Perhaps it feels like only yesterday, but the first season of Netflix’s sensational, achingly sincere Heartstopper debuted all the way back in April of 2022. Now, nearly a year and a half later, writer/creator Alice Oseman expects us to jump back in precisely where we left off in the romance of Nick and Charlie—in case one has been busy stuck in the panels of a graphic novel, in the afterglow of winning a big rugby match during Truham-Higgs Sports Day, Nick (Kit Connor) proudly proclaimed to like Charlie (Joe Locke) “in a romantic way, not just a friend way!” Nick came out as bisexual to his concerned mum (Olivia Colman). Where do we go from here? Surely, Heartstopper could have ended with a fitting “happily ever after ” plastered across its picture-perfect close. Life, however, still goes on after ever after and (spoiler alert) the book series does, too. If its debut season portrayed a fairy tale coming-of-age queer rom-com, Heartstopper thrives as it explores the nuances and complications of what it means to truly be in a relationship in emotionally-charged season two.

The very next day after their beachside boyfriend proclamation, Nick pulls Charlie into a supply closet for a secret smooch. There is a definite worry about Nick’s bisexuality journey, and how others may react. Try to ignore the irony of discussing the ease of coming out of the closet while in an an actual closet. As any queer person will know, coming out is a full experience, and doing so before one is ready can have disastrous consequences. As the season starts to roll out, Charlie grows into Nick’s protector. Nick’s slow transition into a bisexual teen must be protected at all costs; however, we all know that in reality, there is no such thing as a perfect coming out. For a show containing a core message about never forcing others out of the closet no matter how awful they may appear to be (see: Charlie’s semi-ex Ben), the toxic part of the fandom forced Kit Connor to acknowledge his bisexuality on Twitter over the summer before he swiftly deleted it altogether. Why are we as humans still so obsessed with the sexual orientation of others?

For the first half of the season anyway, Nick and Charlie’s relationship rapport is able to slowly blossom while the friendship side of things remains consistent. Charlie still whoops Nick at Mario Kart, the crackling animated fireworks between them spark at so much as a finger touch, and the only main addition now is that the duo cannot seem to keep their hands off one another. More lip-locking occurs during these eight episodes than would seem conceivably possible, yet each time gets built up so splendidly. Many other central plotlines carry over too—overly protective Tao (William Gao) crushes on passionate artist Elle (Yasmin Finney); outsider Isaac (Tobie Donovan) tries to explore where he fits in; Ben (Sebastian Croft) will not leave Charlie alone; lesbians Darcy (Kizzy Edgell) and Tara (Corinna Brown) become a permanent fixture in the friend group; and Imogen (Rhea Norwood) grows further into Nick’s new BFF.

Heartstopper deepens and expands the core friend group in surprising ways. Characters we only saw glimmers of previously have far more significant arcs this time around. In particular, Imogen and Ben are involved to a surprising degree, as well as Darcy and Tara; all four never feel like their stories are a distraction. Rather, following them is completely organic to the vibrant world Oseman has crafted. As GCSE studies approach and the school load intensifies, conflict swirls in the air. Charlie’s parents impose strict regulations when his grades appear to fall. Nick spirals into curly scribbles of blackness as he bombs one of his GCSE’s. Nick’s father and brother both come into the fray, and neither are particularly receptive about Nick’s “lifestyle.”

The big events this season are the class trip to Paris, and of course the Year 11 prom. The trip lasts a healthy three episodes—this entire section will definitely be a fan favorite. Who doesn’t want to see Nick and Charlie cavorting around the Louve or the Eiffel Tower, hands locked together gazing into each other’s eyes? Again, the show refuses to take the easy route by simply making this fluff. The couple is faced with real conflict, and not the generic or dramatic kind usually faced in rom-coms, either. Incredibly satisfying moments involving a Parisian dinner and another where a door literally slams in someone’s face are crowd-pleasing, thanks to Oseman’s masterful pen. The prom, on the other hand, may prove divisive. Instead of being a big moment for our core couple, it ends up vital for two others. Like other messaging this season, the episode doubles down on “perfect” being an illusion.

In the interim between seasons, I took it upon myself to dive into Oseman’s lush graphic novel series. Currently sitting at four volumes and counting, Heartstopper already leaps off the page with flowery visuals and delightful romantic moments. The Netflix series easily captures this flair, adding adorable animated tics and indie pop vibes from artists including Conan Gray, Walk the Moon, and Fitz and the Tantrums to bolster its bubble gum aesthetic. If Heartstopper was nothing more than aesthetic, forgettable but fun would probably be its lasting sentiment. Something about this ensemble cast combined with passionate creatives has helped make it one of the gayest shows on TV in the best way possible.

Ultimately, Oseman does not reinvent the romantic wheel. If you loved season one, chances are you will also adore this sophomore go-round. Heartstopper gives fans exactly what they want and more, sure to bring a healthy amount of depth to go with its romantic concoction. It doesn’t need over-sexualization or harsh language—there is a beauty in its simplicity. Possibly my favorite scene of season two is intimate in nature, coming in near the end of its finale: a beautiful, emotionally vulnerable scene of honesty between two teary-eyed characters. While there are plenty of cutesy moments and flashy feel-good vibes, sometimes it is these quieter moments that make Heartstopper feel so unique and universal. Oseman understands that without attention to detail in character work, there would be no stakes. LGBT+ youth of all ages now have a consistent series to revisit over and over again. Already renewed for a season three, Heartstopper has stolen my heart, and shows no signs of stopping.

Get swept away again by Heartstopper, premiering all episodes of season two exclusively to Netflix on Thursday, August 3rd.

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