Sunday, January 19, 2020

REVIEW: 'Sex Education' - The School Musical Forces Many Romantic Declarations to Occur in 'Episode 8'

Netflix's Sex Education - Episode 2.08 "Episode 8"

The talking cure may be failing Otis and Jean as they sort out their issues. A wary Maeve makes the finals. Sexy Shakespeare never goes out of style.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the season finale of Netflix's Sex Education.

"Episode 8" was written by Laurie Nunn and directed by Ben Taylor

The second season of Sex Education ends with the inverse of how things concluded in the first season. There is narrative symmetry and tragedy in that. However, it's incredibly frustrating as well. It especially feels more pointed and mean spirited the second time around. In the first season, Otis had no clue that Maeve could see his kiss with Ola. That moment was more so about the personal catharsis it provided to him as well. It was the end of his specific character journey in that particular season. Here, it feels like a vendetta that Isaac has to orchestrate in order to continue his own relationship with Maeve. It presents as if Otis and Maeve are nothing more than ships passing in the night. It's frustrating and disappointing that they can seemingly only declare their feelings for one another when the other person is in a relationship. Sure, Maeve and Isaac haven't actually taken that step. However, there are moments here where he is the noble gentleman supporting her even when it leads to devastation once more in her family unit. Erin is abusing drugs again. Maeve has the clarity to call child protective services. But she also has to stand by that decision when she is facing off with her mother. Erin may have been at the quiz finals. That is a celebration because the Quiz Heads win in a rousing comeback story. It also means that Maeve has her own complete story arc this season that has absolutely nothing to do with romantic interest. She may only want comfort from Isaac as a friend. He is the most readily available to her. And then, Otis presents himself and just misses her. He left her a voice message declaring his feelings. In the moment, he thought that was a smart thing to do. It was his first impulse upon realizing why he has been acting more and more like his father this season. That heart-to-heart between father and son shows that the desire to be good may always be in constant conflict with the impulse to be bad and deceitful. Otis wants to know why he was abandoned by his father. It may be a simple answer. However, that puts everything into perspective for Otis. It finally proves that he has been acting out against the people who have always stood by and supported him. That has been incredibly toxic and disconcerting. He pushed people away just like Remi always does. As such, he has to make the rounds of apologizing. Those are the most effective moments featuring Otis in this finale. He genuinely understands that he has been cruel and destructive towards Jakob, Jean, Ola and Maeve. He has to make things right with all of them. That means talking to them face-to-face. The narrative only prevents that from happening with Maeve. With the other three, he does have the immediate opportunity to express his remorse in the hopes of creating a better future. With Maeve though, it comes with the expectation of something more. That's what makes all of this more awkward. It's an apology mixed in with a declaration of love. It presents as this grand, emotional moment that sweeps everyone up into a feeling of excitement. That way it's tragic when Isaac deletes the message. But it's also the more formulaic version of events. This is an insanely inspired finale for a crazy inventive and colorful show. This moment wasn't all that necessary. The show just felt the urgency to provide some sense of resolution between Otis and Maeve even if it's just determined to make things more messy and complicated in the future. The other relationships are allowed a sense of calm and victory. This one though seemingly has to remain at the heart of the constant melodrama.

What doesn't happen between Otis and Maeve is a significant choice made here. However, it doesn't completely derail a fun and amusing finale that brings so many stories to a satisfying close. With Lily directing the school play, it was inevitable that things would get weird. And the show cranks the campy nature of this performance way up. It's insane. It almost doesn't matter what's going on because the ensemble is wearing outfits that accentuate the male and female genitalia. It's so elaborate and grand. It proves that the school really didn't have creative control over anything that happened here. That is yet another example of how Mr Groff has mismanaged this institution. He shouldn't be the headmaster. And yes, that is the conclusion at the end of this. It's not because he allowed all of this to happen either. It's because he wants to blame all of his problems on Jean even though they existed way before she started working at the school. That isn't a position magically restored to her either. Instead, her personal drama comes from discovering she's pregnant and possibly yearning for Jakob once more. That too will create complicated stories in the future. During the musical though, it's all about people proudly declaring that the Milburn family has actually helped them be better informed about their sexual lives. Mr Groff would rather demean his students by decrying that they are nothing more than children who don't have any personal agency in the world. That is incredibly demoralizing and shouldn't be a thought present in a school administrator. He wants a repressive world instead of embracing the expansive, wonderful world he exists in. That contributed to so much of Adam's repressed feelings about his sexuality. Here, he is starting to grow more confident in declaring his bisexuality. Ola is even willing to stand up for him as a friend. He can genuinely be a good person even though he feels he is constantly making mistakes and making things more difficult everywhere he goes. Winning Eric back won't magically fix all of that either. And yet, it took his mother getting divorced and experiencing her own awakening about what she desires in order for Adam to also feel confident about going after he wants. Sure, it's not great timing when he interrupts the musical in order to eventually ask Eric to hold his hand in public. But that's a huge step as well. One that Eric gladly accepts despite it absolutely destroying Rahim. Eric's family is quick to embrace Adam though. Eric is the only one who feels guilty about this decision. He stands by it though believing that this can be more passionate and personal than things ever actually got with Rahim. That is tragic because he always presented as a nice guy openly in love with Eric. Elsewhere, Jackson is absolutely terrified about embracing something new. He has to be pushed out onto the stage even though he is playing the lead role. He is far from the most ridiculous thing happening out there though. These fears are so internalized. He needs that gentle sign of encouragement. He gets that from Viv. It's so nice and refreshing that they are there for each other as friends who genuinely care what happens about the other person. Sure, it may eventually become romantic. Right now though, it's pleasant that they are platonic friends who enjoy what the other brings out of them. It makes their lives substantially better. The same goes to Lily. Even though her musical is constantly interrupted, she has Ola by her side who roots for her no matter what. That can take some of the pressure off of her and even alleviates some of her vaginismus. That is a personal victory and one that the audience should cheer for. Those are the moments that work incredibly well throughout this finale from a show that continues to be so unique with most of its storytelling decisions.