After waiting with bated breath for the Season 2 finale of The Summer I Turned Pretty, it’s finally here.
If you haven’t seen Episode 8 yet, click away and come back when you’re ready for spoilers. And if you’ve managed to wipe your tears from the hotel scene, then it’s time to talk about that and more.
The finale deals a devastating blow from the start, as Conrad (Chris Brinley) catches Belly (Lola Tung) and Jeremiah (Gavin Casalegno) making out on his car. He’s just aced his final exam so he can transfer to Stanford, and he’s ready to implement his plan to get Belly back. His confidence and excitement are short lived, though, once he sees his brother and his ex-girlfriend locking lips.
Up until now, Belly had been saved from really making a choice between Jeremiah or Conrad, because they’ve been too busy saving the beach house. But after spending the day with Jeremiah, Belly is pretty sure she’s moved on from Conrad (for now).
“I think with Conrad, she had that crush on him for so long that she felt like he called the shots of whether or not they were together because she wanted to be with him,” creator and author Jenny Han told Deadline.
In the Season 2 finale, Belly finally starts to gain some confidence back after spending most of the summer in a very unsure headspace. As Han put it, “I think it’s really important to see her make that decision…”
Thankfully, there is some reprieve from the love triangle in the Season 2 finale, as we also get to see Steven and Taylor’s relationship blossom.
“They are two of my favorite characters. And I think the writers room always has the most fun writing their scenes, because they’re just so playful with each other and Sean and Rain have incredible chemistry with each other,” Han said, explaining that it had always been her plan to expand upon their characters in the second season.
She added: “It’s very satisfying for me as a writer and a creator to be able to plant little seeds and kind of take my time and let them grow.”
Han spoke with Deadline about all the major moments from Season 2 — from the hotel scene to Belly and Laurel’s rocky relationship to Steven and Taylor’s love story — as well as all those Taylor Swift needle drops, and more. Read the interview below.
JENNY HAN: I love ‘Last Kiss,’ because it’s really centered around the loss that she’s feeling in losing her first love, but also her best friend and Susannah, who was like a mother to her. All those emotions are hitting at the same time as she’s looking at those pictures, and I think it’s a really poignant moment. I also just love that song. But also, obviously ‘Delicate’ is important to me, too. That’s one of my favorites Taylor Swift songs.
HAN: Well, it’s funny because I always am the one who picks the songs and oftentimes, people will make suggestions and sometimes it’ll be intuitive, but oftentimes I’ll have my own idea. For ‘Exile,’ that was actually the idea of Sarah Kucserka, who’s the co-showrunner…She loves that song so much, and I thought it was perfect. When I read her script, I thought it was a perfect usage of [the song].
HAN: It’s been an enormous privilege to be able to even have one Taylor Swift song. That was my biggest wish with Season 1, was to get ‘The Way I Loved You.’ Which, by the way, is still safe among the surprise songs. That’s the one I’m hoping for the most. [Editor’s note: Swift still hasn’t played ‘The Way I Loved You’ as a surprise song on the Eras Tour]. That was just really the top of my wish list for songs and to be able to have so many — it’s just such a huge gift to the show. As a Swiftie, it’s been really overwhelming.
HAN: That was the song that I got some pushback on, because there was a question of whether or not our audience would want a newer song. I felt really strongly about it. I felt like it really scored the whole scene and the level of emotion that it gets to. I think it’s timeless. I saw some people on TikTok that were like, ‘This song can’t go viral on TikTok, it’s my song.’ It’s kind of like everybody’s song…it’s a classic. To me, I think it’s always exciting to be able to introduce younger audiences to a song they don’t know. I don’t think that’s the case for ‘Silver Springs,’ but there are other songs I was excited to use in the season that maybe they hadn’t heard of.
HAN: It was already having it, because of Daisy Jones & The Six! You guys can’t blame me for that. Also, I was just smiling because the people I saw saying it were like, 16 years old. They were like, ‘This is my song. I’m gatekeeping this song.’ I was like, this song was out before you were born. You can’t gatekeep. That was somebody else’s before it was yours.
HAN: There’s something so raw and powerful about that song. That’s why I love to write coming-of-age stories. It is such a heightened time in your life, where you’re experiencing a lot of emotion and heartbreaks for the first time. So a song like that just screams to your soul.
HAN: I think that the season is really centered around Belly’s grief and her journey towards forgiveness of herself. I’d seen some of the fans saying they miss seeing her smile and they miss all the sort of light-heartedness of Season 1. I think she really has to go through this journey for her to get back to a place where she feels like she can smile again, and that it’s okay to be sad. But then to also be happy that all these amazing things are happening. That’s what we really want to just show throughout the season. It’s good to see, I think, all of our characters have been able to keep living.
HAN: Just because I’ve lived with these story for so long, way before there was a show I was having book signings and my readers would reach out to me offline. So I really do feel I understand what is important to them, and whenever I can, I try to give them that, because I obviously want them to feel happy with the show, because I know they’ve been waiting for a really long time. So I do my best to deliver those moments.
HAN: Yeah, I think that’s part of the beauty of coming back for a second season is [that] they know their characters really well. So they live within them. Then I know the actors really well, so I know where they’re really going to shine. So it’s really fun to be able to give them something like giving Chris the scene in the car, where he gets he gets to play a bit — or Lola is just so spectacular in all of the emotional scenes she gets to do this season. For the first quarter of production, it was like she had these really heightened moments where she’s having to cry and be so open and vulnerable. I just knew that she was gonna really do something special with it.
HAN: I had talked to both of them a lot about [that scene] and what I had said to Jackie was I think that what is so upsetting about it is that there is a little bit of like truth to it. Laurel is really mad. She was mad at Belly that day, and she’s mad at herself for being mad. You know? I think it’s also just hard for her in some ways to even look at Belly, because all she can think of is Susannah, and as she tried to keep it together with her grief, I think it’s really hard for her to reach out to Belly because her worst fear is that she’s gonna mess up and crumble and not be able to get up every morning. I think she and Conrad are really similar in that way and the way that they internalize their grief and they have a hard time opening up to others. That is definitely an emotional scene. I think it feels really real to me. It feels like the kind of fight that you have with your mom. And to me, it really speaks to how alone both of them are feeling. It’s easy for Laurel to have this more light relationship with Steven because it’s he’s just, I think in some ways to her, an easier kid. He gets to be sort of the golden boy a bit. Belly does have a lot of messy emotions and I think it’s uncomfortable for Laurel sometimes to get down there with her.
HAN: They are two of my favorite characters. And I think the writers room always has the most fun writing their scenes, because they’re just so playful with each other and Sean and Rain have incredible chemistry with each other. This was my plan for the second season, was for this to unfold. I told Rain very early on that even though her part was small in Season 1 and she was only there for a few episodes, I had a plan for her for Season 2. It’s very satisfying for me as a writer and a creator to be able to plant little seeds and kind of take my time and let them grow. Something I said to Sean and Rain was, these two characters really did grow up together. Taylor has spent countless weekends and Friday nights hanging over at the house hoping to run into Steven in the bathroom brushing her teeth, or she’s bringing cute pajamas because maybe they’ll have a moment. It’s just the way that it is growing up with your best friend’s older brother, the way that you can have a crush. It’s something that she’s nurtured for so long, and he hasn’t really seen her in that way and then they had that moment in the first season where they have that kiss. For a character like Taylor, that is so tough, and she doesn’t like to show weakness. I think that’s somebody she really has a soft spot for and so it was really crushing the way that it went down. I said to [Rain], ‘Steven is her Conrad. That’s her first love.’ I think people judge her really harshly for having that kiss with him when he was with somebody else. But I think from Taylor’s point of view, she doesn’t know anything really about Shayla. She gets there and it’s like, ‘Oh, he’s talking to this girl.’ She hasn’t met this person, and she doesn’t really know the full story. In fact, they are still sort of in the talking stage. So I think for her, she feels like she has dibs in a way because she’s had these feelings for so long. So, I think that, to me, that’s sort of the dream for a lot of teenage girls, to have that person finally see you in a different way.
HAN: I wanted to do a moment where she’s back and that she was standing on her own power. I think that audience can be like, ‘Belly, make up your mind’ or ‘Belly, stop playing with the boys’ emotions.’ But I think that, to me, it’s important for her to be the driver of the story, of the romance — that she’s the one doing it and not letting the boys dictate how it goes. So, I think with Conrad, she had that crush on him for so long that she felt like he called the shots of whether or not they were together because she wanted to be with him. I think it’s really important to to see her make that decision and then hopefully step into her next era of being able to move past, not Susannah’s death, but be able to move past the heavy grief portion of of her journey.
HAN: I am looking forward to giving the fans the iconic moments of the third book that they’re expecting, but also looking forward to being able to hopefully surprise and delight them as well.