We are almost at the end of season one of Netflix’s Heartstopper. And for those who have read Alice Oseman‘s graphic novel, one of the most challenging moments (early on) is upon us. The infamous movie theater moment. In episode seven, “Bully,” both Nick (Kit Connor) and Tao (William Gao) get into fights and Charlie (John Locke) feels like he is the reason everything is going wrong. May I suggest grabbing some tissues before diving in?

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.

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“Bully” opens with Tori (Jenny Walser) popping in on Charlie as he gets ready to go out with Nick and his friends. Tori is worried about Nick’s friends being mean and not knowing about their relationship, but Charlie isn’t concerned. He does tell her that they haven’t put a label on the relationship yet since Nick isn’t out to the world just yet. It also might have something to do with the way Ben (Sebastian Croft) reacted when Charlie referred to him as a boyfriend.

Charlie gets dropped off at the cinema and his dad reminds him that if he needs anything, let him know. Nick meets up with him and tries to make Charlie feel less nervous about hanging out with his friends. Ben and Harry (Cormac Hyde-Corrin) aren’t going to be there, so he doesn’t need to worry. But it turns out they do show up and start their stupid antics right away. We can all agree that the two of them can just kick rocks and leave our boy Charlie alone.

Nick feels really bad for not knowing that Ben and Harry were showing up as the two continue to make off-handed comments. In the theater, a scary moment causes Nick to reach out and grab Charlie’s hand. On the way out of the theater, Harry starts to bother Charlie again by asking him what it is like being gay and trying to figure out what kind of guy he likes. This kid needs a serious education on how not to be an ass in 2022. Nick steps in to drag Harry off when he asks if Charlie is attracted to Nick. Charlie says he isn’t before storming off.

Harry being homophobic to Charlie in front of Nick and the other rugby boys.

Nick follows Charlie out into the parking lot, where he tries to apologize for his friends. But Charlie is used to this kind of treatment and tells him not to worry about it. He heads off to his dad’s car, leaving Nick back at the theater. But before he can get there, Ben (ugh) stops him again. Ben saw him holding hands with Nick and asks if they are dating. Charle denies it and Ben is a major prick about the whole thing. He needs some reeducation too.

Back inside the theater, Nick confronts Harry and the others. Harry seems to think that Nick and Charlie need to learn to take a joke instead of realizing that he is being homophobic. The argument gets worse and when he calls Charlie a slur, Nick hauls off and punches him causing a fight to break out. In the car on the way home, Nick’s mom (Olivia Colman) tries to get him to open up about what happened. He admits that the fight was over how they treated Charlie and that he only used violence when Harry dropped the slur. Nick’s mom asks him if Charlie is a really special friend and we get the feeling that she knows that there is something more to her son’s friend.

“Bully” jumps to the following day as Charlie gets up and heads to school. Nick isn’t sitting out front like normal, but Harry is there waiting for him. Charlie realizes he has a busted lip and Harry tells him about Nick’s overreaction to the little jokes he was making at the movies. Tao arrives just as Charlie is trying to walk away and starts arguing with Harry. Charlie tells him just to let it go and walk away.

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Charlie finds Nick in class and spots the bruises on his face. Nick comes clean about his fight with Harry after Charlie left. He doesn’t think Charlie should have to put up with the comments or be “used to” them and we agree. Nick refuses to let Charlie apologize for this and even believes that those guys aren’t even his friends anymore. How could he be friends with people who would mistreat someone? But Charlie doesn’t want him to have to drop all of his friends just for him.

Charlie spends his lunch period hiding out in Mr. Ajayi’s (Fisayo Akinade) classroom, away from both Tao and Nick.

Elsewhere, Tao tells Elle (Yasmin Finney) that he thinks that the whole argument with Harry is all his fault. Tao has put a target on both their backs by standing up to Harry. It seems like this isn’t the first time Harry has been a prick. Elle shares that he made transphobic comments to her during her last term at Truham. He is a terrible individual all around, it seems. Elle changes the subject and tells Tao that she isn’t surprised that Nick picked a fight with Harry since he was making comments about Charlie.

Tao realizes that something more is going on between Nick and Charlie and Elle confirms his suspicions. She also tells him that all of their other friends already know about it. Charlie wanted to tell Tao but was waiting for the right time. Clearly, Tao is upset about being left out of this and rushes off before Elle can talk to him about it.

Tao and Elle sitting on a bench talking.

“Bully” jumps to Charlie at home, where he is trying to find the right words to say to Nick. He is worried that Nick doesn’t want to be in this relationship anymore and that he is causing him to get into fights with his friends. But he settles on asking Nick if he just wants to have lunch the next day.

Elle pops in at Tao’s house with cookies in hopes of making him feel better. He apologizes for how he reacted earlier and thinks that he knows why Charlie hasn’t told him. Charlie must be worried that Tao will say something stupid in front of Nick’s friends and out him to everyone. Elle thinks it’s more realistic that Tao will force Nick to watch Donnie Darko. It’s a complicated movie that deserves to be watched at least once. Tao opens up about being afraid of being alone, which Elle understands after her transfer to Higgs.

The next day, Charlie meets up with Nick for lunch while promising Tao that he will meet up with him in a bit. Tao isn’t happy about being second to Nick and tells Charlie not to bother. Outside Harry sits down across from Tao and rips the picture of the shoe potato he was drawing out from under him and starts questioning who Elle is. When he gets up and walks over to his friends, Tao rushes over and shoves him down before grabbing the picture and pouring the rest of his apple juice on him.

Inside, Charlie tries to apologize again for Nick’s fight with Harry and that all of the bad stuff that has happened is his fault. Maybe it would be better if they weren’t together. But before he can say anymore, another student rushes in, bringing news of Harry’s fight with some random ten year. Everyone rushes out and watches as Tao and Harry go head to head. Nick rushes in and pulls Harry off of Tao while the teachers break up the fight.

“Bully” comes to a close as Tao confronts Charlie about not telling him about his relationship with Nick.

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While this episode of Heartstopper has been one of the hardest emotionally to watch, I still loved it. While we have seen a significant focus on Nick’s struggle with his sexuality, Charlie has been dealing with his own issues as well. We learned early on that he struggles with being honest about his feelings and we can see how the fights in this episode are negatively affecting him. He blames himself for Nick losing his friends and the gap growing between him and Tao. We are also starting to see how this affects things like his eating habits and closing himself off from others.

It’s time to dive into the season finale of Heartstopper!

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Julia Roth
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