Kit Connor and Joe Locke in "Heartstopper" Season 2 Source: Netflix

Review: 'Heartstopper' Stays Sweet in Season 2

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 3 MIN.

Netflix brings viewers back to the sweet romance and understated teen dramas of "Heartstopper" with the hit gay rom-com's second season, launching Aug. 3.

Since the show's inaugural season – which saw "Heartstopper" rocket to the top of the streamer's viewership numbers globally – its two main stars, Joe Locke and Kit Connor, have become mega-famous and had to deal with being in the public eye accordingly. In Connor's case, this meant enduring fans who accused the teen actor of "queerbaiting" when he was spotted holding hands with Maia Reficco, a co-star in Connor's upcoming movie "A Cuban Girl's Guide to Tea and Tomorrow." Connor eventually announced in a tweet that he is bisexual and congratulated trolls "for forcing an 18-year-old to out himself."

Season 2 of the low-key, authentic-feeling series almost seems like a case of art imitating life, as Connor's character Nick – a popular rugby player everyone assumes is straight – struggles with the hows and whens of coming out to his school friends and teammates as bisexual, even as he's irresistibly drawn to gay classmate – and now, his boyfriend – Charlie (Locke, openly gay in real life as his character is on the show).

The cast of "Heartstopper"
Source: Netflix

Luckily, all of Charlie's friends have become Nick's as well, and they allow him to be authentically himself. A more rainbow-colored group is hard to imagine; the group includes Tao (Willliam Gao), a straight teen yearning for his best friend, a trans girl named Elle (trans actor Yasmin Finney); out lesbian couple Darcy (Kizzy Edgell) and Tara (Corinna Brown); and Isaac (Tobie Donovan), whose idea of a hot date is cozying up with a good book.

First on the list of longtime friends Nick needs to come out to is Imogen (Rhea Norwood), who was looking to become his girlfriend last season but has since moved on. Unfortunately, her new guy is none other than Ben (Sebastian Croft), Charlie's closeted and controlling ex, who, when he's not stringing Imogen along, lurks around the margins in hopes of winning Charlie back.

The eight episodes of Season 2 are written by Alice Oseman, the author of the webcomic and graphic novels the show is based on. Oseman sticks to the blend of romance, drama, and comedy that made the first season such a joy; the situations feel familiar (both in terms of genre and, for LGBTQ+ viewers, lived experience) but meaningful, in part thanks to Oseman's writing and also due to the way the cast inhabit the lovable characters. Season 2 introduces more characters, adds a letter or two to its LGBTQ+ representation, and avoids artificially inflating the emotional stakes.

Joe Locke and Kit Connor in "Heartstopper" Season 2
Source: Netlix

That also means avoiding the sort of graphic sexual situations you might see on other popular teen shows like "Euphoria." Nick and Charlie kiss at school. Daring! Well, yes, it is, given Nick's angst around coming out (or being outed), but the guys can't help themselves. That's also as far as they're ready to go – and no one is pushing them to go farther before they are ready, just as Charlie, instead of becoming selfishly obsessive over Nick clinging to the closet, offers nothing but support to Nick, telling him that no one else can decide when the time is right.

Season 2 revolves around a couple of baked-in turning points. First, there's the coming school trip to Paris: What will our youthful protagonists get up to in the City of Love? (No spoilers, but there's a surprise waiting there that has to do with Nick.)

Another is Elle's ambition to be accepted to a prestigious art school – a prospect that Tao observes with mixed emotions.

There are surprises and delights all along the way, with the series remaining true to its own sweet nature while finding ways to talk about serious subjects like consent, autonomy, and eating disorders in ways that don't feel shoehorned.

There's no sophomore slump for this gang of school friends; Season 2 feels like a maturation, without setting aside any of the things that made Season 1 such a breakout success.

"Heartstopper" Season 2 streams on Netflix on Aug. 3.

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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