‘Love, Victor’ Ends on a High Note With Endearing Journeys of Self-Discovery
Going into its final season, Hulu’s “Love, Victor” avoids some of the messier territory shows that don’t go beyond the third season mark tend to trip into. As a series it has already gone through several stages. When it first premiered in 2020, the show came with some controversy after it was revealed Hulu became its home after being yanked from Disney+. Questions were raised about Disney not considering a YA LGBTQ+-themed series as appropriate for its more famous streamer. It was indeed a baffling choice considering that first season was one of the strongest YA debuts in a while, emphasizing a gay Latinx teen character at a time when they are sorely lacking as protagonists. In that first season Victor Salazar (Michael Cimino) struggled with keeping his identity a secret from his traditional, Latinx parents. For the second season there was acceptance in coming out, followed by the hassles of juggling feelings for different people. As a finale, the show continues combining complex themes with its feel-good vibe, culminating in a worthy send-off.
When last we saw Victor, he was torn between Benji (George Sear) and Rahim (Anthony Keyvan). Season three opens with him knocking at the door of Benji and appearing to choose him. But Benji is still dealing with alcohol and substance abuse and needs to go to rehab. Among Victor’s friends, Felix (Anthony Turpel) is now seeing Victor’s sister, Pilar (Isabella Ferreira). She’s nervous about letting others know because of how her father, Armando (James Martinez) might react. Armando is more concerned at the moment with efforts at saving his marriage with Isabel (Ana Ortiz), who is grappling with facing the truth about the prejudices she wishes to overcome, feeling the guilt of how she originally reacted to Victor coming out. It’s a time of many journeys, including for Felix’s ex, Lake (Bebe Wood), who starts discovering her own sexuality is not as binary as she thought. Mia (Rachel Hilson) and Andrew (Mason Gooding) are confronted with a different kind of challenge when Mia’s dad gets a job offer that might require them both to move.
Now coming to a close, “Love, Victor” settles into a good YA ensemble story. The show was originally a spinoff of “Love, Simon,” the hit 2018 movie adaptation of a popular book. As with the original story, the defining theme had been the perils of coming out, in this case for a Latinx zoomer. TV is a different kind of best, of course, and this series skillfully shifts the focus to other themes and characters. Victor explores in these final episodes how attraction and devotion can be two different, complicated things. He truly cares for Benji, but when their relationship faces the real possibility of not surviving, he tries other options, including the gay son of a family from his parents’ church. He also attempts with real effort to remain friends with Rahim, who doesn’t hate Victor but has to make him understand that one doesn’t just get over certain heartbreaks overnight. One of the stronger shifts away from Victor involves Lake, who gets into a same-sex relationship with a classmate after breaking up with Felix. It’s one of the more intelligent recent treatments of sexual discovery in a YA show, with meaningful scenes about exploring who one is. “Love, Victor” has also smartly used sex to convey intimate teenage insecurities. Lake panics during her first night with her new girlfriend because of a crippling insecurity about her thighs and inexperience. Like Andrew giving Felix tips last season on sexual hygiene, this scenes become more endearing than goofy.
The adults also threaten to steal some of the teens’ thunder in this scene. Armando and Isabel were originally written with a refreshing boldness in how they embodied Latinx themes of homophobia and machismo rarely discussed in YA shows. By now they have grown as individuals. Armando gets into arguments at work with homophobic co-workers and Isabel processes feelings of shame over feeling she has pushed Victor away because of her initial reaction to his sexuality. Change is not easy and Armando has to do some serious self-reflecting when he discovers Pilar is seeing Felix and his macho, patriarchal wiring kicks in again. But these are also the formative years of the teens and the end of high school can mean coming to grips with the real world knocking at the door. For Mia and Andrew this implies deciding whether they can handle a long distance relationship if Mia moves. In the same way, Victor has to ask himself if he’s ready to endure Benji’s battles with addiction. The cinematography glitters and the soundtrack is breezy, yet “Love, Victor” at its best is about how life isn’t always a fairy tale. Some relationships begin with absolute enthusiasm and then fizzle out, others last through many trials. Victor does make a choice at the end and the series concludes with a kiss on a Ferris wheel. It’s a perfect way to close out a show that did a fine job bridging the dreaminess of youth with valuable lessons that stay with us even when our high school memories become a daze in life’s road.
“Love, Victor” season three begins streaming June 15 on Hulu.