This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.
Note: this finale review of The Summer I Turned Pretty Season 2 contains spoilers
After that shocking ending to the penultimate episode of “The Summer I Turned Pretty” Season 2, fans were hanging onto the edges of their seats to see how the finale turned out. The big question of this last episode, “Love Triangle,” centered on who Belly picked: Conrad or Jeremiah.
Before we get into all of that, the episode begins five minutes before last episode ended, but from Conrad’s perspective rather than Belly’s. This means that audiences witness an excited phonecall from Conrad to Steven in regards to not just acing his final exam, but also looking to ace one more chance with Belly by telling her how he feels. Of course, as viewers already know, when Conrad hangs up and rounds the corner to his car, he’s privy to an intimate moment between Belly and Jeremiah that has him questioning everything he knows.
Conrad flees the scene as fast as he can, booking it back to his dorm room. However, once there, he finds the infinity necklace that has symbolized so much of his and Belly’s tumultuous past, and decides that he’s going to simply just act like he doesn’t care. He returns to Jeremiah and Belly and acts like an annoying sibling who is hiding his hurt with sarcasm for the whole car-ride home. From asking invasive questions about Jeremiah and Belly’s relationship to critiquing Jeremiah for his choice of school (unlike Conrad’s options of Brown and Stanford, Finch sounds fun), Conrad is the pesky thorn in everyone’s side. This thorn is plunged deeper when a storm redirects their drive home and forces them to stay in a motel room together—with one bed, nonetheless.
In typical Conrad fashion, his chaotic energy is a guise to protect his vulnerability and his heart. He obviously deeply cares about Belly and about what transpired between her and Jeremiah, but is too embarrassed and scared about heartbreak to actually confess his true feelings. After Jeremiah prompts him to speak to Belly seriously—if not for himself and not for Belly, then for his brother—Conrad confesses his feelings in a late-night motel room scene that’s filled with epic lighting and shots that illuminate the decision that Belly is facing. However, the next morning, Conrad is back to acting prickly, regretting his moment of vulnerability and even going so far as to take it back and act like it was a joke.
However, with the focus on Conrad’s feelings, a lot of what Jeremiah feels goes unrecognized. After getting dumped last summer, Jeremiah questions Belly’s intentions because he doesn’t want her to break his heart again. Having a heart-to-heart with both Belly and Conrad at separate times, he expresses that he wants Belly, but also wants her to truly assess whether or not she has a chance and will take that chance with Conrad before starting anything with him. After hearing Conrad say that he still loves Belly, Jeremiah clearly looks wounded, but says that he’s going to leave it up to Belly to decide what to do with her heart since he doesn’t want to stand in the way of her happiness.
This calls back to the fifth episode, “Love Fool,” where we get to know the man behind the bronzed skin and baby-blue eyes. Jeremiah spends his whole life taking care of others and trying to be the happy and supportive son, brother, and friend. This pressure is not just self-imposed or even put on him by his competitive brother, but also implied by his mother, Susannah. Sticking with this season’s trend of filling in backstory through flashbacks, viewers are treated to one last tender moment between Belly and Susannah before Susannah’s death.
Though this meeting takes place after Conrad breaks Belly’s heart at prom, Susannah still begs Belly to look after Conrad and not hate him because he’s going through a hard time. In doing so, she completely disregards any feelings her youngest son might have not just in terms of Belly, but also in terms of being the son who actually showed up to take care of his mother in her final days. Is it obvious that I’m #teamJelly? Well, that’s okay, because at least I have Taylor on my side who, after a brief tiff with Steven over whether Belly would be better with Jeremiah or Conrad, decides that she’s actually Team Staylor.
Living the Belly Life
Not only do Susannah’s final wishes for Belly and Conrad dismiss Jeremiah, but they also put Belly in a position of uncomfortable pressure. As shown throughout this whole season, Belly would do anything to get Susannah back or at least retain some of the special magic that she brought with her anywhere she went. While Belly’s initial feelings for Conrad are genuinely from her own heart, I wonder how much of her continued longing or wondering about Conrad are less about her own feelings and more about honoring what Susannah wanted. Perhaps the reason why Belly is hesitant to truly put her connection with Conrad to rest is because it would also mean putting another part of Susannah’s memory to rest as well.
But as the season comes to its close, maybe it’s time for Belly to start focusing on what she wants rather than what everyone else wants for her or thinks she wants. Standing up to her volleyball coach and begging for another chance on the team, Belly expresses that she lost sight of volleyball the last season, but also lost sight of herself. As she reflects on the past year and all of the changes, heartbreaks, loves, and losses, back on the court with Taylor and her other teammates, Belly isn’t quite sure what the future holds for her. But, as she poignantly notes in a voiceover perfectly aligned with her spiking the ball over the net, while the future might still be unclear, at least it’s all hers. See you next summer!
'The Summer I Turned Pretty' Season 2 Finale - 9/10