Sex Education is back on our screens and with it the stellar talents of Gillian Anderson, Emma Mackey and Asa Butterfield. But how will the eye-wateringly candid show about sex, relationships and growing up fare in its second season?
Sure, sex is cool, but have you ever binge-watched eight episodes of a whipsmart teen comedy about it instead?
That’s right friends, the January blues are officially banished – Sex Education has returned to our screens in all of its raucous, raunchy glory, and from the first masturbation montage (soundtracked by Divinyls’ I Touch Myself, naturally) it does not disappoint.
Sex Education crept onto our Netflix ‘Recommended’ bars with little fanfare at the beginning of last year, then suddenly it was all anyone could talk about. A refreshingly honest depiction of the messiness of growing up, we fell hard for tough girl Maeve (Emma Mackey), virgin-turned-sex-therapist Otis (Asa Butterfield) and his scene-stealing best friend Eric (Ncuti Gatwa).
But there were doubts about how the magic of that first season, as we delighted in meeting the cast of nuanced and lovable characters at Moordale High, could be sustained for another eight episodes. It was a crash course in the trials of teenagehood, but hadn’t we learned all there was to learn?
Wrong. In fact, I’d go far as to suggest having a notepad and pen to hand when you’re watching Sex Education season two, because this is a show that truly lives up to its name.
Although we are thrown back into the key storylines of season one – the newly minted love triangle of Maeve, Otis and girlfriend Ola (Patricia Allison); Eric’s confusing relationship with his former bully Adam (Connor Swindells); the pressure mounting on swimming star Jackson (Kedar Williams-Stirling) – we also delve into the lives of fan favourites including Aimee (Aimee Lou Wood) and Lily (Tanya Reynolds), as well as a slew of new faces.
The result is an utterly fresh, laugh-a-minute examination of how we navigate sex and relationships today, with episodes exploring everything from pansexuality to asexuality, dirty talk to douching.
Exciting, too, is the particular focus on girls and women. There is a heart-rending storyline about sexual assault and an empowering #MeToo scene that will make you nod your head furiously in recognition.
Writer Laurie Nunn and her team also step up the homage to other giants of the genre this season. While 80s filmmaker John Hughes has clearly always been big source of inspiration – even in season two we get a Breakfast Club-style detention scene – the reference that jumps out this time around is Mean Girls.
From new girl Ola being introduced to the tribes at Moordale High (“The Untouchables, The Bong Rats, The Sober Virgins”) to a Mathletes-style quiz complete with jackets and a school performance full of pushing and stage-whispered insults á la Jingle Bell Rock, it’s all masterfully done.
But it’s also a reminder that despite how seen we all felt watching those early teen dramas, surely there hasn’t been one more real, raw and all-encompassing than Sex Education. This is one show that is schooling all the rest.
Sex Education season two is streaming on Netflix now
Meena Alexander is Stylist magazine’s features editor.