“Heartstopper” season two is officially out, and it’s full of heart.

Continuing the love story of British teenagers Charlie Spring (Joe Locke) and Nick Nelson (Kit Connor), the season features a diversity of LGBTQ+ experiences and brings them to the forefront. With this comes an exploration of the bonds between family and friends, the importance of self-acceptance and the exhilaration of first love.

“Heartstopper” season two comes a little over a year after the first season, which critics described as “revolutionary representation for LGBTQ+ teens,” a series that was “so sweet, so joyous and so wonderful”. The series is based on Alice Oseman’s hit webcomic of the same name, which was later developed into graphic novels. With such high praise for the graphic novels and the first season, the second had a lot to live up to — and the result is perfection.

The eight-episode season opens with Charlie and Nick’s new relationship. The first scene shows Charlie getting ready for school in the morning, smiling as he messages hearts to Nick on Instagram. Maggie Rogers’ indie pop song “Shatter” blasts in the background — a perfect choice for the elation of a new relationship, and a foreboding indication of the challenges they’ll face later in the season.

The chemistry between Charlie and Nick is palpable. The second season successfully carries over the magic of the kissing in the rain scene from the first season. They chase each other through the Louvre in Paris, take cute Polaroid photos and find places in their school to make out. Their relationship showcases LGBTQ+ joy in a pure, youthful form, highlighted with flourishes of animated sparks and comic book panels.

However, season two doesn’t shy away from tough teen issues. The season begins with Nick’s fear of coming out to his classmates and conflicts with his homophobic brother. The story then progresses to Charlie’s struggles with mental health, self-harm and an eating disorder.

In the beginning of the season, Charlie resolves to protect Nick from the homophobic bullying he’d already suffered through. “Everything’s gonna be perfect,” he vows. And for a bit, it appears to be. He’s there for Nick during his whole coming out journey, from coming out to his rugby friends to announcing their relationship to a group of classmates during a class trip to Paris.

As the season progresses, Nick realizes that everything isn’t perfect in Charlie’s life. He’s still struggling with memories of his ex-boyfriend, Ben, who caused his self-worth to plummet. He regulates his eating, so that he can control something in his life. Nick recognizes these struggles and steps up to support Charlie, so that their love becomes a beacon of hope in the otherwise dark scenes. As a result, the second season maintains the endearing, saccharine vibe of the first, with some added maturity.

The season also explores side characters in depth, allowing for the representation of multiple LGBTQ+ experiences. The will-they-or-won’t-they relationship between Tao Xu (Will Gao) and Elle Argent (Yasmin Finney) progresses in season two, after Elle transferred to the girls’ school from Truham Grammar School for Boys at the opening of season one.

Elle brings trans representation in a way that feels normalized, just like any of the other pairs in the show. Tao and Elle’s romantic connection develops slower than Nick and Charlie’s, but its resolution comes with a sweet message on the importance of being yourself.

Meanwhile, the show explores the established relationship of Tara Jones (Corinna Brown) and Darcy Olsson (Kizzy Edgell). Beginning with Tara’s first “I love you” to Darcy, the girls navigate the challenges of opening up to each other as significant others. The look into Darcy’s complicated relationship with her homophobic mother brings attention to the reality of many LGBTQ+ teens’ lives. However, like with Nick and Charlie, the support Tara offers Darcy brings a beacon of light into the situation.

Isaac Henderson (Tobie Donovan), another member of the friend group known for his avid reading, also gets more time in the spotlight this season. In Season 1, Isaac fades intentionally into the background, often seen reading and making small comments here and there. In a love-centered world like “Heartstopper,” Isaac feels out of place. Season two sees him having a formative kiss with a boy who’s interested in him, resulting in his discovery that he’s asexual. In a show that focuses so much on love, it’s refreshing to see asexual representation so blatantly brought to the forefront.

Finally, the show offers a small look into the lives of LGBTQ+ adults. The rugby coach is revealed to have a wife, and has a heart-to-heart with Nick about the fears of coming out. Additionally, the budding relationship between Truham teachers Mr. Ajayi (Fisayo Akinade) and Mr. Farouk (Nima Taleghani) explores what it is like to become more comfortable with one’s identity as an adult.

“Heartstopper” season two is a must-watch for its endearing characters, intentional storytelling and sweet atmosphere. Most importantly, the show celebrates love and queerness in all its forms and expressions. Charlie and Nick’s relationship is compelling in its own right, but well-deserved runtime for side characters makes “Heartstopper” a fresh love story for our time.

Rating: 5/5