Heartstopper has been one of those series that has completely taken over my life, in one of the most brilliant ways. I was late to the series, not watching a single episode until after the second season dropped on Netflix. However, in preparation for The Cosmic Circle’s recent LGBTQ+ podcast episode, I decided I better check it out and my life was changed. In less than a month, I had watched the entire series no less than four times, and consumed the four graphic novels twice. Filming has been underway on Heartstopper season 3 and my mind has already begun to wonder what’s coming for our young protagonists.
With the way that the second season ended, there are quite a few narrative threads left hanging in the balance. Thankfully because of the source material, we might have an idea of what to expect from the upcoming season on Netflix. The first two seasons loosely adapted volumes 1-3 of Alice Oseman’s acclaimed graphic novel series, with the fourth volume serving as the guide for Heartstopper season 3.
So where do I think these characters are headed in (hopefully) 2024? Let’s begin with the closing moments of season 2.
[Warning: this article touches on eating disorders and the impact it has on individuals. Please read on at your own risk.]
[Warning: Spoilers from Heartstopper Vol. 4, seasons 1 & 2, and the novella Nick and Charlie are below and some things mentioned may indicate what happens in Heartstopper season 3!]
Nick, Charlie, and I love you’s
Okay, so we need to talk about that cliffhanger. After completing another school year, a trip to Paris, and publicly coming out as a couple, Nick Nelson (Kit Connor) and Charlie Spring (Joe Locke) are in a great place in their relationship. That isn’t to say there are dark moments, as the couple have to navigate the trials of coming out and the increasing struggle of Charlie’s eating disorder. But in spite of all that, the duo remains strong and Charlie feels it’s time to take the next step in their relationship.
No, not that. Get your mind out of the gutter. We’re talking about saying those three words. Right before the screen cuts to black, a gleeful Charlie stands outside Nick’s house, typing “I love you” into the Instagram text box. He hesitates, finger hovering over the send button, leaving viewers, specifically me, screaming at my television screen. So does Charlie send the message to Nick? If Heartstopper Volume 4 serves as a guide, unfortunately, he does not.
In the graphic novel, there’s a bit of build-up before Charlie says those words. Even though he thinks them frequently. At the beginning of the novel, he comes close, while the couple and their friends are at a beach. However, when he’s just about to say it, Nick shares his fears about Charlie’s eating disorder. Nick’s words freeze Charlie’s declaration of love in his track, but don’t worry he does say them a bit later.
As the couple returns to Nick’s home after their day of fun in the sun, Charlie utters the words as he gets ready to leave, while Nick’s in the shower. The words cause a soaked Nick to run out of the house, with some clothes, to say “I love you” back to Charlie, creating a beautiful moment in their relationship.
It does appear that this is the narrative direction, from the pictures taken from the set of Heartstopper season 3. Filming took place for a few days on a beach, with some shots appearing to be a one-for-one adaptation of the graphic novel. As well, there have been some photos of a drenched Nick holding Charlie on a street corner, the location with the two will declare their love for each other. The moment might take a bit longer to happen, but I fully expect to see the two standing on the corner by the end of episode one.
Also factoring into their relationship will be the lows of Nick coming out on Instagram. After a long journey of self-discovery, Nick took the plunge and posted on Instagram about his relationship with Charlie, as well as his sexuality (“I’m bi, Actually”). This choice, while exciting for the couple, will have some impact on all parties involved. Coming out is a big decision and not everyone at their school is open-minded.
The cruelty of others is already weighing heavy on Charlie, who wishes to protect Nick from the horrors that come from homophobia. This will continue to impact him, as he goes on his own journey with his relationship to food. It’ll be interesting to see as well how Nick deals with it. So far he’s had a tougher skin to people and their preconceived notions, such as his brother. It’s not easy regardless, but I’m excited to see how he handles the new dynamics between him and others at his school.
Tao, Elle, and a long-distance relationship in Heartstopper season 3
Something I love about the Netflix series is how the show expands on the peripheral characters from the novels. Two of those characters that have more developed narratives are Tao (William Gao) and Elle (Yasmin Finney). After one and a half seasons of romantic tension building, the two decided to start dating. It was a rocky journey to get there, but finally, in the City of Love, they finally came together and decided to go forth together as a couple.
However, there’s possible doom looming on the horizon, as the Tao and Elle won’t be separated by a mere road between their schools. Instead, they’ll be miles apart. Elle, being the fantastic artist she is, got accepted into a prestigious art school, which will take her far away from her friends and new boyfriend. As I’m sure many of your readers realize long-distance relationships aren’t easy, they take an exorbitant amount of communication and work. Factor in that both are young and their relationship is brand new, this could spell doom for the couple.
This storyline is echoed in the novella that author Alice Oseman wrote, Nick and Charlie, which explored the feelings associated with long distance. In the novella, Charlie is struggling with Nick going off to University, dreading the loss before it even happens. As that couple is navigating that situation, so do Tao and Elle. However, early in the story, Tao and Elle decide to break up before she heads to Uni, recognizing that all good things come to an end.
The grown-up way these two deal with their separation gets to Charlie and Nick, who would rather make it work instead of breaking it off. Tao’s comments to Charlie impact him more than he cares to realize, bringing about the darkest period in his relationship with Nick. However, as the novella continues, Tao and Elle backtrack their decision and decide to remain together. The situation within the Netflix series seems primed for this story, providing the perfect groundwork in which to expand upon Tao and Elle’s story and relationship.
That being said, I do believe it might play out differently. I think for the story’s sake, the two will attempt to stay together, but feelings will get in the way, especially on Tao’s side. This division will cause the couple to split, but eventually come back together as the season reaches its climax. As the characters grow, the story can too, meaning that tougher and more complex stories are just around the corner.
For example, the change from season one to two with respect to eating disorders and a deeper dive into homophobia. However, a trademark of Heartstopper is the gooey feelings the story provides, which is why ending the season on a happy note for Tao and Elle is essential for true Heartstopper vibes.
Darcy, Tara, and Isaac
Like Tao and Elle, there’s a ton of story to explore in the third integral couple of Heartstopper, Darcy (Kizzy Edgell) and Tara (Corinna Brown). An interesting dynamic rose later in season two, which stems from the abuse that Darcy experiences at home. (Darcy’s mother is homophobic and abusive)
Darcy has been more reckless over season one, more so than usual for the bombastic character. She drank in excess during Tara’s birthday party on the school trip to Paris. She’s disappearing without telling anyone where she is. Again, this stems from the abuse, but these behaviors if they continue will have lasting impacts on the couple. Tara wants to be a good girlfriend, but you can tell she’s becoming lost in the relationship, unsure of how to best help.
I expect this to continue in season two, as the abuse gets worse and Darcy begins to spiral more. Hopefully, the two can work together towards a better situation for all, but I’m sure there will be tons of stress on both of them.
Finally, we come to Isaac (Tobie Donovan), who has had quite the journey himself in season two. He’s always been a bit of a loner in the group, around, but buried in a book. I love that the group continues to invite him in spite of his introverted tendencies, allowing him to be who he is and also a part of the group. Through the course of season 2, Isaac discovers something about himself, he’s asexual. This is a pivotal moment for the character and doesn’t come until late in the season.
I would love to see more of this journey, as Isaac begins to explore what asexuality means to him. There’s a ton of material to work with and Donovan can excel with any story the writers give him. Plus it shines a light on an often overlooked letter in the alphabet mafia. As Heartstopper has never shied away from important topics, I fully expect Isaac’s story to return, with a deeper exploration of asexuality.
Mental health and eating disorders in this Netflix series
Perhaps the biggest and most sensitive topic that Heartstopper season 3 will tackle is that of Charlie’s eating disorder. In the earlier volumes and seasons, an increasing focus has been on the struggles that Charlie has with food. It begins to present itself during stressful times, such as when Charlie becomes worried about people finding out about him and Nick dating. During their Paris trip, it’s ever-present, resulting in him collapsing in the Louvre.
Nick and Charlie discuss it a bit, but it’s understandably a talk that Charlie tends to avoid. However, near the end of season 2, we see Nick search the internet for information about eating disorders, with a worried look on his face.
This story comes full force in Heartstopper Volume 4. Initially, Nick has a conversation with Charlie at the aforementioned beach, with the former suggesting that Charlie speak to his parents about it. It also comes back to sucker punch Nick on his family trip to Majorca, where he talks with his mother about his fears. The scene is heartbreaking, with a line that I already know will make me cry when Olivia Colman delivers it.
Eventually, Charlie’s relationship with food gets so bad that he has to stay in the hospital for an extended period of time. In the hospital, he gets help, and begins seeing a therapist and understanding his eating disorder and other mental health conditions he experiences. While things do eventually improve for Charlie, it’s not without its struggle, as the family adjusts to having him home and the growing pains that are usually associated with a situation like that.
This will consume a significant part of the season, as it is so important to the growth of almost every character. However, it’s definitely a period in Nick and Charlie’s relationship that causes some pain but ultimately strengthens it.
While these are just some of the times we can expect from the new season of Heartstopper, there’s so much more than Oseman and those behind the Netflix series can bring to the world of Nick and Charlie. And I for one can’t wait.
Seasons 1 and 2 of Heartstopper are streaming on Netflix. Season 3 is expected in 2024. And you can find out more about Alice Oseman’s Hearstopper graphic novels on the author’s official website. Let us know your thoughts about this article on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Comsic Circus Discord.