‘Heartstopper’ season two review: Quaint, queer, and joyful
(Credits: Teddy Cavendish/Netflix)


‘Heartstopper’ season two review: Quaint, queer, and joyful

Heartstopper - Alice Oseman

Heartstopper is the perfect show for those sick and tired of cynical depictions of LGBTQ+ relationships in pop culture. Created and written by Alice Oseman and brought to life on screen for Netflix under the able direction of Euros Lyn, Heartstopper is cosy on the inside and fuzzy on the edges. And season two continues to be an amalgamation of joyous rainbow moments that appear after big storms, but some shadows linger.

Charlie (Joe Locke) and Nick (Kit Connor) are still as cute as ever as they navigate the highs and lows of their relationship and life, generally in Paris and at home. Most shows tend to lose direction after getting their protagonists together, throwing in unnecessary drama to pull them apart again just for the heck of it. But the second season of Heartstopper carries on with the precedence it has set for itself: avoid certain hackneyed clichés that exist to solely stir the pot while leaning into romance tropes that are dotted with sunshine and fairy dust.

Charlie is still very much giddily in awe of being with Nick. You probably can use footage of him to put together a ‘Missing Lover’ video montage Abed (Community) would approve of. But that is just part of the picture. Season two of Heartstopper finally addresses the toll the incessant bullying took on Charlie after he was accidentally outed a year ago.

In Charlie, it takes the form of an eating disorder, not depicted in any gratuitous way as we have come to expect in most teen dramas now. In that respect, Heartstopper is quite the antidote to Euphoria and Skins—both shows that would terrify any modern-day parent. 

In Nick, the burden of coming out manifests as intense anxiety that can make one physically sick. Season two, hearteningly enough, creates a safe space for Nick. He is constantly reminded by Charlie, his mom (Olivia Colman), and his other friends that he does not owe anyone else his truth and definitely not before he is ready or has been able to come to terms with it himself. 

The reason why this is even more stirring is that Connor was forced to come out after the first season dropped, and bizarrely enough, fans accused him of queerbaiting. An actor’s job is to play the role at hand with as much authenticity and nuance as possible. And this is another example of why it is a dangerous slope for those who demand to be privy to every detail of an actor’s personal life.

Heartstopper season two brings in more development for the other characters too. Tao (William Gao) and Elle (Yasmin Finney) continue to explore their equation. Tao’s love-struck joy is endearing, and getting caught up in his excitement to woo Elle is easy. This season, even when Tao mopes, it has a brighter vibe. The moment his mom brings him apple slices—chopped up neatly—to check on him and give him motherly advice is particularly adorable despite being a small moment. It has become a meme at this point (what hasn’t really?) that Asian parents showing up to their children’s rooms with cut fruits is one of their strongest love languages.

Elle finds more friends, Naomi (Bel Priestley) and Felix (Ash Self), who are trans while applying for a prestigious art school, increasing the scope for representation of more diverse queer stories. We also get a very brief disability representation with one of Elle’s new friends, Felix, this season.

Even Tara (Corinna Brown) and Darcy (Kizzy Edgell) are super cute together this season. In case you haven’t noticed, being cute is a prerequisite to be on this show unless you are Ben or Harry. We peel a few layers off Darcy’s hyper-happy persona this time around. As far as platitudes go, the cheeriest ones, indeed, often hide the darkest secrets. But it helps that Darcy has a partner she can rely on and a group of friends who have a sense of maturity and clarity about life that some of us 30-somethings are still seeking in therapy chambers across the world.

Heartstopper takes another step forward by helping Isaac (Tobie Donovan), our cutest but quietest cherub of the lot, finally have his say. For a guy who has made books his whole personality and prefers to be more of a wallflower, Isaac sure knows how to drop the truth bombs. The most reticent generally know exactly how many words to use to get their point across so they can return to being their introverted selves as soon as possible. 

When Isaac realises that he might be an aromantic asexual, he becomes more of a direct stand-in for Heartstopper author Oseman, who opened up about her ace and aro identities while promoting Loveless, the YA novel based on her own experiences at uni.

However, one of the most wonderful things about Heartstopper is that we even have queer grown-ups in the form of Mr Ajayi (Fisayo Akinade), Coach Singh (Chetna Pandya), and Mr Farouk (Nima Taleghani) who joins this season. Being surrounded by queer adults who are thriving in love, life and otherwise can be one of the most inspiring and empowering things for young queer and trans folks to witness. And thrive, they do! Along with the lovestruck teens, Mr Ajayi and Mr Farouk also find their meet-cutes in Paris, the city of love and lights.

The adults in Heartstopper continue to be more peripheral characters, but we see more of them this season. The story captured the afterglow of first love in season one with a snappy soundtrack, aesthetic cinematography, and animation that add a spark of magic right off the pages of the graphic novel it is based on. The way the effervescence of first love and youth can make you feel so cocooned from the world at large unravels ever so slightly this season. But despite dealing with heavy topics like homophobia, parental negligence, eating disorders and the horrors of waking up with unintentional hickeys on school trips, Heartstopper continues to be a show that can pull you out of a bad mood even when you are feeling like a veritable grouch.

While I go off to dream about Stephen Fry showing up in person (he already voices Truham’s principal, Headmaster Barnes, on the show) in season three, you can catch Heartstopper season two on Netflix from August 3rd onwards.