Created by Bert V. Royal, ‘Cruel Summer’ is a Freeform teen drama thriller anthology series. As it returns for a second run, viewers must remember the lessons we have learned in the first season. This narrative is bound to be full of misdirection, and the writers will consciously employ elements to confuse the keen-eyed watchers. Only two episodes have aired in the first season yet, but the show has already demonstrated its thriller pedigree, and there are multiple unanswered questions. Perhaps the most important of them is who killed Luke Chambers (Griffin Gluck). Here is what we think on the subject. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Who Killed Luke?
To speculate about who killed Luke, we must first ascertain that he was indeed killed. But that part of the speculation is not without its complications. In episode 1, in summer 2000, Luke’s body is found in the water and brought to the marina, where his father, Steve, confirms his identity. In episode 2, the coroner’s report reveals that the cause of death was drowning. If it were only this, the police would have deduced Luke’s death an accident and moved on. But an abrasion is also found on one of his ears, suggesting a gunshot wound. The bullet didn’t penetrate Luke, just causing a surface nick. According to the toxicology report, there was also a considerable amount of benzodiazepine, a type of muscle relaxant, in Luke’s system at the time of his death. This makes Sheriff Myer speculate that whoever killed Luke didn’t want any chance of him coming out alive.
While the combination of drugs and the gunshot wound points toward homicide, we can’t completely rule out an accident. Luke seems like a mellow and friendly individual, but it is still relatively early in the season, and we don’t know what revelations about his personality future episodes will bring. However, one thing is clear: there was violence around him on the day he died. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that his death was caused by the violence itself.
If we do believe that Luke was killed, there are a handful of suspects who could have caused it. One of the primary suspects is Megan Landry (Sadie Stanley), Luke’s best friend in summer 1999 and girlfriend in winter 1999. In summer 2000, she is shown vigorously scrubbing blood off the floor of the cabin where she and Luke regularly used to meet. This is before Luke’s body is found.
Later, at the marina, Isabella LaRue (Lexi Underwood), the worldly girl and exchange student who came to stay with the Landry family in summer 1999, approaches Megan and tells her that they need to get the story straight, indicating that they had some form of involvement in Luke’s death. It becomes even more apparent when Isabella abruptly decides to leave for France after learning that the police believe that Luke was murdered. When Isabella reveals to Megan that she is going, the latter accuses her of leaving her behind to take all the blame. Megan also threatens Isabella if she wants her (Megan) to keep her mouth shut, she will not go anywhere until all this is over.
Luke’s body is found in July 2000, and one of the friends says during the police questioning that they last saw Luke at the New Year’s Eve party in 1999. So, he had been missing for 6-7 months until his body is found. If we presume that he was killed shortly after his disappearance and the blood on the cabin’s floor is connected to that incident, the obvious question here is why Megan waited all this time to clean it.
In winter 1999, Megan and Isabella become inseparable. After Megan’s sex video with Luke is leaked, Isabella doesn’t correct the people’s perception that it’s her in the video. “Ride-or-die” is the mantra these girls keep repeating regarding their friendship. We don’t yet know who exactly leaked the video. Perhaps, Megan and Isabella deduced — correctly or incorrectly — that Luke was responsible for the video leak and sought revenge. Some of Luke’s friends seem to think Isabella killed Luke because she was romantically interested in Megan. The narrative of the show seems to point toward this as well, especially with how Isabella gets rid of some drugs and calls her mother toward the end of episode 2, telling the other woman she is in trouble. But given how explicit this is in the narrative, it’s probably an example of the misdirection mentioned above.
Other suspects include Luke’s older brother Brent (Braeden De La Garza). Their relationship may not be entirely antagonistic, but it is definitely not healthy. There is also Jeff (Nile Bullock), who is in Megan and Luke’s circle of friends and loves to film everything and everyone around him. It is hinted that he might have a crush on Megan, which could have turned into envy after discovering that Megan and Luke were dating. Perhaps he is the one who leaked the photo. And when Luke tried to confront him, it resulted in his death.
The final suspect, for now, is the yet-to-be-named former coder. He is a neighbor of the Chambers family and has access to a gun. When Luke’s body is discovered, something seems to be communicated between him and Megan in how they look at each other, implying that he might know something about Luke’s death.
Read More: Cruel Summer Season 1 Ending, Explained