West Windsor, New Jersey, U.S.A. – “Sex Education,” a Netflix original series that debuted this month, exceeds expectations. The story centers on Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield), a socially awkward teenager who starts a therapy clinic at his high school.
It didn’t sound appealing at first but unexpectedly hooks the viewer in.
Although personally inexperienced, Otis is able to fix the love lives and sexual misadventures of his classmates through experience he picks from being around his mom, a sex therapist.
Partnering with his classmate, Maeve (Emma Mackey) – a stereotypical mix between secretly smart and blatantly rebellious – the duo are able to fix the mistakes of young, inexperienced and horny teenagers through their clinic.
At first glance the show seems like another provocative attempt to depict the love lives of teenagers, but its diversity, utter accuracy of awkwardness and lack of emotional detachment seals the deal.
Key to the show’s success is that this English countryside school includes people of color and teens in the LGBT+ community. It was also a pleasant surprise. Otis’s best friend, Eric (Ncuti Gatwa), a gay high schooler and a child of religious, African immigrant parents, grows alongside Otis to have his personal ups and downs. Viewers wind up attached to these characters.
Other characters who flourished in their roles include Anwar (Chaneil Kular), a popular Indian gay guy in Otis’s high school and leader of the “The Untouchables,” He takes a role commonly played by a white actor – that of the reoccurring, comedic depiction of a ‘popular kid.’
Another refined character with an unexpected plot twist is the school’s swimming champion, Jackson (Kedar Williams-Stirling), who falls for Maeve while struggling to keep up the high expectations of his biracial lesbian parents.
The show also explores the fabric of relationships between mothers and sons, fathers and sons, sisters and brothers and teenage, divorced and married couples.
Otis’ relationship with his divorced parents makes this show greater than just a cheesy high school show and gives viewers opportunities to relate on a greater level. Maeve’s struggling financial situation and the lack of presence of her parents and brother also make for a sympathetic character you wish you were there for.
Over all, the complexities of the characters stretch far beyond the scenes where teenagers are doing inappropriate things with their high school sweethearts. It dives into critical issues but doesn’t become emotionally overbearing for viewers.
Butterfield’s ability to excel is perfectly on display in the way he captures Otis’ personality as a nerdy, shy character who can be serious and help others when he needs to, yet still make mistakes.
This makes for a far more enjoyable watch.
Similar to Butterfield, the entire cast fits their characters almost flawlessly. It seems almost impossible to imagine anyone else playing these characters better than those on the show.
“Sex Education,” one of Netflix’s more impressive ventures, has rightfully deserved positive responses from critics as well as success among viewers. The show received a 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and, according to takeaways from an article in Recode, is expected to bring in more than 40 million views within the first month after its initial release on Jan. 11, 2019.
Just with its first eight episodes, this show’s heartfelt comedy has viewers hooked and already asking for another season.
Gauri Nema is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International.