Surviving Summer Season 2 dropped right when we had forgotten just how much we loved this show. It has all that it previously had: perfect waves and surfers, beautiful beaches, impulsive protagonists, and some very sharp editing, including a runtime that is kept on the pulse of the narrative. But what elevates it is the development of the characters. We would like to take a moment to discuss the protagonist here. Had we seen Summer Torres in any other setting, we would have immediately written her away as another impulsive manic pixie, but watching her in Surviving Summer, being called out for her negatives and making friends while still being a good person, turns her into a character we root for. We cannot conclusively answer whether we like Summer Torres or not, but the writers of the series had long realized that we did not need to at all. We just needed to understand and support her actions, and that was enough.
Another question would be whether one must watch Season 1 before watching Season 2. While we highly recommend that, we don’t believe it is compulsory. The connections between the two seasons can be inferred through the storyline, so that means that you don’t have to rewatch or start with season 1 if you don’t feel like it. But we would still advise you to, simply because of how good that was. With eight episodes of half an hour each, season 2 has a runtime just shy of four hours, and that itself deserves a pat on the back. It is truly an art to know how to pack and pace a story that keeps the attention of the audience. This was also one of the first things we noticed in season 1, which is why we ended up liking it.
The fact is that a lot of good concepts turn into terrible series or movies because they become overindulgent and lose sight of how to tailor themselves according to the audience. It is a problem especially unique to sports movies, which should not be a niche genre, no matter what anybody says. One should not have to love and understand sports to get the thrill from a sports movie, and whether someone like that enjoys it or not is what makes that a good piece of content. It is safe to say that a huge part of the audience would not know about surfing. Admittedly, the only thing we have learned after watching two seasons of Surviving Summer is that you get points depending on how much you can zig-zag through a wave. We don’t get any of the terminology used, but that did not mean that we did not enjoy the sight of the characters riding the waves.
We only understood whether the characters were winning or losing from what the others on the beach were saying, yet seeing them play in the ocean gave us that hit of adrenaline that ended up making this show so special. For some reason, we are reminded of an Indian movie we saw titled 83. Perhaps it is because it is the most recent sports movie that we saw, and it is also based on India’s first win at the Cricket World Cup, which was a milestone in the history of the game. What we are trying to say is that when the movie focused on the exaggeration of the politics around that event, it failed to provide an equal thrill to the game, which was a real shame since cricket is akin to a religion in the country. The love of the game was sidelined in an effort to establish who to root for.
The reason we are bringing this up is to show what Surviving Summer got right. At no point did we lose sight of the fact that the sport of surfing was the hero of the story. Everything that everyone did, be it Summer, Wren, or any of the supporting characters, was driven by a love for the sport more than anything else. In fact, the moment in the finale when Wren and Elo become absolute villains is when they place themselves above the sport. It ceases to matter who won or who lost and because of whom, but the fact that they could not place the sport above themselves is what made them irredeemable.
Now that we have established that, we would like to come back to a previous point about why we want you to watch season 1 as much as season 2. It is not just about the continuity issues; you would understand the characters a lot better if you knew them from before. While Summer and Ari seem to be the same, the others have changed significantly, and that is a given since the timelines of the series are set a year and many events apart. To understand why Poppy is acting the way she does, why Bodhi feels the need to make her voice take a backseat, or even why Marlon is a more important character than the screen time he was given in season 2, you should watch season 1.
On a different note, we wish that Ari had been shown to be taking his mental health more seriously in season 2 than he did or was allowed to in season 1, but it also feels like a natural progression in many ways. It can be considered the loose thread that teases the promise of season 3 of Surviving Summer. Perhaps we will get that next year, in 2024. After all, Season 1 introduced everyone, and Season 2 showed them acknowledging who and what they wanted to be, so we would need a third season to see how they achieve everything they desire. This is what we would call a proper coming-of-age story because the details spread across seasons and plotlines, with the ups and downs of various relationships, make it all the more believable and relatable. Surviving Summer may not be talked about as much as the others, but believe us, this is the show not to be missed.