Heartbreak High Season 2, Netflix review: tension and detention

Friendships and solidarity remain the strongest parts of the series as it returns for a second dramatic term.
Pupils and teachers gather round the Hartley High principal's desk in a publicity still for Heartbreak High Season 2 on Netflix.

There’s a lot going on at South Sydney’s Hartley High. So much so that actually going to class seems to be an optional extra. Nobody expects a series set in a high school to feature an accurate representation of just how boring learning can be, but now into its second season Heartbreak High is all heartbreak and … well, there’s always getting high.

The first season of Netflix’s reboot of the 90s classic (itself based on a feature film) walked a fine line between the Aussie charm of the original and the increasingly international nature of sexual politics and identities. Comparisons to sexed-up overseas series like Euphoria and Sex Education were inevitable – and why shouldn’t Australians have their own take on youth gone wild?

Season 2 opens with the line, ‘We all want to be the hero of our own story’. Unfortunately, it’s said over images of students running screaming from a burning hall, the now crumbling site of the Year 11 formal. Amerie (Ayesha Madon) and bestie Harper (Asher Yasbincek) are missing. Looks like a clash of heroes and villains has got seriously out of hand.

While this kind of flash-forward is standard these days (the next scene opens with ‘two months earlier’), it’s hard to see why Heartbreak High felt the need for such a big hook. The series has always been defiantly unafraid to charge full speed ahead with the drama – so much so that burning down the entire school seems like little more than a speedbump in these teens’ messy lives.

Second seasons often see a shift in a series, as the producers play up what works and dial down what didn’t. One thing that’s remained consistent is the teen’s complicated sex lives – or lack thereof in the case of ‘puriteen’ Zoe (Kartanya Maynard), who’s increasingly struggling to hold the line against her physical urges.

Autisic Quinni (Chloe Hayden), Darren (James Majoos) and Amerie remain a tight-knit group, while Amerie’s beau Malaki (Thomas Weatherall) finds himself increasingly drawn to new kid on the playground, the extremely rural Rowan (Sam Rechner). Meanwhile, Darren and Ca$h (Will McDonald) are dealing with a love that’s strong combined with desires that can be less so, especially in the case of asexual Ca$h.

Read: Heartbreak High, Netflix, review: showing respect, solidarity and consent

Ramping up the tension is the return of never-before-mentioned PE teacher Timothy Voss (Angus Sampson), a slowly simmering ball of rage fired up at what he sees as the decline of traditional male values (he describes the school as a ‘woke snowflake nightmare’).

Clearly the entire NSW education department were asleep at the wheel when they assigned him to Hartley High, a school where rigid gender roles come a very distant second behind ensuring you’re always looking your most fabulous to whatever class you’re going to gossip through.

Still, he does find a few disciples, led by sports thug Spider (Bryn Chapman Parish), who ends up running against Amerie for school captain. She’s got the backing of the SLT (aka ‘Sluts’) sexual literacy class; he’s heading up a group that’s classily titled CUMLORDS. The teenage years are not often known for their subtlety or nuance.

Across the eight episodes the vibe gradually shifts from comedy to somewhat sinister (the story has to build up to that opening scene somehow). Well, the teen drama version of sinister; there might be a mysterious creep out there leaving corpses at Amerie’s door, but it’s still a lot closer to Riverdale than Hannibal, especially as the corpses are just dead birds.

Even when the antics are unlikely, Heartbreak High is always entertaining, and there’s still enough traces of the more grounded show this was back in Season 1 to keep things at least slightly plausible. The expanded teen cast works well (the cartoony Voss, not so much) and digging a little deeper into the backgrounds of a few of the regulars helps balance some of the more out-there storylines.

But the shift towards emulating its trashier teen counterparts from overseas feels like half a step backwards. The friendships and solidarity remain the strongest part of this series, and often the most satisfying. Burning down the school can’t take that away … well, not unless Amerie and Harper really are trapped inside.

All eight episodes of Heartbreak High Season 2 are streaming on Netflix.


4 out of 5 stars


Ayesha Madon, Chloé Hayden, Thomas Weatherall, James Majoos, Asher Yasbincek, Gemma Chua-Tran, Bryn Chapman


Gracie Otto

Format: TV Series


Release: 11 April 2024

Available on:

Netflix, 8 Episodes

Anthony Morris is a freelance film and television writer. He’s been a regular contributor to The Big Issue, Empire Magazine, Junkee, Broadsheet, The Wheeler Centre and Forte Magazine, where he’s currently the film editor. Other publications he’s contributed to include Vice, The Vine, Kill Your Darlings (where he was their online film columnist), The Lifted Brow, Urban Walkabout and Spook Magazine. He’s the co-author of hit romantic comedy novel The Hot Guy, and he’s also written some short stories he’d rather you didn’t mention. You can follow him on Twitter @morrbeat and read some of his reviews on the blog It’s Better in the Dark.