Heartstopper delivers about as perfect a finale as it could, bringing all the characters to sweet turning-point moments while also leaving plenty of the story left to tell.
This recap of Heartstopper season 1, episode 8 contains spoilers, including for Heartstopper’s ending. You can check out our spoiler-free season review by clicking these words.
There’s a common theme that Netflix originals never seem to end, mostly to try and strongarm a renewal in an increasingly temperamental and competitive streaming market. Usually, this is annoying, since it prevents shows from reaching a satisfying conclusion, sometimes forever. But in the case of Heartstopper, the unfinished elements of the storyline feel worth waiting for, as though the characters might grow into them off-screen. This is a finale that manages to find just the right balance between payoff and leaving things unaddressed and unsaid. It’s a very sweet half-hour that feels like a just-right coda to everything we’ve seen in the first seven episodes.
Heartstopper season 1, episode 8 recap
Teen dramas always build towards some kind of big moment that brings everyone together and allows all the subplots to dovetail, and true to form, it isn’t a prom or a Project X-style mega-party, but instead, the Truham-Higgs Sports Day, which brings both schools together for a day of festivities, including a much-talked-about climactic rugby game. The problem is that all of the drama from the previous episode is still lingering. So, Charlie is still contemplating breaking up with Nick to spare everyone the hassle, Tao is still annoyed with Charlie because he thinks Harry bullying him was a consequence of Charlie’s relationship with Nick and the rugby boys, Elle doesn’t feel entirely comfortable returning to Truham, and, well… it’s just a lot.
Luckily, Charlie has his sister, at least. She hasn’t featured much in the season as a whole, but I’ve personally loved every time Tori has loomed around a doorway like some kind of emotional support ghoul. She helps Charlie to realize that his main concern — that him simply existing makes everyone else’s lives worse — isn’t the case. When Tao and Nick have a conversation, this is also the sentiment that is expressed. Tao helps Nick to understand that even though Charlie would never force him to come out if he wasn’t ready, being a “secret” boyfriend is always going to make him feel a certain way. Charlie’s response is always to run and hide rather than risk upsetting people, which is why he quits the rugby team before the big game, much like how he spent his lunchtimes in Mr. Ajayi’s classroom. On the flip side, Nick helps Tao to see that Charlie really does value his opinion and that Nick himself isn’t some kind of brutish lout that he needs protecting from, but a vulnerable, confused young man himself.
Charlie and Tao are able to make up when the former takes the latter’s place in the 200m, which also doubles as a way for Charlie to get one over Ben, whom he dusts in the race. He makes it clear that Ben doesn’t get to push him around anymore just because he’s confused about his own sexuality, and his threats of outing Charlie and Nick will be countered by Charlie outing him. It’s a nice moment for Charlie, who has spent far too long as a victim. And freed from his sporting obligations, Tao gets to spend some time running through the corridors with Elle, though just as it looks like something may happen between them, it doesn’t. Maybe next season.
Of course, the big moment is the rugby game. But it’s bigger for Nick than anyone. Despite being the star player, his focus is elsewhere — on Charlie, who’s stood on the sidelines. Eventually, Nick abandons the game completely to approach Charlie, and while I thought for a brief moment they were going to kiss in front of everyone, Nick instead tenderly takes his hand and leads him away. I think most of the other students got the message, though (you see Imogen smile knowingly, obviously thinking back to the conversation they had on the bench after Nick canceled their date). In the corridor, Nick asks — nay, begs — Charlie not to break up with him, and Charlie interrupts his desperate ranting with a kiss. They spend the next day together, and Nick decides to come out — not in a grandiose way, but he doesn’t want to have to sneak around anymore, and he wants to be able to tell the people who really matter who he really is. He starts with his mum.