Review: 'Love, Victor,' Back for Season 2, Hits Its Big Gay Stride

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday June 11, 2021

George Sear and Michael Cimino return to 'Love, Victor' for Season Two
George Sear and Michael Cimino return to 'Love, Victor' for Season Two  (Source:Hulu)

Season Two of the Hulu original series "Love, Victor" brings sharper writing and a plethora of issues to the fore, along with more teen (and adult) angst, all while maintaining an even keel and a light touch.

At the end of Season One, 16-year-old Victor Salazar (Michael Cimino) had just come out to his Catholic parents. Season Two picks up at that dramatic moment, which instantly sets the tone for what's ahead when Victor's father, Armando (James Martinez), who's not thrilled, makes an effort to be accepting, even while his mother, Isabel (Ana Ortiz) clearly can't, won't, and doesn't want to accept the news.

It's not like mom and dad can lecture Victor about love and relationships, seeing that they have just made their own announcement, to the effect that they are separating. Skip ahead ten weeks, to the end of a "summer bubble" full of the discoveries of young love for Victor and his boyfriend Benji (George Sear), and Armando and Isabel are still on the rocks, although amicably so; Victor's supposed girlfriend Mia (Rachel Hilson) has been getting over the shock of finding out that Victor is gay by working as a camp counselor in North Carolina; and newly-minted couple Felix (Anthony Turpel) and Lake (Bebe Wood) have settled into comfortable coupledom.

But summer is ending and things are about to heat up in a different way with the start of school. Victor and Benji have a plan to come out publicly as an item, but that's easier said than done. Things quickly get complicated when Victor realizes that reputations are on the line whether he comes out or not.

The show dips into cliche (will Victor disappoint the out and proud Benji by staying in the closet? Will the basketball team turn their backs on Victor in a show of homophobia? Will a trip to a lakeside cabin turn into a virginity-shedding free for all?), but then uses those familiar plot points as a springboard into deeper, broader, and more meaningful conversations as Isabel struggles to accept Victor and her hostility toward Benji begins to take a toll on their relationship.

The series hits its stride and gains confidence, portraying a somewhat-authentic semblance of teen life and looking for comedy as well as drama in the young characters' fumbling progress toward adulthood. A manscaping mishap feels inevitable (what writers room could resist, after all?), but is offset by the way the characters model respect for boundaries and an awareness of the importance of consent. Even Andrew (Mason Gooding), the school's top jock and an arrogant jerk who has long pined for Mia, starts emerging as a good guy, demonstrating maturity and character that weren't so obvious last season.

The adults, on the other hand, are a hot mess (as they tend to be in shows skewed toward the teen demographic). Armando and Isabel strive to find a balance in their life apart, trying to present a unified parenting front but also questioning whether they still belong together; Felix's mother, who suffers from manic depression, is unable to work, leaving Felix to do his best to keep the bills paid; meantime, Lake and Mia have their own complicated relationships with their single parents, who happen to have similar traits (they're ambitious, career-minded people, and, as such, are depicted as being pretty selfish). Mia's family life is complicated by the fact that her father, Harold (Mekhi Phifer), is getting ready to marry his pregnant girlfriend, and is mulling a job offer across the country.

Isabel and Armando, understandably, have the most complete arcs among the show's adult characters. While Armando attends PFLAG meetings and learns to work around his macho habits in order to get in touch with his feelings, Isabel tries to shield her younger son, Adrian - played by Mateo Fernandez - from the fact that Victor's gay. It's a completely credible impulse, given Isabel's background, yet it also prompts eye rolling; Adrian is smart and tuned in, and there's really no suspense about how the news might affect him. On another front, Isabel has to do battle with a bigoted Catholic priest who views Victor as needing to "find his way back to the Lord." Cue more eye rolling, with a generous side of teeth grinding. This story thread has much greater dramatic potential, though, and the series makes use of it without relying on it overly much.

Victor's sister Pilar (Isabella Ferreira) starts the season as underused as she was in Season One, but as the ten episodes unfold she starts having more to do - which is a treat, since the character's blend of caustic and vulnerable is a winning one, and Ferreira is terrific in all her scenes. The show pays her a disservice in making Pilar the vehicle for a new character, Rahim (Anthony Keyvan), an Iranian-American from a devout Muslim family who worries what his own parents will think when he finally comes out to them. Rahim could, and should, have come into the story strictly on his own terms.

It's an almost forgivable offense, though, given how immediately compatible the character is with the rest of the ensemble, and also because, in a sign of Victor's own growing self-acceptance and confidence, Rahim approaches Victor the same way Victor approached the legendary Simon (Nick Robinson): As a scared gay kid looking for advice. It's a lovely way of modeling and celebrating how members of our community can foster and look out for each other in a world where straight (and closeted) parents, preachers, politicians, and teachers too often shirk those duties when it comes to the LGTBQ people in their lives.

Rahim's arrival (and a couple of episodes in which Victor reaches out to Simon for advice) also serves as a reminder of where this show came from; it's a spinoff of the 2018 film "Love, Simon," created by the same team that adapted the film from the 2015 Becky Albertalli novel "Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda."

There's no word yet on whether there will be a Season Three, but if so, there's plenty of life left in the series to accommodate at least ten more episodes. If not, Season Two offers a successful mix of comedy, drama, juvenile antics, and flashes of maturity, making "Love, Victor" an enjoyable series for all ages. The season also sticks the landing with a sweet ending that ties up major story threads while setting up two irresistible cliffhangers.

"Love, Victor" premieres on Hulu on June 11.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.