Review of Heartstopper season 2 : Compared to earlier, this LGBTQ+ teen drama is much sweeter and more romantic

Image: Netflix
Image: Netflix

 

“Heartstopper” is one of those shows that is worth opening your heart to.

A fountain of joy and romance, Netflix’s teen LGBTQ+ drama first debuted last year and quickly gained a devoted following. It’s the kind of series that you can easily fall in love with because sweetness just bursts out of every moment without being overpowering. It depicts a society in which the experiences of LGBT children are valued equally with those of their straight and cisgender peers. And if you struggled to understand the romance between its bubbly young characters, there are sketches of stars and sparks to guide you.

Season 2 of “Heartstopper” (streaming Thursday, ★★★½ of 4 episodes) manages to capture that sense of queer glee while also adding a little bit more reflection and thinking. In contrast to Season 1, there are calmer periods of reflection as the British teenagers Charlie (Joe Locke) and Nick (Kit Connor) work through difficulties in their interpersonal relationships and the larger world. The new season understands that life isn’t always easy for teenagers, especially for queer teenagers. The secret to its success is that it nevertheless maintains a magical and idealistic tone.

It helps that the series is so expertly made, having been adapted by Alice Oseman from her own graphic novels.A trip to Paris provides the new season momentum and a stunning new scenery, and the young performers are top-notch. The texts are also brisk. The first season was about finding love as Charlie and Nick got to know one another and fell in love after Nick came out as bisexual. Season 2 is about love that is maintained, and not only for our main couple. A relationship is more than just a spark of chemistry between two individuals, as their friends Tara (Corinna Brown), Darcy (Kizzy Edgell), Elle (Yasmin Finney), and Tao (Will Gao) are discovering.

Nick and Charlie must learn how to be a couple and interact with the outside world after being forced out of their love bubble and back into reality. Nick’s meandering and fraught with obstacles route to coming out takes up a large portion of the current season. At one point, he becomes ill and needs to be taken to his mother (Olivia Colman, a great presence in any show) because he is so anxious to tell his “rugby mates” that he is bisexual. Some of the people in his life find out, and it’s not always a happy occasion. The subtlety with which Oseman recounts Nick’s story, and how Charlie both helps Nick on his path and finds it challenging is astounding. Television coming-out stories have a reputation for being tacky and clichéd, but “Heartstopper” avoids any clichés.

Tao (Will Gao) and Elle (Yasmin Finney). Photograph: © Netflix / See Saw
Tao (Will Gao) and Elle (Yasmin Finney). Photograph: © Netflix / See Saw

Meanwhile, their buddies have their own romantic vices. The seemingly ideal couple Tara and Darcy are emotionally distant. Tao and Elle are unable to make the transition from friendship to something more. The Tao and Elle narrative, in which two awkward kids attempt to act out rom-com displays of devotion and adult feelings, frequently features the show’s funniest moments. It’s the kind of young love story that simultaneously makes you feel sentimental and glad to be older than 16.

As legislation restricting the rights of this community is passed across the U.S. and the U.K., where “Heartstopper” is situated, we live in a contentious and dangerous period for the queer community. When the show about two teenage guys who fall in love furiously debuted in 2022, it seemed like a balm in the midst of some conflict. It feels like the most crucial of representations in 2023.

For Nick and Charlie, life can be challenging. However, “Heartstopper” serves as a reminder that LGBTQ+ life may also be joyful.