The long-awaited third season of Sex Education is finally here, with more love, heartbreak and cliff-hangers than ever.
Season 3’s opening episode introduces us to the new headteacher of Moordale Secondary, Hope (Jemima Kirke), who brings with her a far stricter style of discipline. Still heartbroken by the voice note from last season, the frosty relationship between Maeve (Emma Mackey) and Otis (Asa Butterfield) is at the forefront of our minds, with Otis’ new ‘relationship’ with Ruby (Mimi Keene) seemingly destroying all possibility of a rekindling. In the final scenes, the abandoned bathroom that previously hosted Maeve and Otis’ sex clinic is destroyed, and with it, we are left to wonder if this is the end of the pair for good.
Episode 2 sees the development of many of this season’s cliff-hangers. Adam (Connor Swindells) and Eric’s (Ncuti Gatwa) relationship progresses as Adam begins to open up and embrace his bisexuality. Jakob’s (Mikael Persbrandt) decision to co-parent his and Jean’s (Gillian Anderson) baby comes as a shock, both to Jean and Ola (Patricia Allison). Maeve suggests that Aimee (Aimee Lou Wood) talks to Jean about her sexual assault, and most importantly, Maeve admits her feelings for Isaac (George Robinson). Despite his manipulative actions in the previous season, his decision to come clean about deleting the voicemail orchestrates his redemption arc. Maeve rightfully scolds Isaac and explains how he has broken her trust, portraying an important lesson of betrayal.
The introduction of two new non-binary characters this season is refreshing and raises the issue of gendered uniform – here, we see Hope’s strict measures start to be tackled. Cal (Dua Saleh), who wears the ‘boys’ uniform, is constantly targeted for their clothing choice. As a result of his new friendship with Cal, Jackson (Kedar Williams-Stirling) steps down from his position as head boy, and his struggle with anxiety is touched upon once again.
Episode 3 also shows us the iconic double-date bowling scene between the now established Ruby and Otis, and Eric and Adam. Slightly uncomfortable and somewhat strange, the date begins with uncertainty from both couples, though a mutual love for the Kardashians gives way to a brilliant montage of the four teenagers having the time of their life at the alley. We can’t help but feel proud of how far Eric and Otis have come throughout the seasons in regards to their relationships.
However, the end of the episode contains perhaps the most heart-breaking moment in the season, with Ruby introducing Otis to her father. Despite her father’s clear approval, and Ruby’s obvious infatuation, the dreaded phone call scene follows, in which Ruby admits her love for Otis, who simply replies with ‘that’s nice’, leaving the viewer wincing. Her clear heartbreak shows a more humane side to Ruby, who has clearly grown exponentially when compared to Season 1.
Truly living up to its name, Episode 4 brings us Hope’s new form of ‘sex education‘, separated into boys’ and girls’ classes which essentially preach homophobia and abstinence. Maeve and Otis voice their concerns by pointing out the absurd nature of the classes, causing them to sit outside together, exciting viewers for their first genuine interaction of the season. Though resentment is imminent, their underlying affection for each other is obvious.
The relationships between Maeve and Isaac and Otis and Ruby end very differently for the pairs; Maeve ultimately forgives Isaac and we see them becoming closer, both physically and emotionally, whilst Ruby and Otis grow further apart, breaking up. Meanwhile, the development of the older characters’ plotlines, notably Michael (Alistair Petrie) and Maureen (Samantha Spiro) has us feeling a new type of sorrow for the pair, especially Michael’s longing to win Maureen back with the damn mangoes.
Jean’s battle with the doctor in episode 5 adds to the series’ ever-evolving list of important issues it tackles, in this case, Jean’s pregnancy as an older woman. The hospital staff’s dismissal is heart-breaking to witness and ultimately leaves us feeling infuriated for Jean. The episode’s main focus centralises around the school trip, in which Adam and Rahim (Sami Outalbali) develop an unlikely bond.
Most notably, the end of the episode gives us what we’ve most been waiting for this season – Maeve and Otis’ kiss. After explaining Isaac’s betrayal, Maeve begs Otis to tell her what he said on the voice note, leading him to repeat his declaration of love for Maeve. It’s a truly brilliant moment between the characters, as Emma Mackey’s expressions would make you believe the actress herself was in love. By the end of the episode, we’re left feeling hopeful, though the lives of the complicated teenagers of Moordale can’t help but keep us on edge.
Episode 6 gives us exactly that as Maeve asserts her affection for Isaac, causing friction between the characters. The episode also hosts perhaps the most moving scene in the season, as we see Aimee in her therapy session with Jean. After discussing her sexual assault, Jean ensures Aimee that it was not her fault, and perhaps she will never be the same person she once was, but that doesn’t mean she can’t grow.
The masterful tackling of such a serious topic is one of the many things that makes the show so magnificent. Another therapy session with Michael sees our ever-evolving soft spot for him developing as we witness his cruel brother and abusive childhood. Most shockingly, the episode shows us a different side to Eric as he finds solace in the gay community on his visit to Nigeria, leaving us fearful for Adam.
The final two episodes certainly leave us with food for thought, as Moordale hosts the iconic open day, in which the students defy Hope and reclaim their unofficial title as ‘sex school’. Most frighteningly, the penultimate episode sees Jean giving birth to a baby girl. Her fate is uncertain at the end of the episode, creating a perfect cliff-hanger for the final episode, which sees her healthy and recovering.
Adam and Eric discuss the kiss in Nigeria, and in a truly heartbreaking scene, the pair part ways. The final scenes see a brief but tender moment between Maeve and Otis, as she leaves for the America program, moments after Otis admits she is ‘his person’. The finale certainly ends with us wanting more from a confirmed season 4.
Season 3 of Sex Education brilliant encapsulates so many difficult issues, including navigating teenage love, development, anxiety and identity. It masterfully portrays older relationships, pregnancy and self-worth, placing the series on par with the immaculate masterpieces that are the first two seasons. We are left to wonder which direction many of the relationships will take next season – will Otis and Maeve finally be endgame?
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