Amy Adshead (they/she) praises Heartstopper’s portrayal of coming out and the more serious tone the TV phenomenon explores in its most recent season.
It’s official: season two of Heartstopper is out and, funnily enough, so is Nick Nelson (the rugby-boy, love interest).
The debut of Charlie Spring and Nick Nelson’s on-screen love story was met with overwhelming support when the first season aired on Netflix in 2022. Its colourful style demonstrated that light love stories do not and should not be reserved for heterosexual rom-coms. Compared to the stories of struggle we’re so used to in queer TV and film, Heartstopper became a refreshing change. For me, the Netflix adaptation of Alice Oseman’s graphic novel series supplied all the sweet predictability and exciting rush one requires of a stereotypical, teen romance. Hence, when season two blasted into life with Maggie Rogers’ upbeat song ‘Shatter’ and Charlie’s beaming, loved-up smile, I couldn’t be happier to see where it would take us.
Now in a committed relationship together, season two focuses on Charlie and Nick as they open up to their friends and family members. Though the characters’ chemistry is undeniable, the public sphere certainly isn’t without its complications. Charlie, already open about his sexuality, is actively ready to support Nick in coming out. Despite this, Nick must confront long-standing friends and homophobic family members, none of which seem to instantly understand his identity. One particularly charming phrase spoken throughout is the sassy clarification: “I’m Bi, actually.” While Kit Connor’s short delivery often humorously exposes the prejudice of Nick’s peers, it also importantly points out the assumptions around a ‘classic’ coming out. The scripting of Nick’s lines shine in this regard, giving opportunities in the dialogue where he could reveal the truth or just as easily continue to keep his relationship a secret. The effect is a tense but realistic hesitation that is incredibly relatable.
More serious moments of the newest season also expose how debilitating the emotions behind coming out can be. Nick’s internal world, translated into the series’ iconic comic-book style animations, illustrates the conflict of feeling afraid to tell people your sexuality and feeling guilty that you haven’t already told them. I imagine, especially for younger audiences, this provides comfort with the message that it’s common to feel caught between emotions. The pacing of the show also reminds us that queer people don’t owe their identities. One of my favourite moments was Nick’s discussion with his rugby coach. It’s frankly unrealistic of British schools to have such a kind reception after being caught snogging, but the interaction reinforces Nick’s choice, amongst all the pressure, to be openly bisexual.
There are definitely faults with presenting a conveniently queer storyworld. In many instances these environments simply aren’t true reflections of LGBTQ+ experiences. Nevertheless, the romance that we so adore continues to uplift, with some very passionate kissing scenes between Nick and Charlie. I enjoyed the added level of maturity this season with less naive characterisation and a heavier emphasis on deeper emotional connections. This isn’t just limited to relationships either. When at a party Tao describes himself as “fundamentally unlikeable”, Charlie meets him with a tight embrace. The dialogue and acting aren’t overdone when portraying these moments considering the almost formulaic settings they take place in. Whether it be a sleepover, prom or the city of Paris, the show continues to have very heart-touching moments that effectively pull an audience in.
I’d definitely recommend the show to anyone seeking a diversion from the everyday. Season two contains a plot abundant with romance, friendship and queer joy. The darker notes that begin to appear this season, in my opinion, add a necessary complexity to the characters' lives for audiences to identify with. Although, the unresolved subplot of Charlie’s mental health becomes a point of concern as the season draws to a bittersweet close. The final song featured is ‘ur so Pretty’ by the show’s own William Gao and his sister Olivia Hardy. My feeling is that its delicate piano melody is meant to make us gently aware the unbroken positivity of the show so far will be short-lived with season three.
Could it be that Heartstopper intends to turn over a new leaf? (Knee slap)
Published Online: 2/10/2023