WAVES*CUT TO THE CHASE*
Tyler Williams (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) is a high school student living in Florida – he lives in a fairly affluent house with his father Ronald (Sterling K. Brown), stepmother Catherine (Renee Elise Goldsberry), and sister Emily (Taylor Russell). He has a lot of friends, a girlfriend Alexis (Alexa Demie) and is a star on the wrestling team. He trains constantly to be in the best shape he can, and Ronald pushes him very hard to be excellent. He has recently hurt his shoulder, and sneaks some of his father’s painkillers from a previous knee injury to get through the pain, unbeknownst to his family. Catherine makes him an appointment with a doctor just to be safe. At the appointment, Tyler’s doctor informs him that he has a level five tear that requires immediate surgery and that he needs to stop wrestling immediately to avoid permanent damage. Not wanting to miss the season, Tyler doesn’t tell his parents. Meanwhile, Alexis tells Tyler that she has missed her period.
Tyler continues wrestling, using drugs to push through the pain. During a match, Tyler’s parents watch as he is thrown onto his shoulder and begins crying with pain. His parents learn the truth and that he has damaged his shoulder beyond repair, and he begins wearing a sling. Tyler begins taking even more painkillers constantly to cover up the pain from his shoulder. Alexis comforts Tyler and confesses her period still hasn’t come – she is indeed pregnant. She’s scared, and Tyler is there for her and drives her to a clinic – but Alexis leaves, unable to go through with the abortion. Her inability to go through with it leads to a vicious screaming fight, with Alexis slapping Tyler and getting out of the car and walking. Tyler is devastated and the two don’t speak for a while.
Tyler begins taking more drugs and partying constantly to dangerous levels. He comes home one night, vomiting and sobbing, and Emily finds him and holds him. Tyler reaches out to Alexis again, saying he’s sorry and he misses her, which she reciprocates. He thinks they should go to the dance together and asks if they can talk, and she says as long as he doesn’t fly off the handle – she tells him she’s keeping the baby. Tyler freaks out, and says he’s going to talk to her in person, but she says she’s told her parents and he’s not coming over. As he escalates, she tells him they’re over and blocks him. Tyler tears his room apart in a rage.
The evening of the dance, Tyler spends the night watching what Alexis is doing on social media and drinking and doing drugs alone in his room. He steals Ronald’s car keys but is caught by Catherine, who tries to stop him. He reacts viciously, saying she isn’t his mother and being incredibly cruel. Ronald arrives and tries to force Tyler to stop, by Tyler knocks him to the ground onto his bad knee and takes the car. Tyler drives to the dance after party while Catherine makes frantic phone calls trying to find him, eventually getting Ronald the address of the party – he heads off after Tyler.
Tyler stalks Alexis through the party, watching her go upstairs with her date. Emily spots Tyler and senses something is off, but doesn’t say anything. Tyler follows Alexis into the garage where she’s getting beers and confronts her. He accuses her of sleeping with her date, but she tells him he’s one of her best friends who is also gay, and that the beers are for her friends. She tells him this is why she doesn’t want him as a father for her baby, and when he blocks her from leaving, she slaps him repeatedly and he hits her, knocking her into the floor where she hits her head brutally, blood everywhere. When others (including Emily) stumble upon the scene, Tyler flees. Ronald arrives and finds a shell-shocked Emily, and Tyler stops home where Catherine demands to know what’s happening before he leaves again, though he is caught by police.
Tyler pleads guilty to second-degree murder for Alexis’s death, and is sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. The family is shattered, and Emily returns to school where she mostly keeps to herself. One day, a sweet fellow student named Luke (Lucas Hedges) asks her out, and she accepts. She tells him she deleted her social media after what happened with her brother. The two begin dating, going on day trips and falling for each other. Meanwhile, at home, Emily overhears Ronald and Catherine arguing. Ronald feels Catherine is absent and shutting him out, and she asks to be allowed to grieve – she feels like Ronald pushed Tyler too hard and all she can see is Tyler when she looks at him. She feels like he never took care of Emily, and she doesn’t want to be near him. As a result, Ronald takes Emily fishing, and confesses that he’s worried about losing Catherine. Emily is grateful he has opened up, and opens up herself and begins crying saying she could have stopped Tyler the night of the murder, and Ronald tells her it isn’t her fault. She confesses she is angry at Tyler, he’s a monster, but Ronald says he isn’t a monster, he just made a horrible mistake.
Emily and Luke have sex for the first time. Later, he tells her his father was abusive and was cut out of his life when he was young but is dying of cancer. Emily tells him that her birth mother died of an overdose. When Luke is informed his father has a week left to live, Emily convinces him to go to see him, telling him despite his hatred for his father he will regret it if he doesn’t. The two make excuses to their families and drive to Missouri, where Luke reconciles with his dying father. He lives longer than expected, and both her parents text Emily, worried about her whereabouts. Luke’s father dies, and Emily consoles him. She finally texts Catherine, telling her she will be home soon, she was doing something important, and that she appreciates her and wants to be a family again. Catherine visits Tyler in jail, and finds some reconciliation with Ronald. Emily returns home and rides her bike, arms outstretched in the open Florida air.
Tyler Williams (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) is a promising high school student who goes down a downward spiral when he suffers an injury that ends his sports career, taking painkillers and other drugs. His girlfriend Alexis (Alexa Demie) becomes pregnant and when he isn't supportive of her choice to keep it, dumps him. He follows her to a party where they have a violent altercation that ends with him hitting her, accidentally killing her. His family, parents Ronald (Sterling K. Brown) and Catherine (Renee Elise Goldsberry) and sister Emily (Taylor Russell) struggle to cope in the aftermath, with Ronald and Catherine becoming especially strained. Emily falls in love with a boy at school, Luke (Lucas Hedges), and is able to begin to communicate with her parents and bring her broken family back together.