The book-based, romantic comedy-drama “Love, Simon” came out in 2018, and while it satisfied as a story about queer joy, the white, upper-middle class, cisgender-centric film was a mere first step for queer representation. Its spinoff Hulu original television series “Love, Victor,” on the other hand, hit the ground running in its first season. Praised for diversity and honesty, the first season revolved around Victor Salazar (Michael Cimino), a high schooler with Puerto Rican and Colombian roots exploring his sexuality. “Love, Victor” returned with a second season June 11, and although its fast-paced episodes can sometimes feel overwhelming, the show’s endearing commitment to candor pays off in a satisfying way.
Season two picks up right where the first left off — with Victor coming out as gay to his family. His mother’s (Ana Ortiz) failure to accept his sexuality becomes the season’s focal conflict, which Ortiz navigates with grace. Her character’s evolution makes for some of the show’s most emotional, memorable moments, and it also helps tie together the season’s otherwise loose plotlines. As his mother’s homophobia causes tensions to rise between Victor and his seemingly flawless boyfriend, Benji (George Sear), the series meanders through other relationship troubles.
In addition to dealing with his parents’ separation and the aftermath of his brutal breakup with close friend Mia (Rachel Hilson), Victor struggles to find a sense of belonging with his peers, searching for what he calls the “perfect level of gay that will keep everyone happy.” While Benji’s friends joke that Victor’s a “straight boy fantasy,” some of his basketball teammates refuse to change in the locker room with him. Victor soon calls out his complicit team captain, Andrew (Mason Gooding), for performative allyship, offering an important (and surprisingly direct) confrontation that highlights how passivity in the face of homophobia harms queer people. Here, “Love, Victor” healthily reminds viewers that identity and sexuality are fluid as Victor challenges the people and stereotypes attempting to define his identity for him.
Another aspect that makes “Love, Victor” stand out among other teen romantic dramas is its refreshing depiction of realistic adolescent insecurity, especially when it comes to sex. Many shows targeted at young adult audiences manipulate sex for drama or appeal, but “Love, Victor” talks about sex maturely: It normalizes consent, protection and communication. With their partners, Victor and his peers share their anxieties about losing their virginity, and such emotionally open moments serve as healthy reminders to viewers about how important trust and honesty are in relationships.
While season one revolved around Victor exploring his sexuality, the second season branches out to develop more complex plotlines for multiple lead characters. However, its subplots, though captivating, sometimes cause Victor to fall in and out of the spotlight in a distracting way. Making for a well-executed storyline occasionally more engaging than Victor’s, Felix (Anthony Turpel), Victor’s nerdy neighbor and best friend, faces his mother’s (Betsy Brandt) worsening manic depression and potential homelessness. Elsewhere, Mia feels strangely extraneous due to frequent isolation from the other protagonists, and Pilar (Isabella Ferreira), Victor’s fabulously moody sister, deserves so much more than a role in an unnecessary love triangle.
Nevertheless, these minor character faults are forgiven with the introduction of classmate Rahim (Anthony Keyvan). Compassionate and charming, Rahim reaches out to Victor for advice on coming out to his Muslim parents, and amid Victor’s snowballing boyfriend issues, they form a close relationship based on their shared hardship as gay, religious people of color. Even though Rahim is introduced late in the season, their connection’s swift development feels wonderfully honest and genuine, proving that the key strength of “Love, Victor” lies with its winsome ensemble.
“Love, Victor,” though not without storytelling flaws, blossoms with the growing pains of adolescence and complexities of coming out. Its scanty comedic factors may shout bingeable teen drama, but the willingness of the series to delve into a wider variety of meaningful issues makes it stand out from its first season. The show expands on its strengths in season two, skillfully conveying that coming out isn’t the end of one’s story — it’s the beginning.
Contact Taila Lee at [email protected].