I Know What You Did Last Summer has always been a series about the lies people tell to maintain comfortable lives. After all these years, that’s what ties Alison and her mother Helen together: the shared impulse to lie, to escape painful circumstances by choosing another reality altogether. Helen is a terrible person, there’s no doubt about it; she’s back in Wai Huna not to make amends or explain herself to the daughter she left behind, but to get Clara’s Bible and “keep the prophecy safe.” But from her perspective, abandoning the cult to settle down in a traditional nuclear family with Bruce and the twins didn’t make for a sustainable life. In fact, by the time she decided to leave town with Fred, who’d stayed true to their “true family,” it had become downright unbearable.
Leaving Bruce, Alison, and Lennon was a monstrous act and one that led Alison down a spiral of grief and confusion that has lasted for years. What’s ironic is that by telling her own unthinkable lie last summer, Alison acted with that same desperation her mother felt, unconsciously continuing a cycle of lies. Alison might be justified when she runs into Helen and asks, “How can you just pretend to be dead?” But Helen’s also right when she shoots back, “How can you?” Helen’s lies may have torn a family apart, but Alison hurt people, too.
Of course, it’s hard to blame Alison for the string of killings in Wai Huna. It turns out the real culprit is neither Dylan (the main teen red herring all along) nor Clara (who actually did commit suicide, with Dylan’s preparation?), but Margot, Lennon’s best friend who was in love with her. Alison might’ve been lying all this time, but Margot is the liar-in-chief. (Okay, maybe Alison still wins. Assuming the identity of the sister you killed is a pretty bold lie. But becoming a secret serial killer is tough competition.) When Lennon died and Alison stole her life, Margot quickly realized what was going on. She killed all those people to frame Allison, waiting for her to come clean the whole time. But she never did, and never will, so all Margot can do now is kill her. She’s already killed Helen to give Lennon the beyond-the-grave justice she never actually would’ve wanted.
I can’t say I predicted Margot being the killer, and it does make a degree of sense considering the unpredictability and volatility of her emotions. It also allows for some fun villainous Gen-Z-sociopath dialogue, like when Margot says, “You want me to feel sorry for you? No one loves me either, bitch,” and then responds to Alison’s desperate declaration of love with “I just fucking stabbed you.” Ditto the credits sequence (more on that in a bit). But I can’t help but feel like the reveal feels perfect for a different show than this one, a campier and less serious one. It reminded me that I Know What You Did Last Summer never really figured out how to calibrate its tone, often awkwardly shoehorning dark humor and tiny stabs (no pun intended) at camp where they didn’t necessarily work.
But does Margot being the killer track, plot-wise? I’d have to go back and rewatch the whole season, but right off the bat, I’m skeptical about her willingness to kill Johnny, who seemed like more of a friend to her than Lennon was. The idea that she killed him first just because Alison “loved him the most” is a little silly. And her bloodthirst itself comes out of nowhere.
But there’s more. It wouldn’t be a typical installment of this show without spending half the episode on false theories and then cramming a bunch of drama and reveals into the last act, but the finale goes so far as to include a Margot vlog over the credits where she clarifies her involvement throughout the season. So here it goes: Margot picked up Alison’s phone after the accident and has been using an app to send timed texts. She enlisted Dale for the goat-head “prank,” then responded to extortion by killing him with the help of Kyle, her driver. (Kyle had walked in on “the whole Johnny mess” and agreed to help Margot out after she did some light extorting of her own. He even pushed her through the window for her story.) After Doug tracked Dale’s bitcoin payment, Margot lured him to the funeral and killed him and Harold. Then, when her mom discovered Margot’s mukbanging, Margot confessed the truth to her, and Margot’s mom helped out, framing Clara with stolen spiders. Oh, Kyle killed Courtney, too.
I’m a bit annoyed the show waits until the ending credits to give these answers, but I guess I appreciate that they’re given. My bigger issue is that there’s been so much ambiguity throughout the show about Lennon and Margot’s relationship and how Alison has taken her sister’s place in it … even now. When Alison tells Margot that she always comes back to her, that she never chose Dylan over her, is she truthful or just covering her ass like Margot initially suspects? At the end of the episode, when we see them agreeing never to leave each other, are we supposed to think Alison is trapped in a relationship of coercion, with the threat of mutually assured destruction hanging over her head if she ever confessed the truth? Or is there real, genuine love and acceptance there, a twisted sort of nonjudgmental connection like what Joe Goldberg and Love Quinn (sometimes) have in You?
“Your Next Life Could Be So Much Happier” firmly establishes Margot as the true evil force at the center of this show: pathologically protective of Lennon, totally chill about committing brutal murders, and unthinkingly privileged to the point that covering up those murders is a piece of cake. But the cruelest, most shocking act of the finale belongs to Alison, who’s bleeding out on the floor when Lyla comes in and sees Dylan pointing the gun he wrestled from Margot’s hands. This is the moment when Alison can tell the truth — but, in the most gutting moment of the finale and maybe the series, she points the finger at Dylan instead of Margot. Given the choice between exposing the real killer and protecting her own lies, she chooses herself, potentially dooming her friend to life in prison.
In retrospect, Dylan has always been the most reasonable kid in the group. Ezekiel Goodman may do a lot of creepy emoting and give off the vibe of a secret killer, but Dylan always wanted to tell the truth, and that’s still true here. So it’s hard not to feel bad for him when he goes to Lyla at the beginning of the episode and tells her what they did last summer, only for her not to believe him. And it’s surprisingly tragic to watch Dylan get taken away in handcuffs at the end of the finale, disbelief on his face. Could Alison and Margot really get away with this?
That’s up for a potential season two to answer, and they’re certainly leaving the door open for one. The ending cliffhanger shows the eyes on Riley’s honey-embalmed body shooting open, so there’s still a wild card out there. Maybe she’ll team up with Fred for revenge.
It’s hard to know whether I Know What You Did Last Summer is built to last as an ongoing series; is there really enough fuel to sustain a whole other season as long as this one? I am curious about what direction the show could take Alison: Is she a straight-up villain now, and Dylan and Riley the heroes? What would redemption for her look like? How does Bruce fit into all this, and is he so protective of Alison that he’d help cover up the murders if he found out the truth? In the space of a month, both of this man’s ex-wives died, but I can’t say I’m personally dying to know how his engagement to the police chief goes.
If we never see these characters again, it’s been a wild, messy ride, though never quite as wild as I wanted it to be. But it definitely had its moments.
Some Other Stuff They Did Last Summer
• Kind of a nice touch that Helen immediately recognizes Alison, but I’m also a little doubtful she’d know so quickly when she hasn’t seen either twin in so many years.
• So was last week’s ending moment with Margot just a half-awake murmuring to show that she secretly knew it was Alison? It’s a little odd that this episode begins with both of them discussing that possibility like obvious bullshit.
• Ostensibly referring to Dylan but really referring to Alison, but really referring to herself, Margot says, “I guess you never know what’s going on in the mind of a psychopath.”
• Nice line halfway through the episode from Margot to Alison, foreshadowing how the episode will end: “I love you in all your fucked-upness. Nothing you say can change that.” She didn’t actually mean that at the time — she was just trying to get Alison on tape — but later, it might be true.
• Lyla’s guy confirms that the piercing on “Alison’s” dead body matches the piercing in her graduation photo because Bruce was smart enough to switch their displayed photos. But did Lyla really need to sneakily steal those photos? Are there no high-res ones online? Don’t other photos of the sisters exist, and did nobody ever think to compare piercings or other bodily differences like that?
• The excessive slang persists to the end, with plenty of uses of “tea,” “sus,” “low-key,” and “merc” to go around.
• Helen’s name must be a reference to Helen Shivers from the movie, right?
• Also, Helen is played by Maggie Lacey, Bill Heck’s real-life wife!
• I also just learned Ezekiel Goodman is actually the son of the showrunner, Sara Goodman.
• Shout-out to commenter trixie.dixon, who’s been guessing Margot was a sociopath for a couple of weeks now.
• Thanks for reading!