Netflix is starting the year off with a bang (literally) with the release of their new gawky teen sex comedy series Sex Education that brings in elements of Freaks and Geeks, Dawson’s Creek and Porky’s to create one of the year’s brightest and funniest series that shows regardless of sexual experience, sex is never the cut and paste answer to any problem that may arise.
Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield) is living a semi-complicated life. At 16, he’s found himself in the middle of a sexual awakening but it’s just not his…which is partly in fault thanks to his mother Jean (Gillian Anderson) who’s profession as a sex therapist muddles itself between what’s appropriate to talk about at work and home causing Otis to be more sexually repressed than his school friends. Though, being the son of a sex therapist does have it’s own rewards when school outcast Maeve (Emma Mackey), looking to make a quick buck, talks Otis into giving out the advice he has learnt at home to the sexually active and confused students at his school. The beauty here is the diversity within the students at the school and the problems they are needing help with. A popular girl with a touchy gag reflex to a lesbian couple having trouble with sex to a shy and awkward teen with an almost stalkerish crush on a girl all find themselves in the presence of Otis who doles out sage advice all the while knowing full well, he’s still yet to experience anything of the like.
Along with Otis and Maeve, there’s Otis’ best friend Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) who doesn’t struggle with his sexuality but with how difficult it is to find someone when there’s only one other openly gay student at the school. He’s also become the target of the school bully Adam (Connor Swindells) who spends most of the season making Eric’s life a living hell – and being a major disappointment to his father, the head master of the school and as the season progresses, there’s little snippets into Adam’s life that reveal why he does what he does.
Gillian Anderson as Jean is just one of the standouts from this series but singling out her performance as the sexually open therapist is a must as this role feels so….un Gillian Anderson that it’s perfect. We’re used to seeing Anderson in constricted, quiet and closed in roles (X-Files, Bleak House, Hannibal) that it feels like a breath of fresh air watching her character smoke a joint and get high with one of her son’s classmates or don a red shag wig and grope and stroke an over sized phallic shaped eggplant.
At only eight episodes long, this first season does not feel rushed or have things swept under the rug to deal with later – though – no spoilers – there is a lot of stuff set up if (fingers crossed) the show comes back for a second outing.
Check out the trailer below:
At the heart of all this though are the three relationships that are either existing or formed throughout the season and how they stretch and break and mend with each passing day. Otis and his mother Jean. Otis and Maeve. Otis and Eric.
Sex Education Season One is now streaming on Netflix.