Sex Education: Season Three Review
This is a spoiler-free review for Season 3 of sex education, which premieres Friday, September 17 on Netflix.
Otis, Eric, Maeve, Jackson, and the rest of the so-called degenerates are back at Moordale High School for the third helping of Sex Education, a series that miraculously combines saucy laughs, romantic comedy, therapeutic wisdom, and embarrassing comedy in one go. Sex education works on a broad comic level, but also on a very specific level, where it can still whisper in your heart. It’s uniquely painful and exhilarating, and season 3 builds the show’s world even more.
Sex education is definitely a series that pays off. Not only because it torments us with the slow-burning “will/won’t” romance between Asa Butterfield’s Otis and Emma Mackey’s Maeve, but because it picked up extremists along the way. These are not just new characters who entered the mix and became an important part of the festivities, but also side characters who were able to work their way into the story in a more layered way, usually in the form of old enemies that made it more human and sympathetic. Even this season’s new “villain” comes with deceptive weaknesses.
For this reason, sex education continues to expand like a beautiful balloon, becoming more loving, comprehensive, and complex. Otis has not completely lost his position as a leader, but we are now further away from the original premise “what kind of problems might a teenage son of a sex therapist have?” The show has morphed into a more honest set, although it still retains some basic episodic qualities, even though Otis and Maeve’s “sex clinic” takes a breather and leaves us without a clear entry point for today’s case/sex issue.
Another way in which sex education has flourished from season to season is the full assimilation and inclusion of adult characters, their specific sexual slips and clumsiness. Now that Jane Gillian Anderson is fully in the “I’m Cool” story vortex, the show is able to explore her and her extreme aversion to domestic intimacy and lack of control to the fullest. Now pregnant, as revealed dramatically at the end season 2Jane’s life – along with the worlds of Otis, Jakob and Ola – becomes more complex and compelling. Likewise, we continue to explore Michael Grove, director of Alistair Petrie, his fall from grace after season two’s literal stage performances, and within that, find a little redemption for him too.
Sex Education: Season Three Exhibition
Speaking of Grove, when we last left, Mordel School unleashed so far Produced on Students, Parents, and Donors: Lily’s graphic and fictional Romeo and Juliet musical erotica. Now classed as “school sex” perverts, Moordale’s students return after a lust-filled summer (even Otis finds a regular dance partner, as it were) to change the system. Groff went and a wonderful new “I want to be your best friend”, principal, Hope (girls’ Jemima Kirke), standing in place. But she’s a wolf hiding behind a smile, and soon Dolores Umbridge’s strict rules will be imposed on the student body in ways that include, yes, the students’ bodies as well. Moordale’s Honorary Sex Education takes an unfortunate journey back in time, going back about a hundred years.
When a line is placed in the center of each school entrance, to force the children to enter into one line, ex-Eric Rahim (Sami Utalpalli) wisely says “It’s not just a line.” In short, this is how repressive and intolerant policies begin, with something seemingly innocuous. As Doaa Saleh joins the series as a non-binary student named Cal, whom Kedar Williams-Stirling’s Jackson finds himself immediately drawn to, sex education opens its wings further to draw gender identity issues into its purposeful methods of discourse, recognition, and progression.
Maeve, due to her outdoorsy situation and serious family concerns, was a difficult character to deal with in relation to other teens. But as Sex Education has only swelled to include characters from around town (Jason Isaacs even guests this year as Michael’s bossy brother), meaning more and more peeks into people’s home parking lots, Maeve’s trailer set feels less of a branch and more part of the overall fabric.
Ncuti Gatwa and Connor Swindells find a lot of tenderness in Eric and Adam’s new relationship, while also playing characters at various points in their emotional development and trust. Meanwhile, Aimee Lou Wood’s Amy does serious work dealing with her trauma, Patricia Allison’s Ola and Tanya Reynolds discover some romantic hurdles of their own, a handful of characters take life-altering trips to both France and Nigeria, and Isaac – Well – the series cleverly handles the season two finale of Isaacs with a candid, refreshing voice.
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On a show that tends to have plenty of embarrassing moments of sheer misunderstanding – whether it’s in a text message or otherwise – Isaac is on the verge of being sadly malicious, which isn’t usually the way sex education plays things. Even her love triangles feature rivals she cares about, so erasing Isaac’s bold message is handled well. The main strength of the series, aside from its hilarious and exciting stunt, remains the characters and people we’ve loved since the beginning and the people we’ve come to love over time. The time they spend with them on their journey and growth is the reward.