Sex Education (S1-S2)
Remember the first time when thoughts like “how are we born?” or “what exactly happens after hero heroines cover themselves with a blanket & light goes off?” kind of popped up in our head? The very few of us who wanted to satisfy their inquisitiveness by asking elders were mostly greeted with peculiar answers of angels gifting children to parents, or with straightaway rebuke for asking too many questions!
Well, “sex” has always been a hush-hush topic for many of us. Irrespective of the region or background we belong to, it’s never portrayed as a natural phenomenon that binds one emotionally, which sadly has led to the development of an unnecessary curiosity & unhealthy outlook towards it.
Coming across a series where for the first time some real talking about S-E-X happens is thus truly a breath of fresh air.
For all these reasons & a lot more, this Netflix dramedy demands a watch. It is thoroughly impressive – all the more so because it is particularly important.
STORY & SCREENPLAY
Set in a fictional town of United Kingdom (subtle hint of the fictional Forest of Arden!!), the story mainly focuses on Otis, a sexually awkward teenager, and his mother (played by the breathtaking Gillian Anderson) who is a sex & relationship therapist, along with the lives & struggles of his fellow mates from Moordale high school. It is the tale of late teens – those dreamy years where the hormones are raging, when the adrenaline rush knows no bounds and the world is looked at through a coloured glass. But yes, there are lots of anxiety and self-doubt lurking beneath that apparent exuberance.
Exploring a plethora of themes such as homophobia, parental abandonment, bullying, trauma of abortion, public sexual harassment, parental pressure, and mental health, Sex Education unapologetically speaks about the predicament young adults usually encounter.
Otis(Asa Butterfield), although unable to cross barriers about any kind of sexual acts in his mind, realizes that he knows a thing or two about sex. This leads to him operating a secret sex therapy clinic at his school, especially on the advice of his sassy classmate Maeve. As the story progresses, we dive deeper into the psyche of various students, seeing a few eccentric sexual queries of the adolescent people in the process, and making way for some excellent social commentary dealt with maturity & utmost honesty.
Creator Laurie Nunn has woven a script that manages to toss-up between creative boldness & mass appeal. Most of the jokes land on time, and although it would seem crude at the very first glance, the steamy scenes are not reduced only to titillation source but they carefully manage to drive the plot forward. Although it feels a bit overwhelming for its long list of characters, the multiple wow moments scattered throughout the show compensate well. They will tug at your heart strings – some will make you cry or simply leave you amazed.
PERFORMANCES & DIRECTION
Nunn expressed that in her mind “Moordale is like a teenage utopia”. She has thus designed a diversified crowd consisting of feisty woman, mean ladies, internally troubled jock, horny sci-fi obsessed girl, a bully who is a victim of parental pressure and so many more, all having hidden layers to their persona. Although every character, ancillary or primary, have performed admirably, I am in absolute love with Ncuti Gatwa, who is playing Otis’ best friend Eric. Portraying the role of an openly gay African, Gatwa, whose infectious smile will keep you hooked to screen, has delivered an exceptionally heart-warming performance. Special mention to the tear-jerking dance scene between Otis & Eric in the first season – he is such a natural! Asa Butterfield as Otis has skillfully portrayed the geeky late bloomer who struggles internally after his parents’ divorce. Connor Swindells (Adam Groff) and Kedar Williams Stirling (Jackson Marchetti), playing teenage boys who deal with their own alienations amidst the crowd, deserve added commendation. But for me, the out-and-out stars of the show are Gillian Anderson (Jean Milburn) & the gorgeous Emma Mackey (Maeve Wiley).
Anderson, owning the entire scene with her poise, demands rapt attention when she confidently says “it is perfectly normal to be sexually attracted to a mature woman, when you stigmatize his choice then you feed into an unhealthy narrative of masculinity on middle age”, or asserts “it’s a fine balance, listening to people without inserting yourself into their reality” while talking about being a good therapist. You just can’t take your eyes off screen when she’s there. Apart from her, it’s Maeve’s character which leaves a long-lasting effect. Extremely well written and well enacted, she becomes the spirit of the series, and by the end of season 2 you’ll find yourself bewildered by her strength & heart of gold. Emma Mackey has made a sparkling debut!
Use of Music & Some Special Mention
Sex Education is full of strong female characters who don’t hesitate to talk loudly about female pleasure or to accept without judgement that sexuality is fluid while gender has a huge spectrum. The concepts of asexuality & gender blindness are effortlessly added to the script. But the real “strength” lies beyond this – in the penultimate episode of the second season, we find a bunch of girls with innate difference in opinion slowly coming closer and understanding one another, when they allow communication after years of tiff. They uplift each other, learn to respect the differences, and effectively shatter the stereotypes of society. I haven’t seen a more heart-warming act on television than the “bus scene” in a long time. Goosebumps!
The series validates the power of feeling deeply in every possible way. As we know, movies often resort to scores & songs to engage viewers with an impactful narrative. Following this age old formula, music supervisor Matt Biffa has used funky, profound, soulful and groovy numbers for underlining each mood of the characters. Right from “I touch myself” or “Devil or Angel” to “I used to be free” and ”Twenty five miles”, every soundtrack fits perfectly and enhances the story telling – and by the time Jean tearfully confesses her “broken heart” with “Mystery of love” playing in the background, you realise you have fallen for this beautiful creation!
It is hard to come across shows which harbor depth without being preachy. Sex Education, with its light-hearted tone and witty rendition, is thus quietly rebellious.
Although the last season wrapped up most of the loose endings, some major plot lines remain unresolved. So the news of 3rd season’s release has rightfully evoked much excitement. Going to grab my popcorn and revise all the sixteen episodes before 17th September. This is going to be one hell of a ride!
If you haven’t watched this one yet, please go for it to gain a completely exotic experience!
Disclaimer: The above review solely illustrates the views of the writer.