The first season of Netflix’s hit British teen comedy series Sex Education was a tremendous success last year, finding a place on the streaming giant’s top 10 most watched shows of 2019 and turning many of its young cast into overnight stars.
However, almost exactly a year has passed between seasons one and two, and so before viewers make a return to Moordale a quick recap might be in order.
The first season had Asa Butterfield’s character Otis at its core. Otis is a slightly nerdy and socially awkward teenager and is unable to masturbate – in no small part thanks to the sometimes-overbearing and intrusive influence of his sex therapist mother Jean, played with relish by Gillian Anderson.
At the start of the season, Otis is approached by Maeve (Emma Mackey) – Moordale’s resident bad-girl and something of a social outcast, about starting a sex therapy clinic at the school due to a number of sex-related issues that their classmates have had. The idea is that Maeve will organise appointments and Otis will use the knowledge he has picked up by virtue of his mother’s profession.
Otis agrees and over the course of the series the sex clinic proves popular, and often successful, with Otis developing strong feelings for Maeve along the way. This is complicated when the school’s head boy and swim team captain Jackson has sex with Maeve at a party and begins to pursue a relationship with her – even asking Otis for advice regarding the best way to ask Maeve out. Otis is left with egg on his face when his attempt to sabotage Jackson by recommending he performs some sort of grand gesture backfires, and Jackson and Maeve become a couple.
Meanwhile, Otis’ best friend Eric, played by frequent scene-stealer Ncuti Gatwa, has been selected to join the swing band and enlists the help of Lily, another band member (who writes alien-themed erotica) to get him up to speed at his house. While there, Lily attempts to have sex with Eric – not realising that he is gay. She later asks Otis if he would like to have sex with her given that they are both virgins, an offer which Otis initially refuses.
Later, an embarrassing photo of one of the sex clinic clients is being sent round the school against that person’s wishes, and Otis and Maeve work together to try and find the source. However, their efforts to investigate end up taking up a lot of time – causing Otis to miss a trip to the cinema with Eric to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a yearly tradition for Eric’s birthday. After Otis’ failure to arrive, Eric is assaulted by two homophobes and has his wallet and phone stolen, and when he arrives home has a huge argument with Otis, berating him for standing him up.
Otis then decides to take up Lily on her previous offer, but their attempts to have sex end disastrously with Otis having a panic attack. Later he is asked out by Ola, the daughter of his mother’s handyman (and soon-to-be boyfriend) Jakub. He says yes, unaware that Maeve has admitted to having feelings for him. Meanwhile Eric responds to his attack by dressing more conservatively, and is soon suspended from school when he lashes out at the swing band instructor amidst his growing isolation and frustration.
Another key character introduced in season one is Adam, the son of headmaster Mr Groff. He does not get on well with his father and is a school bully, with Eric a particular target of his abuse. Towards the end of season one, Adam surprisingly wins an essay writing competition – but, as correctly guessed by English teacher Miss Sands, he had not actually written the essay in question, instead employing Maeve to write it for him. Around the same time, Maeve’s elder brother Sean, who had disappeared for several months, has arrived.
At the school dance, which both Otis and Maeve had been reluctant to go to, Eric (dressed in full drag) and Otis make up after their previous falling out, Maeve and Jackson argue – after Jackson had correctly identified the fact that Maeve had feelings for Otis. Meanwhile Adam instigates a physical fight with his father.
The final episode sees numerous resolutions, but also many cliff-hangers. Maeve is expelled from the school after taking the blame for drugs sold at the dance – which had actually been sold by her brother, and Jackson, after being dumped by Maeve, begins to skip swimming practice.
Meanwhile Eric and Adam, both in detention, become involved in a physical altercation with each other – only for that altercation to suddenly turn into passionate sex, as we find out that Adam has been repressing homosexuality. Any chance of a relationship forming, however, is put aside as Adam is soon sent to military school by his father.
The series ends with Maeve heading to Otis’s house, only to be heartbroken when she sees him kissing Ola. That evening, Otis discovers that he is finally able to masturbate.