Heartbreak High has copped some terrible reviews. They’re missing the point.

Imagine this: a teen show... for teens. That's what Netflix's second season of Heartbreak High unapologetically is.

I'm not saying the new season can't be enjoyed by anyone outside of Gen Z. As a millennial, I enjoyed every minute of it — but at the same time, I can recognise that this season is not for me

And this means not everyone... gets it. 

Despite the show rocketing to the number one spot on Australia's Netflix and exploding on TikTok, the new season has received some not-so-good reviews.

In one case, reviewer Luke Buckmaster gave a measly two stars in his review for The Guardian Australia. Buckmaster wrote that the "the tone is hyper-real, borderline cartoonish" and "the show's mocking undertones don't allow for genuine social debate".

This seems to miss the point of why the season works: it is quite ridiculous and that's okay. It's over the top. The series is constructed for a Gen Z audience through a thread of TikTok-worthy moments and fan-cam edits — but this shouldn't mean its content, themes and storylines are discounted.

A mocking tone and the ability to host important social debates are not mutually exclusive. In fact, it's the basis of most political satire and is potentially an enticing way to educate and inform a generation of disillusioned young people.

In the same review, the writer admits he hasn't watched the entire season — a rather glaring problem. He lists his frustration with "the first five episodes (what I've watched so far)", and for anyone who has seen the full eight, they would know that the season is a slow burn but with a huge payoff at the end. 


Watch the trailer for season two. Post continues after video.

Video via Netflix.

Another reviewer, Karl Quinn, wrote for Sydney Morning Herald that the season's 'silliness' was too much for him. "The first half of the eight-episode run leans into the laughs so hard it plays like a boldly dressed, glitter-sparkled farce," he shares, suggesting once again that the season's 'silly' moments have undercut the show's legitimacy. 

Christina Izzo for AV Club suggested that the latest season is based on borrowed ideas, her headline describing the series' latest offering as a "Frankenstein of better teen shows."

I guess if a TV show isn't the same level of prestige teen TV as Euphoria or Sex Education, then it's discarded.

The New York writer also suggests the season lacks the Australian flair of the first season.

"Heartbreak High season two largely leaves behind the earnest representation and Down Under uniqueness of its freshman season in favour of the preposterous pulp of shows like Riverdale [and] Pretty Little Liars," she wrote.


Firstly, the series has virtually nothing in common with the teen soaps mentioned, other than being set in a high school. 


Secondly, the writer seems to misunderstand the Australian undertones in the new season, which might be more nuanced than in the original season, but are definitely littered throughout.

From Cash's Rage music video tribute to Missy's subtle read about Spider's mum's collection of fake Indigenous art, these are Australian references that might go undetected by an international audience but hit the bull's eye of the local zeitgeist.

But not everyone is feeling negative about Heartbreak High's second season.


While the critics' review score is low on Rotten Tomatoes, the audience score is — perhaps not surprisingly — much higher. On TikTok, the season has exploded in popularity with several users declaring it superior to season one.

So what's with the disconnect?

Sometimes teen shows simply don't translate for reviewers.

Another teen series on Netflix that was historically dismissed was 13 Reasons Why. Throughout its four seasons, the series received overwhelmingly negative reviews. While some of this was earned, due to the first season's dangerous and irresponsible depiction of self-harm, for the rest of the series, 13 Reasons Why was a dynamic and fresh take on the tumultuous teen years.

But despite the negative reception, the series was wildly popular and remains one of the most-watched Netflix series of all time. The show was particularly popular with younger viewers on TikTok, with countless fan video dedications and plot analyses.

These are the viewers whose taste shouldn't be so easily shrugged off, as they're the people who matter most to streaming platforms like Netflix.

I'm not suggesting that season two of Heartbreak High is a perfect season of teen TV, of course. There are storylines that were started in season one that felt unfinished in season two, such as Harper and her abductor Chook, along with Quinni and Sasha, who dated throughout the first season only to have the relationship go largely unacknowledged in the next.

And even fans of the series have questioned why season one positioned Spider as being 'in love' with Amerie only for this to be forgotten in the second season. (Although to this, I'd argue that Spider and Missy are equally adorable together.)

@airamesfilms im on the last ep and dare i say this season was better than 1?? #heartbreakhigh #heartbreakhighedit #heartbreakhighreboot #heartbreakhighrebootedit #hbhedit #hbhnetflix #heartbreakhighnetflix #spiderheartbreakhigh #missyheartbreakhigh #missybeckett #spencerwhite #missybeckettedit #spencerwhiteedit #spiderandmissy #missyandspider #fyp ♬ original sound - sese

Aside from some inconsistencies, there's just so much this season does right.

The character of Quinni continues to provide one of the most accurate and important depictions of an autistic teen on any TV show. In season two, she captures the burden some autistic people feel masking their personalities and quirks in order to try to 'fit in'.

Like the first season, Heartbreak High continues to offer a rare glimpse of the experience of an asexual person navigating their sexuality and dating, while this time around, another character discovers his bisexuality. The season also features a heart-wrenching and raw scene depicting Amerie having an abortion after an unplanned pregnancy.

The second season course-corrected a lot of the issues of the first season, such as the lack of nuance in Spider's character, along with giving cult faves Missy and Ant bigger roles.

The soundtrack is truly elite, featuring an archive of Australian anthems and '90s throwbacks. From the students having a mushroom trip to the strains of Enya's 'Sail Away', or Natalie Imbruglia's 'Torn' blaring as Malakai sobs alone, to THAT final scene set to a haunting rendition of Cold Chisel's 'Flame Trees', and of course, two words: the Nutbush.

This season is so much fun but still has so much heart. Fingers crossed for a third season because based on the latest run of episodes, this Australian series is set to continue going from strength to strength.

Feature image: Netflix. 

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