The Hulu series is as charming as ever, but often loses its focus.
When Greg Berlanti’s Love, Simon arrived three years ago, it was hailed as groundbreaking — mostly because it was the first major studio rom-com centering on a gay character. But valid criticisms soon came from the queer community, saying that the movie is too white and its depiction of coming-out is a tad too tidy and sanitized.
Hulu’s spinoff of the movie, Love, Victor attempted to course-correct all those criticisms in its first season. Where Love, Simon focuses on a white, upper-class gay high schooler with loving and accepting parents, the show centers on a character with an almost completely different background: a religious, working-class Latinx family who just moved from Texas to Atlanta. And while this does not automatically make Love, Victor the best representation of queer love story and their coming-out experience, it does enough to give the show more edge and depth than the movie, as Victor’s (Michael Cimino) background proves to make his journey of accepting his sexuality a lot messier and more complicated compared to Simon.
Season two keeps up with that messiness, though it’s a different kind of messy. Picking up right where the first season left off, Love, Victor’s sophomore season deals with the aftermath of Victor coming out to his parents. Where all his friends and his dad, Armando (James Martinez), are accepting of Victor’s sexuality, his mom, Isabel (Ana Ortiz), is having a hard time doing the same. She thinks that it’s just a phase and Victor will eventually find his way back to be the son she always expected him to be. But when she begins to realize that this might be who Victor really is and that he might not change, she decides to go to the church, hoping that she will get some help and guidance on what to do with this situation.
So much of what happens in the season is about Isabel’s journey of trying to understand Victor and accept him for who he really is. And while the dynamic between Isabel and Victor can at times feel frustrating to follow, the show always makes sure to treat them in a grounded way. Nothing ever feels too dramatic. The conflict that occurs between Victor and her mom throughout the season always feels realistic. It also certainly helps that Ortiz plays every layer of Isabel with so much gravitas and emotions.
(Little spoiler ahead)
Season two, however, doesn’t just revolve around Isabel. The other characters, especially Victor’s friends, also become the focus of the story as the season goes on. On top of having to make sense of her breakup with Victor, who turns out to be gay, Mia (Rachel Hilson) is dealing with her own problems at home. Her father wants to move to another state for work, but Mia is tired of always doing what he says. In an attempt to rebel against him, Mia tries to reconnect with her mother. Victor’s father, who last season decided to separate from Isabel, is now living at a new home and trying to start a new relationship with a woman he meets at a PFLAG meeting behind his family’s back.
And much like Mia, Victor’s best friend-slash-neighbor Felix (Anthony Turpel), is dealing with some family stuff as well — her mother is suffering from manic depression, and his girlfriend Lake (Bebe Wood) tries to intervene and help even though he’s made it clear that he doesn’t need any help from her. Then there’s also a new closeted gay character, Rahim (Anthony Keyvan), from a strict Muslim family, who seeks guidance from Victor.
While all these subplots offer more color to the story, it does result in Victor, the main character, being buried in the background for the most part of the season. Instead of trying to explore Victor’s new journey of becoming an out-and-proud gay teenager, the show reduces him in an uninteresting love triangle drama. The spark between him and Benji (George Sear), which was the highlight of season one, isn’t there anymore. And as a result, any time the season focuses on Victor, it gets a little bland. It almost feels as though the show has forgotten that it’s supposed to tell Victor’s story, not the people around him.
And yet, even with that setback, Love, Victor remains enjoyable throughout the season. The balance between drama and humor is never not on point. The performances from the ensemble, especially from Ortiz and Turpel, are always fantastic. And most importantly, the show’s effort at telling a queer story from a mainstream lens remains admirable. Let’s just hope next season the show won’t forget that it’s Victor who it’s supposed to focus on.
Season 2 of Love, Victor premieres on Hulu June 11th.