Arts and Entertainment

Moordale’s Finest Return for a Third Season

Sex Education Season three retains the quality of its predecessors as it continues to expand and build upon its cast of eccentric and endearing characters.

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By Emily Lu

In the present, sex is widely considered taboo. Netflix's “Sex Education” takes this stigma and flips it on its head. The show is very open with its commentary on sex, with the humor and dialogue often being on the very vulgar and raunchy side. However, what differentiates “Sex Education” from other teen-oriented shows of a similar nature is that within the crude humor is a sincere discussion on issues pertaining to sex as well as relationships, identity, and mental health. At its core, "Sex Education" is a show full of wacky, heartfelt characters and some of the best writing and acting of any modern teen dramedy in recent history. The recently released third season maintains the strong writing and charming acting present in the previous two seasons as it tackles new issues, characters, and plotlines.

By the start of season three, the sex therapy “clinic” that socially awkward teenager Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield) and resident bad girl Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey) ran together at Moordale Secondary School has ceased operations, with the pair being on shaky terms by the end of season two. Moordale High School is shaken up by the arrival of a new headmistress, Hope Haddon (Jemima Kirke), as Headmaster Michael Groff (Alistair Petrie) steps down due to a series of scandals.

Once again, the show manages to juggle various plotlines alongside genuine and three-dimensional character development. Otis continues to grow as he deals with relationships—both new and old—as he enters a relationship with Moordale’s popular girl Ruby Matthews (Mimi Keene) and attempts to reconcile with Maeve. Similarly, Otis’s best friend Eric Offiong (Ncuti Gatwa), and his boyfriend Adam Groff (Connor Swindells) navigate the intricacies of their relationship and their identities. Eric confronts his sexuality, specifically how it clashes with the conservative culture of his parents' home country of Nigeria, while Adam deals with his lasting insecurities and struggles with embracing his sexuality.

In the meantime, Maeve deals with life on her own as she grapples with a new relationship with parapalegic Isaac, her mother’s drug addiction, and her younger sister’s life in foster care. Maeve also goes through her own development, as she learns to be more open to the support of others and attempts to rectify her feelings regarding Otis. The side characters come to the forefront of the show this season, as once-shallow characters are given depth. Through her relationship with Otis, Ruby (who was once the quintessential “queen bee”) is able to open up about her insecurities regarding her family and her frugal home life. The cast of the show shines in their performances, as they all charismatically play each of their characters, with the performances of Ncuti Gatwa and Connor Swindells being particular highlights.

Beyond the teenage characters, both Jean (Gillian Anderson), Otis’s mother, and former Headmaster Groff struggle with issues regarding their relationships, as Jean handles her pregnancy and attempts to mend things between her and her boyfriend Jakob (Mikael Persbrandt). Throughout season three, Jean learns to be a better partner and mother as she attempts to overcome her deep-seated issues. Michael also learns to accept his past of abuse by his father and become a happier, more lively person after his divorce. Michael’s development this season toward a person attempting to atone for his past actions and find happiness is a welcome departure from his season two portrayal as a maniacal villain. Despite the strides he makes this season, much room remains for him to fix his strained relationship with his son, Adam.

The overarching plotline of season three revolves around Moordale’s new headmistress, Hope Haddon, as she attempts to end Moordale’s reputation as the “sex school.” She quickly establishes herself as an unlikeable, tyrannical headmistress, limiting self-expression and imposing an outdated sex education curriculum onto students. Hope is portrayed as cartoonishly evil throughout the season, and the attempts to humanize her by depicting her struggle with her fertility and genuine concern about Moordale fail miserably when her actions are put into perspective: it is quite hard to redeem someone who restricts the individual expression of her students and is openly discriminatory to students such as Cal Bowman (Dua Saleh), a nonbinary student at Moordale.

“Sex Education” season three is yet another entertaining entry in the series, as it explores new, complex issues and develops its characters in a compelling fashion. The season explores issues such as gender, grief, sex positivity, and love thoroughly and respectfully. “Sex Education” establishes its necessity as a show in today’s social and political climate, as it facilitates a necessary conversation on sex and various other social issues that pervade current discourse. It remains strong and direct in its messaging, not being afraid to convey its issues without any sugar coating. The show isn’t condescending in its message and naturally communicates its ideas through captivating characters and high-standard writing. “Sex Education” demonstrates that it is and will continue to be a significant, enthralling, and important piece of media for modern times.