Much like Ted Lasso’s sophomore season, Netflix’s Sex Education Season 3 spends ample time observing human emotions and allowing its characters to grow in the process. The series isn’t new the exploring the idea of therapy, and the pioneering effects it has on a person’s psyche, but it spends much more time in its third season showing what it truly looks like in an environment that is attempting to pose one universal truth, as opposed to a myriad of them.
Moordale Secondary High is not the same high school we were introduced to in Sex Education‘s first season. New headteacher Hope (Jemima Kirke) is on a mission to shift the school’s reputation from the “sex school” to a much more prestigious academy where curriculum and GPA do the talking. And sure, in hindsight, it sounds like a great idea except the new staff is silencing, discriminating, and shunning inclusivity.
But through the trajectory of the character journeys, Sex Education season three dives deep into what it means to examine who we are and what we want to stand for. Whether that was through Chinenye Ezeudu’s Viv’s realization that it’s better to be a good friend and person than a head student who’s contributing to the discomfort of her peers, or Otis realizing that he finds genuine satisfaction in giving out thoughtful advice, this show is about a community, and what it truly means to listen to each other.
It’s particularly striking that though the season leaves plenty on the table and there are far more unanswered questions than concrete results, Sex Education season 3 is the strongest yet for what it achieves in showing the darker heartaches behind a teen’s identity. Shows like One Tree Hill and Boy Meets World dug deep into this at one point, but Sex Education mirroring a more inclusive society speaks that much more highly on the show’s strength.
What does it mean to be a member of the LGBTQIA community? What does it mean to identify as straight but to fall for someone who isn’t and how do you navigate through that when you’re so young and still figuring things out? What does it mean to be sexually assaulted and need more time to come to terms with your own body because of someone else’s abuse?
Sex Education isn’t a series that focuses on inclusivity to check boxes, it did not intend to introduce characters and storylines to fulfill an episode’s plot, but rather to allow the audience to sit with them through their journey (in spite of how long that might take for them to uncover their own story, in their own terms).
We weren’t introduced to a brilliant non-binary character like Cal (Dua Saleh) only to have their story serve as a one-off episode plot device. We were introduced to them in order to uncover their journey and everything that makes them who they are. And the journey Sex Education season 3 started with Cal is hopefully only the beginning—it’s the start of it all, and it’s an exceptional one that’s likely going to leave a lasting mark on those whose journeys are similar.
Aimee’s assault last season wasn’t intended to use sexual assault to focus further on the #MeToo movement, but it was meant to showcase her progression and deliver on the impact that such cases don’t resolve within a day or two in the real world. Continuing to touch on just how much it has changed her relationship with others (and herself) allows audiences to connect with another character whose experiences might mirror their own.
The sad truth is that rape and sexual assault on television are often used as plot devices and glossed over. A woman will grieve and ache for a moment or two then by the next it’s forgotten, only brought up in passing. And in this case, it becomes a detrimental portrayal of an occurrence that is horrifically triggering to watch because it isn’t showcased with care. And Aimee’s journey along with Aimee Lou Wood’s remarkable attention to a nuanced performance brings to light how a person could overcome the trauma.
Therapy is even more prevalent in Sex Education season 3 than it was when the sex clinic was in operation because we’re actively watching the professionals do the work for more than one character. Jean’s conversations with Aimee, Olivia, Ruby, and Anwar speaking to a nurse in the clinic, Jean and Jakob in couple’s therapy—there’s more than one display of what it looks like to vocalize concerns and to be given a safe space to talk things through.
That’s the essence of Sex Education Season 3—it’s reclaiming safe spaces for every single person and just what that looks like for different people. The season reiterates the importance of allowing teens to speak up, and it highlights the significance of the impact adults can have through their means of barring teens.
No, nothing is wrapped neatly in a bow, and the love triangles were even more frustrating this season than ever before. There’s the matter of the DNA test results that are likely putting a real damper on our moods (especially after we watched Ola find some joy), but for the most part, the season is about taking chances and choosing with our hearts. It sets a brilliant example for high school students that remember that while love might be important, an education and taking chances on yourself is the braver choice today.
The season questions the idea of bravery and the detail that it manifests itself differently in every person. It allows the characters to understand just what they need to step forward when they’re instead surrounded by a system that is trying to shame them for the natural exploration they need.
It’s easy to appreciate that though there’s a great deal of sadness left lingering, Sex Education season three still needs to be commended for allowing its characters to grow at their own pace. (An exceptional showcase of this was brought to the surface through Adam’s decisions and experiences.) Happiness will certainly come later I imagine, but for now, it matters tremendously that a series is allowing its audience to sit with deeply complex, incredibly realistic characters as they navigate through the toughest times in their lives with the resources necessary to find healing in whatever it is they are battling.
What are your thoughts on Sex Education season 3? Let us know in the comments below.