In the midst of a season overshadowed by grief, the Amazon Prime series, “The Summer I Turned Pretty,” delves into deeper emotions, showcasing a myriad of love in various forms. Lola Tung, one of the actors in the show, highlights the exploration of love for Susannah, love within the family, romantic love, and self-love.
Set at Cousins Beach, the Conklins and the Fischers find themselves grappling with the loss of matriarch Susannah Fischer. Her magnetic energy had always brought the two families closer, but now they must confront a summer without her presence. Laurel (Jackie Chung) and Susannah (Rachel Blanchard), who were best friends, would bring their families to the Fischer’s beach house each summer. However, in the second season, Susannah’s passing leaves uncertainty hanging over the family’s future and the fate of their beloved beach house. Aunt Julia, Susannah’s disgruntled sister, decides to sell the home, adding tension to the already complex dynamics.
The season unfolds through a mix of flashbacks and the present, with Belly Conklin, the protagonist, struggling in school and yearning for a reality where everyone is happy and Susannah is still alive. As the school year comes to a close, Belly’s slipping grades and the loss of her volleyball captaincy prompt a meeting with her guidance counselor. Lola Tung, who portrays Belly, describes her character as initially overwhelmed by grief, feeling trapped in a deep emotional abyss. However, throughout season two, Belly embarks on a journey of healing and rediscovering the things that bring her joy. The entire family finds themselves in different stages of grief, adding further complexity to their individual paths.
Unlike her older brother Steven (Sean Kaufman), Belly becomes disconnected from school, friends, and even her family as Susannah’s health deteriorates. Steven, on the other hand, achieves academic success, earning the title of valedictorian and securing a place at Yale University. At a party on the night of graduation, tensions escalate between Steven and Belly, with her accusing him of moving on from Susannah’s recent death. Kaufman explains that Steven finds himself torn between excitement for his future and the weight of grief, grappling with conflicting emotions.
Throughout the season, the relationship between Belly and Steven deepens in subtle ways. Kaufman emphasizes the authenticity of their interactions, portraying the nuances of a sibling bond through small gestures, shared smiles, and genuine moments. Despite their lives taking separate paths, they find opportunities to reconcile and connect, albeit in their own unique way.
As the narrative progresses, Belly and Steven join forces to preserve the beach house, advocating for the Fischer brothers, Conrad (Christopher Briney) and Jeremiah (Gavin Casalegno). They strive to convince Aunt Julia not to sell the irreplaceable home, which holds immense sentimental value for both families.
Emotions run high during their time at the beach house. New relationships blossom, such as the one between Belly’s best friend, Taylor (Rain Spencer), and Steven, while existing relationships face challenges, as seen with Conrad and Jeremiah. While the love triangle involving Conrad, Jeremiah, and Belly remains a significant storyline, this season aims to explore more than just romantic love. Tung expresses that the show delves into various types of love, including the love for Susannah, familial love, romantic love, and self-love. Each character embarks on their own journey, with self-love becoming a prominent theme.