“SEX EDUCATION” is a show on Netflix. Socially awkward high school student Otis may not have much experience in the lovemaking department, but he gets good guidance on the topic in his personal sex ed course — living with mom Jean, who is a sex therapist. Being surrounded by manuals, videos and tediously open conversations about sex, Otis has become a reluctant expert on the subject. When his classmates learn about his home life, Otis decides to use his insider knowledge to improve his status at school, so he teams with whip-smart bad girl Maeve to set up an underground sex therapy clinic to deal with their classmates’ problems. But through his analysis of teenage sexuality, Otis realizes that he may need some therapy of his own.
Every performer is wonderful, not least because the script is wonderful, playing the sex for laughs and the search for intimacy as something serious, good and noble. Not a single character is a cipher – even the smallest parts have a sketched backstory and some good gags. It’s all of a piece with the charm and generosity of spirit that suffuses the whole thing. Sex Education sets so many conventions cheerily but firmly aside that you feel like an entire forest of received wisdom is being clear-cut. Light floods in, new growth springs up. Such a sense of revelry and optimism abounds that you can feel it doing your heart and soul good as you watch. And all without missing a comic or emotional beat or deviating from its moral core, which urges us all to connect.
So welcome once more, Otis (and your newly excitable penis), Maeve with her troubles to seek, Jackson (Kedar Williams-Stirling) whose mental health plummets to new lows as his swimming career reaches new heights, Aimee through whose experience on a local bus the issue of sexual assault is channelled, and all the magnificent rest of you. Nobody does it better. In fact, nobody does anything quite like it at all.
Sex Education manages to achieve the best of both worlds; it’s a highly entertaining and often delightful binge watch that’s so good that the real world just melts away, but it’s also shockingly relatable and might wind up being a newfound source of hope to apply to real-world relationships.
First off, for those who might be in it for the sex, that’s definitely there. Frequent masterbation, fetishes, dirty talk, a variety of forms of experimentation – you name it, Sex Education probably has it. And the series rarely holds back when it comes to showing such acts. No, it doesn’t cross the line of its maturity rating by getting unnecessarily graphic, but it does make a point to lean into the grounded awkwardness one might experience when going into new sexual territory. Sex Education also rocks a playful tone with these scenes, successfully suggesting that there’s no reason to feel ashamed if you’ve found yourself in a similar predicament.
The show also doesn’t hold back when it comes to tackling weighty topics either. There’s an especially powerful episode about abortion early on in Season 1 that absolutely blew me away with how it took the time to make the experience so deeply personal for a number of characters, whether it’s someone who’s going through the procedure or the one who’ll be there to walk them home after. There’s also a sexual assault storyline in Season 2 that’s completely different from anything I’ve ever seen on screen before. Rather than limit that particular plot point to a select few episodes, it reverberates from Episode 3 on, taking the time to show the possible stages of experiencing such trauma and how one can come to terms with it.