WARNING: Spoilers, hints and teasers ahead. If you don’t want to know anything, just take our word for it and watch the show!
Let’s be honest…Netflix has become the new mega-hit shop for entertainment. With 2018 blockbusters like The Kissing Booth, Birdbox and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, it seems that more and more viewers are crediting Netflix for their favorite forms of entertainment. We no longer have to go to the theater to see amazing content, or wait for weekly updates of our favorite televisions shows, some of them are all available now on our mobile devices and the comfort of our homes.
With other incredible content lined up for 2019, Netflix kicked it off in a big way with the British comedy-drama series Sex Education, released January 11. Following the story of Otis Milburn, a socially awkward virgin whose mother is a sex therapist as he teams up with mad girl Maeve to open a secret sex clinic for classmates intimate challenges. It is laugh out loud, talking over the water cooler the next day funny, but beyond the laughs, are the incredible stories, messages and lessons to be taken away from this perfectly timed series.
The series stars Gillian Anderson, Asa Butterfield, Ncuti Gatwa, Emma Mackay, Connor Swindells and more.
In a time where being a teenager is more confusing than ever, you may find that many turn to entertainment to find answers and clarity in their worlds. This show, while comedy focused, sheds light on some of the challenges they face. Themes such as mental health, sexuality, bullying, slut shaming, rumors, cliques and the like all play a role in this hilarious series, giving a laugh along with the deeply vital aspects of the teen experience.
Take Otis (played by Asa Butterfield), for example. Divorced parents, over-involved, psycho-therapist mother whose attempts at open honesty with her son has caused a fear in him with regards to his own sexual experience. While all his friends are having, talking, or thinking about sex, Otis can’t even bring himself to take matters into his own hands. He quickly develops feelings for bad girl and business partner Maeve, in the quintessential unrequited ‘friend zone’ tale. But while that may sound tragic, the show takes it beyond their inability to come together, and shows that despite never being on the same page at the same time, each is able to carry on their own lives, and maintain their friendship without tragedy.
Maeve (played by Emma Mackay) herself is far from the basic bad girl. She is not troubled by her own means. Born into a dysfunctional family, smart, inquisitive and adaptable, she is able to rise to the attention of teachers with her brilliant observations, never letting her families discord take control of her life. A strong story line around her character, and one that is important to mention, is her own experience with ‘slut shaming’. With similar Netflix shows such as 13 Reasons Why, rumor is most often more exciting than the truth, and a single false tale can change someones life. After turning down a boy, he quickly started a rumor about Maeve that stays with her years later, forming into part of her personality and identity all based on a lie. It is an experience many girls can relate to, either directly or otherwise, and plays back to the current social climate.
She is matched up often as ‘friends with benefits’ to the Head Boy and school superstar Jackson, who wants more than Maeve is willing to give. School swim champion, he is the one everyone knows will be successful. But despite his popularity, you see him struggle against a controlling, success focused mother who drives him to fuel her own desires. Half way through, Jackson admits his history with anxiety, need for medications, and never feeling enough because of these pressures.
Otis’ best friend Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) is a loud, proud and flat out right awesome gay character, who is never ashamed to be himself. He is colorful (literally, thanks to his clothing choices) and loyal to Otis and his experiences. You follow his struggles as he navigates his sexuality in a religious household, facing off against bully Adam, and finding his own voice against assault based on his orientation. You also see the transformation of his friendship with Otis, as Otis’ feelings for Maeve increase, their work on their ‘clinic’ becoming more prevalent, leaving Eric somewhat behind in the classic move of new love leaving old friends.
School bully and Headmaster’s son Adam (Connor Swindells) is a complicated character that you start out hating for his behavior, but quickly learn to understand and even pity as he battles against his demeaning and bullying father. It is often said that bully’s learn their behaviors, and in this case, it is clear where Adam got his tendencies. He is often met with misfortune, sometimes of his doing, other times not, but always to blame in his fathers eyes. In the end, you learn that he is struggling with his own sexuality, answering many questions that are merely hinted at through the series. It shows that no matter a persons behavior, you don’t always know their motives or experiences.
Each episode focuses on a new ‘client’ in Otis and Maeve’s sex clinic, their sexual issue and the emotional or environmental factors that manifest. The series touches on consent (unpopular Liam is ‘in love’ with Lilly, convinced that despite the fact that she repeatedly says no to his advances, that maybe she means yes…Otis sets him straight after a dramatic confession of love turns risky), parental imperfections (Otis’ mother, Jean, and her own inability to commit to a relationship, operating a revolving door of suitors in front of Otis; using him and his sexual limitations as a muse for her latest book), the struggles of feeling like you have to fit in (Lily, the awkward girl who writes alien erotica and her obsession with having sex, later to be discovered is based on the fear of being left behind by her classmates).
There are endless incredible characters and story lines in this series, that you will find it impossible to be bored. But admittedly, a favorite character has to be Aimee. She is part of the popular crowd, however, is treated merely as a slave by the same. She says she ‘likes to be helpful’, but you see the struggles she faces in maintaining popularity against the behavior of her peers that she does not approve of. She is secretly friends with Maeve despite her reputation, and while her peer group is well known for ‘talking trash’ about everyone else in the school, never once do you see Amiee taking part. She is kind, sees the best in people, and in the end, chooses friendship over popularity when it counts.
If you are looking for your latest binge watch series for this weekend, this is it. Eight episodes of less than an hour each, you will laugh, gasp, and learn a little with each situation, and as the final credits roll you will be begging for seasons two! There is no word yet on whether we will be gifted with a second season, but in the meantime, get busy watching this incredible debut!
Sex Education is available to stream on Netflix.