‘Sex Education’ season 2 uses empathetic storytelling, destroys stigma around awkward topic

Grace Barnes

Netflix’s original show is back to give its young audiences a second round of a true sex education ­— not the kind you learned in high school.

Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield), the son of a sex therapist turned high school sex guru, returns for a whirlwind season two of “Sex Education.” The charming teen comedy captivated audiences with its diverse ensemble of lovable characters, beautiful countryside setting and vibrant ‘80s aesthetic.

This season delves into darker themes, with one storyline centered around the lively, overly trusting Aimee (Aimee Lou Wood), who is sexually assaulted on a public bus on her way to school. Aimee is initially frightened and disgusted hurrying to get off the bus, but ultimately shrugs it off, more concerned about the stain that resulted on her favorite jeans. 

While Aimee is not the focus of the show, what makes season two so profound is the appropriate attention it gives to the sensitive, compelling narrative about sexual assault without overwhelming competing plot points. It is an all-too-common occurrence for young women, as the female ensemble of “Sex Education” soon discovers. The darker subplot introduces a more serious tone and lends credence to the message of the show. Never underestimating the severity of sexual assault, “Sex Education’s” honest and compassionate approach to the situation serves as a textbook example of how the issue should be dealt with by the victim’s peers, who band together in a heartwarming, female-empowering display of solidarity. 

In its second season, “Sex Education” builds beautifully on existing storylines, developing the beloved supporting characters from season one and introducing just enough new characters to keep the show feeling fresh. 

The repetitive theme of characters struggling to choose between multiple love interests is perhaps “Sex Education’s” only shortcoming in terms of plotlines and character development — it otherwise excels in its nonjudgmental presentation of complex teenage characters of all races, genders and sexualities. Otis’ best friend Eric (Ncuti Gatwa), who stole viewers’ hearts in season one, is torn between Rahim (Sami Outalbali), a new student from France, and the closeted Adam (Connor Swindells), who Eric can’t help but smile around despite their dark past. Ola (Patricia Allison), Otis’s girlfriend, starts to wonder if she should be with her best friend or her boyfriend as she grapples with her sexuality.

The show boasts stunning cinematography of its beautiful Wales setting, offering sweeping views of the lush green countryside and dense forests where Otis and Eric can frequently be seen riding their bikes to school together. Costume design is another noteworthy area, as each character’s style perfectly embodies their personality while keeping with the bold and colorful ‘80s-inspired look. 

What “Sex Education” conveyed so well in its first season was a message of normalcy surrounding teenage sexuality, destroying any stigma around the awkward topic. Its empathetic storytelling established it as one of the best shows of 2019. 

“Sex Education” season two is just as unabashed and delightful as season one, making a compelling case for a season three.

Rating: 4.5/5