The Netflix event production returns after a two-year hiatus for a new season, but the clinic run by Otis (Asa Butterfield) and Maeve (Emma Mackey) is a distant memory. The plot takes a whole new direction, and ultimately, we find ourselves both overwhelmed and wanting for more.
The second season ended with Isaac (George Robinson) sabotaging our Otis‘s declaration of love for Maeve, the boy who had surprisingly found himself in an affair with high school megastar Ruby Matthews (Mimi Keene). A rather convincing point of tension in a series that was gradually abandoning its main plot, sexual education. A transition to teen drama was already underway, and season 3 was supposed to restart a machine that had been paused by covid-19.
This new season was an opportunity to relaunch different and more varied plots, so much so that the scripted choices were there, the execution, however, leaves something to be desired. Hope Haddon (Jemima Kirke) replaces Michael Groff (Alistair Petrie) as head of Moordale. Hope is a bit of a cliché character who wants to do everything right for the success of Moordale‘s students, but it is unfortunate that the writers chose to build a character that kills the whole meaning of the school as such. In the previous seasons, because of the clinic on campus, the high school was one of the important characters in the story, and by destroying the clinic, the place lost all meaning for us. What of these high school students and their problems if the place of action is reduced to a very poorly staged allegory of a certain fascist system that only the French student seems to notice. This creates a feeling of floating and laziness on the part of the scriptwriters, a feeling of shaky filler. One can even take the ridiculousness further and dwell on the choice of the name of this new director, Hope Haddon, whose initials make one cringe.
Moordale‘s assassination, however, allowed interpersonal storylines to develop, such as the blossoming relationship of Otis and Ruby at first, and that of Adam (Connor Swindells) and Eric (Ncuti Gatwa). Dramatically, the chemistry and bonding between Otis and Ruby was refreshing and engaging. A fairly well-developed relationship that will hint at a lot about Mimi Keene’s character, who until then seemed reduced to a fairly stereotypical role. Following on from this, the development of Adam discovering his sexuality alongside Eric in an extremely well-crafted journey highlights the importance of healthy communication, and especially the necessary connection between the self and our desires without rushing ourselves or the other. Eric and Adam‘s example shows us what it is like to be at different points in our sexual lives and in discovering our sexuality despite all the love we may feel for someone. Some things are not to be forced, sentimentality is portrayed as a destructive but educational force, which is extremely powerful on Eric and Adam‘s relationship.
The strength of this season, and of this series in general, is its ability to always portray sex and sexuality in a positive light. Sometimes used as a narrative device, this series makes a point of making sexuality less taboo in a constructed and unprovocative way (for the most part). The superb plotline of Eric‘s trip to Nigeria complementing his sentimental expedition with Adam, Jean‘s (Gillian Anderson) pregnancy demonstrating a phenomenon that is rarely treated/shown on television, the development of Michael Groff as a fifty-year-old questioning his entire existence and upbringing, so many strong scriptural choices in this season, which despite everything, can’t help but fall into the norm of classic teen drama.
In the end, the intrinsic nature of the series will not be enough to hide its flaws in this season. These flaws are the lack of risk-taking that made this series a novelty. These flaws are the temptation of the easy way out mixed with what worked before. Otis and Maeve has become a redundant axis, constantly subjected to challenges that make us roll our eyes. Is it still worth prolonging a plot that seems to be running out of steam? As well as the doubt as to the identity of the father of Jean‘s child, isn’t this still an abuse of narrative facility? Creating straightforward drama gave a rather different perspective to what one would usually expect from this series, but by multiplying the plots, it created a rather large blur on the path the series is taking scripturally. These new plots, however, seem to be much more grounded, which in the misfortune of the clinic’s abandonment, are still well crafted and fit naturally into our characters’ lives. This new season of Sex Education remains brilliant in its usual panache and leitmotif, but the new direction chosen remains confusing and the complexity of the script set up forces ease at every turn. Season 4 is already shaping up to be of fundamental importance for the future of the series.
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