Finally, after a year of waiting, it all comes back with that tiny, powerful, texted word: “Hi ❤️”.
In Season 2 of Heartstopper, this simple, montage-happy greeting takes on a deeper, more romantic meaning, as we’re reunited with Charlie Spring (Joe Locke) and Nick Nelson (Kit Connor), brand new boyfriends and keys to my cold, jaded heart. And this time, Paris awaits.
Little more than a year ago, English writer and illustrator Alice Oseman adapted the beloved characters of her hit 2016 webcomic for the Netflix series directed by Euros Lyn. A gentle and joyous exploration of queer identity amid incessant heteronormativity, Season 1 stuck closely to Oseman’s first two graphic novel volumes of Heartstopper. The series settled itself on the sweeter end of the teen dramedy spectrum — with a gay love story akin to Love, Viktor, a wholesome joy shared by Never Have I Ever, a younger but similarly fun sibling of Sex Education, and nowhere near the traumatic despair of Skins or Euphoria.
Season 2, which aligns with Oseman’s third and fourth volumes, feels like a natural maturation of its characters. Charlie, Elle (Yasmin Finney), Tao (William Gao), and Isaac (Tobie Donovan) are no longer the “borderline outcasts” they felt like in Season 1, but are now part of a larger group of LGBTQ buddies, a gorgeous, supportive found family that make up the core cast. And together, they explore new relationships and crushes, dreaded school exams, an overseas excursion, the end of year prom, endure their complicated home lives, and navigate the complexities of coming out.
Heartstopper Season 2 explores the complexity of coming out.
Having spent the majority of Season 1 following Nick and Charlie’s developing feelings and Nick’s journey exploring his bisexuality and coming out to himself, Season 2 predominantly focuses on their new and mostly still secret relationship, alongside Nick’s decision to come out to his friends and family.
Through Nick’s struggle across the season’s eight episodes, the show effectively shows that for LGBTQ people, coming out is an ongoing, lifelong process, and different for everyone. Existing within the realm of compulsory heterosexuality, Nick and Charlie are dealing with a similar situation to Tara (Corinna Brown) and Darcy (Kizzy Edgell) in Season 1: everyone assumes they’re just “good mates”. At one point, when a character says this, the words “GOOD MATES” flash in bright pink font on screen with a flashback to Nick and Charlie furiously making out. It’s perfect.
Joe Locke and Kit Connor as Charlie and Nick.
Having come out to his mum, Sarah (a superbly understated Olivia Coleman) in one of Season 1’s standout scenes, Nick readies himself to come out to his closest friends and estranged family, but constantly finds himself struggling to say the words. And though Nick’s surrounded by his newfound group of LGBTQ friends, his decision to come out is deterred not only by his fear of ridicule and judgment, but through two deeply toxic characters in his life: Charlie’s manipulative ex Ben (Sebastian Croft) and Nick’s deeply homophobic brother David (Jack Barton), a new addition.
Heartstopper spends time considering the reasons people want to come out (or as Queer Eye‘s Karamo Brown prefers to describe it, “letting people in”), showing the group’s different families and how they’re either supported by them or not, but also considering the very concept of coming out in the first place. “I think there’s this idea that when you’re not straight, you have to tell all your friends and family immediately. Like you owe it to them. But you don’t.” Charlie tells Nick. “I want you to come out when and how you want to. And if that time’s a long time then that’s completely OK.”
Several times during the season, characters repeat this fact that Nick doesn’t “owe” anyone his coming out, including Coach Singh (Chetna Pandya) and Nick’s mum. But essentially, Heartstopper empowers Nick in his decision, not necessarily as a forced hand but as something he’s not doing for them, but for himself and Charlie. Watching Nick’s struggle to come out on his own terms is inevitably reminiscent of Connor’s own real-life experience with coming out as bisexual after fan pressure, one of number of famous people who’ve felt forced to publicly validate their sexual identity after being accused of queerbaiting. “Back for a minute,” Connor wrote on Twitter at the time. “i’m bi. congrats on forcing an 18 year old to out himself. I think some of you missed the point of the show. Bye.”
Charlie’s kindness and compassion toward Nick during this process forms the core of Season 2, taking the pressure off any way he can and insisting Nick does this on his own terms, if he even wants to at all. In a rare moment of vulnerability, Charlie speaks about his own coming out experience being hijacked by school gossips, the abuse he endured at school, and his ensuing depression, self-loathing, and anxiety. “I think it surprised me how homophobic people were,” he says. “I thought things were better nowadays.”
Importantly, Heartstopper doesn’t avoid biphobia or bi-erasure surrounding Nick’s coming out, as he’s subject to comments online and from his brother diminishing his identity, and is constantly correcting people’s assumptions of his monosexuality. However, although the series shows Nick’s journey is having an impact on his mental health, it’s not the only thing his character is given to traverse — he’s got GSCE exams, a new relationship, family complications, and more to get through.
Heartstopper perfectly captures the joy, terror, and fireworks of new love.
Everyone’s in love or afraid to say so this season, and it’s pure, sweet gold. Rather than delving into the universal horror show that is navigating sex and adolescence, perfected by its Teen British Netflix Series sibling Sex Education, Heartstopper keeps that conversation on the horizon, leaving things at a bubbling, nervous, future possibility. These characters are still mid-teens sitting happily in their world of pizza-fuelled group sleepovers, surprise birthday parties, truth or dare, spin the bottle, and dancing around to Julia Jacklin in the living room, cheekily ducking out to make out if the occasion calls for it.
As fans of Oseman’s stories have long known, Heartstopper is an unapologetic masterclass in squeal-inducing, cheesy, highly relatable teen romance that relishes in earnestness. The series has long perfected the art of the small moment through Oseman’s signature embellishments, which happily made their way into the Netflix series in Season 1; animated fireworks crackle during a hair twirl flirt, electricity fizzles as shoulders or hands touch sitting beside each other. With two of this season’s episodes set in Paris, Heartstopper‘s second season sends the group abroad for a week over the summer, meaning emotions and hormones are running high in the city of love.
Moving our protagonists into first love territory, Nick and Charlie simply can’t get enough of each other this season, and Connor and Locke are even better this time around, maturing their characters through their deeply romantic and delightfully hesitant chemistry. Locke is just as enchanting as Charlie this season, allowing his character moments of reluctant vulnerability and unexpected strength. With his support network expanding, Locke’s Charlie appears more confident than ever, though the traumatic events of his past manifest in other realms of his health. Meanwhile, Connor expertly wields subtle intensity, emerging playfulness, and stoic sweetness to explore Nick’s inner struggle with coming out while simultaneously falling hard for Charlie and reconnecting with his estranged father (Thibault de Montalembert).
But while Charlie and Nick’s feelings are clear, there’s another pair whose feelings remain unresolved from Season 1: Elle and Tao. Through Finney and Gao’s complementary performances, Elle and Tao’s journey is one of the sweetest elements of the season, with each staying true to their characters while moving them through the most terrifying of predicaments: liking your best friend. Sacrificing yourself on the altar of dignity, being all weird after confessions, and descending into self-flagellation and despair — Gao nails this deeply relatable energy with melodramatic integrity. And as Elle, Finney sees her character reject the giggling flirtation methods recommended by her classmates and instead remains totally herself in her feelings for Tao, protecting her heart while keeping her art school dream front of mind. But we can’t ignore those animated butterflies circling these two, and neither can they.
Will Gao and Yasmin Finney as Tao and Elle, on a truly disastrous date.
Credit: Netflix / See-Saw
Season 2 also gives Tara and Darcy’s relationship room for nuance and depth, with the pair venturing toward the power of saying the L word and being vulnerable with each other, especially as Darcy deals with some demons of her own, scenes which let Brown and Edgell dig deep into more mature topics. Imogen (Rhea Norwood) is also given a bigger role to play this season, figuring out how to back herself and ask for what she wants.
One of the standouts of the season, however, is Tobie Donovan as Isaac, the quiet legend of the series, bringing his steady book companions to parties while struggling to examine his own identity amid his connection with newcomer James (Bradley Riches). Isaac, the lover of words, has never had them to describe how he feels, saying, “I read all these books where people fall in love and I still have absolutely no idea.”
Corinna Brown as Tara and Kizzy Edgell as Darcy.
Credit: Teddy Cavendish/Netflix
Solidifying these sweet scenes of nervous chemistry and pure joy is Heartstopper‘s fittingly bright-eyed soundtrack filled with the likes of Maggie Rogers, mxmtoon, Julia Jacklin, Wolf Alice, Beebadoobee, and a little Cary Rae Jepsen and Taylor Swift. One particularly moving scene between Nick and Charlie is even soundtracked by a ballad from Wasia Project, Gao’s duo with his sister Olivia Hardy.
I need one thing from Heartstopper: more Tori!
Charlie’s sister Tori returns for Season 2, with the formidably deadpan but heartfelt performance from Jenny Walser, channeling her best juice-sipping, lone wolf Wednesday Addams energy. Fiercely protective of her brother, Tori gets some kickass moments this season — “Look after him or you die,” she threatens Nick; “My summer is for sleeping, not visiting old museums,” she tells Charlie — but I would have loved to see more of her.
Tori’s character lies at the core of Oseman’s work, actually being the protagonist of her first novel Solitaire. It’s this that makes me think Tori’s limited screen time could be hinting at a possible spinoff just for Tori, a strong hope, as she’s a truly wonderful, complex, and passionate character.
Hearstopper‘s second season is a triumphant, joyful, and nuanced evolution of the series, further developing its beloved characters, creating a safe, supportive, but realistic space to consider the complexities of coming out and exploring your identity, and importantly, reminding viewers that you don’t have to have everything figured out for your feelings to be valid.
How to watch: Heartstopper Season 2 premieres on Netflix Aug. 3.