Personally, I have never been a big fan of high school or teen-centered shows. The storylines usually seem shallow, the acting can be lacking, especially when the middle-aged writers don't know how young people talk anymore, and characters ultimately seem like unrealistic, pale imitations of actual teenagers. But "Heartstopper," after its second season, refuses to fall into this trap.
Due to my distaste for the genre, I was unsure about even watching the show, considering I'm no longer in high school and don't care much about teenagers and their problems. But "Heartstopper" immediately grabbed my attention when it first premiered and gained it again after the release of its second season in August.
The sophomore season of this Netflix original continues the storylines from season one, which is understandable considering there was hardly even a jump in time between seasons.
We see Nick Nelson (Kit Connor) and Charlie Spring (Joe Locke) still figuring themselves and their relationship out, Tao Xu's (William Gao) and Elle Argent's (Yasmin Finney) continued childhood friends-to-lovers arc, as well as the entire gang trying to balance teen canon events like crushes, friendships and exams.
In this new season, the writers thankfully breathed a little life into Isaac Henderson (Tobie Donovan) as he discovers his asexuality. While everything seemed sunny with Tara Jones (Corinna Brown) and Darcy Olsson (Kizzy Edgell) last season, they are now unfortunately struggling with miscommunication and aren't on the same page.
I also appreciate how Imogen Heaney (Rhea Norwood), someone I assumed I would hate last season but quickly became my favorite, was able to join the group as a trademarked ally.
On a more serious note, Charlie also experiences growing issues with eating disorders this season — a storyline from the graphic novel that I was curious to see how they'd expand upon.
While dealing with all of the trials and tribulations that come with being a queer teen, the friend group handles many of their plotlines in the City of Love: Paris. The setting proves to be a romantic and fresh background for the show. It also gives us the soft and more mature relationship between chaperones Mr. Ajayi (Fisayo Akinade) and Mr. Farouk (Nima Taleghani).
This Parisian plotline also served to make me extremely jealous of British students because the coolest place I got to go to in high school was across the Delaware River in Philadelphia.
I, of course, have to highlight the diversity "Heartstopper" displays, especially in the LGBTQ+ community, its representation clearly being the show's main objective. Not only are a multitude of sexualities and genders explored in the show, with Nick's bisexuality and Isaac's asexuality being a focus this season, but they also show how each person's relationship with their sexuality can be.
Certain characters have little problem being out and proud at school, while characters like Nick have to take coming out slowly. I appreciate how the show portrays each parent's reaction to their child coming out in a unique way and portrays the many different experiences of the LGBTQ+ community.
Nick's mother is entirely supportive and loving, while his father isn't sure how to take the news, but he's not upset by it either. Darcy's mother, on the other hand, is clearly homophobic, and their tenuous relationship, as a result, is a huge part of her character arc and relationship problems with Tara.
TikTok critics often complain about cringey beats in the show, which occur anytime one of the show's couples is having a "moment." But I think they prove the showrunners understand teenagers far better than other shows in the genre because if there's one thing that young love is, it's cringey.
Even though I often had to pause the TV due to moments like this, they simply reflected the vulnerability and delicate nature of teenage relationships. Ultimately, it just makes you want to root for each couple more.
As someone who wasn't a teenager that long ago, I felt that the show's portrayal of teenagers was far more accurate than other shows (I'm looking at you, "Riverdale"). A large part of the show is in its text messages, and I can feel each character's texting personality and tendencies shine through their virtual conversations because they are extremely natural.
People often criticize teen shows like "Euphoria" for handling topics too mature for their audiences — it's often hard to believe characters on certain shows are even teenagers. But I never have that problem with "Heartstopper," as each character on the show could easily be someone I went to high school with. Or, I suppose, someone I went to British secondary school with.
A standout performance of this season was Oliva Colman, playing Nick's single mother of two. Colman has barely any screen time but manages to captivate and steal the show. It's hard to say whether hiring Colman adds to or distracts from the show because she outshines the other actors in any scene with such little material to work with.
That's not to say that the other acting isn't great either, because it is. Both Locke and Connor lead the show well, but the latter seems to have more promise as an actor. While Locke undoubtedly holds his own in any scene, Connor has a more mature acting style, which shows room for a lot of growth.
The chemistry between Connor and Locke is also incredible, and as in season one, they remain the couple I'm rooting for the most out of any of the others.
That being said, I did enjoy season one a bit more than the second season. This may be entirely because my favorite part of any romantic comedy is the build-up — a facet that was perfectly done with Nick and Charlie and Elle and Tao in the first season. Not that I don't enjoy seeing relationships develop after a confession, but I found the plots of season one a bit more engaging.
Ben Hope's (Sebastian Croft) storyline in season two, as the closeted and internalized homophobic ex, seems to be a bit repetitive. While I think the parallels between Nick and Ben having issues being out but handling them differently is brilliantly done, Ben's storyline seems to have gotten drawn out, considering his character remains fairly shallow compared to the others.
But with all of its minor faults, "Heartstopper" remains a completely raw, powerful and passionate show about the kind of kids that don't often get their stories told. It continues to be representation not for the sake of bonus points but for the sake of giving queer people, especially queer teens, the kind of show they can see themselves in. And whatever story the writers continue to tell, I'm sure it will be beautiful.
Overall, season two is thoroughly impressive and entertaining. If you enjoy the first season, you'll love the second — and that's not always guaranteed with TV. The worst part of the show is the fact that it's incredibly bingeable, yet at the same time, it's over before you know it. With how quickly I devoured the season, I was certainly wondering, "Why am I like this?" Hopefully, season three satisfies my need for more.