We have reached the second half of Netflix’s Heartstopper adaptation. Alice Oseman should be proud of how they are bringing her coming-of-age story to life. In episode five, “Friend,” Nick (Kit Connor) needs to decide if he is going to go on his date with Imogen (Rhea Norwood) or to Charlie’s (John Locke) birthday party, while Tao (William Gao) vows to protect Charlie from Nick and his rugby friends. What will Nick decide? Let’s find out!
DISCLAIMER: This is a recap and, by definition, contains spoilers. If you haven’t watched Heartstopper yet, I suggest checking it out first! Also, be mindful that this series deals with heavy themes that will be discussed below.
“Friend” picks up with Charlie, Tao, Elle (Yasmin Finney) and Isaac (Tobie Donovan) playing monopoly. A fight breaks out about who is winning and Isaac kicks the board over. We all need a friend like Isaac. A little while later, Tao and Elle try to figure out how they will tell Charlie that Nick is going on a date with Imogen. Tao is very protective of his friend group and even vows to crush anyone who hurts them. Verbally, of course.
They agree to tell Charlie when he gets back upstairs and then Elle tries to change the subject. This leads to some interpretive dancing from Tao and just a slight bit of flirting. It comes to an abrupt stop when Charlie and Isaac pop back into the room. Before Tao and Elle can tell him about Nick’s date, Charlie asks them if they would be okay with Nick coming to his birthday party. Everyone agrees it’s okay and Tao and Elle keep Nick’s date a secret.
The next day before school, Nick tries to tell Imogen that he doesn’t want to go on the date. However, he stops when he sees her crying over her recently dead dog. During form, Charlie invites Nick out for his birthday party on Saturday. He gives him an out since he doesn’t really know Charlie’s friends but of course, Nick wants to be there. He also needs to figure out what gift to get him since he doesn’t have a lot of time to find one.
Outside, the guys try to figure out what is up with Nick. They all think it is because of his date with Imogen on Saturday. The same day as Charlie’s birthday party. Imogen is telling everyone about their date and now Nick has to figure out what he is going to do. Tao and Charlie walk past them and Harry (Cormac Hyde-Corrin) uses this moment to throw something at them. This causes Tao to rush up and start arguing with them and Nick tries to get Harry to stop. Harry makes more homophobic comments and Tao fires back before dragging Charlie out of there.
Charlie doesn’t want Tao to make things harder for Nick by fighting with his friends, which sets Tao off more. And, of course, while Charlie is trying to make things easier for him, Imogen is flirting up a storm back where they left him. At home, Nick is trying to figure out what he is going to do. He tells his mom (Olivia Colman) about his dilemma and she tells him that he should go out with someone because he feels bad. He is young and the right girl will come along. Nick doesn’t correct her about his feelings for Charlie, though.
“Friend” cuts to Charlie’s birthday party, where Nick shows up with a present in hand. Charlie does a bit of prep work about his friends before the official introduction. Isaac and Elle are more welcoming, but Tao is still against the whole thing. Things are going well and Charlie and Nick try to stay close to each other without being overly noticeable. The rest of the group is happy, even Tao seems to be having fun. After the first game, Charlie heads off to the bathroom and Tao decides now is the time to talk to Charlie.
Tao tells Charlie about Nick’s date with Imogen, but Charlie doesn’t believe him. This sets off Tao even more since why would he lie about something like this? Back at the lane, Nick heads off to get the group drinks and food leaving Elle and Isaac behind. While waiting at the counter, Nick overhears Tao and Charlie’s argument in the bathroom. Charlie sticks to the story that Nick is just a friend and that he isn’t like the others. Tao reluctantly accepts this on the grounds that if he is even the slightest bit mean to him, then there will be hell to pay. Or at least a strongly worded DM.
They find Nick outside the bathroom, but he doesn’t say anything about the fight. He just hugs Charlie instead. Back at the lane, the game continues. Nick uses a quiet moment to try and talk with Tao. Tao warns him that this is his final warning and that he doesn’t trust Nick one bit. The group heads over to the arcade and Nick tells Charlie that he heard about the argument. He apologizes about the whole Imogen thing and that he will make things right and tell her that he doesn’t like her like that.
It hurts to watch Nick struggle with wanting to be open about his relationship and sexuality but being scared about how his friends and even family will react. Thankfully, Charlie has been nothing but supportive through all of this. The two change the subject and Charlie opens up his birthday present and finds a framed picture of them with Nellie. The two share a sweet birthday kiss. Charlie heads off to find another game to play and Nick fires a text off to Imogen telling her that he has to bail on their date and will explain everything tomorrow.
The rest of the night goes well for everyone and Isaac even wins at one of those silly coin games. The next day Nick meets with Imogen and tells her how he truly feels. Nick shares with her that he doesn’t feel like he fits in with their friends anymore. That he is changing and is afraid that the person he truly is, isn’t someone who will fit in or even want to be a part of the group anymore.
“Friend” comes to a close as Nick and Imogen come to an understanding about how Nick feels.
I mentioned this before, but I love how well Heartstopper gives us both the positive and negative experiences with this coming-of-age/coming out story. Charlie’s friends are supportive (in their own ways) and Charlie is supportive of Nick’s choices as well. But we know that it can be rough as well and we see that. Nothing is sugar-coated. But, it was nice to see how happy everyone was during Charlie’s birthday party and the lines pulled directly from the graphic novel made my little heart happy.
Let’s jump right on over to episode six!