With the introduction of two non-binary characters, Sex Education continues to explore the complications of relationships beyond the drama we’ve all grown used to.
|Created By||Laurie Nunn|
|Genre(s)||Comedy, Drama, Romance, Young Adult, LGBT, Family|
|Peter Groff||Jason Isaacs|
|Aimee||Aimee Lou Wood|
This content contains pertinent spoilers.
It’s the UK’s equivalent of senior year for everyone at Moordale Secondary, and with a new Head Teacher, Hope, things change. Many, at first, thought it would be for the better since Hope came in trying to be friendly, youthful, and fun. However, she cracks down on all Moordale is known for in time and makes life hell for many.
Who specifically? Well, characters like Layla and Cal who are non-binary, for example. Which for Cal it is a bit easier to handle since they befriend Jackson, but for Layla? They seemingly are on their own.
But that’s not the only thing that becomes hellacious. Relationship drama is all over, and whether it is a platonic relationship, like Aimee and Maeve, alongside Jackson and Viv, or romantic relationships, like Ruby and Otis, there are far more breakups than people getting together.
Yet, it isn’t just about the teenagers and their drama. Jean is dealing with being pregnant at her age and the prejudice that comes with it while dealing with someone like Jakob, who isn’t the most communicative. Add in Michael dealing with his brother, Maureen trying to put herself out there, and so much more, season 3 of Sex Education is well worth the wait.
Collected Quote(s) & .Gifs
It might help you think more clearly about what you want to say if you don’t feel observed.
— Otis (Episode 2)
People deserve your whole heart, […] if you can’t give them that, it’s better they know. It’s the kinder thing to do.
— Jakob (Episode 4)
If you love someone, it’s better to bend a bit than break.
— Ola (Episode 5)
It’s really common for people to create rich fantasy worlds to escape into. It’s what most artists do. They are brave enough to show the weirdest, most vulnerable sides of themselves through their work. Which helps a lot of people not feel alone.
— Otis (Episode 7)
You shouldn’t ever give someone the power to humiliate you.
— Otis (Episode 7)
People like to be asked to go to things. Makes them feel like you care.
— Maureen (Episode 8)
I just feel like I’m… I’m ready to fly, and you’re just learning to walk.
— Eric (Episode 8)
The issues we talked about have always been there. People just haven’t felt safe enough to raise them.
— Otis (Episode 8)
I will always thank you for showing me I have a heart.
— Adam (Episode 8)
- Episode 1: Understanding the significance of safe spaces – Whether trans or needing a place to be vulnerable.
- Episode 2 & 9: “Fuck The Pain Away” by Peaches acapella
- Episode 6: Eric’s time in Nigeria
- Episode 7: Otis’ conversation with Lily
- Episode 8: The show finally giving Ola a moment to be open about her feelings
- Episode 8: What Layla brings to the non-binary conversation
Cal & Layla
While non-binary people have existed under various names and have long existed, their prominence in media, beyond indie films, is still relatively new. So to have a non-binary Black person and have them explore, with another, what it means to be non-binary was a lesson in many ways.
For one, there is the challenge of owning said identity and figuring out what it means to you. So you don’t identify as a boy or girl, so how do you operate in a world that is set up among gender lines? Also, in terms of your performance, while you may not believe in gender, how will you dress and appear? Will you wear a binder or baggy clothes? May you potentially dress feminine yet reject she/her terms?
What about intimacy? As shown with Jackson, that can be complicated as he doesn’t see himself as queer, yet he likes Cal, and Cal likes them back. So how does he translate how he would act with a girl to someone who doesn’t like their chest touched that way?
Sex Education doesn’t necessarily answer these questions or any of them, and that’s because Layla and Cal don’t represent the whole. They represent two characters having a non-binary experience, and while they may share things, like proper binders over ace bandages, their experiences aren’t equal. These two don’t give you any reason to believe non-binary people are a monolith at all.
Rather, as Cal said to Jackson, both you and the characters are learning who they are, what they are, and figuring out what’s comfortable. Which is by no means easy and comes with mistakes during the process. But, as long as there is some movement forward, there will be progress.
While Hope is touted to be a villain of sorts, you have to appreciate that there are layers given to the character. You could note her not being much older than Otis and the rest, and with her being an alumnus to Moordale, she is trying to give them a real-world experience, so they don’t have the culture shock she did. There is also her need to, like Vivienne, achieve one goal after another, and the idea of failure giving her anxiety. Add in her fertility issues, and we’re reminded how much Hope is a human being under immense pressure.
Now, does this excuse how she treats Cal or the microaggressions presented to Jackson and Vivienne? Absolutely not. Yet, rather than make her a tyrant, we thankfully see why Hope is how she is, and while things don’t end well for her, there is hope that we may see Hope in season 4. If just to conclude her storyline.
Adam’s Journey, No Matter How Frustrating It Was
It’s difficult sometimes to appreciate Adam’s storyline. He was Eric’s bully-turned secret boyfriend, and while you do have to applaud the steps Adam has made, it doesn’t lessen how much Eric seems to have had to hold back so that Adam could catch up. But that’s the thing we don’t see explored a lot with queer relationships. Often we get that ideal, queer relationships are like hetero relationships thing, or we get an immense amount of drama due to someone coming to terms with themselves.
In a way, we got that with Adam, but with this being a series that explores Adam coming to terms with his sexuality, we get to see the awkwardness of him and Eric wanting to be the bottom. There is the issue of Adam being more lowkey while Eric is flamboyant. Never mind Adam starting late and learning how to deal with the ignorance other people have when someone comes out. All of which Eric has long done, and while there is a need to praise Eric for sticking around, thus allowing Adam to catch up, you can see all the opportunities Eric misses in the process.
But, considering the alternative is an older man teaching Adam the ropes, Eric being the one to do it is far less creepy. Plus, like so many this season, you can easily shift back and forth between loving Adam for trying yet hating him for not trying hard enough or getting out of his comfort zone faster.
Ruby Opening Up
Otis and Ruby were a cute couple and watching her open up with him, let him into her household, and connecting beyond sex, it was a beautiful thing to see. Especially since it pushes you to realize how much is going on in every characters life, even if they aren’t dating or close friends with one of the leads. And in entrusting Ruby’s actress to perform, we got to see a side to Ruby that could make some think Otis is better off with her than Maeve. Also, that Ruby’s backstory isn’t setup for sympathy like Maeve’s, and feels a tad bit more natural.
How Isaac Gets You On His Side
The king of making you flip your opinion between loving them and hating them is Isaac. You are built to hate him because of him deleting that voice mail and impeding Otis and Maeve. Yet, as we see him and Maeve bond over having a similar background and you see him treating her right, you start to change your opinion.
Yeah, he is very open about his insecurities regarding Otis, which perhaps helps. Also, his honesty about the voice mail is also a major plus since it came before him and Maeve got intimate. Yet, I think the big thing that may win you over is that he likes, potentially loves, Maeve without hesitation, while Otis seems physically available but not so much emotionally available to anyone.
The Complications Of Seeking Intimacy With A Disability
Just as the season explores, for a moment, the complications which can come with being intimate with someone non-binary, the same happens when it comes to Isaac and Maeve. But, the beauty of the Isaac and Maeve situation, as opposed to Jackson and Cal, is there is communication for you to understand what can be. Going into specifics, while a lot of Isaac’s body is numb, his face isn’t, so Maeve touching him there can cause an erection. This being conveyed, and Maeve even asking, helps break the stigma of differently-abled people and being intimate. Which, similar to Cal, isn’t a one-way works for everyone situation, but just having a moment dedicated to such a thing could do so much.
Over the course of 8 episodes, we got so many songs that either were top 40 during their initial release, or veer towards the niche pile. However, no matter what was playing, there was always a need to take note and check to see if Sex Education had a playlist to revisit the music later. For while the songs rarely made the moment as emotional, fun, or sexy as they were, the curation definitely could leave you with an earworm or two.
The Challenge Of Being A Older Woman Who Is Pregnant
Jean’s pregnancy might be used in comical situations on occasion, but when it gets serious, you really see its value. As more women opt to have kids later in life, they go again the norm and people who feel uncomfortable with the idea. Which, in Jean’s case, led to many questioning her decision, guilting her about what could happen to the child, and not giving the same care she likely received when pregnant with Otis. And having Jean go through this both alone and with Jakob really helped her be more than Otis’ mom or an eccentric, sex-positive character. Not to mention, it made it so you aren’t just informed about what teens go through regarding sex, but also older women and even the complications which can come with giving birth.
Watching a character grow over multiple seasons is why it is frustrating when you have to wait a year or more for a follow-up and why cancellations are devastating. This is especially true for characters like Lily, who have grown so much.
Focusing on this season, Lily’s journey deals with Hope’s crackdown on the sexual liberties Moordale has been known for in combination with her relationship with Ola. Someone who, admittedly, has taken a step back but plays a notable supporting role in Lily’s arc. One that further establishes that her interest in aliens, writing, and combining that with her sexuality has been there since she was in primary school and has only evolved. But, because of how comfortable she is with herself, she hasn’t had friends, didn’t get to date much, and even her mom doesn’t get her.
So when it came to Hope cracking down and Ola pushing back on their alien sex kinks, you see her shut down a bit, and it is one of the most devastating things to watch this season. For unlike a lot of characters, Lily was never trying to impress anyone, fit in, or make herself small. She stood out with more confidence than even Ruby exuded. Which made Otis’ conversation with her, partly quoted above, one of the sweetest moments of the season. Especially since the show has evolved, or moved beyond, really honing on sex therapy and has instead pushed towards communicating about one’s needs, especially regarding intimacy.
Aimee and Maeve’s Friendship
Between their fights and having their friendship evolve into being each other’s surrogate mothers, through Aimee and Maeve, we get one of the few healthy and enviable friendships. This isn’t to say Otis and Eric don’t have something great, but with it often being one-sided, with Eric having to remind Otis how to be a proper friend, Aimee and Meave are goals in comparison.
Plus, I would say Aimee and Maeve help each other grow and act as confidants in the best way. Whether it is Aimee helping Maeve navigate her love life or helping her disassociate people being kind to her with charity, Aimee is far more than Maeve’s quirky friend. Then, in return, Maeve helps, if not pushes, Aimee to confront her negative feelings and address them, even if it means hurting people.
Heck, even in their fights, you can see it is about love and being hurt than being petty for the sake of it. This makes them one of the top pairs of the season, especially if you take consistency into account.
They Just Dropped Ruby Once Otis Was Done With Her
While we got a taste of Ruby’s while she was dating Otis, like meeting her father Roland and getting a taste of her home life, it seemed just when she peaked, the show dropped her. She quickly devolved into someone Otis used to know and really pushed the idea she was just a pit stop on Otis’ journey to inevitably end up with Maeve. It was quite frustrating for you’ll grow to like what Ruby can give Otis and what he could give her in return, and considering the drama so many go through on this show and stay together, their relationship ending as it did was some BS.
Michael Didn’t Make Any Effort To See Adam
Do you know what is sad and hilarious? Michael makes an effort to better himself, even try to win Maureen back, but doesn’t call, text, or even visit Adam. Hell, he barely even asks about his son. This is a shame since you can see Adam wouldn’t mind talking to his dad, and with Otis and Eric’s help, he is probably ready to communicate with his father. Yet, while Michael does make progress, the one relationship he truly needs to work on he utterly avoids.
On The Fence
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back For Vivienne
Though it is perhaps terrible to say, I feel like Vivienne got swapped for Cal and got left behind a bit. Note, she does bond with Ola and Lily for an episode. But beyond that, she once again becomes consumed with her academic CV, even at the cost of her friendship with Jackson. Which, in the long run, led to conflicts with Hope that I wish were explored more. Especially since the way Hope operated made it so you could be on the fence about her. Is she truly trying to better the school and its students, or is it about ego? Is she using Vivienne solely for a Black face/ diversity look, or is she truly invested?
As time goes on, we get answers, but the show doesn’t dive deep into what it means to be a Black woman like Vivienne, who strives to get into a PWI and has to deal with microaggressions along the way.
Maeve & Otis As A Couple
If there were ever two people who needed to just be friends, it is Maeve and Otis. Maeve, just because her trust issues seem to push her to latch on a bit and make it so she is willing to sacrifice to hold onto someone who she believes she can rely on. Then with Otis, I feel that he is the type who can clearly see other people’s problems but struggles to own up to his own and seek help with them.
Which, you could say is a mutual issue that they can learn to deal with through each other. However, with all Maeve was going through and how Otis acts, it rarely seemed like Maeve would benefit from the relationship. More so, since those two have been set up as end game since the beginning, it seems the writers of Sex Education just keep trying to find ways to reiterate, no matter what happens or who is introduced, these two will end up together. You just have to be patient.
However, as noted in previous headings, the more we see them with other people, the less reasons you are given to want Otis and Maeve to ultimately be together.
The benefit of Erin’s drama is that it was part of Maeve healing from her mom’s inconsistency, which is the foundation for many of Maeve’s interpersonal relationships issues. Also, we benefited from seeing Maeve with her sister more and continuing the development of that relationship. But it didn’t ultimately feel like we got the arc Maeve and Erin needed.
Maybe it is because Erin is new, and while we’ve seen her slip up and become distant to Maeve, we didn’t see them make progress towards reconciliation. We saw Erin kidnap Elsie and talk Erin out of making things worse, but as for them dealing with their stuff? It felt rushed and wasn’t allowed to give Erin the time she needed to convey her sense of betrayal or deal with Maeve harping on the idea she isn’t better and isn’t making notable progress. Never mind Erin’s issues with the court system to get her child back, to further your sympathy for Erin, and perhaps needing Elsie as a reminder of what she is staying sober for when she gets home.
With Ola moving into Otis and Jean’s home, having a baby sister on the way, and how much we learn about her mother’s final years, it seemed like a good time to dig into Ola’s past a bit. Maybe see her with her sister, her mom, and develop Jakob in the process. For with Ola’s mom planning to leave Jakob before she got sick, it would have been interesting to know how much Ola knew. Yet, with Lily wrapped up in her thing and Adam not being the type she can really talk to, Ola’s issues were put on the backburner for the most part.
We loved seeing Eric go to Nigeria, see his family, and always be his vibrant self. However, Eric also is a character often in the service of others and their growth. Eric is a better friend to Otis than Otis will ever be to him. Also, once again, we were reminded how much Adam is the Otis to Eric’s Maeve. Are they cute together? Yes. However, as shown with Rahim and then with Oba this season, Eric can and should do better rather than hold himself back for the sake of someone else.
Yet, while it was frustrating to see Eric go through what he did with Adam, it also is an honest portrayal of what some gay men go through when dealing with someone easing their way out of the closet. Especially when they have known forever, and their partner is just coming to terms with what it means for them and how people will react in society.
Rating: Positive (Watch This)
Sex Education is a balanced show. While it gave us examples and the complications of being non-binary, intimacy as someone disabled, a complex villain, and enhanced supporting characters, it had its flaws too. With only 8 episodes, Ola’s feelings about the baby and her place were touched upon but not explored. Certain characters, like Isaac, Rahim, Oba, and Ruby, continued to show you better potential relationships for our lead characters set aside for someone you have less and less reason to invest in.
Yet, despite a handful of issues, this still is worth watching. As Sex Education explores what it means to be a sexually active person and explore various dynamics regarding friendships, family, and relationships, it far surpasses its peers. All while remaining comedic as often as possible, but knowing how to set that tone aside to really allow the audience to experience a meaningful moment.