Season three of Netflix’s hit series Sex Education was released on September 17, and there are mixed feelings all around. As a big fan of the show, I was worried when the season three trailer came out. It felt very cliché, reminiscent of High School Musical with the “fight against the system” trope. As much as I love Sex Education’s sex-positive message, I wasn’t looking forward to having “the power of friendship” shoved down my throat.
The season begins with the start of a new term at Moordale Secondary School. Maeve and Otis, the two protagonists, are still on bad terms after their falling out at the end of the last season. We are introduced to the new head teacher, Ms. Hope, who attempts to be a moral savior by condemning all acts of “sexual deviancy,” implementing new uniforms, and forcing students into a pro-abstinence sexual health program. Unsurprisingly, the students are not fans of this sex-negative environment, and tensions rise as Hope becomes increasingly oppressive over the students’ lives.
I was happy to see the show kept it’s signature vulgarity, through crude sex scenes, creating a shock factor which initially helped the show gain popularity. The acting felt genuine — almost enough so to make up for the fact that none of the characters look under the age of twenty. The cinematography was phenomenal as well; dark and grainy lighting created an appropriate sense of tension and repression. Despite these redeeming qualities, there are still ways the show could have been improved.
Surprisingly, it appears that many fans no longer care about Otis and Maeve’s relationship. I’m all for a good slow-burn, but the “will-they-won’t-they” trope only works when the audience is really rooting for a couple. We finally got to see more of Ruby as a character and learn more about her home life, but the second she won the audience over, she was practically nonexistent for the rest of the show. Speaking of inadequate screen time, I absolutely adored one of the new characters, Cal, a non-binary transfer student. Sex Education has been great with LGBTQ+ representation, but Cal deserved more. The show missed many opportunities to give us information about their passions outside of their gender identity. Having a character’s entire personality revolve around their identity can be dehumanizing, turning what should be positive representation into a desperate attempt for teen culture points. However, there is still time for Sex Education to redeem itself.
The new season closed off with loose ends — particularly with the fate of the characters’ relationships hanging in balance, which alludes to the newly confirmed fourth season. However, I’m not entirely sure this is a good thing. From what I’ve seen, Netflix Originals tend to shoot themselves in the foot with each new season, progressively getting worse until the show is run into the ground. Shows like Stranger Things and Atypical start to feel tired after so many new seasons, and I feel as though Sex Education will see the same fate. Once a show is this popular, the producers start caring less about good plot development, and depend on loyal fans to provide views and monetization, regardless of quality. I didn’t hate this new season, but I can’t say that I’m excited for what’s to come.