One of the things I loved about Sex Education, the first season, is the warm streaks of maturity and empathy that shine through the Moordale halls, flooded with students who seem to be archetypes populating each high school. If the first season focussed on what happens in bed, the second season shines a nuanced spotlight on what happens off it, traversing through the various alleys in understanding one’s sexual spectrum.
After an alleged bout of chlamydia, which turns out, is more an outbreak of STI hysteria, Moordale is pushed to review its Sex Education curriculum. And Jean Milburn, a certified sexual health professional and also the mother of Otis, suggests that the misinformation about the disease, spread with large doses of shame and judgement, is a problem. One could say the same about sex, as well, especially if you’re from a country like India where even adults don’t talk about sex. I mean, there’s a reason why a show on 16-year-olds is deemed here to be appropriate for only people of 18 years and more. So it makes so much sense when Jean talks about creating a space where there’s trust, truth, and talk.
These three Ts form the cornerstone of this show as well, as our characters face life-altering situations and decisions. Second chances are given, trusts are broken. Unlikely allies are formed, desires are discovered and the quest for the ‘right thing’ continues. With a themed show like this, there’s always a risk that at some point it might begin to feel like a checklist is being ticked: Lesbians, gay men, pansexuality, asexuality, contraception… But the depth in the writing and terrific performances make us look forget these cliches. Things turned into cliches because they were deemed to be appropriate, didn’t they?
Sex Education is quite well-made as well, with the choice of music interestingly acting more as a commentary on the mental states of the characters. The show also cleverly shifts between shining the spotlight on its multiple narratives and finely weaving together a fabric of social ethos. But the emotional understanding of this show is what makes it special, as it knows that no amount of information will save us from the grind of facing tough choices in life.
Do you be brutally honest and hurt your loved one? Or not let them in, and end up disappointing them? Take Maeve, for example. She pretends to be a tough nut, and pushes away everyone, but she’s actually waiting to only be proven wrong. Or Jean, who considers herself too independent for relationships, only to realise that she isn’t. The heart wants what it wants, with the brain left to pick up the pieces. Sex Education’s emotional gravitas retains this sensibility, and its tenderness makes us forget that it is a show about teenagers. Certains stories don’t change, neither do certain emotions. Hell, we could all use someone who just understands.
This is why I didn’t mind when the young women of this season had a ‘Breakfast Club’ moment when they get forced to bond over something. Or how about Ruby’s tryst with the morning pill? Or Aimee’s upsetting brush with sexual assault on the bus? One can’t speak about sex and not talk of assault, especially when women are concerned. If the Breakfast Club saw these school archetypes spread roots beyond their boxes and claim spaces that they aren’t expected to, this moment in Sex Education 2 reiterates how women easily bond over harassment. It’s only because all of us have a story, and we all understand. It is a show of solidarity, like with the photo episode in Season 1. It may not be as quirky, but it’s certainly a solid moment.
Khalil Ghibran, once said that “if we were all to sit in a circle and confess our sins, we would laugh at each other for lack of originality.” Sex Education, both of its seasons, reminded me of this. At times, when we are all caught in our webs of supposed individuality, it feels nice to take a step back and see that there’s a lot more in common than one would have expected. If that’s not a good lesson, then what is?
Creator: Laurie Nunn
Cast: Emma Mackey, Asa Butterfield, Ncuti Gatwa, Gillian Anderson
Star: 3.5/ 5