'Sex Education' Season 3 Is Starting to Go Limp but Still Has a Lot of Heart Created by Laurie Nunn
Starring Asa Butterfield, Ncuti Gatwa, Emma Mackey, Connor Swindells, Jemima Kirke, Alistair Petrie, Dua Saleh, Kedar Williams-Stirling, Gillian Anderson
Published Sep 22, 2021For the last couple years, Sex Education has been the cutest show on Netflix to feature graphic talk about dick size, anal douching and extraterrestrial cosplay. But now three seasons in, the slapstick depiction of sex is starting to go a little limp. The show has always succeeded in presenting a diverse, open-minded perspective on sexuality — but if this show is about breaking down stigma and talking frankly about sex, why does everyone fuck with the realism of a Looney Toons character?
As tedious as salsa-soundtracked sex scenes have become, there's still a lot of heart in Sex Education. The core trio of Otis (Asa Butterfield), Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) and Maeve (Emma Mackey) are the emotional centre of the show; Otis and Maeve dance around their feelings for one another while pursuing new romantic interests, and Eric increasingly draws his boyfriend Adam (Connor Swindells) out of his shell. The clothes are amazing, the colours are bright, the British countryside is stunning, and the whole thing pops off the screen. Even a rundown gas station at the side of the highway looks cool as hell.
The season loses its way with the many subplots and supporting characters, which muddle the tone. There's a sequence about poop-throwing that's grosser than it is funny, the stuff about alien fetishes already ran its course last season (especially with the addition of a character with a medieval fetish, as if that's a real thing), and we're forced to wallow in unemployed malaise with former principal (Alistair Petrie). Jemima Kirke of Girls joins the cast as Moordale's new school head, Hope Haddon, and she's an absurdly over-the-top, Professor Umbridge-esque supervillain who serves no purpose other than to provide a convenient foil for the liberal-minded younger generation. (To play the devil's advocate for a second — maybe high school students shouldn't be singing "Fuck the Pain Away" in music class.)
New cast addition Dua Saleh is a highlight as Cal, a non-binary student who rebels against Moordale's newly introduced school uniforms and strikes up a compelling bond with Jackson (Kedar Williams-Stirling).
But much of the time, season three feels confused, with moments of intense seriousness, moments of cartoonish wackiness, and way too many characters who get bogged down in repetitive struggles. Each hour-long episode drags. There are many truly touching moments between friends and lovers — but, for the first time, Sex Education seems to be trying to figure out what type of show it wants to be. (Netflix)