Photo By: Noah Nickel via Netflix
The popular Netflix original series, Sex Education released its third season last week.
As is the convention with Netflix, the entire season became available to stream at once. This release style has made many Netflix shows great for binge watching, and with Sex Education’s large cast of characters, all with intricate conflicts and relationships, watching it all relatively quickly helps to keep the details fresh in the viewer’s memory.
Series’ that are set in high school run the risk of getting repetitive by the third season, but the writers of Sex Education keep the show fresh (for the most part) by introducing new conflicts and characters. The part that doesn’t feel new or exciting this season though is the two main characters, whose “will they/won’t they” dynamic was already getting old in season two, but for some reason is continued here.
Maeve (Emma Mackey) and Otis (Asa Butterfield) were the driving force behind the first season. They’re two very different people who had undeniable chemistry, but after two seasons fans are wondering if they even want to see these characters get together anymore. In season two. a new love interest was introduced in Maeve’s life and he’s more interesting and less self-involved than Otis, so their original dynamic is ultimately left feeling uninteresting.
The new characters this season are Hope (Jemima Kirke), the new headmistress of Mooredale Secondary School, and Cal (Dua Saleh), a new student who moved from the United States. The incorporation of Cal as a new character is impressive, it feels as though they could have been here all along. Saleh’s performance is sincere and grounded. Cal will quickly steal the hearts of the other characters and the audience as well. Meanwhile, Headmistress Hope introduces a world of new conflict and adversities for the cast of loveable teens to face.
In general, the supporting cast has become the most interesting group of characters over the course of the show’s three seasons. The protagonist, Otis, is a very typical teenager who becomes self-involved and careless over the course of the past seasons. This is a realistic phase that many teens go through, but it makes the audience want less of him and more of the other, more complex (and likeable) characters.
Even though Sex Education is very focused on depicting relationships, it doesn’t fall into the trap of pairing characters up and letting them fade into the background. It shows that people change, relationships change, and that a person does not need to be in a relationship to be fulfilled.
Sex Education is a largely character-driven show that focuses on the complications of being a teenager, while offering escapism with its colourful aesthetic. The school intentionally doesn’t feel like a real institution. The design of the show is larger than life; it’s a British private school with no uniforms, the characters dress like the TV version of American high school students from the 1990s. However, the degree of separation from real life allows the show to deal with more serious topics in an honest, straightforward way.
Sex Education embodies a specific style of television that a lot of high school dramas and comedies fit into. The quippy, contemporary writing is sort of Gilmore Girls-esque, and the conflicts are real but not so distressing that watching it will ruin your day. The writing is clever and funny, the characters have distinct voices, and the plot is very appealing and easy to follow.
This show is funny in some moments, and touching in others. It offers escapism but doesn’t shy away from showing real issues that teens and young adults face.
University students may sometimes find watching shows and movies about high school bizarre and disconcerting, but Sex Education fits into a sweet spot where it is just grounded enough to be relatable without being alienating for anyone outside of the age range of the characters. There are plenty of stories that university students will find themselves relating to and many solid laughs.