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‘Heartstopper’ continues to be a miracle of a show
'Heartstopper’s' second season is just as strong.
Heartstopper, Netflix’s queer coming-of-age romance, seemed to strike a chord and became one of the streamer’s big success stories last year. Season 2, arriving on Thursday, comes with higher expectations, but also some toxic baggage.
Fortunately, it more than delivers. By expanding its purview beyond the main duo (while never losing sight of them), Heartstopper’s second season is just as strong as it explores different types of queer love and identity that is both refreshing to watch and can feel like a lifeline, complete with the lightly animated touches that evoke the comic.
Coming out is a cornerstone of queer stories (sometimes overwhelmingly so). But for Nick (Kit Connor), who ended season 1 by telling his mum Sarah (Olivia Colman) that he’s bisexual and dating Charlie (Joe Locke), it’s the next step in his relationship. Charlie was forcibly outed and bullied, but he doesn’t want Nick to go through what he did; he wants it to be perfect.
But perfect doesn’t exist, whether it comes from losing confidence to say it or the reactions from others you can’t control. And even when Nick does tell people he’s dating Charlie, he almost always has to correct people’s assumptions that he’s gay, a reminder that bi-erasure is still very much a thing. (“I’m bisexual, actually,” he repeatedly says, almost as if it’s a reflex.)
Charlie and Sarah reassure Nick that he doesn’t owe anyone anything and that he can come out to people, however, and if-ever he pleases. It’s an encouraging message and a vastly important one, but it’s also a courtesy Connor didn’t get when he felt forced to come out as bi last year after Heartstopper fans accused him of queerbaiting them. (Real people can’t queerbait someone, which is a concept about fictional characters.)
But they’re not the only ones navigating new territory. Tao (William Gao) and Elle (Yasmin Finney) explore whether their friendship could become something more. Darcy (Kizzy Edgell) and Tara (Corinna Brown) are on shakier ground as one of them senses the other is holding something back. And Isaac (Tobie Donovan) is frustrated by his friends’ inability to pay him any mind unless there’s romantic drama afoot. Much of this comes to a head during a lengthy class trip to Paris (a high point of the season, even if it’ll set unrealistic expectations about how empty the Loeuvre or the Eiffel Tower might be on any given day).
Why it matters
Heartstopper’s empathy is evident in every frame. But alongside its constant refrain of acceptance is another important message: Just because people who wronged you might apologize doesn’t mean they’re automatically owed forgiveness.
Sometimes, I can’t quite believe that Heartstopper exists. I’m so glad that it does.
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