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TV Review: Sex Education

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It’s been years since Skins came off the air, and to be quite honest there’s been a British teen drama hole in our hearts ever since. In swoops Netflix with their new original drama, Sex Education.

 Image credit: Sam Taylor / Netflix 

The show follows Otis, played by Asa Butterfield (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children), a quiet somewhat stereotypically nerdy teenager whose mother (Gillian Anderson) is a sex therapist. Using his mother’s influence Otis becomes a sex therapist for his peers at school. This description might not sell the show to its full potential – but I swear it’s worth watching. 

 

At first Sex Education seems like another light-hearted comedy, but boy is that assumption wrong. It covers a plethora of taboo issues, from homophobia to abortion to female sexual pleasure. It has a magic way of handling heavy issues without being preachy and over the top.

In the third episode there is a huge focus surrounding the topic of abortion, which is vital in a show that is so much about sex. It wouldn’t be educational if it didn’t show all aspects of sex; it’s not all fun and games and it’s important for that to be shown on screen. The abortion episode in particular (without giving away any spoilers) is genuinely one of the most moving hours of television I have ever witnessed. It wasn’t clinical and depressing. It was real; filled with dark humour. It was utterly devastating, but somehow uplifting at the same time.

 

Apart from Butterfield and Anderson, the cast is full of relatively unknown young British actors and this only adds to its appeal. Emma Mackey is outstanding as Maeve Wiley. She’s a lone-wolf, alluring in her cold, aloof persona, so naturally, the boys are all obsessed with her – despite her nickname being ‘cock biter’ (yes, really.) Maeve could have easily been taken down the manic pixie dream girl route if the writers had been lazy, but they decided to do right by her and the audience by making her three-dimensional and brilliant. She’s witty and clever and unapologetically sexy – she doesn’t care what people think but there’s an air of sadness to her, which as the series unfolds, we understand more as we learn more about her and her life.

 

Another stand-out character is Eric (Ncuti Gatwas) Otis’ best friend. Eric is gay and extremely loud and proud about his sexuality, but he’s not just another token gay character that’s used as an accessory to the main character and his love interests. We get an insight into Eric’s home life, where his parents do not know about his sexuality and speculate about him having girlfriends. We see his struggles as a gay man of colour, and it’s so important to show all these stories on a platform as popular as Netflix.

 

Add these brilliant characters to a retro soundtrack, which includes classic hits such as Take on Me and Old Time Rock and Roll. Combine this with an equally great costume department, that creates an ageless vibe with nods to John Hughes films of the ‘80s, and you’ve got teen drama gold.

 

If you watch one thing this year, make it Sex Education. It’s funny, honest, heart-breaking, heartening and educational all at once.

Sex Education is streaming on Netflix now.




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