Sex Education: Season 1 – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)

Sex Education Season 1 Episode 7 - Title Card
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Sex Education accurately exhibits the awkwardness of becoming a sexual being while experiencing romantic feelings for the first time.


Network
Netflix
Creator Laurie Nunn
Good If You Like Teen Sex Comedies

Sex More So Being About The Emotion and Connection Behind It Than The Audience Getting Tantalized By Pleasure

The Joy & Issues of Sex Being Shown For More Than Just Straight People

Watching The Various Things Young Adults Go Through Growing Up

Isn’t For You If You Are Expecting A Bunch of Sex Jokes & Comical Situations

Were Expecting A Lot Of Gillian Anderson

Just Wanted To See A Lot Of Female Nudity

Noted Cast
Otis Asa Butterfield
Jean Gillian Anderson
Eric Ncuti Gatwa
Maeve Emma Mackey
Adam Connor Swindells
Ola Patricia Allison
Ruthie Lily Newmark
Tanya Alice Hewkin
Kate Olive Gray
Sam Jonny Amies
Aimee Aimee Lou Wood
Eric’s Dad Deobia Oparei
Anwar Chaneil Kular
Ruby Mimi Keene
Lily Tanya Reynolds
Jackson Kedar Williams-Stirling
Remi James Purefoy
Jakob Mikael Persbrandt

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Summary

Otis has just begun 6th form and is a 16-year-old virgin. From the get-go, he seems like your average protagonist. However, then they add in his mother Jean, who is a sex therapist, a gay best friend in Eric, and eventually Maeve. Now, unlike many shows and movies featuring young adults, Maeve wasn’t Otis’ middle school or high school crush but became his crush by spending time with her. Doing what? Well, Maeve, after Otis helps out Eric’s bully Adam with his ejaculation issues, decides Otis could become a teen sex therapist with her operating as his scheduler and accountant.

This relationship, business-wise, starts a bit rocky since Otis is an introvert and can be quite awkward. However, with time, and taking his lack of experience out of it, just focusing on the 2nd hand information he has absorbed from his mom, he becomes well adept at helping people. As this happens, Maeve and he grow close, and he becomes one of her best friends.

However, of course there are multiple complications throughout the season. Otis has to deal with his feelings for Maeve getting in the way of his friendship with Eric, and then a young woman named Ola expresses her interest in Otis, and that brings him to a crossroad. Then, for Eric, with Otis focusing so heavily on Maeve, even abandoning him and leaving him in a dangerous situation, he is forced to rethink if he wants to be his usual flamboyant self. All of this is paired with people having family issues, difficulties having sex, peer pressure, money problems, and a slew of things that many teenagers deal with.

Highlights

It Avoids What Most Teen Sex Comedies Do

Kate (Olive Gray), Sam (Jonny Amies) and Otis having a therapy session.
Kate (Olive Gray), Sam (Jonny Amies) and Otis

There is something to be said when a raunchy animated show, which we love, Big Mouth, is heralded as one of the best to talk about puberty and teen sexuality. But, what you have to recognize is that part of the problem is that, previously, outside of FreeForm with shows like The Fosters and Switched at Birth, there weren’t many shows willing to take on teen sexuality on a consistent basis. Well, at least in the US where violence is a much more comfortable conversation than women learning about masturbation or men being treated like sexual objects as much as their counterparts.

But Sex Education is different. On top of being quite diverse in showing multiple queer relationships and featuring a girl learning about masturbation, there is something exceptional that this show does: It doesn’t push sex to be a titillating feature. Sex is recognized as something important and a part of teenage desire, but when it comes to real relationships on the show, not the ones which end by the season finale, you can see sex in a different lens. Perhaps one of the best examples would be Ruthie and Tanya, if not Kate and Sam. Ruthie and Tanya are a lesbian couple and Ruthie is unable to orgasm. Sam and Kate have an issue because Kate doesn’t want to be seen naked for she has insecurities about her body.

Now, this isn’t to say we don’t get your usual sex scenes that seem more about the viewer than characters or scenes, like when Aimee discovers masturbation, which is comedic. Instead, what Sex Education does more than most sex comedies is address the insecurities, body responses, and fears of characters in a real way. Making light of them just enough to make them seem normal but never joking about any of it enough to shame the character.

Oh, and I should note, on top of being equal opportunity when it comes to gay people and heteros, it goes for male and female too. Adam feels a certain way about his penis size, Ruby about how her vagina looks, Lily is dealing with her body not wanting to be penetrated, and so much more. All of which the show doesn’t handle in a mad rush, as if there won’t be another season or series to address these topics. Instead, it takes its time and recognizes some stories need to be fleshed out over an entire episode, like Maeve getting an abortion, others deserve to be an arc, like Eric’s storyline, and other things deserve just a few scenes, like Aimee’s discovering masturbation.

A Different Approach To Lesbian & Gay Storylines

Ruthie (Lily Newmark) revealing why she and Tanya got together.
Ruthie (Lily Newmark): So when she came out too, I thought… | Otis: You might as well be in a relationship.

Following up on the Ruthie and Tanya storyline, what you have to appreciate with them addressing their relationship is we get a narrative that may not feel familiar to some people. When it comes to storylines, I’ve seen with gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people, at best it is like what we got in Pose – a whole lot of heartache, but the possibility of a happy ending. Ruthie and Tanya don’t have any of that drama. Their issue is Ruthie not being able to get off and being scared of losing her best friend because she wants an orgasm.

Yeah, the scenario sounds funny, but when Ruthie lays out why she doesn’t want to break up with Tanya, you see a touching side to it. For with Tanya being there when she came out, her best friend, and Tanya having feelings for her, it makes the idea of them dating seem sensible. Rather, it made sense to Ruthie since, as Eric notes, it isn’t like the LGBT population is huge in that area. Especially when it comes to people who are out.

And it is with that storyline you get a narrative that doesn’t seem tragic or overdone. The idea of you and a friend being there for one another when you come out, them liking you, you going with it since you already get along, but realizing you don’t have chemistry. Following that, being so desperate to fix things you got to a 16-year-old straight boy in hopes he may have some kind of magic advice so that you may not have to break your friend’s heart and potentially lose her.

But it isn’t just those two but Eric also who has a fascinating story which deals with his sexuality. Now, I will admit, at first, it seemed like it would be a run of the mill tale about a Black guy, who is a bit feminine, being abused, ostracized, and may be suicidal. Luckily, it didn’t come to that. In fact, the conversation Eric has with his father, towards the end of the season, is probably one of the top scenes I’ve seen between a young gay Black male and their parent.

Eric's dad explaining how hard it was for him when he immigrated.
Eric’s Dad: I had to do so much to fit in.

Why? Well, being that Eric’s dad is an immigrant, there is a natural inclination to think he might be homophobic because where he came from was. However, by the end of the season, we learned his true fear wasn’t having a gay son but his son being othered as he was for being an immigrant. With that reveal came a bit of a shock but it also reminded you of the complications there are with being a Black gay man.

As noted in the episode of which the moment happens, it triggered memories of the iconic film Paris is Burning and one of the people in the documentary talking about the strikes a Black man has on himself. So while Eric’s dad seemed homophobic, in truth, he feared his son being himself for Eric’s dad never was able to become comfortable in the place he now calls home. So seeing his son venture into what was unknown to him scared him. Creating a touching moment that also called out people like me who expected the worse because of Eric’s dad’s assumed origins.

Lily

There is something about Tanya Reynolds’ role as Lily which makes you think spin-off. Maybe it is because she seems like a more aggressive, and less comical, version of Tracey from Chewing Gum. Perhaps it is because her pursuit of having sex was reminiscent of Audrey Plaza in The To Do List. I can’t put my finger on the exact reason. However, there was something about Reynolds, like most of the actors playing supporting roles, which pushed the idea that their character’s life didn’t stop just because Otis wasn’t in the vicinity of them. And when Lily broke down why having sex was so important to her, she somehow became this endearing little weirdo you’d hope got everything she wanted.

Jackson’s Mental Illness

Maeve consoling Jackson.

While in Sorry For Your Loss, we were shown a Black person with a mental illness who addressed what he had and his struggle, Sorry For Your Loss is a Facebook Watch series. Which isn’t to put down that platform but, outside of Red Table Talk, I don’t know if the platform is really on anyone’s radar. Especially if we’re talking about the average person. So for a platform like Netflix to feature a character like Jackson who deals with what sounds like crippling anxiety at times, it is important in a multitude of ways. The first being representation, the second is showing him trying to deal with his illness properly, and the third thing is us getting to see him live a normal life. One which does include him freaking out once or twice, but us getting the sense that anxiety is manageable, with proper care, and you can still have a perfectly normal life while dealing with it.

Actors To Look Out For

Patricia Allison

I want you to take note that Ola, was made to stand out. She doesn’t fit a common trope, like many other actors, who we’ve seen in teen sex comedies. Also, the way Allison plays her is a mix of mystery, flirty, slight best friend quality, and also she is aggressive. But the reason I truly see her as a stand out is because Allison didn’t rely on what was written for her character to make you interested. There is just something about this woman which makes you mad we didn’t get to learn more about Ola. This is in comparison to many other characters who, like Eric’s dad, we didn’t learn the actual name of, and that’s just fine.

However, with Allison’s Ola, there is a need to nevermind whatever feelings Maeve may have for Otis. You want her to focus on herself, or other things, as Otis did when she was with Jackson. With the way Allison plays Ola, you want to see her become Netflix’s new darling. Someone they put in corny Christmas movies and puts into their synergy rotation. Thus allowing her to show her abilities to play a love interest, a badass, someone whose vulnerability is their primary strength, and stuff down your throat like they are a pop artist. Not any specific one, of course, but what I’m trying to say is that between the creators and Allison herself, we are given something unique in a sea of the familiar and learning what is it about her, in particular, you want to see explored.

Low Points

It Could Have Used More Jean And Even Remi

One of the main benefits of Jean was showing how even adults, including ones well versed in sex, have certain hangs ups because of it. Jean couldn’t have sex be an act of love anymore because her ex ruined that for her. Yet, it being just a means to take the edge of wasn’t enough. She needed something more than that and that is when Ola’s father Jakob stepped in.

But, with noting what Remi did to Jean, there is also the need to wonder why there weren’t layers added to Remi? Even Ruby, the basic ass mean girl she was, she was allowed to be shown as complicated for one episode. With Remi, he didn’t get to evolve beyond the douche which caused both his ex-wife and son to have stunted sex and romantic lives.

On The Fence

Mostly Ignoring The Cultures of People of Color

While supporting characters get a chance to shine, at the end of the day this show is about Otis and the topic of sex. Hence why Ola being bi-racial isn’t talked about much, Anwar being Indian, the complication of Jackson having a very active white mother and a passive Black mom, and Eric’s family immigration status not mentioning where his family is from. At the end of the day, to talk about one means talking about them all, and perhaps addressing what sex means in these various cultures. A topic which gets complicated as you bring in how religion influences their cultures, western imperialism, as well as the fetishization of Black women, of Black gay men, and a slew of other topics. All of which could be touched upon in season 2, but there is a vibe that getting our hopes up will be for naught.

Yet, considering I was ready to give up on Eric’s storyline early on, maybe I’m pessimistic.

The Question of Will They or Won’t They Have a Love Triangle

Luckily, when it came to Maeve, Otis, and Jackson, the show decided not to pursue a love triangle aggressively. Yes, Maeve showed she had feelings for Otis in small ways, and it was clear, even when Ola showed she had an active interest in Otis, he settled for Ola. However, with OIa being Otis’ first kiss and Meave on the verge of confessing to Otis, so comes the question if her passive feelings may become more active?

The hope is she may help guide Otis with his first relationship, but it is hard to say if she might be that mature. It’s possible she will be, and with Ola a series regular she isn’t going anywhere. But, you never know. Ola and Maeve may end up facing off.

Overall: Positive (Watch This)

Jean (Gillian Anderson) reading the paper and listening to Otis talk about his masturbation issue.
Jean (Gillian Anderson)

Sex Education certainly has room to grow and topics left to address, but for a first season, you can’t deny it does wonders. It fully takes advantage of Netflix not being reined in by advertisers without seeming like it wishes to exploit and create legal porn out of teen sexuality. Instead, it addresses the awkwardness of your first experience, the uncomfortable idea of exposing your body to another person, and really having no one to talk to because of how taboo you seeking pleasure is. On top of that, while we are given characters who seem familiar in one way or another, each one is written to be the star of their own life, and for some, you can fully imagine them being the star of their own show.

Leading to why the positive label: Sex Education finds the perfect balance of normalizing sex while creating a tone to recognize the role sex plays in a person’s development and their relationships. Also, the way it brings up things outside of sexuality like mental health and the immigrant experience are used in such a way to bolster storylines you may have been willing to write off that you feel kept on your toes. That, truly, as much as there is a desire to have some form of skepticism, you have to trust the writers and their process. For like you, it seems the people behind Sex Education are fans of the actors and the characters they inhabit. And while, yes, they may sometimes put them through horrific things, it isn’t for the sake of drama but because the world isn’t always fair and our decisions don’t make it closer to being at that equilibrium. Sometimes, you have to wait for things to get better or accept because of this person or that situation, either you have to leave, have that hard conversation or choose to suffer. For like sex, you can only enjoy life if you communicate your needs.


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Sex Education Season 1 Episode 2 - Title Card

Meet The Characters

Season/ EpisodeSynopsisDirector, Writer, and Introduced ActorsTopics & Focused Characters

Season 1/ Episode 8

The season finale is filled with apologies and one or two surprises. One which some may say was a long time coming (no pun intended).

Director(s) Katie Herron
Writer(s) Laurie Nunn
Air Date 1/11/2019
  • The Return of Old Friends: Aimee, Ruby, Otis, Maeve, Mr. Groff, Sean
  • We Shouldn’t, But We Should: Jean, Jakob, Adam, Eric, Otis
  • Too Little, Too Late: Jackson, Aimee, Otis, Ola, Maeve, Mr. Groff

Season 1/ Episode 7

Fortunes shift this episode as Eric finds someone who gets him and Otis? Well, we’re reminded that he is his father’s son when it comes to being an ass.

Director(s) Kate Herron
Writer(s) Sophie Goodhart
Air Date 1/11/2019
  • The Return of Eric & First Possible Love: Eric
  • Sometimes Apologies Aren’t Enough: Jackson, Maeve, Otis, Ola, Eric, Adam, Eric’s Dad, Mr. Groff, Sean
  • You Can’t Have It All: Jackson, Maeve, Otis, Eric, Jean, Jakob

Season 1/ Episode 6

As Eric continues to process what’s going on in his life, Maeve gets a surprise. Also, we learn why Otis has issues with sex.

Director(s) Kate Herron
Writer(s) Laurie Nunn, Freddy Syborn
Air Date 1/11/2019
Introduced This Episode
Sean Edward Bluemel
Ms. Sands Rakhee Thakrar
  • What Kind of Man Are You?: Eric, Anwar, Eric’s Dad
  • You Gotta Find The Right One Before You Take A Big Leap: Remi, Jean, Jakob, Otis, Ola, Lily
  • You Prioritize What You Care About: Jackson, Maeve, Sean, Otis, Ms. Sands, Mr. Groff, Adam

Season 1/ Episode 5

Maeve and Jackson reach a new stage in their relationship as Otis and Eric’s struggles due to Otis wanting to be there for Maeve.

Director(s) Kate Herron
Writer(s) Sophie Goodhart, Laura Hunter
Air Date 1/11/2019
Newly Noted
Eric’s Dad Deobia Oparei
  • It’s My Vagina: Ruby, Olivia, Maeve, Otis
  • Broken Promises: Eric, Otis, Jean
  • The Real Me: Maeve, Jackson, Otis

Season 1/ Episode 4

As Otis faces the challenge of counseling lesbians, Jean has her eye on someone, and Eric is trying to stay out of Adam’s purview.

Director(s) Ben Taylor
Writer(s) Laura Neal, Laurie Nunn
Air Date 1/11/2019
Introduced This Episode
Ola Patricia Allison
Jakob (Mr. Builder) Mikael Persbrandt
Ruthie Lily Newmark
Tanya Alice Hewkin
  • It’s All Going Downhill: Adam, Mr. Groff, Eric, Maeve
  • Options & Research: Ola, Jakob, Jean, Ruthie, Tanya, Otis, Lily, Eric
  • Setting Up Your Crush For Another: Jackson, Maeve, Otis, Aimee

Season 1/ Episode 3

Maeve opens up to Otis as Eric sees something he may have thought he’d never see before.

Director(s) Ben Taylor
Writer(s) Sophie Goodhart
Air Date 1.11.2019
Introduced This Episode
Remi James Purefoy
Lily Tanya Reynolds
Mr. Groff Alistair Petrie
Sarah Lu Corfield

Daddy Isn’t Here: Remi, Otis, Jean


Pent Up Sexuality: Lily, Eric


You Got a Friend In Me: Maeve, Jackson, Adam, Mr. Groff, Otis, Sarah

Season 1/ Episode 2

As Otis begins to come into himself, it is clear some feel left behind. Also, Maeve’s reason for needing Otis to succeed becomes apparent.

Director(s) Ben Taylor
Writer(s) Laurie Nunn
Air Date 1/11/2019
Introduced This Episode
Kate Olive Gray
Sam Jonny Amies
Olivia Simone Ashley
Ruby Mimi Keene

You Have Been Nearly My Everything: Otis, Jean


New Chapters & Closure: Aimee, Adam, Jackson, Maeve


I Might Actually Be Good At This: Otis, Anwar, Olivia, Kate, Sam, Eric, Maeve, Jean

Season 1/ Episode 1

Sex Education takes on the idea of being a teen sex comedy in ways you, surprisingly, may not have seen before.

Creator Laurie Nunn
Director(s) Ben Taylor
Writer(s) Laurie Nunn
Air Date 1/11/2019
Genre(s) Comedy, Young Adult
Good If You Like Honest Conversations About Sex

Inclusion Of All Sexualities When Talking About Sex

Isn’t For You If You Are Uncomfortable Seeing Real and Fake Penises

Don’t Like Hearing People Talk About Sex

Introduced This Episode
Otis Asa Butterfield
Eric Ncuti Gatwa
Adam Connor Swindells
Maeve Emma Mackey
Aimee Aimee Lou Wood
Jean Gillian Anderson
Anwar Chaneil Kular
Jackson Kedar Williams-Stirling

How Would You Rate This?

Negative Mixed Positive

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