Heartstopper Season 2 Doesn’t Disappoint!

Charlie and Nick in Heartstopper Season 2
Courtesy of Netflix

This review contains spoilers for Heartstopper Season 2, written by Alice Oseman and directed by Euros Lyn. Streaming on Netflix August 3rd.

Editor’s Note: This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the series being covered here wouldn’t exist.

Heartstopper Season 1 was a massive success. The story’s portrayal of queer joy hit home for audiences from every generation. Alice Oseman’s original graphic novels, Heartstopper vol. 1-4, saw an uptick in sales to the point where it was nearly impossible to find a copy of Heartstopper vol. 1 available to purchase anywhere.

Heartstopper Season 2 carries that same utopia of hope and glee; watching these adorable teenage boys fall more deeply in love with one another, and their supportive friend group, is a giggly, kicking-your-feet in-the-air while lying on your stomach kind of experience.

Heartstopper Season 2 picks up the day after we finish Season 1 when Nick Nelson (Kit Connor) comes out as bi-sexual to his mother, Sarah Nelson (Olivia Colman). Charlie Spring (Joe Locke) and Nick are officially boyfriends, and their bliss rubs off on the rest of the cast of friends. Elle (Yasmin Finney) and Tao (William Gao) take their flirting up a notch. Newcomer James (Bradley Riches) has a crush on Isaac (Tobie Donovan), and we also meet Sahar (Leila Khan), who quickly joins the Higgins friend group of Elle, Tara (Corinna Brown) and Darcy (Kizzy Edgell).

Joe Locke as Charlie Spring and Kit Connor as Nick Nelson kissing
Joe Locke as Charlie Spring and Kit Connor as Nick Nelson. Courtesy of Netflix

While Nick faces the complicated feelings involved in coming out to friends, family, and people, Charlie is dealing with his own residual anxieties and lack of self-confidence from his previous experiences being bullied, and how Ben (Sebastian Croft) treated him in Season 1. Although Heartstopper has plenty to smile and blush about, there are darker themes related to shame, anxiety, eating disorders, and so much more.

Heartstopper Season 2 also takes more time exploring supporting characters’ stories from the graphic novels and the TV series. We spend more time with Isaac and see his experiences while discovering he’s asexual and aromantic—a rare exploration of the “A” as part of the LGBTQ2A+ community. Where in the original Heartstopper graphic novels, there is no ace representation; the shy and quiet friend of Charlie is, in fact, Aled, who has a boyfriend; however, Alice Oseman does explore ace as part of her novel Solitaire, which tells the university experiences of Tori Spring (Charlie’s older sister). Since Tori does exist in the TV series on Netflix, played by Jenny Walser, I would be interested to see her experiences as well, should the series make it that far in the timeline.

I enjoyed Tobie Donovan’s performance throughout Isaac’s journey. I felt there was a great deal of restraint and subtly required of Donovan, and he did well. Like in Season 1, Donovan constantly has a book in his hands, but he’s still very much present and aware in each scene. Compared to Season 1, I appreciate how much more involved Isaac was able to be in this season—I’m excited to see where Oseman will take the character in Season 3.

It’s interesting watching the series from the perspective of having read the graphic novels (although not recently) and seeing how some scenes are shown as nearly identical to how they unfold in the books but out of order and how other elements are added but fit seamlessly into the fold with everything else. So much of Heartstopper Vol. 1 and 2 were conflated, shifted around and presented as Netflix’s Season 1. This new season has a lot from Vol. 3 and the dinner scene from Vol. 4.

Fisayo Akinade as Mr Ajayi and Nima Taleghani as Mr Farouk standing next to each other in Paris.
Fisayo Akinade as Mr Ajayi, Nima Taleghani as Mr Farouk in Heartstopper Season 2. Courtesy of Netflix.

By far, what I saw talked about on social media by fans of Heartstopper was their anticipation for the Paris trip from Vol. 3. And I do not think Season 2 will disappoint in that department. We spend a few episodes on the Paris trip, and plenty unfolds. Charlie’s art teacher, Mr Ajayi (Fisayo Akinade), from Season 1 and the science teacher, introduced this season, Mr. Farouk (Nima Taleghani), get together in Paris—it plays out quite similar to in the book and delightful!

Fisayo Akinade and Nima Taleghani have fantastic chemistry, and their interpretations of the characters are incredibly faithful to the graphic novels. Their romance has a bit of the classic opposites attract trope. Akinade’s Mr. Ajayi is a soft and compassionate teacher, and Taleghani’s Mr. Farouk is stern and strict. Still, together their characteristics shine in different ways—we see an additional confidence from Mr. Ajayi and a shyness from Mr. Farouk that is magical and warm.

We also get the notorious scene when Darcy gets alcohol poisoning on Tara’s 16th birthday in Paris. However, the TV series makes more of an effort to expand on Darcy’s backstory and Tara’s. We see into the couple’s home lives and family. Where Tara has a support system, it becomes apparent that Darcy does not—despite being incredibly confident in her identity at school and around friends. This whole situation hinges on Tara saying “I love you” and Darcy being unable to say it back.

Kizzy Edgell as Darcy in Paris with two ice cream cones
Kizzy Edgell as Darcy in Heartstopper Season 2. Courtesy of Netflix

Cleverly, Oseman integrates Darcy’s insecurities about living a double life and lying to Tara about it into an insecurity about her relationship with Tara. Oseman’s storytelling combines backstory with the present arc and expands the characters while their emotional change is in process. The arc put more pressure on actors Corinna Brown and Kizzy Edgell than in Season 1, when they were much more sidelined in the grand scheme of the overall plot. Like Donovan, Kizzy Edgell had a brand new spotlight on their character and story arc. Under pressure, Edgewell was fantastic, and Brown complimented their performance well.

It’s remarkable that I’ve written 1000 words and barely scratched the surface on our two-leads arc this season. It shows how Heartstopper Season 2 has taken on a much more ensemble structure, drawing the audience into the other characters’ lives.

In between production for Seasons 1 and 2, it is very apparent that Kit Connor had a growth spurt and filled out with more lean muscle. Due to the greater difference between Connor and Joe Locke’s builds, their scene blocking and physical interactions feel more faithful to Nick and Charlie’s portrayal in the graphic novels. I also found more comfortability between the two actors during their intimate scenes, which follows their overarching character arcs well. Both actors are tasked with internal struggles as part of the character’s journey. Nick struggles with coming out to the rest of his family and friends and his growing concern for Charlie’s welfare. Charlie struggles with the anxieties around flashbacks to his time being bullied after being outed and doesn’t want the same outcome to happen to Nick. These anxieties for Charlie manifest in disordered eating.

Joe Locke as Charlie Spring and Kit Connor as Nick Nelson laying next to each other testing at Charlie's sleepover
Joe Locke as Charlie Spring and Kit Connor as Nick Nelson in Heartstopper Season 2. Courtesy of Netflix

Connor and Locke’s performances were similar to Season 1. They play into the goofy, silly honeymoon phase of their relationship, but they also have a genuine concern for the other’s wants, wishes, and needs—the two move in sync, in step with the emotions and reactions of their counterpart. There is never a moment where you worry the two characters won’t make it out of a problem together. Their relationship is never in jeopardy; it’s the world around them that’s chaos and the world within themselves individually that has turmoil. Alice Oseman writes Nick and Charlie brilliantly, and Connor and Locke effortlessly bring her vision to life.

From fights with Nick’s brother, David Nelson (Jack Barton), to the insecurity around Nick’s father, Stéphane (Thibault De Montalembert), Kit Connor nails adolescents dealing with complex family dynamics. The framing of Charlie’s eating disorder is quite stereotypical until you notice the small details of Joe Locke’s performance—the subtle ways he holds his body, pulls at his sleeves, etc.

Yasmin Finney as Elle playing with Tao's hair
Yasmin Finney as Elle in Heartstopper Season 2. Courtesy of Netflix

The most extensive development was Tao and Elle. Expanding Elle’s desire to go to art college with the possibility of moving away meant Tao once again was dealing with his issues with abandonment. Their compatibility and chemistry are sparkling—Yasmin Finney and William Gao have the same in-sync quality as Connor and Locke. Gao has a cynicism essential to his character, but his performance takes on a boyish giddiness when around Finney. These two are part of what makes this season so giggly and fun.

Honestly, so much happens in Season 2 of Heartstopper that made me antsy with glee over how supportive, adorable, and comforting the story and characters are. Coach Singh (Chetna Pandya) has her moments and complementary storytelling. Tori Spring (Jenny Walser) has her protective older sister one-liners—most iconic is when she kicks David’s phone out of his hands after a catastrophic joint family dinner with the Nelsons and the Springs, taken straight from the graphic novels.

Heartstopper is a genuine joy to watch. I can’t think of a single thing I don’t like about the show. It’s quickly become one of history’s most influential and critical pieces of LGBTQ2A+ representation of the 21st century.

Written by Isobel Grieve

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