Heartstopper has always had a knack for generating clever set pieces: events typically related to school that allow the characters to bounce off one another in interesting ways. This season’s three-episode class trip to Paris provided an especially refreshing break from the classrooms and hallways of Truham and Higgs. With that story over, it’s possible these final two episodes could’ve felt less like the climax of the season and more like an epilogue. With season two’s three major sources of stress broadly resolved — Nick basically came out to the school, Elle and Tao are together now, and Darcy finally reciprocated Tara’s “I love you” — this final leg of our journey might be more focused on the season’s subtler character conflicts.
But “Sorry” isn’t a comedown from the past few episodes’ highs. Part of that is the two set pieces that essentially split this episode in half: the “Here and Queer” exhibition at the Lambert School of Art and a tense dinner at the Nelsons’.
Early in the episode, Elle gets a much-awaited confirmation: She got into art college, and her application piece is being shown at an exhibit for young queer artists! She thinks she can get away with inviting her friends without breaking the news of her admission; she’s excited, of course, but still not 100 percent sure she’ll say yes. The idea of telling Tao and hurting his feelings terrifies her.
Tao inevitably learns the truth anyway at the exhibit, but his distress softens when he sees Elle introduce her piece, Safe Place, a painting of their core group of four from her Truham days. That school was hell for her in some ways — not only the dysphoric experience of being the sole young woman at a school of dudes but dealing with transphobia from kids and teachers — but it still lives on in her mind as a safe haven of sorts because of the three boys who stuck by her side no matter what. Afterward, Tao tells Elle he isn’t annoyed that she didn’t tell him. He supports her choice no matter what, and he’ll want to be with her regardless.
The exhibit helps push along the other characters’ conflicts, too. Darcy’s early departure and her cryptic words about her inability to please her mom suggest that whatever problems she has at home that she’s kept hidden from Tara are still going on. We see that for ourselves in the final scene, which shows Darcy’s mom yelling at her to take off her new prom suit. The combination of Darcy’s purple anxiety clouds and the muffled audio of their actual argument makes for an intense scene, and when she takes off with a bag, it’s pretty concerning.
At least Isaac is making some serious headway in figuring out his sexuality. When he meets up with James to tell him their kiss confirmed that he didn’t feel the same, you can see how much it hurts him to say it without a real explanation prepared. But James, like most characters on this show, is too much of a kind, mature guy to take it personally. Of course, even James still assumes it comes down to Isaac “finding the right person,” when Isaac is realizing he may not want anyone in that way.
It may feel a little convenient that Isaac stumbles upon a piece about asexuality almost immediately after that conversation. But the mobile of greeting cards is an effective summation of compulsory sexuality, and its aroace artist verbalizes something that changes everything for Isaac: Freeing yourself from societal expectations about romance and sex can be euphoric. Fittingly, we see leaves stir around Isaac’s head in this moment, the same animation we typically see when two characters are happy and in love.
Yet the episode’s best moment may belong to Charlie, who is finally forced to face Ben after ignoring his urgent texts asking to talk. Outside the exhibit, Ben makes his first attempt at a real, sincere apology, accompanied by the news that he won’t be at Truham for sixth form. He understands now that his own inability to come out to his homophobic parents kept him from treating Charlie with the respect he deserved. For obvious reasons, Charlie didn’t give him the time he would’ve needed to get comfortable with the idea of pursuing a real romantic relationship with a man.
What Ben doesn’t understand is just how much his actions affected Charlie, even in his day-to-day life several months later. Their power dynamic was off from the beginning, with Ben taking whatever he wanted and Charlie letting him because he’d never had a boyfriend and didn’t yet recognize that he deserved better. Even if Ben is trying to be sincere, making himself feel better is still the No. 1 priority. Apologies and explanations are nice in theory, but they fall short when it comes to undoing trauma. It’s gratifying to see Charlie finally spell that out for him and tell him he never wants to see him again.
Charlie and Nick’s departure leads us nicely to the other main setting of the episode: a dinner at Nick’s house, where he plans to finally come out to his dad and introduce Charlie as his boyfriend. Nick has made a ton of progress lately, and the prospect of backing down after what just happened with Ben isn’t very appealing. Luckily, Nick has gained confidence in the past few weeks and understands that even if he doesn’t owe his dad any personal details about his life, it feels good to be seen by the people in it. Even the inconsistent ones.
Nick calls out that inconsistency during dinner when David’s button pushing about Charlie and an oblivious question about girlfriends from Mr. Nelson finally set him off. He bluntly tells his dad and brother that he doesn’t care what they think of his queerness anymore; Mr. Nelson doesn’t take much interest in his life anyway, and David’s cruel taunts hurt less now that Nick is living his best life.
Parts of this story play out somewhat predictably because Stéphane Nelson is a pretty familiar type of absent TV dad. But the emotions of the scene snuck up on me, as they often do on this show. There’s something beautiful about the brief scene when Sarah joins her son and his boyfriend outside, struggling to explain why her ex-husband doesn’t care about his kids as he should. “I wish I understood, but I don’t,” she says. “I think it’s a very sad way to exist.”
In the end, Mr. Nelson does apologize and claims he wants to do better in supporting Nick’s relationship with Charlie the best he can. With Mrs. Spring finally convinced about Nick and even suggesting they invite him and his mom over sometime soon, everything works out well enough. But the night isn’t without its lingering uncertainties. The continuation of Charlie’s undereating is enough to make Nick Google eating disorders, a sign that this story line is far from over. “Sorry” may not end with its characters in total disarray, as in season one’s penultimate episode, but with almost everyone happy together now, the stakes feel as serious as ever.
• Very cute moment when Tao’s mom freaks out about him finally getting together with Elle.
• Sahar mentions that she’s bisexual, making her yet another queer character in the friend group, but I have to say, I really haven’t seen enough of her to feel connected yet. I assume her presence is mostly about setting up a larger role in the announced season three, but until then, I really don’t have much to say.
• Really striking image of Ben imagining a rainbow tide spilling out onto the sidewalk from the exhibit, especially if that’s the last time we see him.
• An inspired choice to make Mr. Nelson’s disparaging remark about David the one to cause Sarah to butt in rather than some comment about Nick. Maybe she knows Nick needs to articulate his long-suppressed grievances without interruption.
• David deserved even worse than that threat from Tori, but that was a fun moment too.