This article contains major spoilers for the Surviving Summer Season 1 ending. You can check out our spoiler-free season review by clicking these words.
Another younger-skewing Australian teen sports drama, Surviving Summer revolves around a young girl named Summer who is forced to spend six weeks in the beach town of Shorehaven. Along the way, she learns more about herself, the place, the people in it, and surfing, which backgrounds the drama. Here’s how it all shakes out.
Summer is a rebel, you see. She has been expelled from school. So, with her mother needing to go to the Middle East on a work assignment, she sends her to Australia to stay with the family of an old friend of hers. Summer isn’t keen on the beach town of Shorehaven, nor is she especially taken with the people there, least of all the family she’s staying with, including their surfer son Ari who she thinks is a loser. She quickly meets Poppy and Bodhi and begins to rub off on Ari, who’s a stickler for the rules. You know how those kinds of relationships go.
Of course, Summer’s impulsive and careless nature gets herself and others into trouble, and through these tribulations, she begins to learn more about herself and sees her new friends as one unit rather than a group of mismatched individuals. She begins to realize not just that she cares but that it’s okay to express how much she cares – in doing so, she’s also able to allow herself to be more, to be better, and surfing is the avenue that allows her to do this.
But we also learn that a lot of Summer’s issues stem from her careerist mother, Margot, and the time apart does them both some good. Margot promises to make more time for her back in New York, and Summer realizes that she has to take some responsibility for her own actions instead of just pointing the finger of blame at her mother and everyone else.
Summer’s arc is intimately tied to Ari’s, who in many ways is her exact opposite. A surfer who has been laid up thanks to an avoidable injury and who is fostering resentment toward his restrictive parents and the friends who he perceives to have abandoned him in his time of need. His love of surfing and his determination to succeed in the sport define him, and his relationship with his worried parents is relatable enough. He feels hemmed in, but learns to put himself first, put differences aside, and pursue what he wants – even if a last-minute romance, after backing out of one earlier, seems ill-advised for his growth.
Marlon, who was present when Ari got injured, electing not to jump off a cliff with his friend and leaving him to do so by himself, represents that kind of self-serving jerk archetype that is always present in stories like this. It’s very reminiscent of Maverix, especially in how Marlon’s redemption comes when he’s told to betray his friends for a rival team and decides not to. It’s an easy way to highlight growth, which is why it’s almost a beat-for-beat redo of a plot point in that other Australian teen show, but here we are.
Likewise, Bodhi’s arc of learning to put herself first and come into her own is a cliché but well handled, and the same can be said of Poppy learning to get by in the absence of her mother.
While surfing and competition form the background of Surviving Summer, as we’ve already said, it’s really about the characters and their relationships, which is why Ari leaving the competition to find Ari before she leaves, especially after she helped him through his panic attacks, is so emblematic of the show’s underlying themes. Their goodbye isn’t an idyllic, easy conclusion, but it’s a statement on how both have learned to grow and flourish on their own, and to take responsibility for their own lives.
You can stream Surviving Summer exclusively on Netflix. Do you have any thoughts on the Surviving Summer Season 1 ending? Let us know in the comments.