Ah the '90s, a time of digital clocks, neon clothes, and iconic mall locations like Orange Julius and RadioShack. Or at least that's what modern TV would have you think. The latest show to play with the now-nostalgic era is the surprisingly sharp and complex Freeform series Cruel Summer. Freeform's new Jessica Biel-produced teen mystery series plays not only with the pre-aughts era, but also three conflicting timelines which tell the story of two high school students named Jeanette Turner (Chiara Aurelia) and Kate Wallis (Olivia Holt).
Told over glimpses of three years — 1993, 1994, and 1995 — we see Jeanette turn from homely nerd to popular queen bee, which was a spot that used to be held by Kate. But it's vacant, seeing as we learn quickly that Kate was kidnapped. From there we learn that in '95, Jeanette is the most hated woman in the country... but why? The show sets up a twisty puzzle box enigma for us to solve as we try to decipher who's in the wrong, how each of the girls are connected, and what the scrunchie-and-overall-wearing ensemble cast has to do with it.
Before you dive into the double episode premiere, we're here to help you get to know the core cast of characters. From teen TV stalwarts to contemporary character actors, Cruel Summer boasts an impressive cast who build on the mystery at the core to create something both engaging and bleakly entertaining. So pull up your pig tails, grab your best airbrushed mall shirt, and make sure you're ready to go back to the '90s with this searing new teen series.