Coming of Age and Coming Out: 'Heartstopper' Season Two Keeps Swooning in Big, Small, Cute and Complex Moments

Returning for a second season, Netflix's queer teen gem is still as sweet, smart and joyous as ever.
Sarah Ward
Published on August 03, 2023

Whether they attend Truham Grammar School or the neighbouring Higgs Girls School, most of Heartstopper's teenagers have much to say, often via text through their phones. But perhaps the most apt line of the entire Netflix series so far is uttered by Isaac Henderson (first-timer Tobie Donovan), the quiet bibliophile among the show's main friendship group, who almost always has a printed tome in his hands. "I read all these books where people fall in love and I still have absolutely no idea," Isaac advises in the web-to-page-to-screen hit's second season, which streams from Thursday, August 3.

As a webcomic, a graphic novel and also a TV series that proved an instant smash when it debuted in 2022, Alice Oseman's creation couldn't better embody this reflection. Heartstopper is Isaac's yearning and confusion turned into art, even as the series remains sweet and joyous in every episode. Isaac gets his own storyline in season two, exploring what that lament means to him and why as he unpacks his own identity, and it's among the show's weighty narrative threads. But everyone in Heartstopper, from central couple Charlie Spring (fellow debutant Joe Locke) and Nick Nelson (Kit Connor, Little Joe) to their maybe-more-than-friends pals Tao Xu (newcomer William Gao) and Elle Argent (Yasmin Finney), plus the latter's classmates Tara Jones (Corinna Brown, Daphne) and Darcy Olsson (Kizzy Edgell), live and breathe his telling statement in their own ways.

Joe Locke and Kit Connor in 'Heartstopper'.

Tales about getting swept away by first love adore conveying the rush, buzz and head-over-heels effervescence evoked by the pivotal experience. Awkwardness often factors in, but rarely the reality that no one ever truly knows what they're doing when it comes to romance. A chronicle of coming of age and also coming out, Heartstopper not only centres the truth that every teen is just doing their best and following their heart — it makes it one of the show's core guiding concepts. And mostly, usually with each other's help as they traverse the full onslaught of adolescent emotions, this supremely likeable, relatable crew of high schoolers knows that they don't, can't and won't ever have all the answers.

Brought to the screen by Oseman as the series' creator and writer, plus director Euros Lyn (Dream Horse) behind the lens — together, they've respectively penned and helmed all 16 episodes, eight in season one and that amount again in season two — Heartstopper spent its debut offering watching Charlie and Nick gravitate into each other's orbits. When the pair were sat next to each other in form class at the beginning of a new term, a friendship and then more swelled. Season two finds them officially and happily boyfriends, with Nick's mother Sarah (Olivia Colman, Secret Invasion) supportive about Nick's bisexuality after he came out to her in the last batch of instalments. Telling the rest of the world when he chooses to is part of his latest journey, always with the protective Charlie by his side.

The 'Heartstopper' cast in season two.

There's an idealism to Heartstopper — fantasy, too — and Oseman knows, welcomes and cultivates it. When an adult mentions missing out on "those beautiful gay teenage experiences" partway through its new run, the series recognises that its vision of being young and queer typically paints with rosy colours. But a story about being an LGBTQIA+ high schooler can be optimistic and earnest, as well as endlessly swoonworthy, while also seeing the full spectrum of complexities that surround its characters. Heartstopper isn't just keenly aware that no one understands what comes next when their heart starts a-fluttering; it's equally as cognisant that big, small, cute and complicated moments will each pop up. Insightfully, it revels in them all. It lingers in the fireworks of gloriously requited crushes, the comfort of hanging out with the one you love, the endearing delights of everyday gestures and the intricacies of sharing who you are — and thoughtfully.

If and how Nick will come out to his other friends, his domineering older brother David (Jack Barton, War of the Worlds) and his absent father Stephane (Thibault de Montalembert, All Quiet on the Western Front) gets Heartstopper contemplating conformity, societal pressure, homophobia and specifically biphobia. Nick simply wants to be himself and not to have to hide his relationship with Charlie, with the show digging into the many layers that come with something that should be effortless in a perfect world. Oseman also spends season two slowly unfurling the consequences of Charlie's own traumatic coming-out experience, which linger even as he's over the moon about being with Nick. And, as Tara and Darcy get to the stage of saying "I love you" within their confident romance, Heartstopper season two plunges into how being out and proud at school doesn't mean that someone has zero troubles.

Yasmin Finney and William Gao in 'Heartstopper'.

Like Isaac, Tara and Darcy receive a bigger arc this time around. Nuanced and mature, their plot thread also muses on internalised expectations, carefully composed appearances and feeling like there's only one way to express your sense of self. Heartstopper's second season isn't merely giving Nick and Charlie's friends more substantial tales now that its key duo is comfortably a couple, however — and transferring the will-they-won't-they tension to movie buff Tao and aspiring artist Elle, who wants to move to a dedicated art school, in the process — but continuing to dive deeper into its young hearts running free.

As its key aesthetic flourish, season two still draws its feelings on literally and sincerely, via animated hearts, leaves, sparks, rainbows and other gorgeous visual representations, showing what's bubbling inside Charlie, Nick and company even when they're not saying it. It still uses the rest of its imagery, whether glowing or shadowy, to do the same. It astutely grounds its romances and self-discovery quests in daily high-school life again, including sleepovers, sibling spats, parental rules, schoolyard disputes, end-of-year exams, parties, prom and a Paris trip. And, it remains home to some of the most open performances in the teen genre, especially from the exceptionally well-cast Locke and Connor. Yes, Heartstopper's second spin is just as delightful and heartfelt as its first.

Its only room for improvement: needing more of Tori (Jenny Walser, Call the Midwife), Charlie's watchful and intensely caring Wednesday Addams-esque elder sister, whether in the already-greenlit season three or an adaptation of Oseman's debut novel Solitaire.

Check out the trailer for Heartstopper season two below:

Heartstopper season two streams via Netflix from Thursday, August 3. Read our review of season one.

Images: Netflix.

Published on August 03, 2023 by Sarah Ward
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