'Sex Education' season 3: Back with a bang as raunchy series grapples with sex ban

·6 min read
Sex Education S3
'Sex Education' is back with a whole heap of new issues. (Netflix)

Sex Education is back and randier than ever before - but someone is intent on stopping their fun this time round.

Picking up in the aftermath of season two, Moordale High has been rebranded ‘the sex school’ by the media thanks in large part to Lily (Tanya Reynolds) and her erotic adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.

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That doesn’t tone down the school’s ability to have sex on the brain 24/7 though - in fact the first five minutes of the show is dedicated to the sixth formers getting down and dirty with each other in a variety of different ways.

And from sex toys to role play, these teens are definitely exploring every inch of their sexuality.

Watch: Sex Education season 3 trailer

But with Otis (Asa Butterfield) and Maeve (Emma Mackey) no longer on speaking terms, it’s down to someone else to pick up their sex advice side hustle… and it falls into completely the wrong hands.

Seems the pair are busy anyway, seeing as Otis is now having a top secret friends-with-benefits arrangement with popular girl Ruby (Mimi Keene), and Maeve’s relationship with Isaac (George Washington) is getting more intimate too. But with Maeve’s mum refusing to speak to her and her sister in foster care, her mind is far from relationships.

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Meanwhile Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) is figuring out how to move things to the next level with his recently-out bisexual boyfriend Adam (Connor Swindells).

Eric and Adam’s romance is a fan favourite as it’s grown over the past two seasons. Starting off as a bullied/bully relationship through to Adam coming to terms with his sexuality, their road has not been an easy one.

Sex Education Season 3.  Tanya Reynolds as Lily Iglehart in Episode 6 of Sex Education Season 3. Cr. Sam Taylor/NETFLIX © 2020
The new series features a change in culture at Moordale. (Netflix)

Turns out that coming out is just the start of further complications for the pair of them. While they’re willing to make it work, the sex hasn’t quite got off the ground yet, and with Adam still finding his feet with what it means to be bisexual, it puts Eric on an uneven footing with him. Can they make it work?

On the slip side of this sexual coin, the only person who doesn’t even want to get jiggy is Aimee (Aimee Lou Wood) - whose sexual assault has put her off getting intimate. Though she does adopt a goat in a bid to rekindle her connection to boyfriend Steve.

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But cold water is poured on all of their antics with the school board’s mission to rebrand the school to something more refined - and with that comes a new headteacher in the shape of Hope (Jemima Kirke).

Despite seeming like a ‘cool’ teacher, Hope is soon cracking down on anything and everything that makes Moordale special.

Soon, the once colourful high school is suddenly drowned in miserable grey, with sex all but eradicated from the curriculum. Non-binary kids are suddenly penalised, and the different are singled out.

Sex Education Season 3.  Ncuti Gatwa as Eric Effiong, Connor Swindells as Adam Groff in Episode 2 of Sex Education Season 3. Cr. Sam Taylor/NETFLIX © 2020
Eric and Adam explore their deepening feelings. (Netflix)

Over the course of this season, relationships are put to the test as the teens move into the next phases of their lives. Some are embracing of Hope’s changes, while others want to rebel in order to remain true to themselves.

But it turns out that the kids are only the start of the problem - with the adults surrounding them just as confused and learning as the rest of them.

While Hope goes on a mission to reform Moordale School, former headmaster Michael Groff (Alistair Petrie) is trying to figure out his new way of life without a job and without a wife.

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It’s made worse that he has to rely on his super successful brother, Peter (new addition Jason Isaacs) who just can’t resist revelling in his brother’s misery.

Even sex therapist Jean (Gillian Anderson), while peddling a book about teen sexuality, is coming to terms with her own late-age pregnancy.

After accidentally getting pregnant by former fling Jakob (Mikael Persbrandt), she now has to gather the courage to tell him - and see what that means for her going forward.

Sex Education Season 3.  Ncuti Gatwa as Eric Effiong, Connor Swindells as Adam Groff, Mimi Keene as Ruby Matthews in Episode 3 of Sex Education Season 3. Cr. Sam Taylor/NETFLIX © 2020
New girl Ruby is Otis's friend with benefits. (Netflix)

There’s definitely not a quiet moment with Sex Education, but, like always, they deal with the weird and complicated world of sex with an unashamed and taboo-breaking lens, and a whole chunk of heart.

While season three may not be as strong as the previous two outings, it definitely has more than enough to keep viewers hooked in.

A particular stand-out star from this latest batch of episodes is Swindells portrayal of the constantly confused Adam - who is grappling with his previously violent persona and his desire to be someone better for his boyfriend, Eric.

But with aggression his go-to move, it makes life difficult for him to move forward, especially when he feels like he’s being made fun of and is losing confidence.

Mackey continues to be a tour de force as Maeve, especially when dealing with her storylines away from school and the complications that come with having an addict mother who she loves, but can’t help.

Episode 3 of Sex Education Season 3. Cr. Sam Taylor/NETFLIX © 2020
Moordale's reputation prompts a school sex ban. (Netflix)

Her strongest scenes are actually nowhere near the school or its students at all, with her turbulent relationship with Otis almost becoming irrelevant as she grows into herself. It’s a powerful arc to give to the romantic lead of a show and it’s done beautifully and over time.

Despite the ‘arriving with a literal bang’ entrance of season three, Sex Education actually starts pulling away from its raunchy content in favour of the more heartfelt - and it results in some of the most moving moments in teen drama seen in years.

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No-one does this genre quite like Sex Education. Despite its X-rated (and sometimes unnecessary toilet) humour, its capacity to deliver diversity in its many forms is unmatched. In a world where difference is becoming more celebrated, it’s also necessary.

What the future holds for the series as a whole is unknown, but while ‘era-defining’ may be a little too thrown around, it’s hard not to consider Sex Education a pinnacle moment for 2020s teens.

Sex Education season 3 launches on Netflix globally on 17 September.

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