Remember all those fluttery, gushy, heartfelt vibes you felt when you first tuned into Heartstopper in April 2022? They’re about to make a comeback. So hug a couch pillow and grab some Kleenex, because you’re bound to laugh and tear up (again) when the Netflix series premieres Aug. 3. There is already great news going into season two: the series, which is based on the graphic novel by Alice Oseman and produced by See-Saw Films, has already been picked up for a third season. That gives Oseman plenty of room to explore characters more deeply and pace things out in season two.
And what a delight this show still is. The series, which traces the blooming friendship and romance between two teenage boys, Charlie and Nick (Joe Locke and Kit Connor), quickly grabbed a 100% certified fresh critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes after it debut last year. It even made a dent on TikTok — #heartstopper has now collected more than 4.3 billion views. What’s the allure?
Well, there’s Charlie and Nick, of course, which Locke and Connor embody to winning ends. If these two characters weren’t dubbed “couple of the year” last year, then surely that can happen in 2023.
Rarely in recent memory have audiences cared for and taken such a deep investment with the bond between two characters. And rarely has a series been able to capture the vulnerabilities of teenage life or exploring what it means to come to terms with your sexuality and gender quite as remarkably as Heartstopper has. Love, Victor tried, but ultimately felt too watered-down. David (Dan Levy) and Patrick (Noah Reid) on Schitt’s Creek? Yes, that was a TV romance to savor, but had its frustrations. Prep the hashtags now: #ChartlieAndNickForever!
Beyond Boy Meets Boy
If season one was decidedly “boy meets boy” as it tracked Charlie and rugby-playing Nick’s newfound bond in secondary school, then season two is surely “boy keeps boy.” How Alice Oseman translates that onto the screen is a joy to watch. Charlie is out and proud, and Nick, who came out as bisexual to his mother (Olivia Coleman), is finding his way at his own pace. He hasn’t felt comfortable coming out to the entire school, especially his rugby buddies, and when his older brother David (Jack Barton) arrives on the scene, Nick faces yet another challenge of being his authentic self.
Also new this season is Thibault de Montalembert as Stephane, Nick’s father. How Nick holds his own with each of these characters is a significant story arc in season two. That, and romance. A lot of it. And not just between Charlie and Nick. (But boy, aren’t they sweet and adorable?)
Connection, commitment, deepening bonds, and teen relationships are rampant in school this year. In that respect, Heartstopper expands its focus, moving beyond just Charlie and Nick. Look no further than Elle and Tao (Yasmin Finney and William Gao), who, like Charlie and Nick before them, begin to consider if there is room for more in their friendship. Oseman does an exceptional job at pacing that out across several episodes, never making “romance” the ultimate goal, really. Rather, it’s the exploration of what lies beneath the surface in these teens — and within us — that makes Heartstopper tick.
Other characters get some creative love throughout the season, too. Pay close attention to Tobie Donovan, who delivers a sublime performance as book nerd Isaac, who appears to always be on the sidelines but proves to show real depth this season. Donavan is but one of many strong actors in this riveting ensemble cast.
A Triumph in Storytelling
In a great burst of storytelling, creator Alice Oseman plots out season two by using significant events in these teenagers’ lives to move the story and their evolution along. There’s obviously prom, an episode that truly stands out, but the finest scenes take place over several episodes in Paris, where the class embarks on a field trip with their teachers.
Between a lovely visit to the Eiffel Tower, a jaunt deep into the heart of the Louvre, and those romantic walks down Paris streets, this series, similar to the way Ted Lasso grabbed you when it ventured out into London, dives deeper into the psychological make-up of its characters. It’s here in Paris, actually, where Nick reunites with his businessman father, a meeting that is bound to leave an impact.
Most unique, perhaps, is how well Heartstopper truly establishes itself as something more than a “queer” show. It is that in many ways, but it’s so much more. Yes, it’s great to see gay, bi, and trans characters fill the screen, but the bottom line is this: Heartstopper has become a wonderfully truthful and authentic look at being a teenager and coming into your own.
Kit Connor and Joe Locke
Kit Connor is mesmerizing to watch. There is a rawness to his performance that you often don’t see in younger actors. Get this guy onto the big screen, please. As Charlie, Joe Locke often feels like the hero of this show. He is to some extent, however in several episodes in the new season’s second half, there’s an interesting pivot in storytelling. It’s when Nick and Charlie discuss Charlie’s need to “control” certain aspects of his life. That discussion has deeper ramifications, of course, and it plants the seed for more exploration of a very important and timely issue, particularly when it comes to young males. Surely, that will be addressed in season three.
The ensemble cast continues to shine. Like Sex Education, these teenage characters simply shine. Corinna Brown, Kizzy Edgell, Sebastian Croft, Rhea Norwood, Cormac Hyde-Corrin, and Jenny Walser have plenty to nosh on creatively this season.
In the meantime, Heartstopper continues to draw attention beyond the Netflix screen. Heartstopper weekly book sales in the U.S. have skyrocketed to 1,700% more than usual, with Volume 1 often hovering around the number one spot for YA fiction books in the U.S. The series reached a Netflix milestone, landing on its Top 10 list in 54 countries. It’s really affecting the culture.
Creatively, the show is a lovely rarity in how well it is executed. Never too over the top, always interesting, and most importantly, truthful and authentic. In Charlie and Nick — and all these characters, really — we experience truly realized characters. And in an era where there’s so much online fuss about being somebody you’re not, so you can grab a couple of thousands of “likes,” gee, is Heartstopper downright refreshing.
Experience season two of Heartstopper Aug. 3 on Netflix.