The show’s Season 1 finale confirmed some of the most prominent fan theories (and appeared to offer winking acknowledgment of others). We know there will be a second season — Freeform announced that the series had been renewed hours before the episode aired Tuesday night, though there’s still a bit of mystery around whether the story will continue to revolve around Jeannette and Kate or follow new characters completely. But the finale left plenty of room for either possibility.
With that in mind, here’s what we learned — and what we didn’t.
Kate also faced fallout from her Marsha Bailey interview.
The episode opens with a flashback to the tense few minutes after Kate’s interview on “The Marsha Bailey Show,” where she names Jeanette as “the girl who stayed silent.” While Jeanette’s father worries about the impact of Kate’s public statement, Kate’s parents brace for a defamation suit.
And that’s where one early scene takes us, as Jeanette and Kate head to court, where the public learns that Kate wasn’t drugged and abducted as she had told police but that she went to Martin’s house willingly.
Jeanette knew Kate called Jamie from Martin’s house because she heard the snow globe’s distorted melody in the background of the voice mail Kate left.
One thing “Cruel Summer” did consistently well was subvert typical TV story lines around sexual assault. Earlier episodes revealed that Kate went to Martin Harris’s house of her own volition, a decision Jeanette’s lawyer uses in her client’s defense. But viewers also see Kate’s therapist explain that Martin groomed her to trust and depend on him — and that, given her age, she could not have consented to a sexual relationship with him.
While Kate’s decision to go to Martin’s house appears to be the smoking gun in Jeanette’s case, the show itself doesn’t reinforce that victim blaming. And it doesn’t romanticize their relationship either, unlike other teen shows (ahem, “Pretty Little Liars”) that have prominently featured age-inappropriate relationships without expressly condemning them.
Jeanette and Kate ultimately settle their case after meeting at an unlikely place — Martin’s house — to confront the truth. Both recall the night of Christmas Eve, when Jeanette broke into Martin’s house while Kate was upstairs and not yet in the basement. Jeanette recalls the voice recording Jamie shared with her. “The message was nonsense, just breathing,” Jeanette says. “Once I heard that out-of-tune snow globe, I knew you called from upstairs.”
It wasn’t Jeanette that Kate saw through Martin’s window. It was Mallory (Harley Quinn Smith).
Yep, and here’s where things get pretty weird. Kate recalls looking out of Martin’s window after Jeanette left and seeing her “bike with the stupid card on the wheel.” The problem? That bike belonged to Mallory.
Kate’s claim that Jeanette saw her and said nothing falls to pieces as she realizes it was Mallory — her current BFF — who saw her in Martin’s house. “It was Mallory? How is that even possible?” Kate asks. Great question.
“Mallory told me later she saw me break in,” Jeanette tells Kate. “She was hoping to see me get caught.”
We anticipated a big confrontation between Kate and Mallory but that’s not exactly what happened. While an emotional Kate does ask Mallory why she neglected to tell her about that pretty significant sighting, she very quickly forgives her.
“I saw a woman living freely, not in the basement,” Mal tells Kate, noting that she assumed it was Martin’s girlfriend or sister. “It didn’t make sense for a missing girl to be in the living room making a call.”
Ultimately, Mallory says she didn’t put two-and-two together until she saw the reports about Kate’s being rescued. Not telling Kate feels like a pretty big deception, but apparently Kate values their bond to the extent that it doesn’t matter.
To be fair, Mallory has been a loyal friend to Kate. Our big question is: Why does Mallory include the snow globe in the few items she packs in anticipation of Kate’s potentially hating her? Why is she holding on to that thing in general?
Annabelle is not an evil twin or alias.
Congrats to people on the Internet who correctly guessed that Annabelle — a traumatic memory Kate was unable to retrieve even in her therapy sessions — was not a person but a weapon. We see a distraught Martin show Kate a family heirloom, an antique revolver that he indicates he plans to use on himself. He tells Kate to go live her life and appears ready to let her walk away. But he ultimately drops the gun and tells Kate that they can make it work.
Martin didn’t die in a shootout with police.
Outside of the episode’s chaotic last few minutes, this was perhaps the most surprising reveal. When Martin drops the gun, Kate picks it up and kills her kidnapper. Jeanette has the same question we did, recalling that local news reported that Martin had died in a shootout.
“They assume that, I guess, because he died of a gunshot wound,” Kate replies. But wait, doesn’t a shootout imply exchanged gunfire? That seems like a giant leap from gunshot wound, and it seems unlikely that the authorities wouldn’t have verified his cause of death.
The mystery isn’t over.
The last few minutes of the episode challenge much of what we think we know. Mallory and Kate watch the “Marsha Bailey Show” leg of Jeanette’s redemption tour, and Mal, naturally, calls Jeanette a creep. Kate concludes that Jeanette may be a creep but that she would be an innocent one. They head out for “a drive” in pure ’90s grunge — via Delia’s, we’re quite sure — and share a few carefree moments in a vacant parking lot. Arms to the wind, they whoop and dance before turning to look each other in the eyes. Kate walks over and kisses Mal, which definitely ranks as one of the less surprising developments in the episode. It’s unclear what it means for their relationship.
But their drive also means they missed an important moment in Jeanette’s interview, as she has her turn to address one particular audience member.
“To the girl who named me, who could have cleared all this up sooner but didn’t, Kate Wallis, I forgive you,” Jeanette says, though we half expected her to tell the world that Kate killed Martin.
Then, another flashback opens — and we’re back to the scene of the crime. Jeanette, at peak popularity and hair length, sneaks into Martin’s house and soon hears Kate calling from the basement. Jeanette briefly considers opening the basement door, but appears to decide against it as a cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” blares in the background. “Is anybody there?” Kate pleads as Jeanette breaks into a grin.
So, it turns out, Jeanette might be the villain that Kate (and at one point, America) believed her to be. Did she subvert your expectations? Or is she exactly who you thought she was? The truth, after all, is how you see it.