Sex Education season 2 was, if possible, better than the first one. I’d already said this in my advance review, but I wanted to start off with this categorical statement, once again, because it’s entirely rare for a show of this kind to even live up to the thing that made us enjoy it in the first place, much less improve on it.
Of course, season 2 wasn’t perfect. No show ever is. There are some things I’m holding out hope on, but that I’m still iffy about, and some characters who went through some growing pains (Otis, I’m looking at you) that felt less like growing pains and more like a personality switch. But despite the fact that this show doesn’t know when or where it’s set, it does know who its protagonists are.
And that – and the general respect with which the show treats diversity and, more importantly, it’s female characters – are one of the reasons why the show succeeds way beyond anyone’s expectations. It’s after all, one thing to subvert a genre and create a truly entertaining and progressive show while still making us care, it’s a whole different thing to do it again, while making us fall in love with even more characters.
So, let’s go into season 2 of the show, as we discuss what worked, what didn’t, and what we hope to see next.
Aimee’s story-line: I wasn’t Aimee’s biggest fan in season 1. I wasn’t against her, necessarily, but I don’t think I’d ever given her much thought beyond the fact that she seemed to actually be Maeve’s friend. This season, however, Maeve quickly morphed into one of my favorites. It wasn’t what happened to her – it was her reaction, and how real it felt, from the surprise, to the denial, to the quiet realization, to her finding a way to deal with it, and leaning on her friend, and later on, even Steve. I was incredibly proud of Aimee this season, and I think, whenever the show is set, a story-line like this was needed.
That detention scene and the aftermath: For a show about teenagers, and despite the fact that they’ve established female friendships, this moment of female solidarity that goes beyond even liking another woman, was sorely needed. Yes, that is, sadly, the one thing most women have in common, and the very least we could do is stand up for each other, support each other. No one else will.
Ola’s sexuality “crisis”: Ola’s sexuality crisis can’t even be called a crisis, and that’s the best thing about it. We’d already experienced Adam grappling with his own sexuality, so it was incredibly refreshing to see Ola just be like, oh, okay, I’m pansexual, that makes sense now. What next?
Adam: For Adam to work as a character, much less a viable romantic interest for Eric, he had to shed the bully, accept his previous mistakes and apologize for them. I didn’t think the show was going to go far enough in this regard, because shows rarely do. But between Adam’s quiet demeanor, the fact that he actually made a grand gesture, and the fact that he owned his mistakes, I will give it to them …this absolutely worked.
Jackson and Viv: A friendship between two unlikely people, this story-line served not just to subvert expectations, but in many ways, to send the message that our expectations are conditioned by a patriarchal society, and we should own that. Both Viv and Jackson truly care for the other, and that, sometimes, means making the hard choice, like Viv did.
Maeve: That Maeve’s storyline was mostly family related was the right choice, and that she was, once again, forced to make the hard decision, was real, if heartbreaking. Maeve, of all people on this show, deserves a break, and I hope season 3 can finally give her one. She deserves the recognition that Otis finally gave her in the last few moments of the season, and she deserves it not just as a momentary thing.
Jean: Gillian Anderson is, well, Gillian Anderson. I’ve loved her for way too long to accurately express here. Maybe because of that it’s amazing to me how she’s managed to embody this character, so different from the one I’ve always recognized her as. But Jean in this season is …well, she’s herself. She’s trying to help, the best way she can, and yes, she makes mistakes, but they are her mistakes to make. Unlike Scully, the story-line isn’t against Jean, things aren’t happening to her in order to advance other people’s story-lines, no. Things are just happening to Jean because that’s life …and what she does with them, well, that will be her choice. Just hers.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
Remi: The show did try to explain why Remi was the way he was, it just never truly clicked. And not only do I have problems understanding the why, but I also have trouble understanding why anyone would actually like him, after all he’s done. Okay, maybe Otis because you know, that’s his dad, but anyone else?
Otis, the jerk: Look, I know Otis had been too repressed, and I understand the appeal of alcohol and just letting go, but this feels very much like the kind of thing Otis wouldn’t do. But even if we discount that and give him the one night of bad decisions, Otis was an asshole for more than that night, and Maeve, Ola and his mom, in particular, deserved better.
Headmaster Groff: It’s not out of the realm of the possibility considering what they set up with the character, I just disliked Groff so much I had to talk about him in one of these sections. What he did with Jean’s notes was abominable. His desire to win a perceived war between himself and Jean caused irrevocable damage in the minds of hundreds of teens, and the worst part? He doesn’t care.
Isaac: As much as I appreciate how much Isaac wasn’t the stereotypical disabled representation we get, I was never sure if I was supposed to like his character, or root for him, or what. And then, at the end, he proved he also didn’t have Maeve’s interests at heart, like pretty much everyone else.
SEASON FINALE IMPRESSION & WHAT’S NEXT
I’m so, so mad, Isaac. I was rooting for you, WE WERE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU. Maeve deserves someone good in her life, and that doesn’t just mean someone who’s there for her, but someone who will let her make her own decisions about her life. She isn’t a possession, a prize you can win. She’s a person, with free will, and she wasn’t going to stop caring for you even if she chose Otis. Now, when she finds out about this, she will.
Because what you feel for her, or what you think you feel for her, it isn’t real. Love isn’t selfish. Real love isn’t.
Of course, it’ll now be up to Otis to prove that he actually feels that way. That he actually does care. It’ll be up to him to do what Maeve did all of this season, sit back and try to be a good friend, no matter what Maeve decides to do. That’s the journey now.
As for Adam and Eric, well …now comes the hard part. The actually moving forward together. The telling Adam’s parents. The going to school and having people look at you every day.
Finally, Jean has a decision to make. How does she move forward? Can she, and does she want to raise a child at this point in her life? Does she tell Jakob? Either way, I’m interested in where this is going.
What did you think of season 2 of Sex Education? Share with us in the comments below!