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After the fairytale ending of the first season of Heartstopper, the sweet adaptation of Alice Oseman’s bestselling graphic novels, a second could easily have floundered without the will-they-won’t-they tension. But thankfully this queer drama still has plenty of life-affirming joy in it.
Nick (Kit Connor) and Charlie (Joe Locke) are officially a couple in Heartstopper season two.Credit: Netflix
This season opens immediately where the first left off, with Nick (Kit Connor) and Charlie (Joe Locke) sending each other adorable before-school text messages (the on-screen texts and animations of fireworks, love hearts and squiggles are done just enough to not become saccharine) now they’re officially boyfriends.
Well, officially among Charlie’s friends at least. One of the storylines of this season revolves around Nick wrestling with the ifs and the hows of when to come out to his friends and school peers. He’s especially nervous about what his rugby teammates will think, and when his older brother David (Jack Barton) comes home from university, he’s even more worried. David has always been something of a bully to Nick, but it turns out he’s also quite the homophobe.
The narrative expands outwards this season into family backgrounds and dynamics, and we learn about Nick’s largely absent dad (Thibault de Montalembert), which goes a little way to explaining David’s attitude (it couldn’t have come from his mum, lovely Olivia Colman, obviously).
Will Gao and Yasmin Finney Tao (William Gao) and Elle (Yasmin Finney) decide to leave the friend zone.Credit: Netflix
Nick and Charlie’s romantic resolution opens up room for more time for Heartstopper‘s other characters’ storylines, and we’re not completely without URST (unresolved sexual tension) this season.
Film nerd Tao (William Gao) and the show’s trans character Elle (Yasmin Finney, who is a trans actress) have been best friends for years, but are now dancing around the idea of taking things further, feelings that develop a sense of urgency when Tao learns Elle might be moving away as she’s been accepted into an art college in London. It’s another endearing romantic storyline which, perhaps best of all, results in Tao finally getting a decent haircut.
There are some other darker arcs though – it can’t all be cute animated electricity crackles.
Tara (Corinna Brown) and Darcy (Kizzy Edgell), from the girls’ school Higgs, have a long-standing relationship, but it transpires there are things they don’t know about each other outside of school (not everyone’s parents are as understanding as Charlie and Nick’s); lovely Isaac (Tobie Donovan), puts down his books long enough to tentatively explore his sexuality (it’s probably not what you expect), and even bully Ben (Sebastian Croft), as close as this series comes to a villain, is given a little more depth – but don’t expect to warm to him this time around, either. And then there’s Charlie’s problematic eating disorder, which stems from the bullying he suffered.
Yes, a lot of it is terribly earnest – it’s a show about teenagers, after all, for whom most things are Terribly Important – but the series brings Oseman’s novels to life perfectly.
For a show that deals so candidly with realistic teen issues though, there’s a distinct lack of actual sex. Charlie and Nick are surely the most restrained teenage boys ever, sticking strictly to kissing. There’s barely even a fondle when they share a bed together on the school trip.
The Heartstopper universe is the inverse Euphoria almost to a fault – while the latter is shocking for its depiction of teen drug use and sex (so much sex), things remain somewhat unrealistically over-the-shirt here. Hopefully, a third season would see things progress, and that the purely romantic nature of Charlie and Nick’s relationship is not predicated on a fear of presenting teen boys having actual sex.
But unrelenting sweetness aside, Heartstopper is still a brilliant show, and even if it wasn’t, it might not matter; it’s just heartening that a teen drama in which queer teenagers are not merely canvases for stories of misery and trauma exists at all.
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