This article contains spoilers for “Close Your Eyes,” the Season 2 finale of Love, Victor.
If there’s one thing that the writers of Love, Victor love more than love triangles, it’s a good cliffhanger. After ending the first season finale with Victor (Michael Cimino) coming out to his parents, the sophomore season of the hit Hulu dramedy—which abounded with love triangles and tackled difficult conversations about sex, race, religion and separation after Victor’s major revelation—left, in its wake, a whole host of unanswered questions that will leave viewers begging for a third season.
In a phone interview with Observer earlier this week, co-showrunner Brian Tanen breaks down all of the major revelations in the jaw-dropping season finale, talks about the intricacies of depicting a first-time sexual experience through an LGBTQ+ lens and teases the future of the show as Victor and his friends move closer to their senior year of high school.
Observer: Since the first season was really made for Disney+ before it was moved to Hulu, how differently did you and the rest of the writers approach this season?
Brian Tanen: I think there was a concerted effort to make the same show, so that people who enjoyed it [in] Season 1 could watch it in Season 2, but to let the show grow up a bit the way the characters are growing up. I think all the producers feel really grateful that we air on Hulu. It provides us the freedom to let these characters grow up and tell more authentic stories.
“Gay characters, when they’re represented in media, are often a funny sidekick and are so rarely given their own desires and sexual feelings, and it was important to us to not shy away from that.”
This season doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to tackling difficult issues, not only with Victor’s coming out but with all of the other characters as well. What were some of the biggest things that you wanted to highlight in the same time frame but with much stronger themes this time around?
Yes, well, I think sex is the topic that’s on everybody’s mind, especially [after] that great teaser dropped that shows Benji (George Sear) and Victor trying to hook up and continuously getting interrupted. (Laughs.)
The discussion of sex for us was really important and something we were really intentional about. We never wanted the show to be gratuitous [and] to have sex for sex’s sake. But at the same time, gay characters, when they’re represented in media, are often a funny sidekick and are so rarely given their own desires and sexual feelings, and it was important to us to not shy away from that. We felt like there was a little bit of a duty there to be honest about what it means to be a gay teenager with actual feelings. We wanted to tell those kinds of stories.
And then the other thing that gets discussed—there’s one episode [“The Sex Cabin”] that is largely about sex and virginity—is the fact that gay people very rarely see representations of sex, especially when they’re growing up. There’s all these PG-13, rom-com movies like American Pie where straight sexuality for teenagers is funny, it’s raunchy, it’s sweet, it’s romantic. It’s all these things. But you rarely see that for LGBTQ+ characters, so there is very rarely exposure to knowing what sexual relationships look like outside of porn—and our characters talk about that in the episode—and we felt like maybe there is a concerted, careful way that we can talk about these topics and show these topics responsibly, but also in a way that is exciting.
There was a draft that existed with a different ending for the season, but alas, we wanted to end on what I think is kind of an optimistic note.
Victor goes through a lot this season, and in the final minutes of the season finale, he tells Simon (Nick Robinson, who reprises his role from the hit 2018 film Love, Simon) that he doesn’t really need him anymore because he has people who love him and who are willing to talk to him about his sexuality. How do the events of this season influence that decision to stand on his own two feet?
(Laughs.) Yeah, there is a little bit of a feeling of graduating at the end of this season. And I think, for us, while Simon is always sort of baked into the DNA of this show, it is becoming increasingly about Victor and his life and not needing help because he has finally let in not just his friends but his family about who he truly is. So, the more authentic a life Victor leads, the less he needs to rely on outside help. But of course, as you can tell, we’re still very connected to what we call the “Simonverse.” We always love our characters from that film showing up in unexpected places. [Eds note: Josh Duhamel, who played Simon’s father, Jack, in the original film, also made an appearance this season in “There’s No Gay in Team.”]
This show seems to thrive on love triangles, and this season finale leaves everyone with a pretty juicy one with Victor, Benji and Rahim (Anthony Keyvan). First of all, do you already know who is behind the door?
I certainly have a theory. (Laughs.) Nothing is set in stone until we get an official Season 3.
There was a script where we saw someone behind the door. There was a draft that existed with a different ending for the season, but alas, we wanted to end on what I think is kind of an optimistic note. Victor goes from barely being able to say the words “I’m gay” at the end of Season 1 to now having two really great guys sort of profess that they want to be with him at the end of Season 2, and he has a decision to make.
Will Season 3 pick up immediately where the second left off?
I don’t know if it would, but I would imagine that we would want to answer that question pretty quickly.
How does Victor reconcile his love for Benji, the only guy he has ever considered going for with this undeniable spark that he feels for Rahim, who could represent a new beginning?
I think, when you are 16 and you have been closeted for most of your life, the interest of other people is a hard thing to ignore. It’s very hard to know whether the very first person you end up with is going to be “the one.” Victor and Benji have crazy chemistry, and you can tell from the fans that they really want them to be endgame. But I think people are really gonna fall in love with Rahim as well. He certainly has a lot in common with Victor, and the actor, Anthony Keyvan, is extremely charming and really talented. I think it would be great to explore, and we’ll continue to learn more about these characters, so perhaps the story won’t jump to a love triangle but can also be one of what gay friendships look like and more. These are fun things to think about all for Season 3.
There was something sweet—and slightly unexpected—about Pilar (Isabella Ferreira) taking a liking to Felix (Anthony Turpel) this season, and I think a lot of fans will be happy with that kiss in the finale. Why did you decide to bring those two together?
There’s a storyline in Season 1 where they spend a day together, and they kind of become friends, and he is the first person she feels really connected to at Creekwood. I don’t think we designed it necessarily this way, but we felt—in the filming of it and certainly in the seeing of it on the air, and the way the fans reacted—that there definitely was a chemistry there. It felt like an exciting thing to explore, and we loved putting those actors together. They’re such different characters. He’s so sweet, wonderful, eccentric, and she’s so in her feelings and has that angry teenage vibe going on. (Laughs.) But in spite of all that, I think Felix’s sweetness appeals to her. And of course, if Felix were anybody’s neighbor, it would be hard to not develop a little bit of a crush. He’s just such an open, adorable and sweet character.
One of the things that I did not expect at all was Lake (Bebe Wood)’s ambiguous ending with Lucy… but I think we can all say that there was a spark between the two of them, and now Lucy (Ava Capri)’s whole speech about not feeling anything for Andrew (Mason Gooding) almost makes sense. Am I reading into something or will you be exploring the possibility of that relationship next season with a more nuanced look at the spectrum of sexuality?
We are definitely excited to explore that possibility, yes. You’re not reading into it! For us, it was an exciting way to tell a different version of a queer storyline, and I think one that is true to a teenage experience where a character who might think they’re straight or who has, until a certain point, been straight and is surprised by a sudden interest in someone of the same sex. I think there may be more fluidity to Lake’s sexuality than she knows. But again, it’s a fun possibility for Season 3.
Mia (Rachel Hilson), meanwhile, has been put through the wringer this season, but it has been really nice to see her take that next step with Andrew. Her relationship with her parents takes a turn in the finale, and she is now planning to see her mother for the first time in over a decade after her dad betrayed her. What can you preview about that highly-anticipated meeting and the future of her relationship with Andrew?
I think the big storyline for Mia is [that] she has to get over her hurt from what happened last season and process those feelings, and ultimately find comfort and realize that the guy who’s been under her nose all this time, Andrew, is the guy for her. And because they have this really long-standing family friendship, it’s not the kind of relationship where they really have to get to know each other. It feels like it gets kind of serious relatively quickly.
At the end of the season, there’s this threat that this is going to be taken away, just as she’s finally reached a moment of peace and happiness, and it forces her to make this decision to kind of upend her family situation and reconsider her life. I think she’s really at a crossroads at the end of the season, and that’s something we’d love to explore in Season 3. Who is her mother and why did she leave? And how will this affect Mia?
Isabel (Ana Ortiz) and Armando (James Martinez) both handle Victor’s coming out in very different ways during their separation, but I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised to see that Armando was slightly more accepting of Victor’s sexuality than Isabel because we have seen the story of a bigoted father too many times in these coming-out stories. Why did you decide to subvert that trope this season?
We made a decision to intentionally subvert that trope of a homophobic father—specifically a Latinx father [who is] really struggling with this issue. We saw a potentially more interesting twist on this story that we hadn’t really seen [before], which was to have the mom be the one to really be struggling with it. We spoke with actual members of PFLAG, the organization that is represented in this season, [which is a support group for parents, families and allies of people in the LGBTQ+ community], and there was a mixture of experiences where sometimes one parent struggles where another one didn’t. It often had to do with which parent was more religious, and this research really helped us.
And of course, we have a really LGBTQ+ heavy writers’ room, so people spoke from their own personal experiences about coming out and how their parents received that information. We wanted to tell a really nuanced story where even the character in this case, Isabel, is struggling because she loves her kid so much. It isn’t a rejection of them as a person; it’s a grappling with her preconceived ideas and the things that have been ingrained in her head since she was a child. So we really wanted to tell a complicated and nuanced story for that character this season, and we were so happy with the way it came out.
One of the things that I really appreciated about this season was the ability to finally break free of overused archetypes and give all of the people in Victor’s life some much-needed depth, especially Isabel and Armando. How do their contrasting journeys of accepting Victor’s sexuality help them grow as parents and help them grow back together as a couple? Because I’m assuming that the big, sweeping kiss in the finale means that they’re ready to give their marriage another shot.
Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. For Victor in Season 1, there was this feeling of dread that if he were to come out, it would blow up his family, and they were already at a breaking point, and he felt like he had to keep the peace and not rock the boat. I think one of the interesting twists of Season 2 is that his coming-out journey allows the parents in their separation to come together and work through something together and co-parent and grow as people [and] to confront who they are and what they believe. And it is the kind of self-actualization and work and change that allows them to actually find their way back to each other.
Looking ahead, this season finale almost feels like a series finale in the sense that it ends on a really hopeful note for a lot of characters, and Victor seems to have a stronger sense of self than ever before. But, like so many fans, I desperately want a third season now. What can you preview about the future of the show?
In Season 1, it’s largely a coming-out story for Victor. And in Season 2, Victor is moving on with his first relationship and the nuances of being gay and out at school, and he is living his true life, while the coming-out story kind of falls in the lap of his family. They’re the ones grappling with this thing, but he said it out loud and he doesn’t have to have all that angst of coming out anymore.
I think Season 3 is not about coming out anymore, for him or his family. I think it’s sort of the natural teenager story about what it means to be in a love triangle and to not know what you feel, and all these stories that you tell about teenagers in a romantic comedy but through an LGBTQ+ lens, which I think is really, really exciting.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Love, Victor‘s first two seasons are now streaming on Hulu.