Review by Sean Boelman
After the first season unexpectedly won over the hearts of both audiences and critics, the second season of Netflix’s coming-of-age comedy series Sex Education returns with the promise of more secondhand embarrassment. Featuring the same level of humor and doubling down on the heart, this new season feels like the perfect continuation of this story.
This season follows Otis as he continues to give sex advice to his classmates all the while learning from himself through his new relationship and his lingering feelings for his former business partner Maeve. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this series is its ability to juggle all of the different moving parts effectively. Even more so than last season, these new episodes feature a ton of variety in the storylines, and yet none of them feel pointless or underdeveloped.
Arguably the greatest improvement between the first and second season is the fact that the second batch features a much more diverse group of characters. Although the first season did involve a storyline involving a main character coming to terms with his sexual identity, the series as a whole felt somewhat heteronormative in regards to its treatment of relationships. This season does a lot more to explore other relationships and identities, from a deeper look at a same-sex relationship to the introduction of an ace character.
The film also approaches some much more hard-hitting themes outside of the coming-of-age storyline. One of the most effective subplots of the film explores sexual assault and the impact and consequences it has on its victims. This is much darker than anything the series had tried to tackle before, and it works, giving this season an even greater sense of urgency and timeliness. It will be interesting to see how this show continues to move forward with these ideas.
Of course, as one would expect, the series keeps up with its ridiculous and raunchy sense of humor that made the first season so widely beloved. Only this time, the comedy is complemented by an even greater level of substance. The writers of this series have figured out how to make a hilarious scene out of a situation that is uncomfortable but can often be considered taboo. Although one would expect that this premise can only go so far, the series’ writers haven’t seemed to have run out of riotous jokes yet.
Just as before, the cast of the film is extremely charming. Asa Butterfield, who first gained notice as a lead of young adult literature adaptations, seems more fit for this type of comedic work. He absolutely nails the delivery of the lines, and he is endlessly charming as the quirky and goofy kid. His chemistry with co-star Emma Mackey, who is great herself, is also excellent.
The supporting cast of the film is great too. Gillian Anderson of The X-Files fame is hilarious in her expanded role in this season. Whereas in the first season, she served as little more than an incitement for the comedic tendencies of the protagonist, she gets her own compelling storyline in this film, allowing Anderson to show the full range of her chops. Another standout in the supporting cast is Connor Swindells, who brings even more subtlety and nuance to his character this time around.
Season two of Sex Education is somehow an improvement on the already excellent first batch, featuring even more laughs and a great deal of heart. Although it is unlikely that there could be any more improvement, it will be exciting to see where the creators take these characters next.
Sex Education is now streaming on Netflix. All eight episodes reviewed.