In its third season, Netflix’s teen comedy-drama Sex Education has reached a new level of emotional maturity, resonating with young adults now more than ever.
Sex Education, created by Laurie Nunn, follows the lives of the students and staff of Moordale Secondary School in England as they navigate personal issues. Since its release in 2019, the show has been known for candidly discussing sex. The show features Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield), the nerdy and inexperienced son of a sex therapist, as he runs a secret “sex clinic” to help his peers overcome their problems with intimacy.
After a series of outrageous events in season two, such as mass hysteria over a rumoured chlamydia outbreak and an incredibly erotic alien school musical, Moordale is dubbed the “sex school” by the public. To patch up its spotty reputation, Hope Haddon is introduced as the new head teacher. While Haddon seems to have the student’s best interests in mind, she is quickly established as the antagonist.
Sex Education has always been a bit unrealistic and absurd, and season three stays true to that. Haddon’s wildly controversial and outdated views make her seem like Matilda’s Miss Trunchbull, as she uses public shaming to punish students, introduces abstinence programs into the school’s curriculum and crushes any inkling of individuality. Once the students acknowledge Haddon’s tyrannical behavior, they band together despite their differences. Compared to previous seasons, the lack of drama and cattiness between the students themselves is refreshing.
As the students of Moordale are learning pivotal life lessons about expression, community and prioritizing their individual needs, the adults in the show are also undergoing transformations. One of the most notable subplots is that of former head teacher Mr. Groff, who unpacks his trauma from growing up with an emotionally abusive father. Towards the end of the season, the audience finally sees Groff learn to express his emotions, as he works to rebuild his relationship with the family he has neglected. The season’s ability to work through trauma and explore character background adds another layer of meaning to an already thematically important show.
Additionally, characters are given equal screen time as they explore deeply complex personal struggles. Season three creates space for characters to lash out and make selfish decisions as they transition from teenagers to young adults. However, they aren’t vilified for doing so. Sex Education has certainly matured in later seasons, embracing inevitable mistakes and allowing characters to prioritize their own growth.
While the show’s focus has always been on sex, it seems to have taken a more serious turn in the third season, placing an emphasis on emotional growth and maturity. Even beloved sex therapist Dr. Jean Milburn surprisingly says, “Believe it or not, I don’t think everything comes back to sex.”
Overall, this season of Sex Education plays incredibly well with the sentiments of its audience, as many young adults are entering a new school year and learning how to live post-pandemic. The bittersweet season finale shows many characters growing out of old relationships and into new stages of life, drawing parallels to reality and providing plenty of potential content for the recently confirmed fourth season.