‘Sex Education’ Continues To Show That Growing Up Is Awkward And Beautiful – Review
Sex, like everything else in life, can be awkward. Sex Education wants you to know that. Now going on it’s third season, the Netflix binge-worthy favorite is back, along with all of the students of Moordale Secondary School.
There aren’t many shows that can intelligently craft a coming-of-age story and there definitely aren’t any shows doing that while educating the masses on sex. Needless to say, after two successful seasons, Sex Education hasn’t lost its mojo and is still finding ways to creatively tell stories about adolescence, friendship, self-discovery, love, and loss.
Now, with a new head teacher in Hope Haddon (Jemima Kirke), Otis (Asa Butterfield), Eric (Ncuti Gatwa), Maeve (Emma Mackey), and the rest of Moordale Secondary School are forced to navigate a new world order where uniformity is prized, their identities are at stake, and adolescence just keeps getting more complicated. While the students struggle with their own problems, adults, like Dr. Jean Milburn (Gillian Anderson), certainly have theirs. Everyone is subjected to change and challenge and both are a constant in the lives of each character.
As we go back to the 70s through 90s aesthetics and rolling English countryside, we also go back to genuine portrayals of teens exploring themselves and life. Sex Education continues to do a solid job with narrative building, giving life to relatable characters stuck within comedic and outlandish situations. Although you may die of secondhand embarrassment from many of the situations on this show, you’ll also find yourself rooting for many of the characters this season, as they try to navigate adolescence.
You’ll continue to find yourself educated and enlightened in many ways, as the show handles healthy sexual practices, understanding sexual assault, gender identity, and sexuality across the spectrum. Additionally, the show goes a step further and highlights queer identities in countries where it’s criminalized to be LGBTQ+, body dysmorphia, and sex education for queer and straight characters. But what stands out is how the show normalizes how sex can be a healthy experience for everyone, regardless of age, disability, size, or gender.
Aside from that, it seems like the show has placed more emphasis on the development of the ensemble. Characters from previous seasons, like Ruby (Mimi Keene), Ola (Patricia Allison), Isaac (George Robinson), and Lily (Tanya Reynolds) gain more screen time and more dynamic narratives than before. While new characters, like Hope (Kirke) and non-binary student Cal (Dua Saleh), seamlessly join the Moordale crew.
And while the students navigate their struggles, life continues to be a challenge for the adults. We see characters like Dr. Jean Milburn (Anderson), Jakob (Mikael Persbrandt), Michael Groff (Alistair Petrie) and Maureen Groff (Samantha Spiro), and even new head teacher Hope wrestle with what life throws at them. Unfortunately, they don’t always handle it well. From navigating fertility struggles, toxic masculinity, love after loss, and more, they seem to be just as lost as their teenage counterparts. From the outside looking in, you see the challenges these characters face and you root for them to overcome it.
Redemption and forgiveness play a large role in this season. While a redemption arc is given to multiple characters, it’s less about redemption in the eyes of those they’ve wronged, but more about them figuring out why they’ve been a wrongdoer all along and what will help them break the cycle of pain they’ve been in that they’ve been projecting onto others.
You want for their characters to grow and ultimately they do. Some more slowly than others, but still growing nevertheless. Each characters stories of growth are expertly done, especially through the performances. In particular, standout performances by Ncuti Gatwa as Eric, whose charisma shines through in each scene, Aimee Lou Wood, who you can’t help but enjoy her on-screen presence as Aimee, and Mimi Keene as Ruby, who’s terrifying and charming all in one.
Eight one hour episodes is the trend for this show and it has made strides to condense as much of the story as possible. But it was easier to do so, when more of the focus was on Otis, Eric, and Maeve. With more focus placed on secondary characters, some of the narratives feel a bit rushed or underused, like storylines for Rahim (Sami Outalbali), Maureen Groff (Spiro), Anwar (Chaneil Kular), and Olivia (Simone Ashley). Although the show manages to create something special, there’s still more to explore.
However, you can almost feel that this show is coming to an end, which is bittersweet. With as much good as it creates, we know that all good things must come to an end. In the meantime, audiences can continue to enjoy Sex Education’s earnest, comedic portrayals of life’s most awkward challenge, growing up.