When the camera last pulls away from Otis at the end of season one of “Sex Education,” he’s floating above his bed in a transcendant bliss as he finally discovers the primal joys of pleasuring himself.
Season two dropped on Netflix Jan. 17 and opens in a similar way — a three-minute montage that shows Otis honing his newfound skills. This explicit sequence is a perfect way to introduce this comedy-drama show, whose wildly raunchy tone carries from one season to the next.
For the most part, season two carries where the first left off, with the audience learning more about main characters Otis (Asa Butterfield), Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) and Maeve (Emma Mackey), while fleshing out characters briefly touched on in the former season. Otis matures with some unavoidable growing pains, navigating his tumultuous relationships with his girlfriend Ola, absent father and sex therapist mother, Jean (Gillian Anderson).
Eric attracts the attention of a certain oddball dreamboat of a French transfer student, and their relationship is sweetly realistic in its fresh new love, though perhaps marred by the last episode of the second season. There’s not so much focus on Eric as in the first season, but there’s more backstory for minor characters, which is a refreshing change that connects the audience with a wider range of people to sympathize with.
For example, Kedar Williams-Stirling’s character, Jackson, becomes better developed. This gives more depth to his character, considering the first season largely painted him as a one-dimensional playboy jock whose only focus is his swimming career. The second season goes deeper with his character, as Jackson explores new hobbies, friendships and thoughts. This evolution ultimately makes him one of the most likeable characters of this season.
“Sex Education” didn’t shy away from potentially inflamatory topics in the first season, and that doesn’t change in the second. A rather minor character, Aimee (Aimee Lou Wood), battles with sexual assault and the traumatic repercussions it can have.The show delicately deals with the subject in a sincere way and doesn’t take away from the scarring implications.
The fourth episode is a good encapsulation of the show, as it provokes questions like, “What does sex mean? How important is virginity? What does it mean for a teenage guy to be a virgin? What does that mean for his status as a man?” The audience sees Otis trying to tread through these rocky waters in a refreshing new way, as he faces head-on the patriarchal concept of male virginity. “Sex Education” opts out of the expectation that a man should lose his virginity before a woman by keeping Otis a virgin in the first season. As the next season unfurls, Otis comes to terms with what his virginity means in his relationship with Ola.
Broadly speaking, season two carries on the shining legacy its former season left behind, continuing similar themes, music and shooting style. The color palette adds a certain flair with creamsicle orange, pastel yellow and bright, splashy magenta hues seen in characters’ wardrobes and on the walls of the school, Moordale High.
The soundtrack predominantly features American singer Ezra Furman, whose gritty, wailing vocals contribute to the sense of unapologetically raw emotions. Thompson Twins and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, among others, add their classic hits to give each episode a sense of nostalgia, despite its modern-day status.
In the last episode, Chip Taylor soulfully croons “On the Radio” as the camera pans up from Otis walking away from a certain undisclosed character’s house, a smile playing across his lips. This episode wraps up the season in a satisfying story arc that does most characters justice, while leaving behind enough questions to hint at a third season.