Hiya there! GGA is recapping Season Two of Love, Victor, the Hulu show set in Becky Albertalli‘s “Simonverse.” The series follows Victor Salazar (Michael Cimino) as he navigates family woes, coming out and first love. This show takes place in the same Atlanta suburb and high school, Creekwood High, as Albertalli’s book Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and Love, Simon, the movie based on said book. Worlds collide when Victor reaches out to Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) for gay guidance.
We open Season Two with a tidy recap of Season One, which I’ll also recap here since we didn’t cover the show last year. Victor came to Atlanta from Texas to get a fresh start because his mom, Isabel (Ana Ortiz), cheated on his dad, Armando (James Martinez), with his boss. As if that family trauma wasn’t enough, Victor is dealing with coming to terms with being gay. He tries dating Mia (Rachel Hilson), but it doesn’t feel quite right. Who does Victor like-like? Benji (George Sear), his coffee shop coworker.
Love, Victor also covers a lot of other ground, which we’ll get into as we go through this season. I do want to note that Season One was meant to air on Disney Plus and, as such, was way PG-rated. Season Two, made specifically for Hulu, is chock full of teen drinking, “s” and “d” bombs and a whole load of sex-positivity.
Now, on with Season Two, episode one, “Perfect Summer Bubble.”
“I didn’t decide it; I just am it.”
We open right where we left off last season. The parents Salazar have just announced they’re separating. Now, Victor’s looking straight into the camera and telling his parents and sister, Pilar (Isabella Ferreira), that he’s gay. There’s a tiny moment here that is so wonderful. Just before getting up to give Victor a huge hug, Pilar looks to her parents to gauge their reaction. She then literally stands by him as his parents process his news. Their parents don’t take the news so great, but at least Mando tries to understand by asking some questions. Isa just yeets herself outta the room.
As Victor writes to Simon, we learn that we’ve flash-forwarded 10 weeks … to the last week of summer. Things at home are awkward. Victor’s out, Isa knows he’s dating Benji (but they don’t talk about it) and she always refers to Benji as Victor’s friend. There’s no beating around the bush: Isa’s not accepting her kid. She’s barely even tolerating him. This brand of familial homophobia is a good choice for the show. Isa loves her kids and it would never in a million years cross her mind to kick him out, but neither does she realize the damage she’s doing to him.
I absolutely know that there are white American families in which this happens, and that there are non-white/immigrant families in the US who receive their queer kids with open arms and unmitigated acceptance. However, even just based on the difference between how my white mom and my Turkish father initially dealt with my queerness…
Anyway, Isa’s flavor of ‘phobia works not only for realism but also because it’s a dynamic not often seen on television. Plus, her reaction contrasts well with Mando, who while not always getting it right, is trying (often too hard). It’s all so messy, in a good way.
“I know you guys are horny, but anyone gonna make my sugar-free ice mocha?”
So, Victor and Benji are at work, and we learn that while they’re not Instagram-official (Is that a thing?), they do like making out in the backroom of the coffee shop. Jeez, I hope they wash their hands. Also, we’re clearly in a non-COVID alternate universe here.
But what is everyone else doing this summer? Well, Felix (Anthony Turpel) and Lake (Bebe Wood) are on Mission #Venji-interruptus because natch. Meanwhile, Mia is off healing her wounds as a camp counselor, where she’s too busy reminding her kiddos that they are not at a nudist colony to worry about her love life.
For the last weekend before junior year, #Flake and #Venji decide to have a bonfire (Instead of watching a super important docuseries about human trafficking. WHAT?). But there are a few snags in the plan. They can’t hang Sunday, cause Mia’s coming home. And we also learn that Benji hasn’t been to Victor’s since they started dating. Well, Victor’s just not OK with that anymore. Isa tries to pretend that’s cool cool cool.
“I heard it’s problematic because Jack Black plays a woman.”
Surprise! Mia’s (Rachel Hilson) home early, and she walks in just in time to find her dad Harold (Mekhi Phifer) and super-preggo future stepmom Veronica (Sophia Bush) macking on each other. They’re so not prepared for Mia and don’t seem so happy to see her. Ouch. Y’all, I just love Rachel Hilson. She makes such interesting choices with her line readings.
Meanwhile, the littlest Salazar, Adrian (Mateo Fernandez), is at Armando’s apartment for the weekend (I’m not really understanding the custody rotation here). Adrian’s there for all of two minutes before he’s ready to bounce, so Mando does what any parent would do an’ bribes him to stay.
Over at Salazar apartment #1, Isa’s pretty happy with her famous pollo guisado. That is, till she spies #Venji being mildly couply outside her window and realizes it’s gonna be pollo gaysado (#sorrynotsorry). She panics and literally tosses her chicken stew in the trash.
When #Flake and #Venji come home, Isa’s all, “I burned dinner … I put it back in the oven and turned everything up as high as it could go and I watched till it burned black. It’s still hot. Very hot. Want it?” No, actually, she offers them pizza money to GTFO of her apartment with their gay. Victor’s too smart for her and says, “Nah Ma, we’ll order in.”
When Lake’s phone rings, she’s over the moon to run outta that awkward turtle of a situation. Mia asks to hang since she’s back early, and Lake invites her to their bonfire. Whatever could go wrong. Also, all of Lake’s “hoes before homos” and “queens before peens” dialogue is all a little cringe.
“Why don’t we just go to that bonfire, yeah?”
We’re back at the dinner party of meso-aggression … OMG. Who knew a group of people eating chips could be so uncomfortable? The situation is made more awk by the fact that people keep mentioning salsa, and there is literally NO SALSA on the table. Everyone’s trying to talk up Benji and get Isa to bond with him, but she can’t and bounces again.
Oh hey! What did Mando bribe Adrian with? Heather the Turtle. Unfortunately, once Adrian finds out that Heather the Turtle is only gonna live with his dad, he wants to return her, cuz, you know, he doesn’t want two “people” to miss.
Meanwhile, Mia decides to drown her sorrows in some shrimp lo mein (C’mon, show! Do better by this woman!). She runs into her old flame, Andrew (Mason Gooding), and they flirt a bit, make misogynistic period jokes, the uzh. But uh-oh Andrew’s got a new flame, Lucy (Ava Capri). As Mia heads to her car, she opens up her Google Maps to the bonfire lake.
Back at the Salazar apartment #1, Isa’s waiting on the steps. Heather the Turtle (and Adrian and Mando) arrive, much to Isa’s surprise. Heather the Turtle and Adrian inside, it’s time for some Real Talk between the parents Salazar. Was their separation the right choice? Yes, their fighting was not fair to the kids. Then, Isa admits that she didn’t behave well at dinner. Mando tells her, that sure, Victor’s gayness might be a lot to process, but process it they have to, because he’s their kid. MY HEART.
Aight, we’re finally at the bonfire. These kids are playing with lighter fluid and fireworks. I CAN’T HANDLE IT. Seriously, I can barely use a match without thinking I’m gonna die.
#Venji has a heart-to-heart while #Flake sneaks off to make out. Benji tells Victor he doesn’t have to pretend everything’s OK when they’re talking about his mom’s s***ty behavior. We learn that a lot of Victor’s anger toward his mom stems from the fact that he forgave her for her affair, which resulted in them moving, his parents’ separation, etc. Yet, she cannot accept such a simple, unproblematic fact about him. To make matters worse, Isa’s lack of respect is making it so Victor’s second-guessing his decision to come out at school. Benji tries to comfort Victor by telling him people at school, his family, etc. are all just noise, and that they are what’s important.
Sigh. I have a lot of problems with the #Venji relationship, and this is just the beginning. I get that (teen) love can feel all-consuming. Further, (most of) Benji’s feelings are totally valid — they’re just not necessarily what Victor needs. And that’s OK! That just means that they maybe aren’t that compatible. That’s all I’ll say for now.
Mia arrives at the bonfire, but sees her friends all cuddly and does not want to be a fifth wheel. Then, Isa’s at church, lighting a candle (please don’t be tryna’ pray the gay away). Next, #Flake and #Venji light their fireworks, from which they are not appropriately socially distanced. Meanwhile, Mando’s back at his place, staring at Heather the Turtle’s empty terrarium.
And then, Mia’s in bed, opening a care package from Andrew that she’d chosen not to deal with all summer. In it is a note telling her he wants to be with her. Whoops. Next in our tour of sad: Felix. His mom is on the sofa, in a depressive state. And their rent’s past due.
We end with Victor telling his mom that Benji is not his friend, but his boyfriend, and she ought to refer to him as such. Her response? Silence. Oh, Isa. Victor’s proud of himself, though.
Yowzer. What an episode. I honestly can’t believe that was only 30 minutes. Last season, I worried about the show’s decision to have Victor come out. I understood why he wanted to, but the show gave us no evidence it would go well, and at times, I felt he was being pushed by privileged white people. Yes, Benji and Simon played lip service to not coming out unless you’re ready or it’s safe, but I didn’t feel like they were ever that understanding? As much as it sucks to see queer trauma, I’m glad that Love, Victor chose to validate some of Victor’s fears. How’d y’all feel about the season opener? Were you happy with the Salazars’ reactions to Victor coming out?
Tea of the ep: “I will ditch these gays like a corporation after pride month.”
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