Season one of Sex Education was one of the highlights of last year’s television. Asa Butterfield as Otis Milburn doling out relationship and sex advice to teenagers at Moordale High School might sound like an American Pie setting but the humour in this British show is rather witty and the characters are layered. The second season, however, stood out like a sore thumb. Otis is back at school and in business with Maeve (Emma Mackey) who books his appointments. But soon their business goes bust as his mother Dr Jean Milburn, a professional sex therapist, comes onboard as a counselor at the school and gives out advice not just for free but also with more insight.
Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) has accepted his sexuality and chances upon a partner in this nondescript English town much to our surprise. Jackson (Kedar Williams-Stirling) disobeys his parents and tries to sabotage his career by drinking, missing practices and finally self-harming. The story seemed to not have moved forward and more importantly, none of the characters in focus seem to have any plans for their future. If the expected audience is supposed to be teenagers, it’s a tricky precedent to set with no talk of college or ambitions. These young adults are shown to be muddled in matters of the heart and body and spend their days trying to solve it.
The makers seem to have confused adulthood with teenage, where things are much simpler. The pace of the show is rather slow, despite the chunky runtime of 47-59 minutes for each episode. Teenage is a time of discoveries and many firsts. The showmakers seemed to have forgotten their own experiences as a teenager is what comes across by the end of it. But Sex Education still has its moments. For example: an important scene where Aimee (Aimee Lou Wood) is sexually assaulted on the bus but thinks it’s her fault. Maeve finally convinces her to report it to the police.
She goes on to feel triggered about the incident for some time. For young viewers, it would not only make an impression on what goes on in the world but also what is the right thing to do when such incidents happen. Eric’s parents accepting his sexuality and supporting it is another example of the show’s attempt at guiding teenagers. The diversity shown on screen is rather commendable. But despite these ‘acts’ of goodness, Sex Education normalises many high school tropes seen in movies—teenagers as well as adults are seeking sex at most times, dysfunctional families, cartoonish teachers etc. Perhaps, in the next season Moordale High school stundents would have enrolled in college or done something different with their lives apart from fawning over sex.