Before anything else, kudos must be given to the fact that, with eight hours worth of content, not once did this show use the Shawn Mendes song, “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” Respect must be given in that regard.
With season finales there are promises and expectations to be given all the answers, but this episode seemed to do the opposite, yet the season feels complete enough to end where it did. There were certain issues, yet it was overall a decent episode and conclusion to the narrative so far, though it’s a bit of a surprise that there seems to be a set up for a second season.
The overall assessment of the reveals and the finale is that there was enough set-up and loose ends that made the outcomes possible, but without any visual proof of the execution, it emphasized the more contrived aspects and made for a less impactful ending; if they had shown more than they told, it would have been a solid end.
Margot (Brianne Tju, Light As a Feather) being the killer was simultaneously unexpected yet not entirely a surprise.
The show had sown the seeds of unease when it came to her relationship with Lennon (Madison Iseman, Annabelle Comes Home), as her behavior bordered on the concerning at times, especially with how jealous and intense she got. It was easy enough to overlook due to Lennon’s own actions, but it still loomed in the background. The surprise came from how extreme her actions were as a result.
While a strong motive, her toxic love for Lennon seemed more likely to manifest in destructive behavior to isolate Allison† (Madison Iseman, Annabelle Comes Home) from Dylan (Ezekiel Goodman, Rat Bastard) and the others in her life, rather than murder. It wouldn’t be too far fetched to have her kill the twins’ mother, Helen (Maggie Lacey, American Animals), as retribution for all the harm caused, it was harder to comprehend how it tied into her killing Johnny (Sebastian Amoruso, Solve) and Riley (Ashley Moore, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping).
It was explained that she killed Johnny as a way to get Allison† to confess to stealing Lennon’s identity, which was understandable from her skewed perspective. What made everything feel far more contrived, however, was that this was only ever told in a typical monologue.
What could have strengthened and grounded this revelation would be to show flashes of Margot in the scenes she discussed, such as Kyle (Jason Lee Hoy, NCIS: Hawai’i) walking in on her killing Johnny and her stabbing Riley. Even just a flashback to the already established scene of when her mother asked her to tell her the truth of what was going on would have made it seem more believable because it happened on screen, rather than having the viewers just accept what she was saying outright.
This lack of visual evidence made the more contrived aspects of this narrative less believable and put more emphasis on the potential issues in the logic.
That being said, it wasn’t as if Margot being the killer was a terrible twist, it was actually interesting for a multitude of reasons, but it’s first important to note that, from what was said, she wasn’t the only one.
Dylan had been set up as suspicious from the beginning, and just like Margot had been established well enough that the reveal of his actions weren’t completely out of left field. That being said, it’s not fully clear what his actions were, since Margot took credit for all the murders in her private confession story time.
Dylan’s motivation was related to the cult which had been hinted at previously but didn’t seem entirely ominous due to his mothers’ own beliefs. The established spirituality and beliefs Dylan adhered to simultaneously protected him from close scrutiny while establishing a foundation that has a perfect lead in to the cult’s more extreme mindset.
It’s difficult to parse whether or not Dylan actually had anything to do with Clara’s (Brooke Bloom, The Sinner) death, as he himself said it was what she wanted since it was related to some unknown ritual related to some prophecy, but his behavior and actions in this episode and prior made it seem as though he was more than just a bystander, but there’s no clear explanation.
The lack of explanation when it came to the cult was the major drawback of this episode, especially as a finale, because so much was introduced without any follow through, muddying the waters when it came to piecing together all the points.
There had been hints made by Clara about some kind of prophecy and ritual, which was reinforced this episode by both Dylan and Helen, but they never once even hinted at what they could possibly entail or mean, especially since Helen hadn’t been around for years so nothing she said when it came to Allison† as a person had any merit or justification beyond her twisted lack of maternal instinct.
The ritual and prophecy most likely have something to do with the concept of reincarnation and different planes of existence; their behavior and rhetoric was reminiscent of Mal from Inception.
Despite all the concerns, Margot confirmed that Dylan wasn’t responsible for any of the deaths except for, maybe, Clara’s, but that doesn’t seem to be the entire story. She referenced his cult leanings in her confession, and had admitted to buying more of the arctic wolf spiders, but Dylan himself had some of his own, as did Clara, which meant that they had their own explanations for the spiders which were never fully given.
When delving into the specifics, things start to get twisted, and there are more questions than answers which makes it difficult to feel as though the story is truly complete; and with that nonsensical cliffhanger of Riley being alive, it’s clear the story’s not done yet.
Even with this crucial lack of clarity, the episode was still enjoyable, especially with the decision to subvert the audience’s initial expectations with the reveal of Margot’s true role.
Rather than playing into the “crazy stalker girlfriend” trope and having a cliche ending where Dylan and Allison† end up together and are closer than ever as Margot is dragged away kicking and screaming, the writers decided to lean into their point that no one in this show is a good person or mentally well, in a way that was very interesting.
Allison† had been established as being incredibly questionable, and with the reveal that she purposefully hit Lennon with the car, it was clear that she was not a good person. Despite that, she was still a sympathetic protagonist that the audience rooted for, which continued until the very end despite what occurred.
Her relationship with Margot, while sweet at times, was born from an initially toxic relationship, which was shown and informed by their own personal issues. Rather than shying away from that, the writers dove head-first, and it was this decision that elevated the ending and overall outcome into something that was intriguing and unique enough to garner praise despite the clarity concerns.
The scene between Margot and Allison† on the top of the cliff was haunting and a great tonal juxtaposition. With the audience’s knowledge of the truth, Margot’s concerning demand of Allison† to never leave her, as well as their cute couple walk under the sun took a sinister turn, which was in direct conflict to the beautiful and bright environment around them. Rather than evoking resentment, it evoked simultaneous feelings of success and discomfort, as the audience was still sympathetic to Allison† despite what she had done, because, in this ending, the bad guys objectively won.
Rather than being a story of triumph over evil and bringing the bad guys to justice, the writers leaned into their message that there are no truly good people in this show, with Bruce (Bill Heck, Locke & Key) doubling down on his lie about his wife when Dylan tried to get his help.
If looking from a narrative perspective, this could be considered the “bad ending” since justice was not served, but due to the intention and execution the ending itself was brilliant and stood out from other thriller shows in that the writers weren’t afraid to make their protagonists bad people who ultimately succeeded despite what they deserved.
If more information had been given with more loose ends tied up, this would have been a great end to the entire series, as it would leave viewers reeling and wondering whether they’re actually happy with the outcome or not, but it’s clear that the story isn’t over, so it will be interesting to see where things go from here.
At the end of the day, after all that’s happened, someone’s bound to know what they did this summer.