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HEARTSTOPPER – Season Two

Written By:

Anne Fortune
Heartstopper Season 2

by Anne-Louise Fortune

When Season One of queer teen drama Heartstopper dropped on Netflix in April 2022, it had a relatively soft launch. Then, that season hit the top ten on Netflix in over 50 countries, including several in which homosexually is still illegal. By the time some of the cast walked in the parade at London Pride in July 2022, Netflix had already taken the unusual step of renewing the show for a further two seasons, and now, with the quite obviously massively increased weight of expectation, and a much-enlarged marketing budget, season two has finally been released. 

Creative ‘seconds’ are always difficult: novels, albums, television seasons. Additionally, fans of Oseman’s original Heartstopper comic have an understanding of where the story should be going. Choices made in advance of the first season mean that this is a materially different world, thus giving Oseman the freedom to add and remove elements of the original story and to add the drama that is often missing from those comics. 

Whilst it will obviously be easier to follow the narrative if you have watched Season One or are familiar with the original comics, Netflix has helpfully produced a three-minute summary, presented by the cast, that recaps the events so far. We pick up the morning after we left off, with Nick (Kit Connor – His Dark Materials; Slaughterhouse Rulez), confirming to boyfriend Charlie (Joe Locke – Marvel’s Agatha: Coven of Chaos), that he’d come out as bisexual to his mum the night before. Cue a montage of scenes of giddy, and at times almost aggressive, making out between the two boys – still somewhat in secret because Nick isn’t out to most of his friends or the wider school communities of Truham Grammar for Boys and Higgs Girls School. 

There’s so much happiness in the initial episodes that it threatens to unleash a nationwide diabetes crisis. The joy continues when Nick’s GCSE exams end as one of his friends throws a giant rager of a party to celebrate. The lighthearted fluffiness cannot, of course, continue. Sorrow returns in the form of the one-man red flag, who is Ben Hope (Sebastian Croft – Wonderwell; A Game of Thrones). Not content with lurking over Nick and generally making nasty comments, Ben is also romancing Imogen (Rhea Norwood), who seemingly has an astuteness overhaul during her GCSE revision period, leading to a delicious scene whilst the teenagers romp around Paris.

It’s that trip to Paris which occupies much of the second act of the 8-episode narrative arc. It’s in Paris that the romance between Tao (William Gao – Sunrise) and Elle (Yasmin Finney – Doctor Who), up until now all tentative uncertainty and embarrassing over-earnestness, blossoms into something more solid. Watching the two as they travel the path from friends, to mutual crushes, to ‘together’, allows both Gao and Finney to deliver emotionally vulnerable performances and also allows for more of Tao’s backstory to be told. 

What publicity there was for Season One made much of the fact that for the majority of the cast, this was their first professional acting role. In the interim, almost all of the main cast have had other work, both on stage and on screen, and that additional experience is very evident throughout this season. More has been asked of the actors, too, as almost all the main characters grapple with the difficulties of understanding who they are and of acknowledging both current and past traumas. Locke, in particular, excels with some very difficult material, bringing warmth, optimism, and a devastating honesty to Charlie’s ever more obvious struggles. 

Presumably, because writer Alice Oseman has realised that much of the audience will binge-watch their way through the show, the structure is more akin to a long three-act film than the traditional ‘eight episodes of around 25 minutes, each of which neatly wraps up’ approach. Viewed in this way, the path through the narrative becomes stronger as a whole than if judging by each individual episode. 

With the knowledge of a third season safely secured, Oseman knows that they have the space to develop storylines more expansively – and that they don’t have to all be wrapped up satisfactorily within this season. Whilst we reach an acceptable pause point with respect to many of the characters’ arcs, the situation is left much more open-ended for others. It’s overall a shrewd move – the satisfaction of some resolutions balancing the uncertainty of others. 

It’s impossible to entirely ignore the impact of a large and extremely engaged fandom on the ongoing development of the show. There are, quite definitely, some moments of fan service and deep-level Easter eggs on display here. There’s also an extremely meta cameo at the Year 11 Prom, but all adds to the overwhelming sense of fun. 

Heartstopper’s stated intent this season, to ‘show the world what love is made of’, is strongly on display throughout, even when more difficult topics are touched upon. The hard-core fans will be overjoyed and possibly relieved that the high expectations raised by the first season have been met. The casual viewer will find that this touching story of joyous queer love continues to provide an engaging narrative with beautiful moments of storytelling. The story of Nick, Charlie, and their journey through an emerging romance is back, as strong as ever, and the wait was worth it. 

Heartstopper Season Two is available to stream globally on Netflix, now. 

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