the pilot, Olivia [Holt] held her feet at this very strange angle. Chiara studied Olivia’s performance, so when Jeanette goes on The Marsha Bailey Show, she holds her feet in the same way. I just thought that was such a mastery of acting. It just blows me away.

Olivia Holt
Olivia Holt in the season 1 finale. (Freeform)

Should we be rooting for Jeanette? I mean, she did leave Kate in the basement. 

Tia Napolitano: I think if there’s one thing to take away from Cruel Summer is everyone wants to know who’s the villain, who’s the victim. Until the very last frame of season 1, no one is cut and dry.  it’s we’ve want everyone wants to know. Who’s the villain? who’s the victim? And to the very last frame of season 1, I say no one is cut and dry. It isn’t black and white. It’s a little gray. Good people do bad things in the real world, and I think that’s what we’re watching. Everyone is itching to say Jeanette’s a pure villain, and I’m not going to give them that.

We finally learned Annabelle was actually the name of Martin’s gun. Was it always in the cards for Kate to kill Martin? In an earlier episode, the news broadcast said there was a shootout, so I was wondering whether Kate was always destined to kill Martin. 

Tia Napolitano: It was always destined for Kate to kill him. I loved the idea of Kate saving herself and giving her a moment to strength and power, so that was always in the cards. The news saying Martin Harris died in a shootout the idea was the police told them that he died of a gunshot wound. A reporter misreported it as a shootout, and no one corrected them. It was another media mistake, the same as Marsha Bailey driving a wedge between two women.

At the end of the season finale, there’s a kiss between Kate and Mallory. Is this a romantic kiss? Is their relationship headed in a romantic direction? 

Tia Napolitano: Harley Quinn Smith, who plays Mallory, has always believed that Mallory is a lesbian. That’s how she plays her, and I thought that came through beautifully once Olivia and Harley started acting together. There was chemistry between them. It was a murky… is this a friendship? Or is this romantic? It felt really authentic to teenagers. I think the kiss that we see is their first kiss. It’s open to interpretation. They might be friends that kiss once, or they might develop a romantic relationship. I think it is romantic for Mallory for sure, and what it is for Kate is now up to audience interpretation.

Season 2 has been confirmed. Will you be moving away from the kidnapping or, given that last moment, will that carry over? What do your plans look like for season 2? 

Tia Napolitano: The season is still very open-ended. Our season 1 mystery is complete. So what we do next, I’m not sure. We’re still working on it.

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