Everything I Love About Heartstopper Season 1

In preparation for the highly anticipated Season 2 of Netflix’s Heartstopper, I’m looking back at Season 1 and dissecting everything about it that made so many people fall in love with Charlie and Nick.

I hadn’t heard of Alice Oseman’s graphic novel series before the show came out, but you best believe I sped through the four iterations available now. I am very much looking forward to the fifth instalment of Heartstopper coming out soon. Reading the graphic novels, you can’t help but feel comforted by the soft atmosphere of the world Oseman created. Every character feels like someone you’ve known. Every tidbit of emotion feels like something you’ve felt. And despite the heavier topics depicted in the story on paper, the general delight about reading Heartstopper is how optimistic it is about queer love and life.

Season 1 Episode 2: R-L Nick Nelson (Kit Connor) and Charlie Spring (Joe Locke) laying in the snow.
S01 E02: R-L Nick Nelson (Kit Connor) and Charlie Spring (Joe Locke). Courtesy of Netflix.

What’s so incredible about the Heartstopper Netflix series, and why it comes across so well from the original graphic novels, is that Alice Oseman is at the helm of the series, writing each episode and guiding the series every step of the way. The hopefulness is never lost and replaced with shame-based storytelling; not for a second are you scared these queer kids will be punished for being themselves. Despite the depictions of bullying and homophobia, friends, family, and authority figures are always on their side, ready to stand up to the crueller kids.

Of course, the love story between Charlie Spring and Nick Nelson is at the heart of the series. The Netflix adaptation made for an excellent debut for Joe Locke as spindly music nerd Charlie Spring. The actor and the character seem to share plenty of characteristics, and if you put the original drawings side by side with a photo of Joe Locke, you’re baffled by the likeness.

Season 1 Episode 1: L-R Nick Nelson (Kit Connor) and Charlie Spring (Joe Locke)
S01 E01: L-R Nick Nelson (Kit Connor) and Charlie Spring (Joe Locke). Courtesy of Netflix.

The same goes for the portrayal of rugby lad Nick Nelson by Kit Connor (Rocketman). We can also see from the real-life growth spurt Connor experienced between productions that in Heartstopper Season 2, he’ll look even more like the towering soft boy depicted in the comics.

Also, due to the nature of television, side stories from the Heartstopper graphic novels were given space to be expanded and brought to the forefront of the narrative. Lesbian couple Tara Jones (Corinna Brown) and Darcy Olsson (Kissy Edgell)’s origin story was expanded, and they were connected to the rest of the story far sooner than in the source material. Charlie’s friend group Tao Xu (William Gao), Elle Argent (Yasmin Finney), and Isaac Henderson (Tobie Donovan), are given more screen time and dialogue. The will they/won’t they between Tao and Elle is explored; however, we have yet to see Isaac’s personality shine as they’re often depicted—like Aled in the novel—with their nose stuck in a book with little to say.

Season 1 Episode 8: R-L Tao Xu (William Gao), Ellie Argent (Yasmin Finney), and Isaac Henderson (Tobie Donovan) at "Sports Day" watching Charlie race
S01 E08: R-L Tao Xu (William Gao), Ellie Argent (Yasmin Finney), and Isaac Henderson (Tobie Donovan). Courtesy of Netflix.

The sets are fantastic; in particular, I loved the details where art and design from the graphic novels were actualised in the show. The art room where Charlie finds refuge has leaves that periodically flutter through the story and that big painted tree in the corner where Charlie would hide. So many pieces of the Netflix series directly reflect what was drawn into the novels, and it gives the story that little something extra to romanticise their daily lives and visually emphasise the characters’ emotions.

There are so many elements of Heartstopper that queer and straight people alike can relate to. The implication of Charlie’s anxiety sprouting his disordered eating tendencies. Not expanded on yet but indeed represented when Nick takes him to the cinema with his rugby friends; the presence of his bully makes Charlie shrink, and the same goes for his appetite.

Also implicated in that particular scenario is the concept that bully Harry Greene (Cormac Hyde-Corrin) is constantly homophobic in his lame “jokes” at Charlie’s expense, then when confronted with being labelled ‘homophobic’ by Nick Nelson, Harry is uncomfortable and fights against the title saying he’s “just joking.” I find this very common among cruel people, not only with homophobia but racism and sexism as well. They’re okay with being hateful, but when called out and labelled as such, they recoil and claim that they’re nothing of the sort, and to label as such is just as if not more damaging to their reputation. It’s bonkers! There is an understanding that homophobia, racism, and sexism are wrong because they don’t want to be associated with those words. Yet, they turn around and prove their ignorance and lack of empathy worthy of such a label. It’s confounding and yet so, so real.

Season 1 Episode 4: L-R Season 1 Episode 1: L-R Nick Nelson (Kit Connor) and Charlie Spring (Joe Locke) in the nurses room after the rugby match.
S01 E04: L-R Season 1 Episode 1: L-R Nick Nelson (Kit Connor) and Charlie Spring (Joe Locke). Courtesy of Netflix.

As much as what I just described isn’t all falling leaves and blushing like I claim Heartstopper to be, these moments are nothing but a very impactful blimp in the rest of the story. There is still so much joy, optimism and adorable confirmation of mutual attraction. The main cast of characters is just so—NICE! They’re so sweet to one another; there’s so much support and understanding between this group of friends. You never doubt for a second that they have each other’s best interests at heart—even if at points misguided.

Tao’s fear of losing his friendship with Charlie is a genuine concern for kids when their friend meets other people or forms a crush. It stems from insecurity and a deep connection with their friend that they don’t want to lose. As much as it’s hard to watch Tao misplace distrust in Nick and Charlie, his heart comes from a place of love and protection from his buddy, who hasn’t always had a great time with other boys at their school. It’s a genuine concern but with plenty of misguided decisions. But we never hate Tao; I don’t even feel annoyed by his actions. I think, “Oh if only he knew how good Nick is.” And to that, I think of Charlie, “Oh, but why can’t you just tell Tao the truth!” Everything they do comes from a deep-rooted good place—they’re just so GOOD!

Season 1 Episode 7: L-R Harry Greene (Cormac Hyde-Corrin) and Tao Xu (William Gao) in an argument outside of school.
S01 E07: L-R Harry Greene (Cormac Hyde-Corrin) and Tao Xu (William Gao). Courtesy of Netflix.

Then I find elements of Nick Nelson’s story highly relatable, being bisexual myself. Kit Connor does a brilliant job of portraying the initial confusion of bisexuality because it is odd how you can blend into heteronormative society so well because of your attraction to the opposite gender, but then you start to become a little more devoted to a friendship of the same gender, and it’s a confusing experience trying to decode your feelings when you’ve never had to before. Then you second guess yourself and start looking back and over-analysing all that had come before. When Nick sits down to watch Pirates of the Caribbean with his mom (Olivia Colman) and feels torn between attraction to Kiera Knightley and Orlando Bloom… I mean, I felt that!

Oh yeah, did I mention Olivia Colman plays Kit Connor’s mom? Wow. What a get. Also, the voice of the Headmaster of their school? Stephen Fry! Amazing, just amazing. And if you don’t know who Stephen Fry is… well, I feel bad for you, and I highly suggest you get educated.

Season 1 Episode 6: L-R Olivia Colman as Nick Nelson's mom and Nick Nelson (Kit Connor) in their living room.
S01 E06: L-R Olivia Coleman as Nick Nelson’s mom and Nick Nelson (Kit Connor). Courtesy of Netflix.

Another element of Kit Connor’s performance is the way I am obsessed with how he says, “And then her dog died,” as a reason why he couldn’t cancel his date with Imogen (Rhea Norwood), whom he only agreed to go out with because he felt terrible and didn’t want to embarrass her. What did I say, huh? He’s just so GOOD! And every time he says, “And then her dog died,” my heart melts a little more.

There’s so much more I could say about this brilliant series, but I don’t want to take away from the experience of watching it for yourselves or reading it because the graphic novels are so, so brilliant. And if you have seen it, watch it again!

As for the new season of Heartstopper coming on August 3 to Netflix, I am thrilled to see how they interpret the second graphic novel, which mostly takes place in Paris, France. I can’t wait for the hotel shenanigans and what will come of Tao and Elle. There’s so much to look forward to, and I want to see my favourite boys being cute in one of the (supposedly) most romantic cities in the world.

Written by Isobel Grieve


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  1. A couple of corrections here – 1) It’s “Elle”, not “Ellie”. There’s no “i” in her name. And 2) Isaac isn’t in the graphic novels. He’s taking the place of Aled, but he isn’t just a version of Aled. But other than that, yeah, there are so many reasons that Heartstopper is so relatable and comforting and like a warm security blanket. Especially for bi+ people whose stories are almost never told in this much detail or with this much care. As a bi+ person and as a trans person, this show and the graphic novels mean so much to me in the comfort and representation they give.

    • We’ve made a couple of little adjustments in light of your comment, correcting the spelling of Elle and trying to acknowledge that Isaac isn’t in the graphic novels but takes the place of Aled. Thanks for pointing these things out!

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