[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from the Season 2 premiere of “Andi Mack.”]
In its second season premiere, “Andi Mack” goes straight for the heart and holds nothing back. Disney Channel announced this week that one of its characters would begin a journey to discovering his identity as a gay individual, and it doubled the runtime for the episode to give space to properly explore this storyline alongside the main plot.
It was reported that creator Terri Minsky had consulted with child development experts, as well as Common Sense Media, GLAAD, and PFLAG in order to make sure the story be told in a manner that was both respectful and appropriate to the age group. This depth of care shows because how Cyrus (Joshua Rash) slowly begins to realize he’s gay and discusses this with his friend Buffy (Sofia Wylie) is note-perfect in many ways. “Andi Mack” has always had a deft hand balancing the fun of a kids show with heartfelt stories that actually feel genuine, and it’s a relief to see that it’s better than ever this season.
Series protagonist Andi Mack (Peyton Elizabeth Lee) has had a crush on cute guy Jonah Beck (Asher Angel) since the beginning of the series, and as one of her best friends, Cyrus has been supportive. Almost too supportive. But previously, he had been set up with a very sweet girl named Iris (Molly Jackson), and now they’re technically boyfriend and girlfriend. They even share their very first kiss in the premiere, which appears to make Cyrus happy. But when Jonah finally begins to reciprocate Andi’s interest, Cyrus realizes he’s jealous because he likes Jonah.
The scene in which Cyrus confesses his feelings to Buffy is beautifully done and captures his confusion but also the fear of being weird and different. Credit goes to Rush and Wylie for their affecting performances and capturing the importance of the moment with honesty and compassion. Quite frankly, the scene brought tears to our eyes, especially Buffy’s easy assurance, “Cyrus, you’ve always been weird, but you’re not different.”
Fortunately, humor isn’t lost in these scenes, but it’s mostly geared towards the characters’ usual dynamics, not associated with anything to do with sexuality. The word “gay” or “homosexual” and “queer” are never mentioned either. But many of the issues of navigating Cyrus’ new reality are starting to be addressed, such as what will happen to dating Iris, the difficulty of not coming out to Andi yet because they like the same guy, having an unrequited crush on someone who’s straight, how Buffy tries to push Cyrus faster than he’d like to come out, and Buffy learning to respect his feelings about the matter. This is no easy or glib treatment, and it’s clear that Cyrus will have a way to go to understanding who he is and how to navigate that in the world.
And not to minimize Cyrus’ journey as a gay individual, but this story could appeal to anyone who feels like an outsider, which is to say, most teenagers. Truly understanding one’s individuality can be a lifelong process, but it’s especially confusing when hormones are heightened.
This brings us to Andi’s story, which is a combination of wanting her parents together and learning how to deal with the fact that longtime crush Jonah could move up to real boyfriend status. He likes her. He’s single. Now what? As Andi experiences tongue-tied elation for having Jonah’s attention, she swings to confusion and heartache after discovering her mom Bex (Lilan Bowden) will not accept her dad Bowie’s (Trent Garrett) marriage proposal.
This may be the Disney Channel, but it’s not about a cookie-cutter image of perfection. The Mack family structure and dynamics hew closely to how many families work in the real world. Even Jonah’s ex Amber (Emily Skinner) gets some additional depth this season as we learn about difficulties in her family.
One final note: Thus far, “Andi Mack” hasn’t made much of the fact that Andi and Bex are part Chinese. In Season 1, we learn that lap cheong is one of the comfort foods that Celia (Lauren Tom), Bex’s mother and Andi’s grandmother, loves. But that’s it. In the sneak peek for next week’s episode, however, the show appears to be making up for lost time and will introduce a Chinese New Year celebration at the Mack home. While it was exciting to see the Macks presented just like any other family in the first season, introducing more culture-specific elements this year is a smart move in order to truly show the breadth of America’s diversity. (Also, Chinese New Year is fun!) Season 2 of “Andi Mack” is already proving to be more mature and more nuanced than its already enjoyable first season.
“Andi Mack” airs at 8 p.m. on Fridays on Disney Channel.