Spoilers for season 2.
In a genre where queer romances are often defined by angst and a looming sense of self-loathing, season one of Alice Oseman’s “Heartstopper” captivated viewers with its lighthearted and whimsical story of Nick Nelson (Kit Connor, “Ready Player One”) and Charlie Spring (Joe Locke, “Agatha: Coven of Chaos”).
While season one’s viewers fell in love with the production’s soft glow (who could forget the careful arrangement of blue, purple and pink lights placed on Nick, foreshadowing his bisexuality?) and butterflies, season two built on its predecessor but without the rose-colored lenses that often accompany a new relationship, providing a more in-depth look at the main and supporting cast in several ways.
SEX IN RLATIONSHIPS
While the latest season of “Heartstopper” does not contain any explicit sexual content, couples share deep kisses and a plethora of lingering touches. In the midst of exploring desire and overcoming the awkwardness of a person’s first intimate relationship, “Heartstopper” ushers in the mechanics of consent as a given part
of the process.
For example, in episode four, “Challenge,” Nick takes a pause from kissing Charlie by asking, “Is that okay?” and keeping his distance until Charlie responds clearly and affirmatively before the pair resume their make-out session, challenging the myth that directly asking for consent “ruins the mood.” Continuing the narrative that consent is an ongoing conversation that can change at any time, Charlie soon realizes his door is unlocked and suggests they stop, to which Nick complies immediately. As their relationship becomes increasingly physical, Charlie and Nick continuously check in with one another to ensure both parties are comfortable and leave room for ambiguity where needed. Ultimately the pair admit to one another that they would like to have sex “eventually”, but are not comfortable with that yet and are both unsure of when that will change.
The conversation ends with Charlie promising Nick, “And I’d only wanna do it [have sex] if you did and if you didn’t ever want to do it, then I wouldn’t either.”
Delving further into the perspectives of Elle Argent (Yasmin Finney, “Anything’s Possible”), a trans teenage girl, Isaac Henderson (Tobie Donovan), who is questioning his asexuality, and Imogen Heaney (Rhea Norwood), the gang’s lone straight friend and beloved ally, season two illustrates the often harsh reality of being “othered.”
One of the major plot points revolves around Elle’s indecision on whether or not to attend the prestigious Lambert Art Academy. The Academy represents a new start for Elle and, beyond the ability to focus more seriously on her artwork, a chance to feel “normal,” as Lambert would have a bustling community of transgender and gender nonconforming students.
However, this decision does not come without consequence, as Elle would forfeit her friends and budding romance with long-time-best-friend Tao Xu (William Gao).
Season two provides some much-anticipated background as the audience is given insight into the home lives of characters, showing all is not what it seems. Some characters must fight to be themselves and exist in spite of their upbringing; while she has been an out-and-proud lesbian for years at school, Darcy Olsson (Kizzy Edgell) is revealed to have an unsupportive mother who is unaware of her daughter’s sexuality. As
tensions rise to a breaking point in the second-to-last episode (“Sorry”), Darcy runs away to escape her verbally abusive mother following a yelling match the night before prom.
Likewise, while Nick appeared to have a solitary home life with his mother, season two saw the introduction of his older brother, David Nelson (Jack Barton, “The Letter for the King”), who is away at university, and often absent father, Stéphane Nelson (Thibault de Montalembert, “Call My Agent!”).
Although Nick came out to his mother, who fully accepted him, Nick must now navigate his openly bi-phobic brother, who repeatedly taunts him to “just admit he’s gay,” and his emotionally unavailable father.
A range of supportive and unsupportive attitudes are shown from family throughout the season, from Tao’s mom who fully supports him attempting to date Elle, to Charlie’s mom who has no issues with her son’s sexuality but resents Nick as she feels he interferes with Charlie’s grades, to Nick’s father who is entirely blindsided by his son’s coming out. This season showcases the more realistic side of queer dynamics within family life.
Ultimately, the season ends on a cliffhanger. On his walk home from Nick’s house, Charlie slows to a ginger stop and, looking with hope into the late summer sky, he unlocks his phone and texts Nick three words: “I love you.”
His finger hovers over the “send” button for an agonizing eight seconds before the screen goes black as the
end credits roll in.
While season two began the conversation with the more mature topics of sex and relationships, intersectionality and family, viewers will have to wait for a third season to continue them.
OUR TAKE: 4/5 STARS