Summer is almost over for Victor Salazar. He has come out to his family, and it hasn’t gone entirely as he had hoped. There is some acceptance, but it isn’t complete. This also had some unexpected results regarding his ex-girlfriend, but things couldn’t be better with his new boyfriend. However, the new school year is about to begin and there is the question as to whether or not Victor will publicly come out. What will the other students say? What about his basketball teammates? Meanwhile, life for Victor’s best friend, Felix, isn’t going well either as he tries to provide for himself and his mentally ill mother, all while trying to continue with his schooling.
This doesn’t necessarily sound like much for the first three episodes of this second season of Love, Victor, but the layers of storylines being told have such incredible depth and resonance to them that I’m amazed this amount of storytelling was communicated in just the first three episodes. Given that the main character is Victor Salazar it’s no wonder that this series would premiere, and drop all of its episodes, during Gay Pride Month. The issues that have been brought up are all real and are pretty much all at play here. Victor comes from conservative Catholic parents, so we are witness to the lack of acceptance Victor receives from his mother, as well as the strained relationship he now has with his father. His ex-girlfriend has been bitterly hurt by this development that she won’t even talk to him. Then, in a development that could have been taken right out of a newspaper story, Victor finds he’s not fully accepted by his teammates, especially in the locker room. The showrunners have taken this character and put out there many of the common problems LGBTQ teens have had to deal with after coming out and dealing with the repercussions in their personal and school life. The same could be said about the portrayal of Felix. How many teens come from homes where the parents becoming dysfunctional due to mental illness? How many of those teens are forced to grow up too soon and become adults because of that? That is also on display here, and that is this show’s greatest strength. It is doing more than creating an entertaining show that can cater to LGBTQ youth. There is representation here. Just between Victor and Felix, there are so many characterizations at play that a large number of the viewing audience can look at this show and see themselves up there. The showrunners are presenting real-life characters in real-world situations and are telling many viewers watching this show that they are not alone. In the first season, we saw the pure loneliness that Victor truly felt because of the burden he carried. The same could be said about Felix. The shame, as well as the responsibility he feels regarding his mother, isolates him from others. How many others in the world today feel such a sense of isolation and loneliness? Love, Victortackles it by telling people that they are not alone and that they can find acceptance and even help when needed.
The cast for these first three episodes have been outstanding, and they have all picked up right where they left off. The series had some production disruptions due to the pandemic, but you wouldn’t sense that from the beginning of this second season. Everything about these characters is so perfectly told that it never feels like pandering. Michael Cimino is wonderful as Victor. He communicates the spectrum of emotions that Victor is experiencing from rejection from those he cares about, to elation at being able to announce that he’s gay and has a boyfriend. The performance has such integrity that I could feel all of those emotions myself. James Martinez and Ana Ortiz have done a magnificent job at playing Victor’s emotionally conflicted parents. Lastly, Anthony Turpel manages to give an almost tear-jerking performance as Felix, the teen who is forced to become the responsible adult years before he should. He plays it with a smile, but Turpel plays it with the right subtext that hints at the strain this places on Felix. I should also add, that in another surprising move that ties this series to the movie Love, Simon, the series brought back Josh Duhamel as Simon’s father running the local chapter of PFLAG. Watching his character interact with Victor’s father was a wonderful touch for this show.
While there have been many movies and some TV shows that have dealt with LGBTQ youth trying to find acceptance with coming out, Love, Victor does so in a way, despite whatever challenges Victor Salazar contends with, it is filled with a sense of optimism. It’s almost as if each episode echoes the message of “it gets better.” We are only three episodes into this second season so far, but I feel confident that wherever the remaining episodes go, that whatever happens to these wonderful characters, that it will be told truthfully and with dignity.
The entire second season of Love, Victor is available on the streaming service Hulu.