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The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

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‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ season 2 endorses toxic relationships

The season two poster for “The Summer I Turned Pretty” which aired from July 14 to Aug. 18. The series features a love triangle and explores what it means to grieve a loved one. (Amazon Prime Video)

Editor’s note: This piece contains spoilers.

For those who have been on social media recently, it’s impossible to not see the debate of “Team Conrad” or “Team Jeremiah” circling.

Amazon Prime’s hit young adult television show “The Summer I Turned Pretty” recently finished its second season with the last episode airing on Aug. 18. 

The show, based on the books of the same title by Jenny Han, follows Belly Conklin (Lola Tung) and brothers Jeremiah (Gavin Casalegno) and Conrad Fisher (Christopher Briney) as they are caught in a love triangle while dealing with the passing of Susannah Fisher (Rachel Blanchard), Jeremiah and Conrad’s mother. 

The debate of which brother Belly should end up dating is nostalgic of early 2000s love triangle tropes from “Twilight” and “The Vampire Diaries.” 

The first episode begins on Belly’s last day of school, months after where the last season left off. Susannah has passed away from cancer, and Belly and Conrad are not together anymore, leaving Belly with failing grades and consuming grief for her second mother and her first love. The episode contains a lot of flashbacks, catching the audience up as to what went down since we last saw the summer gang. 

Episode two is where the plot speeds up, as Belly finds out that Conrad has been missing and joins Jeremiah’s search without telling anyone but her best friend Taylor (Rain Spencer).

The rest of the season follows Belly, Conrad and Jeremiah as they race against the clock to try to save Susannah’s beach house, their summer home, from being sold by Conrad and Jeremiah’s aunt, Julia (Kyra Sedgwick). 

The season mainly focuses on the love triangle and how Belly is still figuring out her feelings for Conrad while also finding a growing interest in Jeremiah. As people fight over which brother should be endgame, most fans are becoming “anti-Belly” instead as she starts to ruin the brother’s relationship with each other. Just like most teenage girls, Belly doesn’t know what she wants half the time. 

The writing feels very much like the young adult novel the show is based on. At times, the dialogue can be cringey and on the nose, while, at other times, the actions and conversations the characters have resemble how Gen Z acts in real life. 

The writers don’t bombard viewers with Gen Z lingo such as ‘slay’ or ‘bro,’ rather opting for having the characters act in a way that feels natural. The plot spends equal time on Belly, Jeremiah and Conrad as well as giving a decent amount of screen time to the other couple in the show – Taylor and Belly’s brother Steven (Sean Kaufman). 

One reason why the love triangle trope can be a miss for some people is because it’s messy, and this show emphasizes that. In the book trilogy, Belly ends up with Conrad who’s been her first crush, first love and first time. The show is very obviously pushing Conrad to be Belly’s endgame while at the same time making him a bad choice. 

Conrad’s flaw is he doesn’t know how to communicate. At times, he can push Belly away, making the words he says to her hurtful and insulting. If you take away the fact that Belly has been in love with Conrad for years, Jeremiah is the right choice in every situation because of how good of a guy he is. 

The only qualm I have with the writers is that, if they want to make Conrad the guy Belly ends up with, there is no need to make him unlikeable and mysterious. It’s harmful to girls watching the show as they see how toxic Conrad treats Belly. Then, viewers see Belly still fall for him and choose him after everything he put her through emotionally. It sends out the wrong message and, in a way, advocates for harmful relationships. 

The only healthy relationship in the show is between Steven and Taylor who have the classic best-friend’s-brother trope. After Steven’s season one love interest, Shayla (Minnie Mills), there was an assumption that Taylor and Steven were going to feel forced since the actress for Shayla left the show. Instead, this relationship ranked number one on the show for me. It was a natural slow burn that contained witty banter and fierce protectiveness. 

The season’s main theme was how grief and the loss of a loved one can affect different types of relationships. Each character dealt with the loss of Susannah differently, and the show made it important for viewers to know that grief can last for as long as it needs to and that support is always there. 

The first two seasons of “The Summer I Turned Pretty” can be watched on Amazon Prime. The show recently got renewed for a third season which will consist of ten episodes.

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