Sex Education Season 3 Review: A worthy follow-up built on sensitive writing
Netflix's teen drama series continues to tell honest stories of layered characters who deal with sensitive issues
School season is back at Moordale Secondary, and we couldn’t be more excited, given how good season 2 of Sex Education was, which upped its game with great character development and a cliffhanger-end involving Otis, Maeve, and Isaac. The new season continues to build on the good work and has added more substance to the series' niche themes and engaging storytelling.
Creator: Laurie Nunn
Cast: Emma Mackey, Asa Butterfield, Ncuti Gatwa, Gillian Anderson
Streaming on: Netflix
It all begins with a montage of the love birds of Moordale getting down to it, and the first major reveal is a moustache-sporting Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield) and later, the fact that Otis and Ruby (Mimi Keene) are in a casual relationship. The post-chlamydia Moordale Secondary School is still feeling the aftereffects of previous events, and this causes some big changes. We are introduced to a new headmaster, Hope Haddon (Jemima Kirke), who begins with a dynamic introduction speech. Hope, a former student of Moordale herself, is, meanwhile, on a mission to change the 'sex school' reputation. She wants the kids to walk in a single file, wear the "correct" uniform, and sport acceptable hairstyle; she even introduces a new Relationship and Sex Education course that advocates abstinence. Meanwhile, Maeve (Emma Mackey) still has no idea about Otis' voicemail, and she makes it clear that they are not friends anymore.
The series has always managed to strike a balance between the Otis-Maeve plot and other sub-plots, and this continues. Every character has a purpose, and we are made constantly aware of their emotional situation. For instance, take Adam, a former toxic masculine bully, who has come a long way after embracing his sexuality and fighting his demons over as many as eight episodes.
It's not just the old characters; some fresh faces make a mark too, like Cal, a non-binary student of Moordale, who has one of the best plotlines this season. Cal enters the school with a lot of baggage, and they carry a cool-as-ice attitude that eventually locks horns with Hope. Things get truly awful when Hope's binary RSE course and her insensitive approach begin to threaten Cal. Sex Education is known for writing nuanced, organically developed queer characters, and it does that here as well. Cal's journey, their equation with Jackson, and with another non-binary student at the school, are great possibilities to look forward to in coming seasons.
This is a series that features people of different identities, of different age groups, dealing with emotional, physical, existential, and as we all know, sexual issues. It continues to make a strong case for the importance of therapy and sex education. It’s impressive how it continues not to vilify characters and extends its empathy and kindness to all characters. Even Hope is who she is for a reason, and it doesn't take much for us to forgive her. The do-gooder Otis too puts on a rude hat for a brief while. It's beautiful that the series even fleshes out a subplot for Michael Groff, the former headmaster. We see glimpses of his abusive childhood, and later, how he begins to embrace joy in life.
Season 3 isn’t perfect, no. I didn’t quite enjoy seeing an animal get killed, for one. More importantly, the Otis-Meave plotline features a school trip to France, which while containing some highlights, seems like a simplistic way to add freshness. The grand showdown that happens too isn’t as compelling as in the second season. What the final episodes do well though is that they leave you on a high. Fighting for one's rights… the need for educational institutions to be empathetic towards students… These are solid takeaways.
Why do you hold onto someone else when the person in front seems perfect? Why didn't we say the things we should have said? How do you deal with emotional baggage in such a way that it doesn’t damage your current relationships? Sex Education manages to kindle such questions in you without ever getting preachy. Season 3 confirms that this school is definitely worth visiting again.