‘Sex Education’ shows growth with season three

Asa Butterfield (‘Hugo’) and Mimi Keene (‘Tolkien’) star in the third season of Netflix’s ‘Sex Education.’ The season continues to break boundaries and open up new discussions. // Photo courtesy of Netflix

Our Take; 4/5 Stars

When “Sex Education,” Netflix’s teen-comedy about Moordale Secondary School, first premiered, viewers were exposed to the inner lives of the students, from their relationship and sex problems, to heartfelt and intimate moments of friendship. Now, as the show enters its highly anticipated third season, the students of Moordale continue to grapple with this and more, now under the threat of a strict new headteacher.

The show starts at the end of summer break, where we are introduced to several new developments. Otis (Asa Butterfield, “Hugo”), now sporting a mustache, is in a secret casual relationship with Ruby (Mimi Keene, “Tolkien”), one of the popular girls at school. Eric (Ncuti Gatwa, “The Last Letter from Your Lover”) is openly dating Adam (Connor Swindells, “Emma”), who has transferred back to Moordale. Maeve (Emma Mackey, “Summit Fever”) and Otis, once best friends, are no longer on speaking terms after a miscommunication over possible romantic feelings.

Possibly the most important new development, however, is the introduction of Hope Haddon (Jemima Kirke, “Girls”), the new headteacher of Moordale, who takes the place of Mr. Groff (Alistair Petrie, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”) after his dismissal at the end of the previous season. At first, Hope presents herself as a cool, hip alternative to the traditional role of a headmistress, with promises to move Moordale forward and carry the school past its “sex school” reputation to a brighter future. The first change she institutes is painting a line down the hallway, making students walk on one side only. While the rest of the students seem undisturbed by it, Rahim (Sami Outalbali, “Mortel”), Moordale’s resident philosopher and poet, remarks, “This line is not about unity. It’s about control. We’re going to be put into tiny, little boxes. Nothing is ever just a line.”

Rahim turns out to be right: Hope institutes a sweeping array of changes, including school uniforms, abstinence-based sex education classes, and the stifling of self-expression — at one point, even demanding that Maeve hand over her nose piercing. She also openly discriminates against Cal (Dua Saleh), a nonbinary student who recently transferred to Moordale, in addition to countless other microaggressions against students. Hope’s self-described “feminism” and “progressive beliefs” (in actuality, a thinly veiled guise for her discrimination and intolerance) have the students of Moordale High put their differences aside in a united attempt to oust her from the school.

In doing so, “Sex Education” opens up discussions about LGBTQ+ issues, body dysmorphia, sex positivity, trauma and more. It is refreshing to see a show discuss them head-on without any reservations. As dense as these topics are, the show effortlessly incorporates them into the plotline, with just the right amount of humor to keep things light.

“Sex Education” also highlights the various sides to each character, giving insight into the reasoning behind their actions. Sure, there are clearly defined “good guys” and “bad guys” — the show makes no excuses for Hope’s actions — but we often see other factors in a character’s lives that influence their actions.

Ruby, for example, is often portrayed as guarded and sharp-tongued. We later learn that she’s insecure about her home life, and as a result, rarely allows herself to open up to others. Lily (Tanya Reynolds, “Delicious”), whose alien-themed writing lands her in hot water with Hope, starts to distance herself from Ola (Patricia Allison, “Unprecedented,”), her girlfriend, who is looking for support in navigating her own issues. Eventually, Lily holes herself up in her room, tearing down all of her intergalactic decorations and cleaning out her quirky wardrobe.

Even Mr. Groff, the disgraced former headmaster of Moordale, has a redemption arc of sorts in this season as he dedicates time to his passion for cooking.

Seeing these characters further developed brings a level of familiarity. They are all on a path to growth in some way, shape or form, and it is exciting to see characters cope with their flaws and develop from them.

The third season of “Sex Education” continues to break down taboos and discuss rarely touched upon issues.

With humor woven into the dialogue and a cast of relatable characters, it is the perfect choice to binge-watch on your next free day.