Illustration by Insiya Motiwala.

Sex Education Season 3: The Best One Yet?

Netflix’s hit show “Sex Education” is back with a third season. But is it as good as the previous ones?

Sep 26, 2021

Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers.
Welcome back to Moordale!
After a nearly two year long wait, one of Netflix’s most popular shows, Sex Education, released its third season on Sept. 17. It became the #3 most watched show on Netflix in the UAE within a day — and for good reason. Here’s a quick rundown.
The season starts off true to its title, giving us a montage of most couples on the show fooling around and getting down to it. The tone immediately reminds us how sex-positive the show is and gives us plenty of awkward close-ups.
Aside from the ensemble cast from the previous seasons, including Otis (Asa Butterfield), Maeve (Emma Mackey) and Eric (Ncuti Gatwa), we also see some new faces. Hope Haddon (Jemma Kirke), the new school Headmistress, takes over the role of the villain, replacing Mr. Groff (Alistair Petrie) from the previous seasons. She serves as a somewhat cartoonish antagonist — much like Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter franchise — trying to rid Moordale Secondary of its “Sex School” reputation. Inevitably, this leads to some interesting developments as Moordale students face new rules: uniforms, no unnatural hair colors and abstinence from sex. Perhaps most importantly, a new sex education curriculum is implemented, one that reinforces stigma surrounding matters related to sexual health.
However, despite her over-the-top portrayal as a high school tyrant, the writers tried their best not to make Hope one-dimensional. As with all characters the show introduces, even the Headmistress gets a backstory, which reveals her personal struggles with fertility. Although this revelation helps humanise Hope to a degree, it does little to explain her motives or actions in the show. With so many storylines this season (some of which could be entire shows of their own), it seemed like Hope’s struggles were added to the show purely to garner sympathy and make her character redeemable.
The creators this season tackled many sensitive issues, and more or less successfully balanced this with the large cast of characters. Moving beyond the previous seasons, the show also explores adult relationships and topics such as pregnancy and serves as a welcome break from the teenage drama we’re used to seeing. It also sets up the tone for the rest of the show, reminding us that, as Jean Millburn (Gillian Anderson), Otis’ mother and a licensed sex and relationship therapist, bluntly put it, “Not everything is about sex.”
Compared to previous seasons, the show has definitely widened the focus of its storytelling. Jean, previously a minor supporting character, is given a larger story arc, one that explores her relationship with Jakob (Mikael Persbrandt). Lily (Tanya Reynolds) and Ola (Particia Allison) also grapple with the complexities of growing up and finding one’s place in a family setting and in the wider world.
A large chunk of this season focuses on interpersonal relationships. We see new plotlines emerge — Jackson (Kedar Williams-Stirling) befriends Cal (Dua Saleh), a new, non-binary student at Moordale, allowing the show to discuss issues regarding gender as well as sexual and romantic attraction. In a world where gender expression remains a complicated spectrum to navigate, witnessing Sex Education handle this with sensitivity and care is truly commendable.
Some older plotlines continue to develop in unexpected directions. After the cliffhanger of the previous season, involving Otis, Maeve and Isaac (George Robinson) — who deleted a voice message in which Otis professed his love for Maeve — it became clear that Otis and Maeve would not be together anytime soon. This season, we see Otis becoming close to Ruby (Mimi Keene), one of the popular girls in school. This storyline was teased near the end of Season 2, and it doesn’t disappoint. Instead it explores unreciprocated love and dives deep into Ruby’s character, through glimpses of her life at home. We can only hope she gets a happier character arc next season.
Through Maeve’s newfound relationship with Isaac (George Robinson), the show also sheds light on how socioeconomic status and disability affect one’s life and shapes their understanding of the world. As always, the creators artfully navigate these difficult conversations with a great deal of care and humor, simultaneously making us laugh, and tugging at our heartstrings.
A major critique of the previous seasons was the decision to have Adam (Connor Swindells) and Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) become a couple, as Adam had bullied Eric for years. Although there is grounds to argue that this trope has been played to death, the show managed to win me over. With a plethora of heartfelt moments, coupled with Adam’s extensive desire to become a better person for Eric, and ultimately for himself, this old trope played out in a surprisingly satisfying manner. Both Gatwa and Swindells deliver incredible performances, driving home the idea that people can and do change.
The season finale was bittersweet, with just enough of a cliffhanger to make us eagerly anticipate what happens next. With the fate of Moordale High sealed and the Headmistress dealt with, some relationships are going strong while others may say their farewells. Nevertheless, we are left holding our fingers crossed for a Season 4 in the near future.
Sara Vuksanovic is a Book and Movie Columnist. Email her at
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