Heartstopper 2×04 “Challenge” sees our favorite friend group heading to Paris for an adventure that has been teased since the very first trailer and poster! Within this episode, we got an opportunity for friendships to be mended, breakups to happen, and some hidden battles to be given more light. There’s also the fact that Charlie and Nick were circling each other and trying to act like they weren’t together. On top of all of that, there are hints of possible new romances and I find myself liking surprising characters with every passing day a little more. So without further ado, let’s dive into Heartstopper 2×04 “Challenge”!
Charlie’s Silent Battle
Heartstopper‘s “Challenge” was the first time that I noticed that Charlie has an eating disorder. It’s probably something that’s covered in the comics. But since I haven’t read them and I’m waiting for the series to be over to dive in, I’m surprised but looking forward to how this show is going to explore that. And after talking to a friend, I was told that they have been dropping hints about Charlie and a possible eating disorder since the very start. According to them, they clocked how he always just moves the food around on his plate but doesn’t eat. I attributed it to TV magic like when a mom makes a big breakfast and the kids just grab toast and run out of the room.
Charlie having this silent battle and not sharing it with anyone, makes sense. Right now he is so focused on Nick and making sure that his boyfriend doesn’t experience the same pain that he felt when he was outed, that I don’t think he’s taking care of himself as much. In a way, he’s probably not ready to talk about it but he also feels like Nick is going through enough and why add his problems to it. (Sometimes our brains don’t make sense but sometimes we don’t think we’re worthy of sharing our problems, unfortunately.) And what Charlie doesn’t understand right now is that Nick would gladly help him or just even listen to what Charlie is going through. Because that’s what a partnership is.
A possible eating disorder just adds another layer of nuance to Heartstopper that speaks to the reality of what young people are going through. It goes to show you how well Alice Oseman did with the original story and how the translation over to the screen understands where it came from and where it has to go through this visual element. It’s also something plenty of people are going through and unfortunately might not have the words to share how they’re feeling. And I’m super curious how Oseman worked on this really serious topic and what assistance was provided to the writer’s room to make sure that this was an authentic portrayal. Because they’ve been dropping hints since the very start. And it speaks to genius writing choices all around.
Tao & Elle Becoming Friends Again
Not going to lie, Elle was annoying the hell out of me in “Challenge.” She previously went on about how her relationship with Tao was the most important thing. And here he was acting like the friend that she always wanted him to be and to continue to be after their disaster date. But she consistently brushed him off like nothing. Like the years between them meant nothing. And that was really disheartening and turned me off big time when it comes to Elle. But again, if I am going to give Tao some grace then I am going to give Elle some grace, especially because I’ve loved her all throughout the show. And it was really nice to see them bond and just be goofballs together. Maybe it was just a misunderstanding fanfiction and we would get more context if we read the script. But it’s still disheartening that I have had a harder time understanding her and why she pulled away that sharply.
As it stands, I kind of hope someone else gets interested in Tao. He’s consistently putting himself down and thinks that he is not worthy of someone like Elle. And Elle doesn’t seem to want to take this into a romantic space anyway with her freaking out last time when they were trying something different. It could have been her jitters but I still hope that someone looks at Tao and wants to date that gigantic goofball with no qualms. And I don’t want it to be something brief either. Because I don’t think Elle is ready to be in a relationship or try something new. But I think Tao is in that space. And the people that we encounter in our lives help us shift and grow in different ways. Maybe while Elle is trying to figure herself out, Tao can do the same thing.
I would also like to give major kudos to the friends for being meddling kids. It’s not often that we see such big friend groups with people within the said group that don’t fade away. Too often big friend groups are separated into smaller stories without them coming back together and enjoying the wider context of who they are as a unit while some key parts disappear when bigger stories overshadow others. But this friend group is different. And I really like how at the end of the day they just want to be there for each other, even If they’re going through their own things. They are their own little found family and it shows in all the small moments, even when Nick and Tao were getting to know each other. They all matter and they’re all trying to do better for each other. And that’s enough.
I Really Like Imogen
Season 1 of Heartstopper I didn’t care for Imogen played by Rhea Norwood. She was clearly being used as a plot device to keep Charlie and Nick separated. And after Nick clarified what was not going to happen between them, I also thought that Imogen was going to fade into the background. Color me surprised when in season 2 we are seeing more of Imogen and Nick’s friendship in general. And I was really proud of her in “Challenge” for standing up for herself and just saying no. Because Ben is a turd and she deserves better than him during this exciting trip to Paris and in general. There is the added bonus that she broke up with him in public because I have zero sympathy for Ben and the gasp everybody let out was legendary.
Honestly, I would have preferred if she didn’t mention Ben’s obsession with Charlie. But I understand that that was said in a moment of anger after he had not talked to her all day and was seemingly engaging with Charlie enthusiastically like he was catching up with an old friend even though Charlie looked clearly uncomfortable. And I think that Imogen redeemed herself in the bathroom when she asked Charlie about it, Charlie looked away in discomfort again, and Imogen let it go. And that shows great strength in her as the character and as a young woman that she is able to compartmentalize that there was something there but it is none of her business. Either way, she has broken up with Ben and she doesn’t care about what happened in the past because Charlie’s a good person.
I also really liked how she asked for a hug. There was nothing romantic about it. It was just one friend asking another friend for companionship and Charlie joining in the hug was super cute. Even earlier on in 2×04 I really liked how she asked to join the main friend group and they welcomed her with open arms with Elle dropping some hard truths while Nick just stood there and let it happen. Nick knew that we didn’t have the words to express how he felt about Ben. But Elle certainly had the words. And I’m glad that Imogen listened and I hope that we get to see more of her within the general sphere of the group. Because in many ways she is unlike any other young woman that I’ve seen on the show. And that’s refreshing.
Random Thoughts from Heartstopper “The Challenge”:
- If Charlie and Nick think they’re doing a good job at hiding what’s going on between them, they’re kidding themselves.
- While we’re talking about things happening between people, can we talk about the two teachers? Because people do not awkwardly circle around each other like that for no reason. There is tension and I love it. Also, Mr. Farouk is definitely giving Roy Kent vibes.
- Totally really excited for Isaac’s little romance. I see you!
- I didn’t know that Nick was also French and I’m wondering now if Kit Connor himself is French and how much I have missed out.
- I didn’t know that you could drive a whole coach bus under the canal into Paris. I’ve only taken the train.
- What are these kids? 16? 17? My teachers and my parents would never let me have free reign over Paris like this. There would be specific trips where we will be corralled together to go to a museum. But maybe British schools are different and those kids are more location-oriented.
- Tara said that there was no problem with Darcy not saying “I love you” back but clearly there was a problem. Hopefully, they talk about it soon.
- In addition, Tara’s hair looked really cute and Darcy with her question about why we can’t see the fish in the tunnel connecting them to France is a marvel in itself.
Heartstopper season 2 is now available on Netflix.
What did you think of 2×04 “Challenge”? Let us know in the comments below!
This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, Heartstopper being covered here wouldn’t exist.