Hulu and Disney+’s “Love, Victor” started as a spin-off of the 2018 hit movie “Love, Simon.” “Love, Simon” (which was adapted from the novel by Becky Albertalli titled “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda”) follows its titular character as he reckons with his identity as a gay teen and navigates the journey of coming out to his friends and community.
Rather than continuing Simon’s story, “Love, Victor” stepped in to answer the question: What happens to that community, Creekwood, after the events of “Love, Simon?” Do other kids feel more comfortable coming out? Is the school more accepting? Through the course of its three-season run, “Love, Victor” has grown to be much more than an exploration of the fictional town of Creekwood — now, it can be identified as one of the few Queer rom-com TV shows for teenage audiences.
Season 3 picks right back up at the moment season 2 ended, with Victor Salazar (Michael Cimino, “Annabelle Comes Home”) in the midst of a love triangle, stuck choosing between his new romantic interest Rahim (Anthony Keyvan, “Student Body”) and his established boyfriend, Benji (George Sear, “Reefa”). No matter the choice, things are bound to be complicated when everyone gets back to school from winter break.
Season 1 followed Victor Salazar (Michael Cimino, “Senior Year”), a new kid in Creekwood, as he tried to find his place in the community, while also determining his sexuality, and season 2 dealt with the shifting dynamics in his family and school after he came out. While season 3, the final season, still touches on some aspects of Victor’s journey as a gay student, it feels much more free, as it allows Victor’s story to extend past the standard formulas of coming out stories in media. The plot has moved past the tropes it initially covered, such as unsupportive parents and the homophobic sports teams, to become a fun relationship drama.
And with many ups and downs, this season certainly delivers on “complicated.” While Victor goes through his own relationship rollercoaster, so does essentially every other character. The quirky and caring Felix (Anthony Turpel, “This Is Us”) enters into a new relationship with Victor’s sister, Pilar (Isabella Ferreira, “Crush”), that ultimately becomes limited by Felix’s close connection with the rest of the Salazar family. Meanwhile, Mia (Rachel Hilson, “This Is Us”), who has finally started dating her longtime friend Andrew (Mason Gooding, “Moonshot”), has to decide if she is willing to fight for their relationship when she moves to Palo Alto. It feels as if every second of the show, the main characters are either getting into a relationship or breaking up. This causes every episode to feel similar — the same events are just happening to a different couple each time. On top of that, because this season only has eight episodes (two less than the previous seasons), these relationship issues all feel rushed, like there is no real cause or reason for the breakups and reunions other than the creators feel like they have to throw some drama in for everyone.
There is one sweet relationship that takes the spotlight this season between the gossipy Lake (Bebe Wood, “Crushed”) and Andrew’s ex-girlfriend, Lucy (Ava Capri, “When Time Got Louder”). Despite becoming a couple pretty quickly, the two have a real care for one another. The best part is that, even in its portrayal of the show’s first Sapphic relationship, “Love, Victor” does not make a big deal of Lake’s sexuality like it does for many of the other Queer characters. While Simon and Victor had long and drawn-out journeys discovering their sexuality, Lake casually entered into her new relationship without a complex side plot in which she grappled with others’ acceptance. She doesn’t have to dwell on coming out for the entire season but rather simply mentions her relationship to the people that matter to her. While it may have been easier for her than it was for Victor due to her family being less involved in her life, it also likely helped that Lake doesn’t feel pressured to label her sexual orientation right away. She doesn’t feel like she has to confine herself to one term before coming out. She just knows that she is dating Lucy, and the rest will come later. While it should be noted that Lake is privileged in her ability to come out without as much worry of less-accepting people lashing out at her, the nonchalance in their relationship being treated as a normal occurrence is something refreshing that should be seen more often on-screen.
Despite the rushed sense of this final season, the series regularly surprises with its ability to start dialogues and get deep into topics rarely discussed in teen TV shows. In its three seasons, “Love, Victor” has robustly explored a variety of topics beyond its primary premise of the Queer experience, delving into teen alcoholism, the experience of immigrant families, struggles with mental health and more. Most importantly, the writers make the conscious choice to end strongly, with their LGBTQ+ characters getting happy endings as the series wrapped up its final episode.
Since couples ending up together is a theme of the rom-com genre, the show’s choice might not seem significant or surprising, but this isn’t par for the course for Queer characters and shows. Historically, Queer characters don’t live to see the happy ending come to fruition. This “bury your gays” trope has been around for decades, from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” to broadway musical RENT to movies like “Brokeback Mountain.” So when a show allows viewers to see its Queer characters happy in their last moments on screen, it is somewhat unprecedented. With the simple lack of positive Queer representation in media for so long, having a lighthearted Queer show is already a big game changer.
On top of its relative novelty, “Love, Victor” finally became available on the Disney+ platform with the release of the final season. Previously, it was only available on Hulu, so this addition to Disney+ signals an increased awareness of the impact access to positive Queer teen stories has on younger audiences. As of 2021, 44% of Disney+ users were between the ages of 2 and 17, and now that entire age group has better access to a show that could help them see people like them end up living happy lives.
The only thing that could have made the final season better would be if audiences could have seen its happy ending for longer. Spending so much of the season focused on constant breakups and reunions took up time that could have been used to allow the entire final episode to showcase the happy endings. Instead, we only see a glimpse — a few seconds right before the credits roll — where the characters once again come together, and everything works out for Victor.
Regardless of what could have been, “Love, Victor” remains one of the few Queer TV shows for teens that shows happy and fulfilled Queer characters. In the end, it stands to be a pretty great one, able to channel the chaos of being a teenager and the tumultuous time of any high school relationship.
Daily Arts Writer Mallory Edgell can be reached at email@example.com