- Hamish Hart
Sex Education (2021) TV Series Review
FIRST premiering in 2019, Netflix's hit show Sex Education has enthralled young and older demographics thanks to its unique premise and homages to high school settings of old such as 1985's The Breakfast Club. And with its third season recently coming to an end, as well as a fourth season being announced, there's no better time to discuss Laurie Nunn's overblown, yet relatable, teenage dramedy.
Socially awkward high schooler Otis (Asa Butterfield) discovers he has a gift; the gift of sexual guidance, in no short part thanks to his sex therapist mother, Jean (Gillian Anderson). After a chance encounter with the lovemaking expert, Maeve (Emma Mackey), a rebellious, smart student, convinces Otis to team with her and run an underground sex therapy clinic where students pay to seek much-needed sexual advice. However, during this intimate journey, Otis and Maeve soon realise that it may be the therapists who need the most guidance.
A unique premise mixed with the perfect amount of personality can create something truly spectacular, a feat Sex Education achieves from the premiere episode. From the beginning, audiences are given ample reason to care about the characters presented to us through a wonderful introduction to Otis and Maeve, showcasing their differing state of minds and personalities, with Otis unable to achieve basic sexual acts, while Maeve's love history is heavily hinted at through students in the school calling her shameful slurs. The show holds no punches, truthfully showcasing the struggles countless teenagers go through in order to lose their virginity and not be ridiculed for it, majority of which is translated through the sex therapy sessions as Otis encounters a variety of problems and people, including his own friends and foes, the first being the Headmaster's son, Adam (Connor Swindells). Adam's therapy sets a standard for all future sessions, allowing characters to enunciate their problems without feeling judged for their disfigurements and evolve from their typical high school personas, a trait which the series maintains in the following two seasons.
The show's greatest aspect is its ability to create engaging, realistic and nonconforming characters, all of who go through radical transformations from season-to-season. Primary examples of this flourish during Season 2 where fan favourite characters Adam and Aimee (Aimee Lou Wood) get entangled in life-changing situations. Insecure bully Adam is sent to military school during a period where he realises he's a closeted homosexual, only to return home after fellow closeted gays at the school plant drugs in his bag in fear Adam will expose their secret. This heinous moment of betrayal inevitably motivates Adam as he must fight within himself and decide what kind of person he wants to be. But perhaps the greatest piece of development is shown through Aimee, a good-natured soul who bottles her emotions up after a stranger sexually assaults her on a bus. This situation was expertly handled and felt all too real as Aimee keeps blaming herself, saying she shouldn't have smiled at the assaulter, but with the help of her friends in a standout episode for the series, Aimee overcomes her fears as they all decide to take the bus with her in order to make Aimee feel comfortable and the cheery individual she used to be.
The fictional town of Moordale is littered with heart and soul because of its ability to subvert audience's expectations of traditional high school development, with many characters going through deep, meaningful experiences throughout the series, all of which feel genuine and eerily relatable despite the specific situation being extremely hyperbolic. Moordale's eccentric community is aided by the filming locale of South Wales as the directors utilise the luscious greenery to create dynamic shots and moments of blissful cinematography to enhance the most heart-warming and chilling conversations, particularly with scenes featuring Otis and Maeve, who over the course of the series, develop a gripping will-they-won't-they story arc.
Sex Education is a meaningful, heart-warming experience that kids and adults can relate to due to its encapsulating characters, phenomenal retro soundtrack and expert writing from creator Laurie Nunn who understands the importance of long-term storytelling as she trusts viewers to pay attention to small details in order to create tension and gratifying payoffs to even the most basic plotlines. The show may feature lewd humour for the sake of shock value, but its sexualised appearance isn't what Sex Education is about - it's about learning to grow and overcome any challenges life presents you with, whether they be mental or physical changes around or inside you.