Surviving Summer Season 2 Review – Even More Mediocre Teen Fare

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: September 16, 2023 (Last updated: May 6, 2024)
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Surviving Summer Season 2 Review
Surviving Summer Season 2 (Credit - Netflix)
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Summary

Surviving Summer Season 2 bites off a few more characters and subplots than it can necessarily handle, and it takes on some water in the middle stretch, but there’s a comforting climax to enjoy if you can make it all the way there.

Surviving Summer was Australia’s offering in the ever-burgeoning YA streaming market, and it was neither good nor bad enough to be especially memorable. The first season, which aired on Netflix in 2022, was about the rambunctious Summer Torres (Sky Katz) getting kicked out of school in the U.S. and being sent to the distant climes of Australia, where she learned all about surfing and, of course, boys, particularly Ari (Kai Lewins).

It was fine, which was evidently enough to secure a second season. But another summer abroad is a bit of a stretch for these characters and this premise.

Summer is back in Australia just in time for another go-around of obligatory teenage shenanigans alongside her friends Bhodi (Savannah La Rain), Marlon (João Marinho), Poppi (Lilliana Bowrey), and Ari, who – dun, dun, dun – has a new girlfriend named Wren (Annabel Wolfe).

This, as you’d expect, leads to the usual petty rivalries. Surfing, which was a very integral part of the first season, is slightly relegated to make room for them. Everyone seems to be trying out for or coaching the state surfing team, but it’s really a postcard backdrop for the usual motions of character-driven stories, subplots, coming-of-age themes, and the interpersonal dynamics, which are sometimes difficult to navigate given how many of them are occurring at the same time.

It isn’t just Summer and her gang, you see, but also the parents and siblings and adjacent acquaintances. Surviving Summer was never a great drama, but it at least felt focused enough that you had characters and pairings you could root for. No such luck in an overstuffed second outing, which has the same breezy runtime but far too much going on in each of the eight episodes to get end up giving almost everyone short shrift.

And as binge-ready as that season order feels – the episodes are all around thirty minutes – it still can’t help but sag in the middle. This is where downplaying the surfing is a bit of a hindrance, since there’s a lot of structure inherent in sporting competition that gives the drama shape.

Without this and a compelling central figure or throughline for the audience to latch onto, I can imagine this season really bleeding viewers in the torpid middle episodes, which would be a shame since the final few are a bit of an improvement.

As mentioned, the climax feels mostly of a piece with the first season, bringing back some of the competitive stakes and interpersonal excitement that made it tick. But it takes altogether too long to get there, and the journey is mired by a wavering focus and an overabundance of competing characters and dilemmas.

The show also remains quite open and forward-thinking in its depiction – though I wouldn’t quite call it exploration – of more sensitive topics and ideas, which is worthy of a little admiration.

Fans of the first season will get, for the most part, more of the same, though they might find themselves getting a little more of it that they necessarily asked for.

This is a less focused and worse-structured story, then, but it does hit some of the same highs and paddle in the same, admittedly played-out waters, so returning viewers will be in for few surprises but a comfortingly rote return to Oz.

What did you think of Surviving Summer Season 2? Comment below.


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