Streaming: "Heartstopper" Delivers An Equally Strong Season Two - Blog

Streaming: “Heartstopper” Delivers An Equally Strong Season Two – Blog

by Christopher James

Who’s ready to get emotional? Season one of Heartstopper won raves for bringing to life the acclaimed graphic novels, which present a coming-of-age queer love story between the nerdy and shy Charlie Spring (Joe Locke) and the sensitive jock Nick Nelson (Kit Connor). Alice Oseman’s tale does a wonderful job of capturing the butterflies and emotions of falling in love for the first time, while centering it within the anxieties of coming out and defining one’s sexuality. Though it’s meant to appeal to a teen audience, Heartstopper excels at placing adults back in their teenage years, where every text and fleeting glance can feel like an earth-shattering event.

Season two has not lost any of the magic. In so many ways, it examines what happens after “happily ever after” in teen worlds. Charlie got the guy that he wanted, but anxieties and hangups don’t vanish after one triumph. The show’s lovely, delicate touch never gets in the way of tackling hard topics in a realistic manner. Thus, season two is just as deep, emotional and swoon-worthy as its predecessor…

When we last left our young lovers, Nick Nelson (Kit Connor) felt comfortable defining himself as bisexual and coming out to his Mom (Olivia Colman). Season two shows that coming out isn’t just a moment, it’s a long process that repeats itself. The act is the same, but the reaction can be different. As Nick, Kit Connor is a revelation. He brings to life the sweetness and love that exists within Nick but he also expertly shows the annoyance and weariness that comes with navigating how to come out to multiple people, including his bro teammates, immature older brother, and absentee Father. While there are some less than perfect reactions to his sexuality, Nick is more frustrated with the bi-erasure and bi-phobia he experiences on his journey. Every person’s coming out journey is different. Heartstopper season two dramatizes the specificity of Nick’s experience as a bisexual person wanting to be seen for all his complexity, while those around him want to make him simpler. 

With Nick taking so much of the narrative heat, it’s easy to suspect that our season one protagonist, Charlie, takes a backseat this time. Luckily, the show is smarter than that. Charlie is in a honeymoon period with Nick, swooning over his every step, so much so that his schoolwork suffers. Happiness allows Charlie to neglect himself and his own needs in favor of being there for Nick. It’s an interesting and unique portrayal of young love and some of the pitfalls we fall into when giving ourselves to someone else.

Any smart second season expands beyond the leads; Heartstopper does a great job of further building out the world of the school beyond Charlie and Nick. In season one, Elle (Yasmin Finney) was one of the standout characters – a trans woman who transfers to an all-girls school and struggles to adjust. In a world where trans rights are under attack, the show blessedly doesn’t make us watch her suffer or go for the easy narrative. Instead, Elle gets to be the object of affection for Tao (William Gao), the film-obsessed strong-willed member of the friend group. Their budding romance becomes one of the highlights of the season. The rest of the cast all deepen their own relationships with their partner or with themselves. Tara (Corinna Brown) and Darcy’s (Kitty Edgell) love is tested as Darcy keeps Tara away from her home life. Even introverted Isaac (Tobie Donovan) finds himself questioning his own likes and desires, unsure of why all his friends are moving towards relationship and he doesn’t find himself drawn to one.

Heartstopper sits in a beautiful place between Love Victor and Euphoria. The show always uplifts and is very much set in this new, somewhat more accepting generation. Yet, it’s not all rainbows and roses like the charming yet sanitized Love Victor. Conversely, it doesn’t turn the pitch of its problems to 11 in the same way Euphoria does. Season two of Heartstopper finds its characters living their truth, warts and all. This opens up discussions of homophobia and poignantly adresses eating disorders in ways that feel fresh, sensitive and free for sensationalism; this isn’t an afterschool special. We also get new, exciting set pieces, such as a school trip to Paris where love is predictably in the air, even among the teachers (don’t worry, between each other, not the students). For those looking for a good laugh, good cry and a wonderfully involving teen drama, Heartstopper continues to fit the bill as well as it originally did. Grade: A-

Season Two of Heartstopper begins streaming on Netflix this Thursday, August 3rd. Are you excited?