Television Review: Sex Education

sex education television review; netflix

Showrunner: Laurie Nunn

Duration: 8 episodes

Sex Education, at a distance, looks like a lame British comedy, but after avoiding Netflix’s constant pressuring for the last few weeks I finally decided to take a look. The series follows Otis, a young teenage boy with a sex therapist for a mother. Due to this bizarre upbringing, Otis has a natural understanding of the human psyche and soon begins to mentor his fellow classmates on their sexual frustrations for cash. While this premise sounds simple, I have never seen a show that has so accurately described and portrayed the awkwardness of adolescence in such a brilliant way.

The characters in this series are beautifully written and there isn’t a weak character among them. Otis, as our main character, is incredibly likeable yet frustrating as you watch him make mistake after mistake while advising others on their sexual encounters. Even though he constantly makes mistakes, this makes him even more likeable as he demonstrates that he is just a virgin teenager himself with his own fears and reservations. His best friend Eric is another clever character who sees a great amount of character development throughout the season, while still avoiding a ‘token’ representation of his sexuality. Maeve and Jackson’s relationship throughout the season was handled well by the writers as they gave depth to both characters and avoided any cliche moments between them. One of the other key players, Adam, brought an interesting journey to the series as he seemed constantly present yet removed from all of the other characters throughout the season. This comes to a head towards the end of the season as we get a glimpse into this seemingly one-dimensional character. His relationship with his father, as well as his personal journey really gives depth to a character that could have been placed simply as a ‘bully’. 

If the rating for the series wasn’t so high (MA 15+), I would highly recommend young teenagers watched this show as it covers so many issues personal to young people. In this one season alone, the series covers issues such as anxiety, abortion, peer pressure, masturbation, safe sex, sexual confusion, young trauma and belonging but never in a way that feels like its preaching to its audience. It remains clear that the writers had a deep understanding of the struggles of young people, rather than leaving us with a script that feels contrived and forced. The dialogue in the series reflects this as their conversations seem natural and the relationships between each character feel real and believable. The chemistry between Otis and Maeve as well as Otis and Eric resonates with the audience as you can’t help but cheer for these characters to survive awkward adolescence. They demonstrate that you don’t have to have perfect characters, without flaws, in order to be ‘perfect’.

The way this series handles some of these difficult topics is done gracefully and respectfully. In one particular episode, they reveal a character (who by all means is extremely charismatic) to be suffering from anxiety. As this is an ever-growing issue for young people and a consistently misunderstood and misdiagnosed condition, this gave this character depth and ‘realness’ to his personality that could have otherwise been absent. Similarly, the representation of Eric and his character arc paid respect to many young people who are in his situation without going into the stereotypical experiences that homosexuals face in a high school setting. The relationship between Otis and his mother, while bizarre and not entirely relatable, also provides us with glimpses of our own intrusive parents who did only want what was best for us, albeit not always in the most sensitive ways. 

Sex Education is a hilarious yet heartfelt series that accurately displays adolescence in an intelligent and respectful way. It will make you laugh at the ridiculousness of youth while also tugging at your heartstrings from your own experiences when you were young and navigating your own body and relationships.

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