Last summer, I reviewed Hulu’s delightful streaming series spin-off of the 2018 Greg Berlanti film Love, Simon, a film I hold near and dear to my own heart and felt very emotionally protective of. Love, Victor, which was originally produced and conceived for the Disney+ streaming service, basically exceeded all of my expectations and may have been even better than this movie I love so dearly. It immediately gave you reason to care about all its players and gave everyone rich character arcs and ended in a place that demanded more episodes, now if not sooner.
Today I’m going to be talking about Love, Victor’s second season. Season two of Victor succeeds where so many series fail in their second seasons and avoids that proverbial sophomore slump because it remembers a few crucial things so many forget to do when they’re given more time. You expand the show’s world, you introduce new characters that bring realistic conflict and you allow the characters to continue to grow, without ignoring the character development already having taken place. Season two of Love, Victor continues to be a wise, true and utterly beautiful piece of storytelling and it still has so far to go.
All episodes watched for review. Spoilers for season one of Love, Victor and mild season two spoilers to follow.
At the end of season one, we saw Victor (Michael Cimino) finally come out to his parents after ten episodes of stress, anxiety and questioning about who he really is. We pick up right where we left off, but this cliffhanger isn’t resolved immediately. The fallout from his parents coming to terms with the fact their son is gay and also dealing with their own relationship strife as they head into a separation, puts a strain on this family unit that kind of lasts all season. Armando (James Martinez) moves to a small, sad, one-bedroom apartment and tries to put on a brave face for his family, including Victor. Victor’s mother Isabel (Ana Ortiz) isn’t as initially accepting of her son, and this leads to a season-long tension where mother and son have to find their way back to each other.
Immediately after the premiere’s cold open, we fast-forward ten weeks to when Victor is about to start his junior year of high school. Victor’s decided not to come out publicly until the school year begins, and reveal to his classmates he’s no longer dating the too-sweet-for-her-own-good Mia (Rachel Hilson), and is now with the impossibly dreamy Benji (George Sear), with whom he’s shared a romantic, swoony, idealistic summer. But being out at school poses new challenges for Victor – how are his teammates on the school basketball team going to react? Will his classmates be accepting or find a way to make this all about them? How will Victor’s relationship with Benji handle the turmoil of high school angst it’s somehow avoided all summer? And what happens after you finally commit to truly being your authentic self?
Meanwhile, Felix (Anthony Turpel) and Lake (Bebe Wood)’s relationship continues to progress, even as Felix finds continuing challenges involving his mother (Betsy Brandt), who suffers from manic depression and refuses to take her meds. A friendship between Felix and Victor’s sister Pilar (Isabella Ferreira) continues to blossom as the two find common ground in their messy lives. Meanwhile, Mia returns to town after taking herself out of the equation all summer hoping to begin a relationship with Andrew (Mason Gooding), but learning he found a new girlfriend Lucy (Ava Capri) while she was away. Mia also struggles to come to terms with Victor’s lie and if she even wants him in her life moving forward.
Halfway through the season, we’re introduced to Rahim (Anthony Keyvan), a Creekwood student struggling with his sexuality who reaches out to Victor for guidance in his own coming out, much like Victor initially reached out to Simon. Rahim is convinced his religious Muslim family will not be accepting of who their son is, and this brings an interesting new angle to the stories explored in this series’ universe. The writers seem to be driving home the point that everybody’s coming out is very different and there’s no right or wrong way to come out and there’s so many stories like this left to be told. Rahim is (at least initially) sweet, very likable and another hero the show wants you to root for as we expand the show’s world. I have some issues with where the character goes in later episodes, and it mostly has to do with pacing and perhaps introducing the character too late, but I am definitely interested to see where Rahim’s story goes moving forward.
The journey of Victor’s parents as they come to terms with who their son is, is also fairly well-realized and also not what I initially expected it to be. Since this is long-form dramatic storytelling, we don’t find them immediately accepting of Victor, but it feels more true to life, in that these are people coming to this moment with their own baggage, religious beliefs and internalized bigotry, and learning to overcome that is, at best, a process. I think it would have been dishonest to the characters if we didn’t have this kind of conflict and Ana Ortiz and James Martinez make the most out of their character arcs this season.
I’m also impressed with the way this season handles the expansion of Felix’s character and his relationship to his mother who’s suffering from various forms of mental illness. Betsy Brandt doesn’t get a ton to do, but we definitely have a deeper understanding of that family dynamic by the season’s end. Mia’s character journey also takes some unexpected detours, and Hilson is totally relishing all of that great character development. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Mason Gooding’s Andrew. Andrew is the kind of jock archetype character who in season one seemed like an almost-antagonist for a little while, but Gooding makes it so difficult to dislike this character, and really turns him into someone worth rooting for. His development is almost the most dramatic of the entire supporting cast.
Which brings me to why we’re all here – I believe I called Michael Cimino’s season one performance a triumph, or a revelation or something to that effect, and he’s even better this year. He’s still got that mega-watt smile and endless charm, but he’s giving so much more this year. Part of that is due to an actor’s deeper understanding of who the character is, and part of it is due to Cimino’s desire to learn more about him as the show progresses. His off-the-charts chemistry with George Sear’s Benji is also even stronger, and Sear has a lot more to do this season as well. We get to learn more about Benji’s family and his inner turmoil, and ultimately Benji feels like a real character this season, and not the manic-pixie-dream-boy manifestation he did in season one. Sear is also totally up to the challenge of giving this character the most he can and bringing him to unexpected places. This central relationship remains totally lovely and regardless of the challenges thrown at it, you can’t stop rooting for these two.
In fact, it feels like every actor is giving more to their characters in season two. Perhaps it’s because I’m more invested in their storylines and how the drama’s unfolding this season, maybe it’s because this season was filmed after months of the actors being quarantined and being forced to do the entire press tour for season one over Zoom, but every performance is sharper, more acutely observed and more deeply realized. Also, as an observation of media produced during the pandemic, I didn’t really notice anything that felt different from the first season and it all felt pretty seamless.
Season one was produced for Disney+, before the company sent it over to Hulu, and this season was actually made for Hulu, giving the creative team the opportunity to explore more potentially mature content in season two. Does it feel any different than the first season? Not really. There’s no graphic sexuality or any strong profanity, but it’s decidedly steamier than season one (and Love, Simon for that matter), but it never feels like the show is pushing the envelope just for the hell of it. This season is about the milestones a young person faces as they come out of the closet, and sexuality is definitely part of that, but it still feels like this could air on basic cable. Part of the problem some critics had with the first season was that it was allegedly “too safe.” And this is definitely less safe, from a content perspective and with regard to the writing. Disney thinking Love, Victor was too inappropriate for their streaming service is a decision I’ll die mad about, however I’m glad this show has a home that allows it to take more risks if the situation calls for it. As long as Hulu keeps renewing it.
That brings me to where we end up this season – again, no spoilers, but it would legitimately be a hate crime if Hulu did not renew Love, Victor for a third season. Keeping it consistent with the first season, we don’t end with anything resolved and a million different soapy plots are dangling in the air. This season’s finale also shares the first finale’s issue of packing in so many plots and loose ends to be resolved later. And since I’m so emotionally invested and an abrupt cancellation would cause me physical pain, this is probably a credit to the writer’s room, once again overseen by Love, Simon screenwriters Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger. They seem to fully understand why this franchise is important to so many and are committed to making it the most it can be.
Love, Victor effectively expands its world and its characters in its second season, allowing them to evolve in realistic ways and leaving them still with many places to go. There’s a stronger sense of place, the emotional stakes are higher, and everything is depicted with an increased sense of urgency. The performances are better, the writing is stronger and there’s an overwhelming sense the show has really found its stride. It’s overwhelmingly full of joy, humor and heart, but seems to have found an even stronger sense of purpose in its second run, which is a total relief to this viewer. The cast and crew of Love, Victor has created something so special and I hope it continues for a long time.
Season two of Love, Victor will stream on Hulu starting June 11th.