Sex Education Season 2 review: Side-splittingly funny
Ivan Radford | On 16, Jan 2020
“I think I just had a very small orgasm,” sighs one of the pupils at Moordale High School, after new student Rahim (Sami Outalbali) walks past them in the corridor. It’s the kind of throwaway line that gets us right back in the mood for Sex Education as it returns for Season 2 – a gag that delves into the inexperience, confusion, worry and hopes of exciteable teenagers, but most of all is very, very funny.
Netflix’s hit comedy doesn’t miss a beat as it drops us right back into its vibrant, brightly-coloured world, one that’s part US teen flick and part British awkwardness, all filmed against the beauty of the Welsh countryside. Much like its gorgeously over-the-top visual palette, this is a world bursting with feverish energy, a brightness and positivity that pushes through any potentially serious subject matter.
No one is bursting more than Otis (Asa Butterfield), daughter of sex therapist Jean (Gillian Anderson) and unwitting sex expert for the rest of his peers. Season 1 saw him and fellow outcast Maeve (Emma Macke) team up to charge people for confidential advice. Season 2 sees them drifted apart and Otis happily dating Ola (Patricia Allison), but with him no less anxious about matters of the bedroom. What if, he wonders, he’s addicted to onerism? A montage of hypersensitive reactions down below is side-splittingly hilarious, as Asa Butterfield immediately wins us over with his blend of maturity, sincerity and completely clueless nerves. On the one hand, he’s a champion for progressive attitudes and sympathetic conversation. On the other, he’s a kid with hormones running wild.
An encounter with his mother reminds us just how precisely balanced Sex Education’s characters are, as Gillian Anderson proceeds to lecture Otis on what should be kept private. Anderson is laugh-out-loud funny as the eyebrow-raising Jean, able to talk frankly about all manner of personal problems but still unable to have a chat with her son without him getting embarrassed. It’s a dynamic that recalls American Pie, but with a healthier, modern attitude that makes sure this isn’t merely a tale of one boy trying to get some action.
That’s evident once more by the strength and breadth of the cast, with each supporting character a fully-fleshed out person, from Maeve facing drama with her estranged mother to the radiant Ncuti Gatwa as Otis’ out and proud best friend, Eric, who finds himself strangely the focus of Rahim’s attentions. Aimee Lou Wood continues to steal scenes as non-airhead Aimee, while Connor Swindells gets better and better as Adam, the not-out-and-proud son of the headmaster (the deliciously deadpan Alistair Petrie), who is now facing the challenge of finding himself at military achool. Jean, too, continues to grow, as she opens herself up to a relationship wit Ola’s father Jakob (a brilliantly gruff Mikael Persbrandt), and enters a whole new minefield that even she isn’t sure how to navigate.
Nonetheless, her skills become important to Otis and the rest of the school, as a supposed outbreak of chlamydia finds everyone freaking out. It’s here that Sex Education once again plays to its strengths, always reinforcing the importance of communication and correct information – and, as a result, empowering both characters and the audience to make informed decisions. Creator Laurie Nunn and Director Ben Taylor (Catastrophe) are far from delivering a lecture, though, stuffing the script and screen with cringe-inducing one-liners, jaw-dropping frankness and strangely sweet crudeness. Amid the chaos and confusion of teens coming of age, there’s still time for the sensational Jim Howick (fresh from BBC’s glorious Ghosts) to nab all the best moments with barely a line of dialogue as the inept biology teacher Mr Hendricks. While he struggles to find the words in the bedroom as well as the classroom, this is a programme that always knows exactly the right thing to say.
Sex Education: Season 1 and 2 is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.