The return of Sex Education is, without a doubt, a triumph for Netflix. Its jubilant second season is beaming out onto laptops everywhere across the world. The show takes its cast of now well-established characters and tests them even further as we follow them dealing with an expansive range of topics, from masturbation, sexual assault, sexual identity, drug addiction, and self-harm, to anal douching, the joys of vibrators, love past the age of forty, and, most charmingly, a capella.
As Otis (Asa Butterfield) returns for another term at Moordale High, the focus has shifted off of him with the plot more evenly shared by the rest of his cohort. Maeve (Emma Mackey) makes her glorious comeback at school as she is prompted by the return of her mother to give academia a second chance, Eric (Ncuit Gatwa) is finally given the love interest most fans feel he desperately deserves, and Ola (Patricia Allison) is given the opportunity to really explore what it means to be honest in love and relationships.
Most critics in their reviews have focused on the refreshingly frank discussion of sex and relationships. Some have described the second season as ‘not for the faint-hearted’ (The Guardian), a cause of ‘toe-curling awkwardness’ (Radio Times), and simply ‘stuffed with sex’ (The Telegraph), and whilst it is undeniable this show is definitely at the more explicit end of the teen comedy section, what stood out most to me were the moments of friendship.
There was the instance when the lovable and newly heartbroken Jackson (Kedar Williams-Stirling) began to be tutored by the anti-social brainiac, Viv (Chinenya Ezeudu) and the pair realised they could be of more use to each other than simply teacher and student. As Viv helped Jackson realise his ambitions outside of swimming and Jackson showed Viv how to venture outside of her intellectual bubble, they began to see each other for more than their stereotypes. After watching a neat sequence of Netflix originals where the cool, sometimes older guy falls for the kooky/brainy/lonely girl and in effect, rescues her (looking at you, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, Sierra Burgess Is a Loser, Kissing Booth), it was nice to see a relationship where two equals can just be friends.
In contrast, a new relationship to the show which has angered fans to the point of throwing their phones across the room, is the alliance of Maeve and Isaac (George Robinson). Isaac and Maeve bond over unreliable parents and their too-early-learned self-sufficiency but by the end of Season 2 Isaac’s selfish intentions are exposed, as viewers watched Maeve loose two key relationships at the expense of his snakery. Robinson is infuriatingly convincing as one who has too long been isolated from his peers and is definitely a strong addition to the cast.
The most momentous scene of the show, however, was the coming together of all the girls in detention in support of Aimee (Aimee Lou Wood) following her assault on the bus. The assault itself is shocking to watch; the attack is insidious because of the shame-faced audacity, and the naivety of the victim. Watching the ramifications of the assault as Aimee becomes anxious to get on the bus and struggles to be intimate with her boyfriend is upsetting, but when the girls help her express her anger by smashing up a car, the sense of catharsis is fantastic. As she arrives at the bus stop the next morning prepared to walk past it on the way to school, the whole gang of girls are there to meet her and help her conquer her fear. This display of female solidarity left a warm feeling and the hope that Season 3 will bring us more #girlsquad moments.
Overall, Sex Education has brought anguish (ISAAC) and delight (Adam and Eric are endgame) to viewers alike. Bring on Season 3!
Featured Image Credit: Jon Hall/Netflix, available on The Guardian.