The 'Cruel Summer' Finale Revealed the Truth About What Happened to Martin Harris

How did Martin Harris die in 'Cruel Summer?' The Season 1 finale shed a new light on the Assistant Principal's death. Details on what really happened.

Shannon Raphael - Author

Jun. 16 2021, Updated 10:15 a.m. ET

Martin Harris
Source: Freeform

Warning: SPOILERS for Cruel Summer are ahead.

Freeform's latest addictive series, Cruel Summer, isn't like any other teen drama; every episode leaves viewers with far more questions than answers.

Each episode takes place on one particular day or time period in 1993, 1994, and 1995, and it's told from the perspective of either Jeanette Turner (Chiara Aurelia) or Kate Wallis (Olivia Holt).

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In 1993, Jeannette, an awkward teen with aspirations to social climb, idolizes Queen Bee Kate and she yearns for her boyfriend, Jamie Henson (Froy Gutierrez). 

A year later, in 1994, Jeanette gets the opportunity to become popular (and to date Jamie) because Kate has been kidnapped by the new Assistant Principal at her Texas high school, Martin Harris (Blake Lee). 

During her rescue, Martin dies. Kate later claims that Jeanette had seen her while she was in captivity, which she denies.  

Source: Freeform
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After Kate implicates Jeanette in keeping her whereabouts a secret during a TV interview, Jeannette sues her for defamation. Throughout the first nine episodes, viewers are in the dark about which teen is lying.

In the Season 1 finale, "Hostile Witness," Kate and Jeanette meet again in court. New information is later revealed about Martin Harris' death, and it changes everything that viewers once knew.

How did Martin Harris die in 'Cruel Summer?'

As the Cruel Summer pilot, "Happy Birthday, Jeanette Turner," progresses, viewers slowly learn that Kate Wallis had gone missing in 1993. 

Jeanette took over Kate's place in her friend group, and she began dating her boyfriend. When she finds out that Kate has been found a year later, she's appears to be shocked that the blonde teen is still alive. 

The rest of the details regarding Kate's rescue are revealed during a news report that the Turner family watches. 

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They find out that her kidnapper, Martin Harris, was shot during a standoff. 

"Missing teenager Kate Wallis was rescued today, and her abductor has been killed in a deadly shootout," the newscaster, Maureen Melton (Krystle Gutierrez), says. 

Source: Freeform
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An on-scene reporter then publicly reveals the identity of her kidnapper for the first time.  

"And in a shocking and disturbing turn of events, Kate Wallis' alleged kidnapper was Martin Harris, who was the Assistant Principal at Skylin High School."

Though many assume that the aforementioned shootout was between Martin Harris and the police, something else entirely is revealed in "Hostile Witness."

In between their court dates, Jeanette and Kate agree to meet at Martin Harris' home. They talk out their issues, and Jeanette reveals that Mallory (Harley Quinn Smith) was actually the one who saw Kate at Christmastime in 1993.

Kate apologizes for dragging Jeanette's name through the mud (if only she saw the final scene of the season), and she asks her to go down to the basement with her.

Like her therapist said it would, the journey to the basement does trigger Kate's memory.

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She recalls that she was the one who shot Martin Harris.

"I felt paralyzed and guilty for loving him. And for hating him. Killing him," Kate tells Jeanette in the basement. "In the morning, I called the cops."

Kate admits that she wanted to think of Martin Harris' death as a shootout, but she knows that it wasn't really the case. Martin Harris had gone down to the basement to complete suicide, but he couldn't. When he dropped the weapon, Kate saw an opportunity to get out of captivity.

Kate Wallis (Olivia Holt) and Jeanette Turner (Chiara Aurelia)
Source: Freeform
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The 'Cruel Summer' finale revealed the meaning of Annabelle.

In the fourth episode of Cruel Summer, which is entitled "You Don't Hunt, You Don't Eat," Kate begins to open up about "Annabelle" in the 1995 scenes. During the annual hunting trip, Kate tells a ghost story about a girl who was abducted after she was "alone and vulnerable" on a hunting trip.

While the story does parallel Kate's own kidnapping, she later suggests that she "met Annabelle" toward the end of her time in captivity. 

She noted that Martin Harris became stricter once Kate attempted to escape the basement, and that's when she first became acquainted with Annabelle.

While some fans theorized that Annabelle was a person — potentially another kidnapping victim or Martin Harris' own split personality — "Hostile Witness" revealed that the name refers to a gun.

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Source: Freeform

Moments before his death, Martin Harris brings a wooden box down to the basement and tells Kate that he's figured out how the kidnapping scenario will end. Though Kate initially imagines that he is going to kill her, he opens the box and shows her Annabelle, a "family heirloom." He points the weapon at himself, before deciding not to pull the trigger.

Kate eventually takes the gun, and we all now know what happens next.

You can catch up on Cruel Summer airs Freeform or on Hulu. The show will return for Season 2 in 2022.  

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