One of the surprise breakouts of 2019 came early in the year with Sex Education. The British series took a frank look at teens and how they’re learning about the birds and bees to craft a wonderfully absurd series. Carrying a 1980’s aesthetic but set during the present day, Sex Education felt unique in its vision and message. The core cast of featured the popular Asa Butterfield and Gillian Anderson. Yet it also provided breakout opportunities for Ncuti Gatwa and Emma Mackey, who both became fan favorites. The future appeared bright for Sex Education, and showrunner Laurie Nunn turned the momentum in an even better show its second time out.
This season, Sex Education brings its most exciting actress to school. While Anderson’s Dr. Milburn kept her professional life separate from Otis (Butterfield) as much as possible, those walls fall down in Season 2. The school brings the doctor to the school to reassess the sex-ed curriculum, simultaneously cutting in on Otis’ clinic and embarrassing him in front of his peers. The lines between their lives are further intertwined when Otis and girlfriend Ola (Patrcia Allison) discover that their parents are secretly dating. As love triangles emerge, Mr. Groff (Alistair Petrie) tries to maintain the chaos erupting at school.
One of the biggest differences between each season comes in how Nunn and her team deploy the talented ensemble. The show excelled by focusing on its four main characters, but the expansion of the cast gives the audience a half-dozen storylines to fill the screen. Rather than hanging onto the “story of the week” tropes, this season feels more holistic than the first. Everything builds on events from the episode prior, crescendoing at the right moment. Everyone gets standout moments, including future stars Kedar Williams-Stirling and Tanya Reynolds. Newcomers Chineye Ezeudu and George Robinson become integral parts of the season for different reasons. Other characters get more spotlight opportunities.
This time around, same-sex relationships and bisexuality are confronted head-on. Gatwa becomes caught in a love triangle with Adam (Connor Swindells) and the hottest boy in school Rahim (Sami Outalbali). Focusing on a same-sex triangle lets Sex Education depict the gray areas of relationships. Love triangles extend beyond male same-sex relationships, creating conflict between its lesbian and questioning characters as well. It’s dense storytelling that would make for a fascinating story on its own, but within the context of Sex Education, the parallels between straight and gay relationships cannot be ignored.
Perhaps the most interesting story of the season surrounds Aimee (Aimee Lou Wood) and sexual assault. The way in which the assault is committed and how it spirals out of control allows the show to break down the trauma many do not acknowledge. Sex Education breaks down the subtle and seemingly unimportant details, allowing its characters to feel the weight of the event. Again, the storytelling is unlike anything you’ve seen on television before, and actively showcases the prevalence of activities many would not even consider true assault.
Once again, Sex Education revels in silly storytelling. Yet its ability to step into extremely complex issues and find the nuance of each situation makes it one of the most unique series today. While some may still be turned off by the honesty of its sexuality, there’s plenty of reasons to tune into Sex Education. After all, the birds and the bees have never been explored so vividly in television history.