LGBT Media: Heartstopper. Season Two

Who teaches us how to love? LGBTQ+ youth were once told their lives would be lonely and sad. Now there’s a wide range of queer stories available. But depictions of healthy relationships remain rare. That makes Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper special. When the series premiered it was praised for its joyful depiction of same-sex romance. Some dismissed it as saccharine. Most embraced its fluffy charms. Season two tiptoes into thornier territory. It expands on the graphic novel while remaining true to its spirit. I liked the lead actors better than the writing, but I respect what Oseman is trying to accomplish.

What Works  

Kit Connor continues to give a soulful performance as Nick Nelson. He’s begun the painstaking process of coming out. Mixed reactions from family and friends force him to rethink his place in the world. The character is written as a plaster saint. He always says the right thing and makes the paragon choice. But Connor fills each decision with anxiety and self-doubt. This man is going places. Provided he survives his rabid fan base.

Joe Locke has a trickier assignment as the passive Charlie Spring. He’s a secretive lad who struggles with depression and self-loathing. He’s afraid to share his burdens with his loving boyfriend and supportive friends. Instead, he slaps on a smile and pretends life is perfect. The character can be frustrating to watch. The series takes its time revealing the mountain of problems that Charlie’s ignoring.  

The lads have real chemistry. There’s a tenderness to their scenes that took me by surprise. Most queer shows generate conflict by keeping their lovers apart. Nick and Charlie are holding on to each other tight.  

Sebastian Croft does strong work as the bitter Ben Hope. Charlie’s abusive, closeted ex gets better material than he had in season one. Croft’s rage filled performance brings a welcome danger to the proceedings. He’d fit in well with the sexy murder teens on Elite. Oseman’s generous enough to give him a redemptive moment. But wise enough to understand that you don’t have to forgive a bully. It’s a lesson more shows could learn.  


At times Heartstopper frustrates. It can feel too slight. Too timid. If it wants to discuss tougher issues it has some housekeeping to do.

The supporting cast aren’t all up to Connor and Locke’s level. Some actors fade into the background. Others give broad musical comedy performances. This fits the theme of performing for your loved ones. But much of the humor falls flat.  

Internal Conflict. Oseman has been praised for sparing us the sight of queer trauma. Yet said trauma motivates half the characters. Charlie’s self-esteem issues stem from off-screen abuse. Nick’s fear of coming out may stem from a dysfunctional family. Their friends offer snippets of tragic backstories. We’re left to fill in the blanks ourselves. This can leave the central conflicts maddeningly vague.  

Sex. Heartstopper’s characters kiss. A lot. But the show wants us to know that Nick and Charlie are absolutely NOT. HAVING. SEX. No porn. No wet dreams. Hands above the waistline. A discussion of doing “it” is quickly dismissed. They’re only 16. They aren’t ready. How rude of you to ask. It’s ostensibly to keep a TV-14 rating. It makes the show easily accessible to younger audiences. But the tone risks coming across as puritanical. All in all, it’s odd that a series this chaste gives the asexual character absolutely nothing to do.  

The Future. Another conflict is slowly revealed. Readers of the graphic novel know what’s coming. How will season three balance the tonal shift? Will it maintain a sense of queer joy? Or sink into gloom? With the strike underway it may take years to find out. But, as their teacher reminds us, Nick and Charlie will still have had “beautiful gay teen experiences.” Who among us can say the same?  

My review of Heartstopper’s first season is here. You can find more of my reviews on The AvocadoLetterboxd and Serializd. My podcast, Rainbow Colored Glasses, can be found here.