Warning: The next incorporates spoilers for Monday’s Merciless Summer time premiere. Proceed at your individual threat!
Merciless Summer time‘s Season 2 opener could have easily been titled “Sex, Lies and Videotape,” given what transpires during the two-hour premiere.
In July 1999, Megan (played by The Goldbergs‘ Sadie Stanley) meets Isabella (Little Fires Everywhere‘s Lexi Underwood), a diplomat’s daughter who has come to stay with Megan’s household as an trade scholar of their small Pacific Northwest city. Megan is chilly and unwelcoming to the worldly Isabella, who hits it off with Megan’s greatest pal Luke (Locke & Key‘s Griffin Gluck). Megan insists that there’s nothing happening between her and her pal, so Isabella goes for it with Luke. However by December 1999, Luke and Megan are relationship and in love, whereas Megan and Isabella at the moment are ride-or-die BFFs. Then the trio’s world is rocked when a intercourse tape is performed at Luke’s dad’s Christmas get together, that includes the teenage boy within the throes of ardour with… Isabella?
Explaining why all of the partygoers assume it’s Isabella on the footage, regardless that her face is rarely seen, Underwood tells TVLine, “They’re making the assumption just simply because she has on the pink sweater that you see in the tape. And then I think it’s just also easier to point the finger at the new girl rather than to look at any [other] possibility.”
Provides Stanley: “And they know that Isabella and Luke had a thing before Megan and Luke were together, so I think it’s just a rumor that runs wild and accidentally spreads everywhere.”
However in a shock twist, it’s later disclosed to viewers that it’s really Megan on the tape together with her boyfriend Luke. Not wanting her pal to lose her educational scholarship, Isabella continues to take the hit for Megan, arguing that she’ll be gone on the finish of the varsity yr anyway.
“That sex tape is the catalyst for the slow destruction of Isabella and Megan’s friendship,” Stanley says, including that the present explores “the double standards” in how Isabella is handled versus how Luke is congratulated within the aftermath of the general public scandal.
“I mean, Luke goes around town and gets a pat on the back from all of his bros…for this, like, cool sexual conquest. He’s like the big man on campus, while Isabella is being criticized and judged for it and slut-shamed,” Stanley describes.
The true-life Pamela Anderson/Tommy Lee intercourse tape, which was stolen in 1995 and distributed shortly thereafter, “was in the zeitgeist [at] that time [when Cruel Summer Season 2 is set]. So it was definitely a motivation for layering that into this season,” Michelle Purple, who exec-produces the Freeform sequence alongside Jessica Biel through their Iron Ocean Productions, tells TVLine.
In drawing on real-world occasions, Megan and Isabella’s storylines mirror “what was happening to young women at that time in the late ’90s and how so often young people were being taken advantage of and then their whole lives were being changed,” Biel shares. “They were being labeled these things. They had not agreed to do these things. It was a tough time being a young woman.”
Luke, in the meantime, laments being labeled a cheater, however stays comparatively unscathed from the tape — till the July 2000 timeline reveals that he’s lifeless! After his physique is pulled out of the water, Isabella sidles as much as Megan and says they need to get their tales straight.
“It’s important with an anthology to keep some things that keep it feeling connected to Season 1, but we really wanted to try something different with Season 2. And that is a big deal, killing off one of our main characters in one of the timelines,” Biel says. “We thought it would keep the audience on their toes. They’re not showing up and going to see the same thing, just with two different characters… There’s more mystery to it.”
Gluck knew of his character’s grotesque destiny “from the very beginning,” and it was even one of many causes he signed up for the function, the actor shares.
“I like playing twists, I like playing the surprises, and playing a dead guy is great. It means one less timeline of work for me,” Gluck jokes, earlier than including in all seriousness, “It was incredibly intriguing for me… I get to play around a lot more with these stakes.”