Netflix starts off its 2019 lineup strong with its new show "Sex Education," an engaging British comedy that presents a thoughtful look at students as they deal with the social pressures of sex in their lives.
The show centers around Otis Milburn – played by Asa Butterfield – a socially awkward teenager whose struggles are not helped by the fact that his mother, Jean – played by Gillian Anderson – is a sex therapist who is uncomfortably open about sex.
When Otis finds out his mother’s expertise in the field has rubbed off on him, he teams up with fellow student Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey) to start a sex clinic for students at his school. The two struggle with their own unique issues regarding sex, all the while helping students facing similar problems in their own lives.
“Sex Education” makes use of its unique angle on sex to showcase issues that many people have encountered in their lives, managing to be relatable and connect with its audience in a way that few other shows have been. It manages to pack a number of laughs while also presenting a truthful and occasionally brutally honest truth about the problems many people have faced, from insecurities about being in a relationship to discrimination based on sexual identity. In this sense, the show stands out among others of its kind due to its unflinching look at the lives of teenagers.
Props have to be given to the show’s acting as well. Butterfield succeeds as the show’s gawky lead, managing to feel authentically awkward while also presenting some heartfelt dialogue about the realities of teenage life.
Major commendations have to be given to Emma Mackey and Ncuti Gatwa – the latter of whom plays Otis’ best friend Eric – for their respective roles. Both manage to be truly entrancing every time they are on screen and provide some of the most gut-wrenching moments the series has to offer, thanks in large part to their brilliant acting. The two both shine in the show and are stars to look out for in the future.
The series’ side characters deserve similar praise. With few exceptions, the show develops every character audiences meet into a multi-layered person who viewers will genuinely feel sympathetic toward. Nearly every character is likable at one point or another, and it is always a pleasure to see each of them grow and develop as the show goes on.
The only real criticism I can level against “Sex Education” is against its "villains," such as the principal or the popular students. Most of them feel fairly one-note and come off as shallow compared to the other supporting characters. However, the show is only in its first season, and this issue could easily be fixed as the show progresses and grows.
Ultimately, “Sex Education” is a fun ride that presents as much humor as it does heart and thought-provoking ideas about life as a student. It is a great show that I would highly recommend and serves as a fantastic start to the new year.