Pheromones, fondling, therapists and family dynamics are all further explored in the 3rd season of the revolutionarily candid Netflix show.
Sex Education recently returned to the Netflix homepage with the release of its third season. The students of Moordale Secondary School are forced to adjust to an imposing new headteacher; a prudish “girlboss” dead set on shifting the public narrative of Moordale from that of a scandalous “sex school” to a clean and pristine refuge of academic study. While many students find themselves consumed by the trappings of the changing school environment, our awkward protagonist Otis, played by Asa Butterfield, has developed a new, indifferent attitude toward school life as well as a surprising connection to Moordale’s resident mean-girl Ruby Matthews. Meanwhile, Jean Milburn, played by The People’s Milf Gillian Anderson, is navigating a geriatric pregnancy and unexplored feelings for her ex-partner Jakob. The show regularly divulges into B-plots, C-plots, and even D-plots to the point where I occasionally find myself wondering if I will ever touch back in with my favourite sex-alien obsessed student (Lily Iglehart stans rise up!). And yet, the show inevitably finds its way back to each plot line with moments of connection between the most unlikely of characters.
Fans of the show may be disappointed to see that Florence (the asexual student who spoke with Otis and Jean in season 2) has not become a regular part of the cast, however, the show continues to explore aspects of sexuality and gender that are often ignored by mainstream TV. Non-binary student Cal, played by Dua Saleh, is often pitted against new headmistress Hope for not “properly” wearing their new uniform and thus not conforming with rigid cis (and sus) standards; multiple students explore the impact of sexual fantasies on their relationships; and Aimee continues to process the effect that last season’s sexual assault has on her relationship with intimacy. The show writers show diligent commitment to each character arc and any sensitive, potentially triggering moments are treated with the considered attention and respect.
The cast of Sex Education is nothing short of a powerhouse. Whether it is Ncuti Gatwa and Connor Swindells’ tender journey as Eric and Adam or Dua Saleh’s upfront portrayal of the exhaustion that comes from battling others’ perceptions of their gender, the cast tackles each moment with unflinching honesty. One of the standout performances of this season certainly goes to Mimi Keene for her depiction of Ruby Matthews. Keene’s ability to bring the audience along as Ruby shifts from a stereotypical popular girl to a fully fleshed out, emotionally complex character (while never losing her core characteristics from previous seasons) is one of the most rewarding transformations in the show. Additionally, recognition must be given to intimacy directors David Thackeray and Jenefer Odell, whose work on set certainly contributed to the care and comfort felt by the actors and the audience during a particularly wonderful scene between Maeve and Isaac, showing how disabled characters can have nuanced, non-tokenistic screen time.
With its stellar ensemble cast and unashamed exploration of intimacy, Sex Education is worth your weekend watch time. From destigmatising and demystifying the eventualities of contracting and living with HIV to even confronting scatophobia, season three goes all the way.