By: Angelie Roche
Netflix’s “Sex Education,” a show featuring a group of teenagers exploring their sexual identities, returned for its third season on Sept. 17. The students are in the midst of their sixth form–the British equivalent of high school seniors–and are suddenly wrought with a number of changes to their schooling– in particular, their Sex and Relationships Education curriculum. Moordale Academy, which had been dubbed the “sex school,” had been in danger of shutting down because of its reputation, so its new headmaster Hope vowed to make the SRE curriculum abstinence-focused, take down any inappropriate artwork and force students to wear uniforms.
The show again expands its inclusion of identities with the addition of two nonbinary students, Cal and Layla. Both find their identities threatened with the imposition of the new uniform, as new headmaster Hope wants them to adhere to gender categories they simply do not fit into. It is rare for transgender and nonbinary characters to be accurately represented in media, especially when it comes to the unique and complex issues they face, such as chest binding. Far too often, shows will add characters of marginalized identities just to “check boxes” without giving them actual voice or direction in the storyline. One great aspect of “Sex Education” is that it not only includes people from these groups but allows them to tell their stories. When asked how they felt about this season of “Sex Education,” a nonbinary SMCM student, who wished to remain anonymous, added “I like that they had a nonbinary character who wasn’t white, because we don’t often hear about the black queer experience.”
Another character whose story is more closely examined in this season is Eric, main character Otis’ best friend. Eric begins dating shy ex-bully Adam, but feels that he is holding him back. This feeling is exacerbated when Eric visits his home country of Nigeria and finds the underground gay culture there, connecting his cultural pride and his pride in his own identity. This is yet another plotline that explores a nuanced issue with extreme care: though it can be dangerous to be gay in Nigeria, the show also portrays the country in a positive light, once again using it to strengthen Eric’s pride in his identity. However, (spoiler alert) there is one plotline that taints Eric’s loveable character–his act of cheating on Adam while in Nigeria. It was already clear that he was unsatisfied in his relationship, so why was it necessary to, once again, have Eric cheat on his boyfriend just as he cheated on Rahim last season?
Yet another surprise plotline emerged in Otis’ mom Jean’s pregnancy reveal. She hesitates for months before telling ex-lover Jakob, who wants to be involved in the baby’s life but cannot seem to get along with Jean. Otis and his mother get closer through this plotline, but Jakob and Jean fight so much that it seems their season one chemistry has expired.
Of course, the show would not be complete without the “will-they-won’t-they” Otis and Maeve plotline. Season two ended with Maeve’s love interest, Isaac, deleting a voicemail, which left many fans upset and angry. However, Isaac’s character takes a better turn in this season, being honest with Maeve about his actions and showing a softer, more understanding side. Otis begins the season with “mean girls”-esque Ruby, who we get to see become more vulnerable as the episodes progress. So, as Maeve becomes closer to Isaac, Otis is dating Ruby, and it seems that the two star-crossed lovers will once again miss their chance with one another. However, the season does end with a passionate kiss between the two and a promise that Maeve will find Otis after going away to America, giving fans hope that perhaps all is not lost.
Ultimately, the students put on a performance to try and “save” Moordale, but end up losing–the administration ousts Hope, but also cuts off all of Moordale’s funding, leaving the sixth formers to “find their own way” to finish the school year. This, of course, gives Maeve a reason to follow her heart and go to an advanced program in America, but it leaves so many loose ends regarding the rest of the characters. But, never fear–on Sept. 24, just a week after season three’s debut, the show announced that it would be renewed for a fourth season.