Sex Education Season 2 Continues to be Important (a Review)

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I live in America, one of three most uptight and prudish first world countries in the world, actual sex education is lacking. The news and outrage groups rail against porn, but then don’t teach actual sex in sex ed class, if they have one at all. Where else are teens supposed to get information (I mean Reddit or something probably, but not always from people qualified or having the proper motivation)?

Netflix has been trying to help the teens with some of their programming. Two shows I didn’t watch but heard good things were the seasons of Big Mouth, and the Sex Explained. Then there is Sex Education with Asa Butterfield and Gillian Anderson that follows a teen son of a sex therapist help his classmates with their sex problems, and teams up with the punk girl of the school to help. The first season was something really special. It had real well drawn characters, a great sense of style (the director is doing the Loki show, and her style here is just killer. Bright colors, high speed energy, vibrant world), very out of time world that is what every teen show should be, strong acting, and killer premise. It failed in not making the premise more of the show, but instead focus on interpersonal drama. It’s good, even if you don’t like gross out comedies. It just works.

The second season begins next term with Maeve working in the mall, Otis not wanting to give advice (and can’t stop having personal time), his relationship with Ola going slow and steady, and Otis’s mom dating Ola’s dad.

The series continues to keep its level of quality. The characters still remain quite real, interesting, and developed people. It adds some new characters to the cast, a new love interest for Eric, Otis’s best friend, a new neighbor for Maeve, and Maeve’s deadbeat and drug addled mother and half-sister. They all spice up the drama. Even the headmaster’s wife gets a lot more development and we dig into her relationship with the school’s headmaster.

Not all of the drama works. Rahim, Eric’s new boyfriend is too anomalous and distant to feel really interesting (maybe that’s part of the point). We just don’t get enough with him to see why Eric would like him other than the fact he’s hot. It is also a hard line to walk between teenagers unreasonable because they are teenagers and don’t know better, and being unreasonable because that makes the plot better. It slips on that tight rope a few times with a couple love triangles that are obvious and easy to see where they go.

Those slips on the tightrope does not mean it falls into the net. It actually excels in most of the storytelling. The most genius idea is turning the reason all the students went to Otis last season into the plot of this season, teens not understanding sex and not getting any help from the school. It adds great tension and give Gillian Anderson’s Jean a lot to do and work with. Similarly many of the character plots feel well explored. Otis coming to terms with himself as a person, Maeve trying to get over Otis and help her mom, Adam (the headmasters son) trying to find what he is good at and be better, and Jackson (swim team star and Maeve’s ex-boyfriend) trying to find what he really enjoys. They all get a lot of time and depth added to them. With that comes really inventive character pairings that last a single episode, or develop into full platonic relationships.

With those characters come some very funny jokes and gags. Even as many are sex focused they are not dirty jokes but instead character driven interactions and scenes that are funny and build on their needs. The ending’s erotic Romeo and Juliet play is hysterical, but many scenes carry that level of humor that is both genuine and tinged with eroticism.

This character work and comedy is driven through its great episodic pacing. This show finally figured out how to break the Netflix curse. Every episode has the sexual arc that needs to be resolved, and has fallout for character choices in the previous episode that are established and resolved just in time to set up a new arc. I still wished it focused on the actual cases more, but the characters are so charming it’s hard to be mad.

What does make me proper (not proper but instead just annoyed) mad is how inconsistent time feels in the show. Some scenes you think take place at night or morning but it doesn’t look like it. It makes it confusing to watch when we see the dusk, but it’s bright in the house; or when it is daytime but looks like it is morning. I found it distracting but not everyone will.

Something that is not distracting is how good the incidental music in the show is. They have found the exact mix of popular and not as well remembered to spice up the playlist. They all work and add to the scene they are in really well.

Regardless of how good or bad the series gets it will remain something important because of what it represents. This show champions the importance of understand not just sex, but your body, your autonomy, and your needs. It says anything you like and enjoy is valid. In a world where that is becoming less and less valid to people it is good to have a TV show championing all the validness in really good actors.

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