It’s hard to imagine another TV series starting, straight away, with an ecstatic montage of male masturbation. Thankfully, the opening to the long-awaited second season of Sex Education achieves this with hilarious and satisfying pleasure. The w***er in question is the 16-year-old sex therapist Otis (Asa Butterfield), who’s finally found his own sex drive, playing with himself at every opportunity.
But all his knowledge – gained from his outspoken mother Jean (Gillian Anderson), who's a professional sex guru – doesn’t help when it comes to actual sex, which he struggles to achieve with his new girlfriend Ola (Patricia Allison).
Otis (Asa Butterfield) and Eric (Ncuti Ganwa) roam around a forest. Both styles are valid...
Season two can’t quite match the consistent thrills of the first, but still proves an enticing and funny romp between the sheets of the ill educated. It maintains the gross laughs, the ebullient visuals, and the intense sexual research within the escapist town of Moordale, which suffers an over-dramatic outbreak of chlamydia. Diving back into this vivid town is a real delight, bursting with new and returning characters in many erotic and difficult positions.
Strangely, the abandoned, confidential therapy-bathroom is rarely visited by Otis, his flamboyant best friend Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) or the punky and pessimistic Maeve (Emma Mackey). There's a schism between Maeve and Otis, following the former’s exclusion from school and her realisation that she’s in love with Otis. Maeve's life becomes even more complicated when her unreliable mother (His Dark Materials’ Anne-Marie Duff) suddenly comes back to the caravan park.
The friendship between Aimee (Aimee Lou Wood) and Maeve (Emma Mackey) grows stronger than ever
But the real star of this season is the ditsy but delightful Aimee (Aimee Lou Wood), who’s left in shock after a traumatising experience in episode three. Writer/creator Laurie Nunn continues to tread that difficult line between cliquey teen fantasy and uncomfortable modern reality, and at the end of episode seven (one of the series’ best) Nunn embraces both in an aggressive, liberating show of female solidarity.
Nunn’s lessons are more than just spicing up the bedroom: they’re about growing into nice and considerate human beings. Viewers, especially men, should take note.
Although these female friendships take centre-stage, this season also dives into toxic masculinity: the emotions repressed, the anger released. Even the well-meaning Otis falls prey to it, showing that any man (nice or not) can be afflicted. In episode six, this develops into an excruciating few minutes during a party that’s gone out of control, in which Otis gets drunk and slurs his thoughts without considering the harm he's causing.
Adam (Connor Swindells) questions his own sexuality following the events of season one
Similarly, Adam (Connor Swindells), the bully from season one who enters military school, struggles with his sexuality after an intimate moment with Eric in the music room. He can’t express himself properly, a legacy from his emotionally and sexually devoid headmaster father, Mr Groff (Alistair Petrie). In this season, Groff sheds his semblance of an 80s John Hughes villain to form a Basil Fawlty-like image of male repression, of a kind observable in many middle-aged fathers.
Season two excels in the first three episodes, muddles a bit in the middle, and then storms into a funny and poignant conclusion. There are fewer appointments with Otis, shortchanging the premise, but this season is a worthy follow-up to be binged and re-binged with effortless indulgence until season three comes. Sex Education continues to be a bed that never loses its passion.
Sex Education season 2 is available on Netflix from Friday 17 January
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17 Jan 20 – 17 Jan 21, ON NETFLIX
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