Synopsis: Otis Milburn, a socially awkward high school student, lives with his sex therapist mother, Jean. In season 1, Otis and his friend Maeve Wiley set-up a sex clinic at school to capitalise on his intuitive talent for sex advice. In season 2, as a late bloomer Otis must master his newly discovered sexual urges in order to progress with his girlfriend Ola whilst also dealing with his now strained relationship with Maeve. Meanwhile, Moordale Secondary is in the throes of a Chlamydia outbreak, highlighting the need for better sex education at the school and new kids come to town who will challenge the status quo.
Format: 8 episodes streaming on Netflix simultaneously.
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Gillian Anderson, Ncuti Gatwa, Emma Mackey, Connor Swindells, Kedar Williams-Stirling, Alistair Petrie, Mimi Keene, Aimee Lou Wood, Chaneil Kular, Simone Ashley, Tanya Reynolds, Mikael Persbrandt, Patricia Allison, James Purefoy, Chinenye Ezeudu, George Robinson, Sami Outalbali
Directors: Ben Taylor (1, 6-8), Sophie Goodheart (2-3), Alice Seabright (4-5)
Writers: Laurie Nunn (Created by, 1-2, 4-5, 7-8), Mawaan Rizwan (2), Sophie Goodhart (3, 6), Rosie Jones (4), Richard Gadd (6)
12 months ago Sex Education came out of nowhere and captured people’s hearts and attention, finishing 2019 as the 8th most popular series on Netflix. With a wonderful diverse cast delivering an honest, funny and heartfelt story that dealt with the subject of sex in a mature manner, it was one of the best new shows of 2019 (it would have been number 6 on our best new shows of 2019 list).
So it is a little surprising that not a single piece of footage from season 2 has been released at the time of writing this review. No trailers, no teasers, only a handful of still images, even the regular “New on Netflix” video reused season 1 footage. In an era when we get teasers for trailers and multiple clips on every social media platform, it is a little concern how little promotion the show is getting so close to release. I can only assume that Netflix is hoping to succeed based on word of mouth, which isn’t a bad plan as this season is fantastic. [Editor’s note: 12 hours after this review was posted Netflix released the trailer you’ll find below]
Set a little while after season 1, Otis (Asa Butterfield) and Ola (Patricia Allison) are still together but that is soon tested by the revelation that Jean (Gillian Anderson) and Jakob (Mikael Persbrandt) are also in a relationship. Maeve (Emma Mackey) is visited by her mother (Anne-Marie Duff) who is seeking a second chance and to introduce Maeve to her little sister. Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) finds himself in a love triangle with new kid Rahim (Sami Outalbali) and Adam (Connor Swindells), who returns home after a short stint in military school.
Season 2 sees a slight shift in focus. With the tension between Otis and Maeve, as well as a new counselor on campus after a chlamydia outbreak at school, there is a lot less of the sex clinic stories compared to the first season. This means there’s more time for the characters we came to love in season 1 and to expand the world of Moordale. We see more interactions between characters and those will smaller roles in season 1 are given more opportunities to shine and add more layers, like “The Untouchables” Anwar (Chaneil Kular), Ruby (Mimi Keene) and Olivia (Simone Ashley) and teachers Miss Sands (Rakhee Thakrar) and Mr Hendricks (Jim Howick).
It feels like Jean is the main beneficiary of this change as she is given more to do. Gillian Anderson does some of the best work of her career as Jean struggles with being in a serious relationship for the first time in a long time, taking on more work and a more strained relationship with Otis. In the first season, Jean was this amazing woman who seemed to always be in control and confident. Seeing cracks in that this season was fun to watch and also heartbreaking at times.
Otis has a really nice arc this season. He struggles with his feelings for both Maeve and Ola as well as having a male presence in his home, something he never really had before. If season 1 saw him becoming a man in a sexual/biological sense, getting to the point where he was able to masturbate at the end of last season, than this season is more about him becoming a man in the societal sense and what kind of man he wants to be.
Maeve continues to be fantastic as she stops trying to keep up her tough girl persona this season, joins the school’s quiz team and develops a friendship with Isaac (George Robinson), a wheelchair-bound smart-ass who is one of the best additions this season. Maeve and Isaac play perfectly off each other and I’m keen to see where those two go next.
The love triangle involving Eric, Rahim and Adam is wonderfully pulled off, with the writers and Connor Swindells making Adam a character this season who the audience will want to see Eric end up with. Their courtship throughout the season is quite sweet and Adam’s improvement as a person this season was enjoyable to watch. Ncuti Gatwa continues to be a delight to witness with his delivery of certain lines, particularly him calling someone a “Dirty, dirty boy”, would have me laughing even just thinking back on them.
When Jackson (Kedar Williams-Stirling) broke up with Maeve at the end of season 1, it would have been easy to see him play a reduced role this season but he gets a prominent plot focused on his struggle with the pressure he feels to be a successful swimmer and finding out who he is outside of that. After getting injured, he is made to get a tutor, Viv (Chinenye Ezeudu), who he has an interesting friendship with and ends up getting the lead in the school play, which is directed by Lily who can’t let it just be your standard performance of Shakespeare. Aimee (Aimee Lou Wood) also has a good storyline this season that is perfectly threaded throughout the season. She might only get a couple scenes for a few episodes in a row but when it is finally reaches its end, it is super satisfying.
The writing across the board this season is fantastic. There are a few cliche moments that we’ve seen many times before but they’re written and performed so well that they’re easily forgiven. The show does slowly ramp up but the wait is most definitely worth it with all storylines coming to a satisfying conclusion and the seeds for season 3 perfectly placed.