Sex Education (Season 3)
6 Unconventional Moments which went right!
It has been more than two months now since the third season of Sex Education has released and I am still not over the spell. Almost sure I won’t be for a very long time. While it has already been flooded with a surreal amount of appreciation, criticism, and reviews, it’s just my addition to the torrent.
No, it’s not going to be a so-called review as it’s already past that stage and pretty much everyone who had previously watched S1&2 has binged Sex Ed so far despite having varied opinion. I wish to write about a few specific moments from the series which stayed with me longer than I expected, mostly because how unconventionally these novel concepts were dealt with. And some, for their pristine heartwarming effect which keeps on lingering long after the end credits have rolled. This is going to be one discussion full of spoilers, so if you are planning to watch the series, stop right now, finish season 3 & please come back!
To give just another heads-up, this list won’t be including the teenage love angles vividly, as they have been analyzed & over analyzed by now. Let’s drill down to some understated brilliant ingredients of this season.
1. Jonathan’s Death – S3E3
Oddly enough this ingenious touch has never been talked about much since the release, although it has received a lot of hatred. Quirks are never ending when it comes to this show. In the very first minute of episode three we see Cynthia & Jeffrey having rampant sex after their dinner which leads to their caravan’s shaking up with extreme force. Their cat, Jonathan, found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. The microwave gets knocked off the wall, followed by Jonathan’s sudden, tragic death. Instigating a lot of furious comments from the fans like “unnecessary” and “gruesome”, this graphic cat death scene might have been one sheer random moment of black humor in the show but it goes on to shed light on a very important theme – grief. In the latter scenes we see Jeffrey sharing with Otis about how they remained childless and Jonathan was like a son to Cynthia, who after his death, surprisingly bore no sign of grief, rather is eager to have sex all the time. Otis in his usual wise manner suggests Jeffrey that Cynthia may be wielding sex as a way to escape from feeling sad as people deal with grief in many different ways.
On the same evening we see Jeffrey having a difficult conversation with Cynthia about the death of Jonathan and hints that she might be using sex as a defense mechanism. It wrenches our heart to see that Cynthia breaks down in tears, admitting she cannot talk about Jonathan because it is “too painful.”
We often fail to realize a couple with their pet can be a “complete” family. And when those pets head towards the rainbow bridge, the pain is no less than losing one family member, a piece of heart. In all its absurdity this story arc seems so much meaningful in the disguise of chaos.
2. Isaac talking about his sexuality – S3E4
Isaac, who got his villainous treatment towards the end of season two, is back again with his needle-sharp wit and a lot of surprise. This season greatly emphasizes on him not being just an add-on to complicate the love triangle, but an unapologetically diverse individual in the stereotype microcosm of horny teenagers. George, who uses a wheelchair in real life as well, says he was relieved that they were going with an actor who actually has a disability as it gives an opportunity for them to showcase their potential. “I just show that disabled people are everything: we’re fathers, we’re sons, we go through economic problems, we have problems with relationships, we have all of these things. And yes, we are intimate sexual beings just like everyone else.”, says he.
The intimate scene between Isaac and Maeve is one of the most beautiful, tender portrayals of romance I have seen onscreen. Isaac speaks about getting hard, where he requires a little help. He navigates Maeve towards his soft points in a candid manner. Maeve chuckles while taking their tees off, and as they continue their act of intimacy, we realize the stigma around the sexuality of disable people, who are either looked up with awe or treated with pity, gradually diminishing. Isn’t love making all about expressing your vulnerabilities to your partner and not always steamy stuff? At that moment I forgot the wheelchair’s limitation, for maybe, John Mayer was singing somewhere, “We got the afternoon/You got this room for two/One thing I’ve left to do/Discover me/Discovering you/One mile to every inch of/Your skin like porcelain/One pair of candy lips and/Your bubblegum tongue”…surely all of our bodies are wonderlands of their own kind.
3. Michael stands his ground – S3E7
Bearing its signature style of having the most hard hitting and emotionally rich penultimate episodes in every season, this one is no exception. One of the greatest strengths of Sex Ed lies in its deep diving even into the least likeable character’s psyche while extending the scope of their individualistic growth. We had seen Michael Groff, the formidable headmaster of Moordale High, bearing every sign of a deeply problematic patriarch. Episode seven gives us a chance to discover the root causes of his tyrant nature. A troubled person, who remembers the soft sound of egg-shell breaking and smell of food when he recalls his mother’s memories, but thinks of his father with dead silence and signs of anxiety in his face. A childhood full of bullies from father and sibling, alongside unhealthy competitiveness, gave birth to a man who is incapable of experiencing the feeling of “joy”.
“Boys don’t cry”, he was repeatedly dictated. In the process he had forgotten laughter as well.
After divorce he was forced to live under the same roof with his brother and go through the same torture every day. Until one fine evening he blurts out — “My name is Michael, and my life is a failure”. But he would rather be unemployed, a divorcee, a failed father and not a bully anymore. It was so refreshing to see a middle-aged man who is a victim of parental torture finally stand up for himself. It evokes the hope that every person no matter how horrible, given the right company and possessing courage to give oneself a second chance in life, has the capability to change for good.
4. Erin agrees to give Elsie back – S3E7
Another soul wrenching moment of this episode was when Erin, who previously tried to abduct Elsie from her foster care, finally lets Maeve take her back. She realizes her daughter had a better shot at life without her mother’s inconsistent lifestyle imposed on her. It is painfully beautiful to see a mother doing what is right instead of what is giving her momentary happiness. That scene expanded a horizon of emotions showing a drug addict, who had previously made some bad, selfish choices in life has her heart in the right place. Anne-Marrie-Duff aces the characterization. She makes sure you don’t feel pity for Erin anymore, but plain sadness and a tad bit of hope that with this sacrifice she finally learns to be a better version of herself.
5. Otis talks to Lily – S3E7
Since season 1 we saw Lily being the frank young sci-fi obsessed writer who exhibits every sign of sex positivity both in her creation as well as her personal life. Her latest work of erotic fiction gets published in the local magazine which again brings the “Sex School” into limelight, as a result of which Hope subjects her to extreme public shaming, with a sign singling her out as a source of embarrassment for her fellow students. Once Lily shuts her off completely, Otis goes to check on her. The girl who once wanted to experience sex with anyone out of peer pressure talks about escape routes including alien galaxies and unknown planets. When Lily self-doubts about being an artist, Otis smiles to say he wouldn’t be so sure. The society, from her very childhood, has dictated what “nice girls” should write on, and what their thought processes and creative outlets should represent. With this scene we learn different doesn’t always mean weirdo, and even if they do, there is always a window for us to make people feel inclusive, even the ones whom we don’t understand completely.
Otis asserts — “Even if you do decide to not write about aliens anymore, you shouldn’t ever give someone the power to humiliate you”. The gleam in Lily’s gaze grows brighter. We understand the world becomes a better place whenever we empathize, extend the hand of support – for what are human beings without compassion?
6. Adam discovers the thing he loves – S3E8
Well, this isn’t one of those underrated moments I initially claimed to talk about. It’s one of those scenes which connected with almost everyone because of the extremely moving narrative. Would have been a crime to not include it in the list. Bullied by his father, a constant disappointment, a rejected lover, Adam Groff finally finds something in life to devote interest to and enjoy. He participates in the dog competition with Madam, his pet Cavapoo. The character buildup of Adam Groff has been the highlight of Season 3, and is undoubtedly a masterful way of story-telling where we find a supposed failure taking strides in self-discovery and learning the ABCDs of self-love. His mother comes to the gallery to cheer him up, and as a beautiful surprise, we see Miss Sands accompanying her to support her student. The sheer pride in Maureen’s eyes and the very first glister of gratification in Adam’s face are a sight to behold. He overcomes the nervousness, believing that he has the capability of doing something substantial.
The “not bad” poem which Adam wrote for Eric acts as a catharsis, where he understands that much more than love they need different rooms to spread their wings at their own pace, plays in the background where he thanks Eric for showing that the arrogant, obnoxious “he” has a heart. As Aimee Mann sings “come on and save me, from the ranks of the freaks who suspect they could never love anyone”, we are at once connected with the myriad group of characters, struggling, surviving, existing in their own way all in the search of acceptance and love. The season finale couldn’t have been any better.
The audience kept on complaining Season 3 lacks the craftsmanship of the earlier seasons, but in my opinion, every season has its own highs and lows. The quiet resemblance of life and ability to look beyond the tunnel vision which the series provides is soul-stirring. Especially, in a time when we are becoming emotionally inert with each passing day, exhibiting nothing but nonchalance for our fellow dwellers – I am simply glad this show exists. Hoping to find the same magic in season 4 as well 🙂
Disclaimer: The above review solely illustrates the views of the writer.