If “fantastic” wasn’t a word, it would have to be coined for season 3 of Sex Education. In today’s Netflix era, where all the episodes are instantly released and are available to binge, with a two to three year gap between seasons, viewers often find themselves with little to no memory of the previous seasons when a new one arrives. It is tough to summon the strength to revisit the earlier episodes in anticipation of the next arrival. This long detachment runs the risk of obliterating or weakening the intensity of our attachment with the story or characters. Fortunately, the same is not true for Sex Education. As soon as Otis (Asa Butterfield) and Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) appeared to recap the second season, I was immediately drawn to them, and with the same ease, I slipped into the world of this show when the first episode started playing in front of my eyes.
It’s hard to completely disconnect yourself from the show. Perhaps, the credit for this should go to the impeccable casting. Every actor feels right in their role, and the words they speak feel right from their mouths. It seems as if these are their own thoughts and feelings, and not some lines fed to them by a script. Many shows that display promise and intrigue in the first season start going downhill when the new season arrives. Take 13 Reasons Why, for instance. What began as an honest attempt to showcase the plight of bullied students at schools took a turn for the worse in the subsequent seasons. There were elements of genuine shock and mystery, but the show could not maintain the momentum. It didn’t help that the characters became strangers to us. And that’s true for so many Netflix originals. After one or two years, when I hit play on the new set of episodes, I don’t recognise the people. It takes some time to adjust to the setting. But the world and the story and the characters of Sex Education remain close to your heart. After season 3, I am confident that I can straight away immerse myself into this show even if the fourth season were to come after five years (lets’ hope that doesn’t happen, though).
So what’s happening at the Sex School? Yes, that’s the name by which everyone is referring to the Moordale Secondary School, given how the students staged an erotic version of Romeo and Juliet: The Musical in the previous season. Don’t fret. Hope Haddon (Jemima Kirke), the new headteacher, is recruited to clean the school’s image. At first, she looks fabulous with her friendly attitude and perfect lipstick. However, we gradually learn about her troublesome views. She wants to preach abstinence to kids, for which she can go as far as showing a video detailing the birth of a baby to girls and immature gibberish with flying penises to boys. Hope wants to squash the sexual as well as artistic hopes of the teenagers (uniforms are introduced, skin piercings are forbidden, and an imaginatively weird story published in a paper is ridiculed). Her smiling face with which she orders people around is both charming and devilish. The scene where she meets Otis’ mother, Jean (Gillian Anderson), crackles with exhilaration. I won’t mind watching an entire episode dedicated to these two opposing forces debating their sexual views.
Then we have Otis and Maeve (Emma Mackey). When season 2 ended, everyone was angry with Isaac (George Robinson) after he deleted Otis’ voicemail meant for Maeve. He became the most hated villain, a trait I expected would continue in the third season. But the writers have other things in mind. Instead of stretching the voicemail suspense till the end, the information is dispensed in episode 2. You realize Isaac isn’t a bad guy, but he actually cares about Maeve. This doesn’t mean that Otis and Maeve quickly get back together. Their relationship has always been complicated. Whenever one tries to confess their love for the other, it turns out that the other person has gotten into a relationship with someone else. In the third season, we find Otis dating Ruby (Mimi Keene), one of the most popular girls in the school. And for what? No, not love. Just sex. It’s casual at first, but the bond slowly turns meaningful. Otis becomes the first guy to ever set foot inside Ruby’s house.
This is where things get very interesting in the show. Usually, the main couple of a series is written in a way that if they enter into a relationship with someone else other than each other, you cry from your chair to make them realize that they are forming a romance with the wrong person. But Otis with Ruby and Isaac with Maeve doesn’t come across as so inappropriate. The show handles the respective relationships in a meaningful manner, so much so that I wouldn’t have protested if the makers had gone ahead with these pairings. Nevertheless, I suspect fans would not have been so forgiving, and anyway, we all know how deeply Otis loves Maeve and vice versa. No wonder your heart starts racing, and you cheer with joy at the events that happen when the two are mistakenly left behind in France.
Sex Education is incredibly appealing not because of the picturesque location and beautiful faces (though they add to the appeal all right). We identify with the show because it presents human flaws in an adorable way and without any judgment. It’s not just the children who make mistakes by hurting others out of ego or laugh at someone in the locker room because of what they wear underneath their clothes. The parents and the adults, too, are imperfect and upset the feelings of a person close to them. Mr. Groff (Alistair Petrie) is looked down upon by his own brother, and Jakob (Mikael Persbrandt) harbors doubts about Jean’s baby (he eventually asks her to get a DNA test). Sex Education assures us that no one has figured out life and that experience doesn’t necessarily come from age. No one is perfect, and no one needs to be in the first place. It’s high time we start embracing our imperfect yet unique desires instead of shoving and suppressing them inside the closet.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.