Streaming On: Netflix
When Sex Education arrived last year, minds were blown in the way physical relationships were presented with heart and humour. It wasn’t a sex comedy, it wasn’t a dark erotic trip but just a very real and human approach to problems and pleasures of intimacy. By the time the first season ended, almost all the main players reached cathartic, if not orgasmic, climaxes and the show had left smiles on faces, rather than stiffies.
The second season just premiered last Friday and creator Laurie Nunn has again delivered the goods. All the investment in all those characters in the eight episodes last year bears fruit as the emotions play out more strong, more true. Whether it’s Otis (Asa Butterfield) and Ola (Patricia Allison) or Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) and Adam (Connor Swindells), or even the adults – Jean (Gillian Anderson) and Jakob (Mikael Persbrandt) – the show builds on the budding relationships from Season One.
But what makes this new season different – and a tad risky from the makers – is that every secondary and tertiary character, characters deep in the background, suddenly pop up with their own stories. The stories, all sexual in some way or the other, are important – a girl realising a man has just masturbated on her in the bus, another girl fearing to show her “ugly” face during orgasm to her boyfriend or a middle-aged woman trying to revive her sex life after six years of no action. The vignettes are all incorporated in such an organic way, that you never feel tutored or preached.
Plus there are new faces – the Neruda-reading Rahim (Sami Outalbali) who takes an instant liking (read: lust) to Eric, leading to a fascinating homosexual triangle involving Adam. Then there’s Viv (Chinenye Ezeudu), the super-bright student who helps Jackson (remember the swimming champ from the first season played by Kedar Williams-Stirling) with his studies. And then there’s Maeve’s (Emma Mackey) new friend in the caravan park Isaac (George Robinson) who moves around in a wheelchair poking his thoughts in everything she does.
If the teenagers are confused, their parents are worse. Sex Education 2 spends a fair share of footage on the mothers – of Otis, Maeve and Adam – who have very different struggles on the show. But the most powerful scene belongs to the teenage girls in school when they are all detained at the library and asked to write an essay on what is common between them. After a lot of back and forth they realise the only thing that has happened to all of them is they have been groped or stalked or flashed by men. “As if we are public property!”
Also, the brilliance of the writing is in the fact that despite shuttling between so many stories of so many teens and their parents, Otis and Maeve are still the leads of the show and even though they don’t really share much screen space in most of the episodes of the second season, Sex Education continues to be about the irresistible attraction between the two partners of the high school sex clinic that set the whole story into motion a year back.
Just like last time it is in that face of Asa Butterfield, especially in those blue eyes, that the innocence and virtuousness of Sex Education shine through. This is not a show which wants to entertain you by titillation or by cracking a cheap double-meaning joke. It aims to turn on your heart above any other body part.
And did I mention Gillian Anderson swaying on the dance floor to strobing lights is lit AF?