Sex Education season 2 review: Netflix series achieves teen drama greatness

Netflix takes us back to school and the second year at Moordale is bigger, spunkier and more reflective than the first.

By Alex Fletcher Published: 28 January 2020 - 11.14am
Netflix

Not many TV shows can bring together discussions about toxic masculinity, self-harm, the intersect between your religious beliefs and your personal relationships, pansexuality, anxiety, bisexuality, romance for people with disabilities and still deliver a solid string of gags about unwanted erections.

But Sex Education is no ordinary TV show.

If the first season’s blend of British cast, British setting, but distinctly American school life with homecomings and baseball jackets felt occasionally discombobulating, the John Hughes-esque universe now feels richer, warmer and special.

Sex Education season two - Patricia Allison and Tanya Reynolds Netflix

It’s a tricky balance to flip between moments where a class of females reflect on their experiences of sexual assault and a scene where Gillian Anderson wields a gigantic wooden phallus or comes face to window with a splattering from Asa Butterfield.

Sex Education is bold enough to never shy from tough topics but never too po-faced to see the funny side of teenage angst and insecurities.

Season two shifts up the gears by expanding the cast and taking us beyond the class room. Rather than repeating the ‘sex clinic problem of the week’ format, the series zooms into on the parenting of the Groffs, played by the brooding and frosty Alistair Petrie and suddenly unleashed and fabulous Sam Spiro, and Otis’s atrocious father Remi, portrayed by a delightfully game James Purefoy.

Storylines from the first season aren’t swept away with the new school year, instead they gain a tighter focus and move into new more nuanced areas.

Alistair Oetrie as Mr Groff in Sex Education Netflix

Adam’s (Connor Swindells) dramatic moments with Eric in season one haven’t resolved his inner conflicts over his sexuality with a click of his fingers. A return to the swimming pool and a split from Maeve hasn’t quelled the anxieties of Jackson (Kedar Williams-Stirling). And a new-found contentment and confidence in who he is doesn’t mean school life will be plain-sailing for the impossible not-to-love Eric (Ncuti Gatwa).

The series toys with the cliché’s of the teen drama genre, teasing a rivalry between Otis’s (Asa Butterfield) love interests Maeve (Emma Mackey) and Ola (Patricia Allison), before pulling the rug out from underneath us. It ditches the tired ‘two girls squabbling over a boy’ trope, brings the female cast together in a Breakfast Club homage and turns the anticipated moment of Otis losing his virginity on its head with an unexpected twist.

Asa Butterfield and Emma Mackey continue to be the beating heart of the series with staggering performances that bring an emotional weight, lightness of touch and old-fashioned sense of British cheekiness.

Aimee, Maeve and Otis in Sex Education season 2 Netflix

Aimee Lou Wood’s exuberant Aimee Gibbs takes on the biggest storyline of the series, inspired by a real life events from the show’s writer Laurie Nunn. Wood and the Sex Education writers deal with the heartbreaking and rage-inducing storyline without ever breaking the character we grew to love in season one, which brings an authenticity and only heightens our empathy for her anguish.

Rhere are no weak links in this ensemble with previously minor characters like the Untouchables and the alien erotica fan Lily (Tanya Reynolds) coming to the fore and becoming fully fleshed.

Fans will be pleased to know that season three is set up in the finale. But there was never really any doubt that the show would return after being watched in 40 million households in its first 10 months and making Netflix’s most-watched top 10 in 2019.

Ncuti Gatwa as Eric in Sex Education on Netflix Netflix

The closing half an hour will make you cry tears of laughter over penis trees, blub like a baby and punch the air with euphoria over a gesture of romance and make you want to throw your TV out of the window at a dastardly act that ensures there is no syrupy sweetness as the closing credits roll.

Season one of Sex Education was fun, but season two earns the show greatness. It ranks the series alongside teen classics such as Skins, The O.C., Friday Night Lights, My So-Called Life, Grange Hill, The Wonder Years and establishes it as a series which its viewers will be able to hold onto, long after Otis, Maeve, Jackson, Adam and Eric have left Moordale.

Watch Sex Education on Netflix.

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