This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, this show being covered here wouldn’t exist.
This review of Heartstopper Season 2 contains spoilers
No matter how much praise Heartstopper got last year, there was always the underlying thought that the show is a little too good to be true. It’s lighthearted and fun, with great examples of how coming out should go, but still hinting at the ways it can go badly. Nick and Charlie’s romance is as sweet as can be. The found family dynamic is on point, with multiple queer couples taking center stage. What’s not to love?
It’s not a fair criticism to call Heartstopper too sweet, or cringey, or unrealistic. After all, straight relationships dominate the media already, and they’ve had their fair share of cringe. However, the second season of Heartstopper brings in more serious topics, giving the show a layer of realism that’s appropriate for a second outing.
“I’m bi, actually”
Charlie (Joe Locke) and Nick (Kit Connor) are finally together. They haven’t been official for long before Nick starts obsessing about coming out to everyone. Charlie, though he wants to show off his boyfriend, emphasizes over and over again to Nick there is no time limit on coming out. He doesn’t owe anyone that information.
It’s an important topic to cover, and Heartstopper Season 2 handles it beautifully. Nick is caught up in the love and light of having a boyfriend, dating Charlie. It’s understandable he’s anxious to be open about it. But that anxiety is real. It’s hard to escape the assumptions, the disbelief, the biphobia, and the insecurities that come from peers and from himself. Coming out doesn’t just happen once, it happens many times.
The number of times Nick has to say “I’m bi, actually” is both wonderful to hear and heartbreaking that he keeps having to say it. The bi-erasure and biphobia Nick experiences from his brother, Charlie’s parents, his father, and classmates is a reality that even revealed itself in fans of Heartstopper. Though it’s difficult to watch Nick navigate these anxieties, it’s important to see a show like this one cover it. Nick coming into himself even more throughout Season 2 is a lovely byproduct of the show covering these more serious topics.
The perfect storm
The second season also pulls back the layers on Charlie. Season 1 began shortly after Charlie was outed and horribly bullied at school as a result. By the time we meet him, things have died down on that front, and then he’s swept off his feet by Nick. Season 2 rightly focuses on the fallout of that bullying. Charlie’s “everything’s going to be perfect” line cuts right to the core of Charlie Spring. He wants everything to be perfect, and he’s in denial that things weren’t perfect for a very long time. It’s an obvious set-up for the season, but it works to showcase Charlie’s mental state throughout the season.
The struggle to make everything perfect rears its head in the form of Charlie’s eating disorder. Signs of his disorder are sprinkled throughout this season, leading to lovely talks between Tao and Nick, and Nick and Charlie. The show’s willingness to let their characters talk about the hard stuff is what makes this season so great.
I’ve found a family
But Charlie and Nick are only part of this story. The rest of the friend group gets their time to shine as well. Elle and Tao finally get together, though they experience a lot of ups and downs. Elle also gets to talk more about her experiences as a trans girl and finds other transgender students to bond with.
Darcy and Tara navigate their first “I love you,” but here, the show veers into a more serious home situation with Darcy. Isaac gets his own moment of self-revelation as an asexual and aromantic person. If anything, I would have loved to see more of Isaac; hopefully, he continues to explore what being aro/ace means for himself. Tara, too, doesn’t get as much to do this season, spending the majority of it worried about Darcy.
Mr. Farouk’s confession
A nice surprise this season was the relationship between the art teacher Mr. Ajayi and a new character, Mr. Farouk, Truman’s stoic study hall teacher. While Heartstopper focuses on the internal lives and relationships between queer high schoolers, Mr. Farouk represents an important demographic in the LGBTQ community—people who’s self-discovery didn’t happen in high school.
It’s wonderful to have a show that showcases multiple LGBTQ+ people and to show positive representations of the queer high school experience, but that hasn’t been the reality for a lot of people.
A scene in Episode 6 showcases an exchange between Mr. Farouk and the art teacher, Mr. Ajayi. Mr. Farouk admits that he didn’t realize he was gay until his late twenties, and expresses worry that it’s “probably too late for him to have any youthful moments of discovery.” Mr. Ajayi responds: “Don’t think there’s any age limit on those, to be honest.”
It’s such a quick scene, but it’s absolutely vital as a reminder that in a season all about coming out as a teenager, not everyone does. And Mr. Ajayi’s response emphasizes that everyone’s experiences are valid.
The found family vibes are strong with this show, and Heartstopper remains just as sweet and wholesome as the first season. This time, however, there’s room for serious topics that the show handles beautifully.
Feature image courtesy of Samuel Dore/Netflix
'Heartstopper' Season 2 - 9/10