Spoiler Alert! This article talks about the Heartstopper graphic novels volume one to three, and the Netflix adaptation in depth. If you’d like to read my review that contains only a couple of slight spoilers about the show, you can do so here.
The Netflix adaptation of Heartstopper did not come close to capturing the spirit of the graphic novels, at least for me. I’m aware I’m part of a minority group here and I so wish I wasn’t; I really wanted to enjoy the show with every fibre of my being. But sadly, I thought it was a mediocre watch, and was honestly bored throughout most of the show. Even without having read the novels prior to watching the adaptation, I’m strong in my conviction that I would have found it average nonetheless. And so, I thought hey, why not explain the reasonings for my displeasure, and how I think it could have been improved, in a lengthy blog post?
Before I get into the criticism, I would like to emphasise that while I didn’t enjoy the show as much as I would have liked, I am still glad it exists. The fact it focuses on a majority queer ensemble cast and champions queer joy over trauma is wonderful. It’s uplifted the queer community in so many ways (with one fan even coming out using a scene from the show). Rowan Ellis made a YouTube video speaking about the importance of this adaptation in-depth, and while I do agree with basically all of her points about the positive impact of Heartstopper, for me it was an average watch that had the potential to be so much more.
Now, onto the criticism! I’ve broken down my thoughts into 4 sections:
- Sense of Time and Pacing
- Charlie’s Mental Health
- Nicholas Nelson and the Rugby Lads
- From Page to Screen
In each section, I will be talking about how the show was adapted, or not adapted, from the novels and the issues that then arose, and after each section I’ve wrote some script doctor notes on how I think these could have been addressed.
Let’s dive in!
One of my main criticisms of the show is how it paced Nick and Charlie’s relationship. Rather than their friendship slowly building over potentially two episodes, it was shoved into one, with most of their bonding shown in two montages. One of them was an awkward greeting montage in the first five minutes (a scene I’ll be discussing later), and the other a rugby montage. Both of these didn’t effectively show them becoming friends, so when it came to episode two, titled Crush, their relationship felt forced.
I do think their friendship could have potentially been shown in one episode if it hadn’t wasted time on the montages. In volume one of the graphic novel series, it does utilise montages, but they focus on Nick and Charlie hanging out together one-on-one at school. Whereas in the show one of the montages is them greeting each other when passing in the hallway, and the other features the entire rugby team that showed Charlie’s skills developing, not their budding friendship. Due to this lacking foundation of their relationship, throughout the rest of the show I wasn’t rooting for them to get together. I was bored by them, even as some of my favourite scenes from the graphic novels played out on the screen.
Another issue with the pacing of the show was the poor sense of time throughout. The characters would mention how much time had passed and I would be sat there completely puzzled. In episode one, it starts out in January with everyone returning from the Christmas break. Then halfway through episode two, Nick explains to his mam how he met Charlie a couple of months ago in his form, and Charlie states that half-term has passed. You what?? Like are we already in March, given that Charlie’s birthday (April 27th) happens in episode five? By the end of the show, when we’re roughly in May for Sports Day and Nick’s coming out, I was highly confused. To me it seemed like the show could have taken place over two to three months easily.
This not only added to the poor pacing of Nick and Charlie’s relationship, but it also impacted the storylines of Tara, Darcy, and Tao. At the end of episode two, Tara and Darcy are only out to a couple of their friends. Then by episode three, the two of them are kissing in front of a crowd of people at a party, with Tara having explained to Nick they didn’t feel like they needed to keep their relationship quiet anymore. Tara and Darcy not being out yet was something that was different from the novels, and their coming out in episode 6 was probably the best episode in the show by far. However, the jump from them keeping it a secret to then being more open in a single episode felt sudden, especially when we didn’t have a small scene showing Tara and Darcy discussing this. I believe this was done so as to not disrupt the progression of Nick and Charlie’s relationship, given that in the novel because Tara and Darcy are already out, it inspired Nick in realising his feelings for Charlie. And rather than adapting Nick and Charlie’s relationship even slightly to allow for Tara and Darcy to take a bit of time to discuss their coming out, it was kept the same.
With Tao, an interesting storyline was added where he was anxious about his friendship group falling apart. Elle had just transferred to the all-girls school, meaning Tao, Charlie, and Isaac were no longer a group, but merely a “trio of borderline outcasts”. Then when Charlie grows closer to Nick, Tao blames Nick for stealing Charlie, and is annoyed at Charlie for choosing a boy he has a crush on over their friendship. But the problem is because I didn’t get a sense of how much time had passed, it didn’t seem like Charlie had been ditching Tao for very long, when it had actually roughly been five months. This made Tao out to be a bit clingy rather than having a very valid annoyance at Charlie. Also, the consistent abandonment Tao was facing from Charlie wasn’t shown all that well. Sure, we see Charlie miss their film night to go to Harry’s party, and a couple of times Charlie chooses to have lunch with Nick instead of Tao and Isaac, but it didn’t create the magnitude I believe they were aiming for. This could have been a good moment to utilise a montage where we could have seen Charlie ditching Tao to have lunch with Nick, allowing for it to communicate the passing of time more effectively, and showing us that Charlie was being a bad friend.
Script Doctor Notes:
- Have Nick and Charlie’s friendship spread out over more episodes.
- To show the passing of time, utilise the animation that was present to give the show a graphic novel effect, and have it state in text when we’re entering important stages, such as half-term, or a new month.
- Allow for a discussion between Tara and Darcy to show us their decision in coming out so the change doesn’t feel quite so sudden. Potentially this could have been when they told Elle, as they could have discussed how obvious they must be if Elle was able to figure it out, so why should they bother continuing to keep it a secret. Also, this could have been a cute bonding moment between the three of them.
- Establish more the friendship and fall out between Tao and Charlie. Potentially that rugby montage in episode one could have coincided with this, and shown Charlie choosing to hang out with Nick to practice rugby on lunch breaks, over spending time with Tao. Also, although Isaac was a cute presence, he didn’t serve much of a purpose (which make sense given he was added to replace a character cut from the graphic novels), and easily could have not been part of their friendship group, allowing for Charlie leaving Tao to be even more impactful. Isaac could even perhaps have been a friend Tao made in the absence of Charlie.
Before I dive into this section’s criticism, I would like to praise how they consistently showed Charlie losing his appetite whenever he was feeling anxious. I don’t think though other aspects of his mental health were shown as effectively throughout the show - let’s explore why!
In volume one of Heartstopper, Charlie’s anxiety and depression is strongly present throughout the novel. Alice utilises darker panels with black dots to communicate when his mental health is deteriorating, and combines this with either thought bubbles or speech to show how Charlie’s anxiety/depression manifests. Numerous times he calls himself an idiot, or says he’s stupid. The TV show does try to mimic these panels to communicate his anxiety with a couple of dark, animated moments; one shows Charlie imagining Nick telling him he’s only interested in girls, in another Nick tells Charlie he doesn’t want to kiss him (a scene placed for some reason AFTER they have already kissed), and the final one is a flashback to a scene between Charlie and Ben where when Charlie states they’re boyfriends, Ben becomes angry. Because these scenes are only used a few times they feel random, and don’t effectively communicate his persistent anxiety. This randomness was emphasised when they used this dark animation for a scene where Nick was imagining Charlie being bullied. Although this is a scene that does appear in volume one, having it here meant this animation wasn’t specific to Charlie, something that could have been utilised with the sole purpose of showing his anxiety and depression, given the fact that none of the other characters struggle with this (that I know of).
Then when we look at other adapted scenes from the novel, although visually they have copied the panels, they’ve lost their purposes entirely, rendering them ineffective and barely showing Charlie’s struggle with his mental health. In volume one, we have a montage showing Nick saying hi to Charlie over the span of a couple days. We then see Charlie worrying about this in a thought bubble, where he questions why Nick keeps saying hi to him, and believes he must be making fun of him, just like the bullies from last year. He’s brought out of this spiral when Nick speaks to him, asking for help due to his pen exploding. Over time they do become friends, and initially Charlie resists his crush on Nick. Only after Ben assaults him and Nick protects him does he start to give into this crush, and even then, he calls himself an idiot for starting to have feelings for the straight, rugby lad.
In the show, this montage is present in episode one but doesn’t show Charlie’s anxiety at all. Instead, it’s used as a way to cram their friendship in, so rather than Charlie greeting Nick in a neutral manner and fretting over what these interactions meant, like in the novel, Charlie instead is always enthusiastic, already completely smitten for Nick. After this montage, which is five minutes into episode one, they’re already joking around like friends with Nick drawing a smiley face on his hand. The use of love-at-first-sight changes the entire pace of their relationship and skips over Charlie berating himself for falling for the straight boy.
Another example of an adapted scene is the first time Nick and Charlie kiss. In the novel, after Nick walks off, Charlie breaks down crying, saying over and over and over again “I’m sorry” in the empty room. When he rings his dad to pick him up early, his dad is somewhat annoyed and when asking Charlie about the evening, Charlie is closed off. When home, he cries himself to sleep. This is where volume one ends.
In the show, I think the build-up visually to the kiss was well-shot, but because of the rush of their friendship/crush stage in the first three episodes, it lacked any chemistry. And when Nick leaves after the kiss, there wasn’t as much of an impactful breakdown as the novel. Charlie sits there silently in the room for a moment and puts his head in his hands, before then crying on his dad’s shoulder in the car later on. So not only does it lack the same effect, it also completely changes Charlie’s relationship to his dad. In the novels, he isn’t really close to either of his parents, and in later volumes actively becomes anxious at the thought of opening up to them about issues he’s having.
I think this change was down to the fact the show didn’t want a depressing, all-is-lost-moment that early on. Volume one ends on the dramatic kiss, whereas in the shows it’s episode three, acting roughly as the first plot point, and the episode doesn’t even end on the drama – it ends on Nick knocking on Charlie’s door the day after. This left no time for the viewer to feel Charlie’s sadness, and while there is the argument that the show wanted to end the episode on an uplifting note, the comics are still uplifting despite the fact it allows for the conflict to not be instantly resolved.
We get the all-is-lost moment in episode 8, the finale, where we see Charlie confide with his sister, Tori, that maybe everyone would be better off if he didn’t exist. Despite being a very moving scene, with many people, including myself, being able to relate to either Tori, Charlie, or both, it felt sudden. If his struggle with his mental health had been effectively shown throughout, it could have been a lot more impactful.
Script Doctor Notes:
- Utilise animation that’s solely for showing Charlie’s anxiety and depression. An example of when this could have been used is when Nick left after they kissed, and when he was sat alone in the room there could have been an animation of a black spiral, or something to that affect, drawn over Charlie as he sat there with his head in his hands until the screen fully went to black.
- Have the first four episodes be dedicated to volume one. This would have allowed more time for Nick and Charlie’s friendship and crush stage to develop, letting us see more of Charlie’s anxiety around his budding relationship with Nick, rather than their friendship stage being crammed into episode one.
My main criticism of Nick’s character and arc are down to the changes with his friendship group, and how he acts around them. I've broken this section into its own sub sections due to this being the bulkiest part of this blog post.
Firstly, I’ll start off with talking about Ben.
In volume one, Nick and Ben are in the same year but not the same friendship group. Nick even questions why Charlie is friends with Ben when he sees the two of them speaking, stating he’s a dick. The only time they interact properly is when Nick pulls him off of Charlie when he’s assaulting him. After that, Ben doesn’t appear until the end of the volume at Harry’s party, where we see Charlie telling him to leave him alone. Ben hears Charlie loud and clear, and never appears in any of the next volumes. I did think when reading the graphic novels that Ben had potential to be more present throughout the remaining volumes, so with the show adapting Ben to be part of Nick’s friendship group, it could have played out in an interesting way. But it didn’t.
Instead of fully adapting Ben to make his role in Nick’s friendship group effective, the show keeps the same arc from volume one in the first three episodes and adds in some extra moments for Ben later on. One of the scenes is in episode 7 where after the cinema he says some truly horrible things to Charlie that leads to Charlie’s breakdown in episode 8. The second scene is near the climax of episode 8, where Charlie stands up to Ben, telling him to leave him alone. With these extra scenes, it essentially just dragged out Ben’s antagonist role until the climatic end, where Charlie could have closure, even though his plotline from the graphic novel had been played out in the first three episodes. This is a major issue with a lot of the side characters where part of their story was adapted but not enough for it to actually work.
Which brings me onto my issues with Ben being part of Nick’s friendship group; firstly, it associates Nick with Ben’s dickheadedness, something that Nick has distance from in the graphic novels. Secondly, there is barely any interaction between Ben and Nick. After the assault in the graphic novel, it makes sense they don’t speak because they’re not in the same friendship group, so Ben was most likely avoiding Nick. But in the show, you’d think Ben would pull him aside and threaten him if he ever told any of their friends about what he saw, and they would probably interact throughout the show. But nope! Ben was merely shoved into the friendship group so he could appear briefly in episodes 7 and 8, meaning his character wasn’t truly adapted to fit his new role in the show. If it had been, it would have allowed for a new, interesting dynamic to take place between him and Nick. This may be something that could be potentially explored in season two, but I won’t hold my breath.
Now, let’s move onto Harry.
In the novels, we don’t meet Harry until the end of volume one, at his party. He picks up the antagonist baton Ben left, and is the villain of volume two. Just like with Ben, Harry isn’t as present as he is in the show, allowing for Nick to have distance from his dickheadedness (even though they are in the same friendship group). There’s a scene at the party in volume one where when Harry comes over and interrupts Nick and Charlie’s conversation, Nick sighs, clearly not wanting to talk to him. And when Harry makes the joke later on about Charlie fancying Nick, Nick tells him, and I quote, “You’re a pathetic, homophobic, self-obsessed DICK and I really dislike you.” Go off, Nick Nelson! After that, Harry’s next main appearance is in volume two at the cinema, where just like in the show he gets decked by Nick. And that’s it. Both times Harry is a massive arse, Nick doesn’t stand for his bullshit.
Then in the show, Harry is there from the get go. He’s actually part of the rugby team (which he doesn’t appear to be in the novels) and instead of just verbally bullying people, he throws things. In episode four, when he throws a ball at Tao’s head, Nick doesn’t call him out. He simply goes over to Tao to see if he’s alright, before asking for the ball back. It takes up until episode five for Nick to somewhat stand up to Harry after he throws something at Tao and Charlie, and until episode seven for him to punch Harry. This slight difference really changed my perception of Nick, given the fact that in the novel anytime Harry did something dickheaded he always called him out on it. Although I think it could have been interesting to explore popularity and Nick’s complicity in bullying, the show didn’t adapt enough to allow for an effective storyline. Nick and Charlie’s relationship continues to copy their novel romance scene by scene, when arguably Charlie would have conflicting feelings about dating someone who stood by as his best friend was bullied.
So just like Ben, the adaptation of Harry was another example where it could have made for interesting storyline, but because of Nick and Charlie’s romance not being adapted to allow for more conflict and exploration in regards to the bullying, all it did was make me dislike Nick. And this brings me onto my final criticism of Nick’s friendship group – the absence of any redeemable friends.
In the graphic novels, there are three side characters that are part of the rugby team and Nick’s friendship group: Sai, Christian, and Otis. They appear throughout the volumes, and start out being a bit ignorant but ultimately are good friends. Their presence allowed me to understand when reading the novels why Nick hung out with the rugby team, even though a lot of them were dicks. I’m going to look at key moments these friends had in the first three graphic novels, and how their absence in the show affected Nick and the friendship group.
In volume one, when getting ready for rugby, we see Nick watch in shock/confusion as the rugby lads complain about his decision in getting Charlie to join the team. They comment on how he’s weak, and question if he even likes sports because everyone knows he’s gay. Before Nick can reply, Charlie walks in, and Nick awkwardly jumps up and greets him. While this scene does appear in the show, we don’t see Nick’s shock at these comments, and so it associates him with this bullying.
Then in the novel after a week of practices with Charlie where the group has surprisingly come to like him despite their complaints, Nick sticks up for Charlie in a conversation with his friend, Sai:
Sai: He’s been doing really well hasn’t he!
Nick: You’re surprised?
Sai: Well, all I knew about him was that he’s gay.
Nick: Mate, I don’t think being gay makes you bad at sports.
Sai: I never said that!!
In the show though, this scene is absent, meaning we never got to see Nick challenging his friend’s ignorance in a small way, which is arguably just as important as the bigger scenes where Nick confronts Harry.
Later on, at a different rugby practice in volume one, you see Christian commenting to Sai and Otis how Nick clearly has a crush on Charlie. Some ignorant comments are said, mainly by Otis, but overall, they’re supportive. Their conversation ends on Christian stating, “I can kinda see it. Nick and Charlie.” In the show though, no one on the rugby team appears to be open to the idea of Nick fancying Charlie. All we see is Harry’s homophobia and the group’s encouraging laughter.
Then in volume two at the cinema, while the rest of the rugby lads are cold to Charlie, Sai and Christian interact with him. In the show, all of the rugby lads are cold, making Charlie’s comment on how some of Nick’s friends are nice ring false. Then later, when Harry and some of the other guys say homophobic comments about Charlie, Sai, Christian, and Otis merely stand by and watch. Having the characters being friendly to Charlie one moment, but then watching him be bullied the next allowed for them to be morally grey, and made them redeemable when in volume three they all apologise to Nick for not standing up to Harry. This apology may potentially play out in season two, given that Otis was mentioned as a side character by Tao, and he had some background dialogue, but if it does it will feel very forced, rather than a conscious subplot subtly threaded throughout like in the novel.
Overall, losing these characters whose primary role was to be complicit whilst the bullying happened meant the ambivalence you felt for them now fell to Nick. This combined with his association to Ben and Harry ultimately made him more of an unlikeable character, and to me there wasn’t a satisfying arc of him acknowledging and apologising for the part he played in the bullying. This was something that did appear in the graphic novels but for a different reason; at Charlie’s birthday party, once they’ve finished bowling, Nick says how he wished he had done something when Charlie was being bullied last year. Charlie didn’t blame him, pointing out how Nick didn’t even know him then, but Nick still expresses his regret, stating if he’d known then what he knew now, maybe he would have helped. This scene somewhat plays out in the show, with Nick delivering a similar line about wishing he knew Charlie when he was younger. But its more about Nick wishing he’d been friends with Charlie sooner as he may have realised he was bisexual earlier, and wouldn’t’ve been in this predicament of feeling pressured by his mates into going out with Imogen, rather than it being about bullying and regret.
Script Doctor Notes:
- With Ben, potentially the girl he could have been dating whilst seeing Charlie was Imogen. This would have allowed for Ben to be part of the friendship group in a looser way, so Nick could still think he was a dick. Then when finding out about Ben and Charlie, this would create conflict as Ben would ask Nick not to tell Imogen, or anyone else, about what he saw, and Nick has to make the decision between keeping this secret from his friend or telling her the truth. This also would have tied Imogen into a storyline that already existed, rather than her merely being shoved in for brief dating drama with Nick.
- Have Ben at the cinema but separately from Nick’s friendship group. He could have been on a date with a different girl, which would have allowed for him to interact with Charlie in the same way whilst having his appearance being more realistic, rather than him getting shoved into Nick’s friendship group for the sake of it.
- Potentially after the cinema scene, where Ben witnesses Nick and Charlie holding hands, there could have been an argument between Ben and Nick, one where Ben is jealous and possessive of Charlie. This would have added that new dynamic I mentioned, where we see Ben and Nick having their own relationship separate to Charlie. Due to Ben and Nick being in very similar situations, with both of them having dated Charlie in secret, and struggling with figuring out their sexuality, it would have been interesting to see them have some conflict.
- Allow for some redeemable characters in the friendship group. One of them could have been Imogen, who breaks up with Ben after finding out from Nick he was cheating on her with another girl. (Nick would lie and say it’s a girl so he isn’t outing Ben, but also doesn’t have to keep his cheating a secret from Imogen.) Imogen would then break up with Ben, meaning he isn’t really part of the group anymore. Then, Nick could have helped her through her heartbreak, and because of his kindness she ends up having a slight crush on him. But after seeing how Nick is with Charlie, she comes to suspect there may be something more to their friendship. She could then have spoken to Tara to ask for advice on how to speak to a friend who potentially may be gay, in a somewhat ignorant way, but ultimately means well. Then she could have spoken to Nick about his relationship with Charlie and he could come out to her, allowing for them to become closer friends. After the cinema when Harry is horrifically homophobic, they could both distance themselves from the group.
- Show that Nick doesn’t like hanging out with Harry. When Harry comes over to the group, Nick could have moved away from him, or leave entirely. Potentially he could challenge Harry throughout in small ways. For example, in the locker room when the lads are complaining, Harry could have said the comment about gay people not liking sports, and Nick rebukes that. Then, when Harry throws the ball at Tao, perhaps Nick catches it before it hits him. Essentially, there needs to be more dislike on Nick’s part for Harry, and more distance between his bullying and Nick. It’s either that or explore the bullying more in depth, which in the time the show had I don’t think is possible.
- Have Nick acknowledge and apologise for his complicity in bullying, in a similar way to the scene in the graphic novel. This could be to both Tao and Charlie, given that Tao is a primary target of Harry.
One of my main bones to pick with the show is how many scenes it recreates from the novels, most of which are of Nick and Charlie’s relationship. This isn’t common criticism with adaptations, it’s usually the exact opposite where fans criticise the show for cutting scenes from the source material. But with Heartstopper, a lot of the parts that were used had dialogue and actions that didn’t translate well to the screen, and it was painful to watch the actors attempt to recreate them. Not to mention the fact that their relationship matched the novels almost exactly didn’t allow for the parts of the show that had been adapted room to tie into their story.
Let’s take a look at some of these recreated scenes.
In episode 2, Nick comments on Charlie’s haircut. In the novel, while Charlie frets over if it’s too short, Nick strokes his hair briefly while complimenting it, making it a lovely, intimate moment. In the show, Charlie’s hair, as Tori states, literally looks EXACTLY the same, making it confusing when Nick comments on his supposed haircut. Not only that, but Nick awkwardly pulls at Charlie’s curly fringe instead of stroking his hair. It didn’t have the same chemistry at all, and could have easily been cut to give way to a new scene to show their connection.
After this scene, Nick and Charlie play Mario Karts. Nick keeps losing, and ends up rattling off the many things Charlie is good at, besides virtual racing games. In the novel, Charlie covers his mouth with his hand to shut him up, and looks out the window to see it’s snowing. I do feel this reveal of it snowing felt quite random in the novel already, and in the show its worse. Not only does Charlie put his hand over Nick’s mouth, he awkwardly knocks him back onto the bed (??) then Charlie declares “It’s snowing!” and the actors run off to recreate the next scene of them hanging out in the snow, (which was pretty cute).
I think the part of Charlie knocking Nick over here was added due to a fan-favourite scene being cut where they play fight. This scene had a LOT of chemistry due to the physicality, and is the only complaint I have for a scene that was cut in the adaptation. Alice explained the reason why it was cut in an interview with Digital Spy, where they stated “I just felt like it didn't quite work narratively because we had to slightly slow down the romance of Nick and Charlie, just to make it work in a TV show.” Reading this comment really confused me, given that the development of their friendship was crammed into episode one, and then there blossoming romance in the next two episodes.
After this, we then have a truly iconic scene from the novel where Nick declares he’s having “a full-on gay crisis”, that in the show lacks the energy of the moment entirely. It’s very exaggerated in the novel, with Nick yelling about his troubles while Charlie watches in the background, stunned by his outburst. I can understand the show allowing for Nick to have a quieter reaction, given that in graphic novels there is room for more comedically drawn exaggeration, but keeping the same dialogue just felt clunky given that the delivery was completely different.
There are a couple more scenes that I could comment on, but I’m making the decision to leave them out. Essentially, while I appreciate the show for being faithful to the original source, it did so to its own detriment. Nick and Charlie’s relationship to me didn’t progress as naturally as the storylines of Tara, Darcy, Elle, and Tao, which I put down to the fact they were confined to recreating their entire relationship from the novels. The protagonist side characters don’t feature as heavily in the novels, and so were allowed to grow in the show. Because of there being more creative freedom with their storylines, it allowed for their narratives to flow better, unlike the rushed beginning of Nick and Charlie’s relationship. It seemed to me the show wanted to quickly get to Nick and Charlie being a couple, so we could see their joy, over actually having it paced more naturally.
ConclusionOverall, how Nick and Charlie’s relationship played out was my main problem with the show. I found their relationship rushed, lacking, and entirely boring, which was brought about by the adaptation’s 50/50 approach; it adapted the side characters but failed to adapt their relationship. This meant that new dynamics created, especially in regards to the antagonists, did not effectively weave together with Nick and Charlie’s romance, and so led to pacing, plot, and character issues. Even without reading the novels prior, these problems would have still been present for me.
If there is a season two (which there most likely will be) the only reason I will be watching is to see Tao and Elle finally kiss. But ultimately, I have arrived at the same conclusion many reviewers have come to before for countless other adaptations: the books were better.