Sex Education returned to Netflix this year for a second much-anticipated season- and once again it didn’t disappoint. The show successfully recreates its compelling formula of dissecting the sex lives of teenagers and adults alike, combined with the rich and developing storylines surrounding its main characters.
The show preserves the memorable tone of the first season, with moments that feel both shockingly real and startling funny. This kick-starts with the opening of episode 1, where a montage of Otis’s daily masturbation habits culminates in his mother surprising him in the act, in a car park. An unbeatable start to the new season, this fast paced, honest portrayal of teenage sexuality is a vivid reminder of just how good TV can be.
Scenes of difficult or unsuccessful sexual encounters throughout produce a sense of gleeful voyeurism in viewers- you want to look away, but have to keep watching. Situations are presented as deeply embarrassing, just as they should be. It’s a refreshing watch; so often sex scenes that we see in movies or TV shows are far too smooth, and that just isn’t life. We want to see people fail at sex, because it is something that happens to us all at one point or another.
But Sex Education is more than just a show about sex, in that this season presents effective character arcs, often taking predictable TV tropes, such as Jackson’s jock-type character, or Adam as the school bully, and giving them depth, a back story about a difficult home life. This kind of fleshing out of characters is rewarding to watch, in that we do care about what happens to them, now that they’ve gone and done what we would have never expected.
It is easy to criticise the show for being overly didactic, where thematic topics can come across as clunky and a little preachy. Characters can easily become token embodiments of minority identities, with the show at times being unfortunately reminiscent of early seasons of Glee. But important issues are often dealt with in great clarity. The entire narrative of Aimee’s sexual assault in episode 7 was sensitively and emotively handled. Not only did this episode demonstrate scenes of female empowerment that could have easily struck the wrong note, it is also deeply informative for viewers. It was one of several moments this season which forces us to consider that we too are poorly educated on many issues. We are constantly recognising while watching that we still have a lot to learn.
Perhaps season two is slightly too grandiose, a natural result of trying to outdo the first season, leaving the show feeling slightly unrealistic at times. The school play in the season finale, which reworks Romeo and Juliet as a new, sexed-up musical, is a prime example in that it offers no explanation for its seemingly unlimited set and costume budget. But when it comes to revealing gaps in one’s own sex education, the show is a success. The plot of reforming the school’s sex-ed curriculum feels topical, especially with debates in recent years over LGBT+ inclusive education. This show reveals failings in sex education in the modern school system, contributing to that necessary dialogue. With this vital message of education at its heart, and with endless nuances to explore when it comes to sex, Sex Education could have a long run ahead of it.