Nick and Charlie are back with their adorable little “hi” exchanges in the second season of Heartstopper, the live-action Netflix series based on Alice Oseman’s graphic novels of the same name. The season remains faithful to the original comics but expands its scope with a Paris trip and delves into the romantic lives of multiple other characters, even though Joe Locke and Kit Connor continue to be the heartstoppers of the series as leads Charlie Spring and Nick Nelson.
While season one brought in a breezy, cute summer romance aesthetic despite being set in winter, season two is a lot brighter and prettier, with its vibrant color palette and stylish costumes. A delightful autumn palette, featuring soft pastel shades, pervades the show, creating a charming and pleasant moodboard. However, the show doesn’t shy away from tackling serious themes such as insecurities, bullying, and family feuds. Amidst the summer romance and sweet moments, the teens face the challenges of exam season, struggling to balance their current romances with their future dreams. It’s a conundrum familiar to anyone on the cusp of adulthood, where first love can feel like the end of the world. Charlie and Nick feel the weight of being out to their families, adding an extra layer of scrutiny and pressure. However, they do have a cushion of fabulous friends who always have their back.
Elle Argent (Yasmin Finney) is torn between confessing her feelings for best-friend Tao Xu (William Gao) and applying to her dream art school which would mean moving away, while a clueless Tao too crushes on Elle but thinks asking her out might ruin their friendship. Isaac (Tobie Donovan) is too caricature like as the shy/quiet bibliophile always with a book in hand; but is one of the sweetest characters, one may not say much but is always there for his friends. Bad guy Ben Hope (Sebastian Croft) sets his eyes on Nick’s friend Imogen (Rhea Norwood) and the two begin dating, making Nick worry if Ben’s only playing with her feelings. Then there’s the near perfect couple Darcy (Kizzy Edgel) and Tara Jones (Corinna Brown), who get awkward as one of them begins to hide things from the other.
Titled “Out,” the first episode sets the perfect pace for this teen romance series, with plenty of heartwarming moments between the lead couple. Nick and Charlie exist in their happy bubble when they are together, but Nick grapples with the reality that coming out is much harder than he anticipated, following his poignant heart-to-heart with his mother Sarah (played by the fantastic Olivia Colman) about his bisexuality in the first season. Nick is burdened with a lot of anxiety and internal stress/pressure to come out to others he is close to. But all the dark clouds disappear whenever he is with his sweetheart. Charlie constantly assures Nick that he “does not owe it to anybody” to share details about his private life.
Episode two, “Family,” presents a reality check for Charlie, as his grades slip, and his mom bans him from seeing Nick until he finishes his coursework. The whole “parents versus teen relationships” theme will be relatable to anybody who’ve had their family ban them from doing things over poor grades. There’s a generous sprinkling of exam stress, coursework, and rugby, to keep a healthy check on the romantic lives of the characters. Just like season one, Jenny Walser is still the weird one in the cast as Charlie’s older sister Tori, who is constantly sipping something. She is like Wednesday Addam’s long-lost sister, always glum and in emo clothes, and is fiercely protective of her younger brother, threatening people with their lives if they cause him any harm.
Yasmin Finney is stunning as the talented Elle, and she goes to visit an art school to explore her future options and makes some great new friends. Tao begins to feel left out and decides to take a leap of faith by asking her out. So, episode three features a first date between these two characters. There’s this shot of Tao in a new haircut, holding flowers for Elle and that scene looked straight out of a Wes Anderson movie. As I was thinking that, few minutes later, he goes to watch “Moonrise Kingdom”, one of Wes’ films. So, guess the Anderson aesthetic was deliberate and it looked fantastic on screen. To add to the mood, the creators also slip in a small snippet of the song “Le temps de l’amour” by Françoise Hardy.
Which brings us to the music featured in the series – from tracks by American pop-star Taylor Swift to British Experimental pop band “Let’s Eat Grandma”, there are some fine songs that serve to enhance the mood of the tale. For example, “You Wouldn’t Like Me” by Tegan and Sara plays when a character is engulfed in self-doubt, and it was just the apt number to accompany the scene.
Episodes 4, 5 & 6 take the school’s 5-day trip to Paris, providing viewers with stunning shots of Charlie and his friends exploring the Louvre Museum. However, some unnecessary sub-plots involving the teachers could have been better utilized to showcase the parents of primary or secondary characters, especially Olivia Colman’s delightful portrayal of Charlie’s mom. Momo Yeun who plays Tao’s widowed mother Yan is an incredibly likable character, she is perceptive and understands her son better than he does himself. Though the show does have its fair share of “too good to be true” parents, the focus truly lies on the friendships portrayed in Heartstopper. Nick and Tao’s friendship sees the most growth, even though Tao basically hates Nick at the beginning of the show, the two become closer as they realize they both want the best for Charlie. There’s a wholesome sequence towards the end, where Charlie and gang just ditch prom and go hang out at Nick’s place, chatting away, listening to music, playing hide-and-seek, and laughing. It a refreshing change from other hypersexualized shows, where you’d most likely see the protagonist ditch prom to either do drugs or have sex.
Heartstopper season two continues to charm with its endearing characters, beautiful aesthetics, and exploration of young love and friendship. The series successfully captures the essence of the graphic novels while expanding its narrative to keep fans eagerly awaiting the next chapter in this heartwarming story. The song “Ur So Pretty” from William Gao’s Wasia Project plays in the end, where Charlie finally opens to Nick about his personal struggles. As the leads vow to be by each other’s side, season two ends with a promise of another season.
It’s a 9 on 10 from me. Stream Heartstopper on Netflix.