‘Sex Education’ is back & raunchier than ever

Dua Saleh steals the show in their effortless depiction of Cal Bowman in season three

Side characters shine in the new season of Sex Education.
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Kinks, aliens, hookups, cheating—the new season of Sex Education has it all.

The plot of the show’s third season primarily revolves around new head teacher Hope. She essentially acts as the Disney villain of the show, attempting to reinvent Moordale Secondary School as a pillar of academic excellence in the community.

Her newly-imposed school values are starkly contrasted with the hilarious and relatable sex lives of the students in the building. Though the beloved sex clinic is no longer functioning, characters are just as vocal about their intimate lives, normalizing conversations about pleasure and desire.

The idea of shame is central to all storylines this season, especially as Moordale students revolt against Hope’s new rules by championing their reputation as a “Sex School.” Characters advocate that traits and acts you find desirable in the bedroom shouldn’t be shamed nor stigmatized, but rather openly discussed to foster a positive sense of self and sexuality.

Though many of the sexual experiences portrayed on screen are validating and important to see, some fall flat—seemingly showcasing sex for the sake of pushing boundaries.

The real magic of the show is in its unparalleled ability to embrace inclusivity and diversity through humour and seamless integration. There are no token characters, which is a rare feat in any medium of storytelling. 

In terms of character development, the core of Sex Education is the raunchy relationships we’ve all grown to adore which force characters to evolve with their romantic partners.

Though I expected the grounding force of the new season to be Otis and Maeve, Adam and Eric are undoubtedly the heart of Sex Education. The writers did a beautiful job of crafting Adam into the character we can’t help but find endearing and charming as he comes into his sexuality and stops shutting his feelings off. Eric, on the other hand, embraces his Nigerian heritage as he travels home for a family wedding where he gets a taste of what it feels like to be with someone as open with his sexuality as he is.

Now officially boyfriends, Adam and Eric are forced to grapple with the reality that one member of the relationship is consistently struggling to overcome his internalized homophobia. I couldn’t help but tear up as I watched Adam, clearly in love with his partner, stumble in his attempts to openly display affection.

Adam’s character arc is mirrored by that of his father. Their dual progression sheds light on confining expectations of masculinity and the patriarchy, especially as they attempt to unlearn habits passed on to them by their fathers. 

In terms of new characters, Cal Bowman, played by Dua Saleh, stole the show with their nuanced depiction of navigating school and relationships as a nonbinary teenager. Instead of adding a nonbinary character with little depth to make the show more inclusive, Cal is a fully fleshed out individual with believable dialogue and an extremely relatable response to protesting.

The writers of the show take the effortlessly cool skater stereotype, deepen it, subvert ideas of heteronormativity, and allow the actor to make the role their own. The fact that Cal is a person of colour and nonbinary is also ground-breaking in terms of representation, especially considering the lack of queer racialized representation in mainstream media.

Cal’s relationship with dreamy head boy Jackson is also a beautiful addition to the storyline, especially as Jackson awkwardly attempts to navigate his first relationship that falls outside of the gender binary. Throughout romantic and sexual interactions, Cal sets clear boundaries and reveals how draining it can be to educate others on how to navigate nonbinary identity, especially when trying to protect oneself.

Season 3 of Sex Education was a chance for side characters to shine. I hope, in the next season, the show’s frontrunning characters can match the nuance of new fan favourites.

 

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