A confused teenage girl sighs, “I think I might be broken.” Dr. Jean Milburn (Gillian Anderson, “The X-Files”) replies, “Sex doesn’t make us whole. So how could you be broken?” Though Dr. Milburn is speaking to one of the many students at Moordale Secondary School who comes to ask her advice, she’s really talking to you. This therapy session isn’t just for the sake of fiction. The message is clear and it’s meant for the viewing audience.
In the second season of Netflix’s “Sex Education,” 16-year-old Otis (Asa Butterfield, “The Space Between Us”) reopens his ‘sex advice clinic’ at his high school with his best friends Eric (Ncuti Gatwa, “Stonemouth”) and Maeve (Emma Mackey, “Badger Lane”). Business is booming, as an outbreak of chlamydia-based hysteria has wreaked havoc on the student population of Moordale. Despite the business’ success, Otis’ personal life is in shambles: Now dating classmate Ola (Patricia Allison, “Moving On”), Otis learns that his mother, Dr. Milburn, also happens to be dating Ola’s father. Realizing the poor sex-ed curriculum is the culprit behind the community’s descent into chaos, the board hires Dr. Milburn to interview the student body in hopes of revising lessons to actually answer their most pressing questions.
These first few episodes of the season capture what makes “Sex Education” so remarkable — sexuality has been ignored for so long by so many institutions that a whole town goes mad. In a high school that needs not one, but two relationship therapists, the deep-seated cultural issues surrounding sex are more present than ever. Every student that consults Otis or Dr. Milburn considers them a godsend, and with the school’s limited curriculum, it’s not hard to see why.
“Sex Education” takes place in a slightly fantastical midway between America and Britain and represents the most potent aspects of each country’s pop culture. A wide variety of races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, religions, abilities and lifestyles are represented and united by their collective lack of representation in education and public awareness. Students struggle with unwanted pregnancies, confusion over sexual orientation, personal trauma and all the complex emotions that accompany the universal experience of growing up in 2020.
Despite addressing mature topics and including explicit love scenes, “Sex Education” may be the most wholesome show on TV right now. Based entirely on the idea that talking about your problems will help you feel better, the show has become therapeutic for not only its characters but its audience as well. The conflicts of the story are resolved with honesty, empathy and clear communication. In a culture that emphasizes silence and shame in matters of sexuality, the refreshing notion that kindness and understanding can make a difference feels groundbreaking.
Of all the advice given in “Sex Education,” none of it is meant solely for the high school students or their clueless parents and teachers. Every second of the show is crafted to teach its audience that they’re okay. No one is truly abnormal. No one is truly broken. Sexuality is nothing to be afraid or ashamed of, and “Sex Education” is begging you to realize it. This education is for you, so you better take some good notes.