For this entry of Phantom Limbs, we’ll be taking a look at the planned but sadly unproduced second and third seasons of Amazon Prime’s I Know What You Did Last Summer. Though the show’s initial outing tied up its central murder mystery by revealing its killer and their motives, there were still plenty of plot threads left dangling to tease the follow-up episodes that would ultimately never come to pass.
Joining us to discuss how the show’s story and characters would have continued and evolved in Season 2 and beyond is I Know What You Did Last Summer showrunner Sara Goodman, who reveals the original, time-hopping plans for the series, where the subsequent seasons would have gone, and how its lead character’s perilous journey would ultimately have been resolved.
For the uninitiated, a quick recap of the first season of I Know What You Did Last Summer: In the sleepy Hawaiian town of Wai Huna, a high school graduation celebration leads to tragedy when Alison (Madison Iseman) is killed in a hit and run on a winding beachside road. Involved in the accident are: Alison’s popular, wild child twin sister Lennon (also Iseman); her friend/might-have-been love interest Dylan (Ezekiel Goodman); drug dealing party girl Riley (Ashley Moore); wealthy Margot (Brianne Tju), who is in love with Lennon; and charming jock Johnny (Sebastian Amorusu). Seeing the young woman’s death as the potential destroyer of their bright futures, the drunken, drug-addled quintet agree to cover up the accident, carrying Alison’s body into a nearby cave in the hopes that waves will pull her out to sea and cover up any evidence of their wrongdoing.
One year later, Lennon returns home from college only to receive the ominous message “I Know What You Did Last Summer” scrawled onto her bedroom mirror (with a accompanying bloody goat’s head thrown into her closet for good measure – a symbol related to the town’s history with a local cult). Soon after, viewers are treated to the revelation that Lennon is actually Alison, who’d innocuously assumed her sister’s identity just before the accident occurred, locking the sister into keeping an additional secret of her own. Before long, bodies begin piling high as the teenagers race to solve the who’s-doing-it that’s threatening their lives, their loved ones, and their futures.
By the time the season reaches its conclusion (and SPOILERS IF YOU HAVEN’T YET WATCHED THE SERIES), Dylan has become enamored with the cult, Johnny and Riley have been murdered, and Margot is revealed as the killer, driven by her love for Lennon and her desire to mete out vengeance on everyone involved in her death. Alison, guilt-wracked over her choices (she was driving the vehicle that struck and killed her sister), ultimately chooses to partner with Margot, framing Dylan for the killings and going off into an uncertain future with the young murderess who loves her every bit as much as she did her twin. As the season closes, the presumed dead Riley is revealed to have been treated by the cult, her body preserved in honey. Her eyes open just as we cut to black, teasing more adventures to come for our benighted teens.
“I was absolutely familiar with both [the original Lois Duncan young adult novel and its 1997 slasher film adaptation],” Ms. Goodman begins, detailing her relationship to I Know and the origins of the television series. “I would say I was a fan of both in very different ways, because the book and the movies were very different from each other in terms of…not premise, but in terms of tone and messaging. You know, Lois Duncan wrote that book in the 70s, and it was so much of that time. I liked Lois Duncan when I was a kid … and then I was a fan of the movies, because who wasn’t a fan of the movies? I was definitely a fan of the first movie, which is why it was really hard for me to commit to doing the television show, because I didn’t believe that just rebooting either one of them in 2021 was going to work. I didn’t feel that they were modern, or that they would translate to long form television. They felt very limited. So I was definitely hesitant about doing it, and having backlash about it as well.”
At the time that the show was originally pitched to Amazon and Sony, Ms. Goodman notes that I Know might have been structured quite differently from what was eventually planned. “I pitched an anthology series that all took place in this town in Hawaii,” Goodman says, “where everyone for generations previous and for generations future had done something wrong, and someone knew about it. So it was kind of this generational trauma, and these generational lies and generational secrets.
“This place had its own kind of life from before. So in fact, I Know What You Did Last Summer Season 2 was originally pitched as [Alison’s father] Bruce and [cultist] Clara, and the cult, and what they had done. It was using the night in the cave, where Clara told Dylan everything, as a way of getting back into that world, so that we could have also had some closure about what really happened there.”
Going beyond this second season, Goodman says that there would have been another season which followed Lyla, the police chief, and Riley’s hard-charging mother Courtney, and “what they did on their graduation night. Then you could flash forward and go further back to Bruce’s parents, who were the colonizers of this town. So it had kind of its own mythology about this place in Hawaii that looked like paradise, but had all of this very secretive history.
“So that was the original pitch. It was really this kind of anthology about the town. I will say that as this the show got written and shot, everyone really didn’t want to completely lose the characters of this first season. So as we were shooting … I was having to pitch future seasons and the finale and make changes, there were less purely anthological versions that were also being talked about … my idea was to use Season 2 to both introduce the cult and tell the rest of the Season 1 story. We could use Dylan to go back into what the cult was, and [reveal] that the cult leader was actually Dylan’s father.”
In addition to this revelation, Goodman says that Dylan would have believed that Riley was the chosen one that had been foretold by the cult. “The question in that, which I liked, would have been – is Riley’s being alive a figment of Dylan’s imagination, or wish fulfillment, or an imbalance, or is it really real? So while that story was going on, meanwhile in the real world Dylan would have gotten out of jail, and we wouldn’t have known who gave the information that got him out.”
What of our lead Alison, who wound up in a surprising romantic relationship with unveiled murderer Margot in the show’s final moments? “There was a Gone Girl kind of situation with Margot and Alison, because…can you live with your killer? I don’t know. What does that relationship look like on a daily basis?! That was kind of interesting to me. They have to be together, unless one of them is dead. So there was a situation where we would think that Margo had Gone Girl’d herself and set it up to look like Alison had killed her.
“But that was not actually the case. Margot would eventually be actually dead, after many twists and turns.” And who would have gotten the drop on the killer? “Riley, who had gotten her final revenge and set all of them up. So they all paid the price except for Riley, because let’s be honest – they all deserve to. I mean, Dylan doesn’t really deserve it, so he can go be in the cult.”
So if Riley is indeed alive by the end of this tale, does that mean that she was just very resilient, or was this an introduction of the supernatural into the story? Goodman explains that “that was what would bring us back fully into what that cult really did, and what that cult really believed, in that she had been alive. You know, this is going to sound insane, but I really battled with ‘Do we want this magical realism? Do we want to bring supernaturalism into it?’ Do we want to leave that as a dangling question of, ‘Is she really alive, or not?’
“While we were shooting, there were all these articles about these sea slugs, that…you could cut their heads off, and they would grow a whole new body. They were starting to do experiments, using this sea slug serum to see if they could make reparations, like with stem cells. It just was so interesting to me. Also, honey was used all throughout history as an antibiotic and antiseptic to heal wounds. In fact, I got a really bad cut when I was in Hawaii, and the ER doctor gave me this special iodine honey to put on it, totally coincidentally. So I was just thinking about all of these things in nature that could in fact make what this cult believed be true. What if all of these things that we dismiss, which are also religion, all of these things that feel like ‘…come on.’ What if that was true, which is why this cult had to be gotten rid of.”
While she flirted with these notions throughout the course of writing the show and planning its follow-up seasons, Goodman admits that “I don’t know that I ever would have fully gone there, because I’m such a skeptic. But that was part of it, to be able to really go into the cult and what they believed in. And who the bad guys were, and who the good guys were…because, you know, it was Bruce and Clara that were responsible for the death of all of the cult members. They had led them to the cave, and they all ended up drowning.”
With most horror tales, cults are generally portrayed as being dangerous and evil. However, in the first season of I Know, the storytellers never quite seemed to fully condemn the cult or its beliefs as a threat to our characters. “For me, I like that the cult was not evil by its nature. That the cult had belief systems that were foreign and that threatened this town, because they were taking over. But Dylan definitely would have been in the cult. Dylan and Riley would have been leading the cult.
“I think that the cult was something that, if left alone, was not evil. But because they were outsiders, because in the past they felt like a threat to [the townspeople’s] way of life, they were perceived that way so they had to be gotten rid of. I like that you don’t know who the bad guys are. If you look at any religion, all religions have some version of reincarnation, or an afterlife. Why is that less crazy than the cult’s version of an afterlife? Why is the Jewish version of resurrection – I can say this because I’m Jewish – where you’re not allowed to have any tattoos so that when the Messiah comes, you can rise from the dead…why is that crazier than a cult, or less crazy than a cult?”
If the supernatural was not ultimately going to factor into the story, and the cult possessed the means to very nearly resurrect Riley with their rituals and use of honey and the like, then is there any chance we might possibly have seen Lennon again in some form? “That was up in the air, for sure,” Goodman says. “Because the cult believed that when the chosen one came, that all of the people who had been properly preserved would be risen. That’s why Clara couldn’t kill herself. She had to die and be covered with the honey, so that when that resurrection time came, she could rise with the rest of the chosen ones.
“So would Lennon have had that? You know, honestly, it could have gone either way. She was preserved properly. All of those things were done properly, but then they burned her body. I think that would probably be like a weeklong debate in the writers room, and I don’t know which side I would have fallen on.”
This writer takes the opportunity to point out that, hey, that raft that Lennon’s body was burnt on didn’t look so sturdy that it couldn’t have fallen into the sea once disrupted by the fire. Goodman laughs. “It was really makeshift! I have a picture of me laying on it. There were writers on the show who were very into that idea, and there were writers on the show who were like, ‘We are jumping the shark!’ And I was like, ‘We jumped the shark so long ago, you guys!’”
While I Know What You Did Last Summer did play like an ensemble show at times, Alison was surely meant to be our lead and Final Girl. So how would the show have eventually left her, if the story had been allowed to carry on through to its conclusion? “In Season 2, Alison would not have been able to live with her guilt,” Goodman says. “She would not. So what does that mean? She’s now in this relationship with Margot, she sent Dylan to jail. She killed her sister, maybe on purpose. But by choosing Margo, I think she believes she did kill her on purpose. I don’t think you’ll ever know if she did, but I think that the guilt is what would have driven her.
“She would have been the one who got Dylan out, for sure. And she definitely wouldn’t be with Margot, which I know would disappoint a lot of people because people who really just loved them together. But I don’t know where she would have ended up. I mean, she definitely was the Final Girl. But not in the cult, not dead, but maybe just becoming a third person? She’s not Lennon, who she was living as, and she’s not Alison anymore either.”
So why is it that I Know wasn’t given the opportunity to continue on past its first season? Goodman sighs. “Honestly, I just think people didn’t watch it. I think there was a lot of backlash when it first came out, that it wasn’t the movie. So I think that turned some people off. And then Amazon just didn’t get that audience. They just didn’t get it. But I had a tremendous amount of creative support from them, and from Sony. It was not like anyone there didn’t want the show, they wanted it. And I just think people didn’t show up.”
But was that the definitive reason that was given for the show’s cancellation? This writer takes a moment to relay a bit of info from another screenwriter recently interviewed for this column, that when studios are done with a writer and/or project, they won’t bother flatly stating that the working relationship is over. Rather, they simply “ghost” you. Goodman laughs at this. “They wouldn’t say why,” she admits. “Amazon will not give any kind of data or information, real information. But they just said people didn’t show up, or the audience they wanted didn’t show up. Why that was, was never spoken of. But I think everyone has lots of different theories. I think Sony would like it to go someplace else, but I don’t know how active that is at the moment. They always say that at first when you aren’t coming back.”
Even though the show will not return to Amazon, Goodman notes that it might still possibly wind up elsewhere. “I think there’s a chance. The interesting thing for me is that, if you take off the Summer and just go with I Know What You Did, there’s a really interesting version that could end up anywhere that everybody really likes. But I’m just not sure. I think Sony would have to really take charge of it. And I have to admit, I have not checked in on it for the last month or two because I don’t want to get ghosted.”
In wrapping up our conversation, Sara Goodman looks back on her time with I Know What You Did Last Summer and provides her final thoughts on the show she created. “I am so grateful for anyone who did watch it,” she says. “I think it didn’t get its due, and that the actors were so great in it. I’m just grateful for everyone who did give it a chance.”
Very special thanks to Sara Goodman for her time and insights.
This has been Phantom Limbs, a recurring feature which takes a look at intended yet unproduced horror sequels and remakes – extensions to genre films we love, appendages to horror franchises that we adore – that were sadly lopped off before making it beyond the planning stages. Here, we chat with the creators of these unmade extremities to gain their unique insight into these follow-ups that never were, with the discussions standing as hopefully illuminating but undoubtedly painful reminders of what might have been.