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Series / Sex Education

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"Everybody's either thinking about shagging, about to shag, or actually shagging, and you can't even jack your beanstalk."note 
"Yeah, sex therapy. You have a gift. It would be irresponsible to waste it."

Sex Education is a Netflix original series created by Laurie Nunn. The first season premiered on January 11, 2019, the second on January 17, 2020, and the third on September 17, 2021. The fourth and final season was released on September 21, 2023.

The series follows Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield), his best friend Eric Effoing (Ncuti Gatwa), and Maeve (Emma Mackey), local outcast and Otis's crush, three students about to start sixth form. Otis' mother Jean (Gillian Anderson) is a renowned sex therapist, and Otis and Maeve start up a sex clinic at his high school based on the knowledge he absorbed growing up around his oversharing mother.

Drama, hilarity, and awkwardness ensue as Otis now finds himself dealing not only with his schoolmates' sexual shenanigans and hang-ups, but his own Paralyzing Fear of Sexuality as well.

The series is filmed in Great Britain and takes advantage of their relatively relaxed indecency laws. It is Not Safe for Work, though scarcely intended to titillate, focusing more on the awkward and dysfunctional elements of sex.

Sex Education contains examples of:

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  • An Aesop:
    • Good sex is absolutely achievable, but only if you are honest with yourself about what you want and don't want.
    • There are no heroes and villains in reality. Every sympathetic character is capable of some really fucked up shit, and every unsympathetic character has moments of vulnerability and a reason behind their behaviour.
  • Actor Allusion: Early in season 4, Maeve attempts to write a novel about the Brontë sisters — in the year prior to the season's release, her actress Emma Mackey had played Emily Brontë in Emily.
  • Almost Holding Hands: One recurring visual hint that Eric and his bully, Adam, are catching feelings for each other is their hands reaching out and touching, but without holding hands.
  • Almost Kiss: Otis and Maeve come very close to kissing in one episode.
  • Anorgasmia:
    • Otis suffers this, coupled with a Paralyzing Fear of Sexuality — whenever he tries masturbating, he freaks out before he gets to orgasm. This is later revealed to be due to witnessing a traumatic event when he was young.
    • In the first episode, Aimee complains that her then-boyfriend Adam is unable to come no matter how they have sex. After a spontaneous bout of sex therapy with Otis, it is revealed that he can't get there because of his Parental Issues. He is eventually able to overcome it.
    • Lily Iglehart - who's obsessed with the thought of sexual activity - has vaginismus and is unable to enjoy penetrative sexual contact. She is finally able to experience pleasure from penetration in the final episode of season 2.
  • Ashes to Crashes: Adam smashes Aimee's grandmother's urn on her new boyfriend's head.
  • Artistic License – Education: Moordale Secondary is, suffice to say, nothing like an actual British Secondary School.
    • For starters, what the school actually seems to be isn't a secondary school, as there's seemingly no students under the age of 16, indicating Moordale is just a Sixth Form (non-compulsory public education provided for 16-19 year olds who haven't gone into a job, enrolled in college, or enlisted). Sixth Form programs are commonly built into an existing secondary school campus so it's entirely possible that's the case here, but the lack of visible lower class students makes this unlikely, and it wouldn't be called "secondary" if there wasn't any, y'know, secondary level students.
    • Secondly, school uniforms are pretty much a normal expectation for secondary schools, which nobody seems to wear in Moordale. Season 3 makes this even more apparent when uniforms do become a mandatory order, but it's presented as a draconian measure and part of Hope Jumping Off the Slippery Slope in her desperate bid to control students and the students are all appalled at the idea, but it's something they'd know is normal. Sixth Form students aren't typically required to wear uniforms because of the more casual nature of things (plus it makes recruitment easier), but everyone's collective disgust and confusion at the mere concept of it makes it apparent they've never worn uniforms even when they were in genuine secondary school level.
      • On top of that, the idea that Hope could institute a uniform out of the blue is pretty much impossible, as such a measure would need to be approved by the school board. This would take months, never mind the fact the school would then need to design a uniform, approve of said design, inform students and their parents, then give them time to purchase and acquire the uniforms. Even just changing an existing uniform would require waiting until the next school term, if not year, to implement. It's possible Hope had already done all this prior, but the way the show frames it as a rash, snap decision made in order to better control the way the students look.
      • On top of that, the attitude Hope has towards the non-binary Cal and Layla, while entirely possible, would be such a big grounds for complaint that she'd have been fired much quicker. Even so, typical school uniforms in England are not "gendered" anymore, girls and boys are both given the same design of shirt, blazer/jumper, and trousers, the only difference is girls have the option of wearing a skirt (some also give boys the option of shorts for the summer, but the fact this isn't universal has led to numerous real-life protests from male students, often by wearing skirts). The rules on piercings and hairdye are entirely possible, though.
    • Other than the uniforms, the school culture is definitely Eagleland Osmosis on the writer's part, as British schools don't, typically, have personalised lockers for the students, and there would be no Carload of Cool Kids or any student driving themselves to school, not unless they'd stolen the car, anyway. The driving age in England is 17, so at the very least, only late in the term or second-term sixth formers would have the legal ability to drive a car. Alongside the lack of uniform, these are all definitely American school customs made popular by American TV and repeated here.
    • The third season mentions Moordale has "investors", and pleasing both them and the school board are both important for keeping the school open. This would imply that Moordale is a privatised academy, but in such case it wouldn't be called "Moordale Secondary", it would be "Mooredale Academy". A Secondary School and Sixth Form would be publicly funded by the Department of Education, based on enrolment number and/or performance.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: In-universe, the chlamydia outbreak causes unwarranted hysteria because several people think it's airborne. (It isn't.)
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • After Adam drops his pants in front of the whole school, a direct view of his crotch is conveniently blocked by someone's head. The camera then promptly switches to a close up of his ass, with his 'two coke cans' very visibly dangling between his legs.
    • In Episode 5, a guy holding a bottle of alcohol loudly approaches Eric (who is dressed in drag). The audience is led to fear that he may be a violent homophobe, but he sincerely compliments Eric and wishes him a happy birthday. And then this sense of security is all for naught, because Eric is attacked later that day by a different man.
    • The fourth episode of Season 2 opens with a shot of clothes and shoes lying on the floor, and excited exclamations from a woman. The shot then pans up to reveal Otis and Ola...playing video games.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": All over the place in the teaser for season 3 which is presented as an In-Universe advertisement for the school, and where every single character is either painfully stiff or Chewing the Scenery.
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: Discussed and defied in the first episode of season 3. Kyle fancies himself a sex guru after watching a lot of porn, and advises Dex that he might not be pleasuring his girlfriend as well because his penis is small. Otis and Maeve correct that assumption, telling Dex that penis size isn't that important, and there are many other ways to enjoy sex.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The finale of Season 3. Otis and Maeve have finally realised their mutual attraction and just had a Relationship Upgrade, but she decides to go to study in America, though she keeps open the possibility of resuming their relationship once she comes back. Eric and Adam break up over Eric's confused feelings for his hookup in Nigeria. Jackson and Cal also decide to put things on hold over their differing ideas of being in a queer relationship. Jean gives birth to a baby girl, but she seems shocked to see the results of the paternity test. Lastly, the Moordale students' protest against Hope has convinced investors to pull all funding from the school, decreeing its closure.
  • Blended Family Drama: In Season 3, Jean and Jakob decide to get back together because of their unborn child; Jean invites him and Ola to move into the Milburn home. It is a difficult arrangement at first, in part because Jean and Jakob have very different lifestyles and Otis is an only child unused to sharing space, Ola has unresolved issues about her mother's death, and Otis and Ola used to date.
  • The Bully: There's Adam, the headmaster's kid (who is mostly coping with the enormous pressure his dad puts him under), and the Untouchables (who rely on non-physical methods like prank dates and cyberbullying). Refreshingly averted by Lovable Jock Jackson.
  • Calling Parents by Their Name: In Season 2, Maeve constantly refers to her mother by her real name "Erin".
  • The Cameo: Stephen Fry as the TV quizmaster in season 2, episode 8.
  • Cast Full of Gay: Many of the characters are some form of LGBTQ+. Eric, Adam, Rahim, Anwar, Ola, Lily, Cal, Roz, and Sofia are all main or supporting characters.
  • Central Theme: Though it’s not the main theme, the show spends a lot of time showcasing motherhood, and the kinds of relationships that exist between teenagers and their mothers. We are shown how Otis, Eric, Adam, Maeve, Aimee, Lily, Jackson, and even Olivia communicate and clash with their mothers, and the kinds of effects these interactions have. Even Ola, whose mother died before the events of the show, brings up her own mother at times and discusses their relationship. Season 3 magnifies this theme, as Jean is pregnant for the whole season and she and her family face the various challenges that come with pregnancy. Additionally, newcomer Hope struggles with infertility and laments her own inability to bear children, something that is played very straight in spite of her otherwise villainous behavior.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The Percocet Sean gives to Liam during the dance. After finding them, Headmaster Groff uses the pills to accuse Maeve and Otis of running a drug ring in the school.
    • The sweater Otis gives to Maeve. In the season one finale, Maeve attempts to return the sweater to make up with Otis, only to witness him kissing Ola.
  • The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes:
    • Mr. Groff, the school principal, and his son Adam, a delinquent who struggles in class. Adam himself lampshades this in the first episode.
    • Downplayed with Jean (a sex therapist) and her son Otis, who has a Paralyzing Fear of Sexuality. However, Otis proves to be a fairly competent sex therapist and psychologist as well. Jean has raised Otis with a very sex-positive attitude, and he's quite comfortable discussing female anatomy, which is to her credit, but she must realize that privacy and agency are important to a young person's development, yet she can't seem to stop inserting herself where she's not wanted when it comes to her own son.
  • Costume Porn: Though this trope is most pronounced with flamboyant characters like the Untouchables and Eric, it’s notable that practically the entire cast sports some pretty interesting threads. Patterns, bright colors, layers, accessories, statement pieces, and general retro inspiration are fixtures of most outfits in the show, highlighting the incredibly diverse and interesting student body at Moordale. It’s truly rare to see someone wearing something average or plain, at least until Hope’s enforcement of gray school uniforms in Season 3.
  • Clique Tour: Ola gets one in the first episode of season 2, as the New Transfer Student. Lily tours her around the school and points out a few of Moordale's cliques.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Aimee thought it was gross for girls to masturbate until she tried it on Otis' advice and got very into it. In the third season, she mentions that she isn't having sex, but is still wanking regularly.
    • In the very first episode, Adam experiences performance anxiety and overdoses on viagra. In season 4, his dad accidentally reveals he's suffering the same problem, and despite being grossed out, Adam advises him on how to take viagra.
  • Crying Wolf: Jean becomes enamored with home repairman Jakob, and starts breaking household appliances for excuses to invite him back over. After he gets fed up with the arrangement, the plumbing breaks down for real.
  • Detention Episode: The seventh episode of season two. Olivia, Lily, Maeve, Aimee, Viv, and Ola are misblamed for an incident of Slut-Shaming and forced into detention until they can find something that ties them together. They eventually realize that they all share sexual harassment in common.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": Aimee adopts a pet goat that she named Goat.
  • Drag Queen: Eric. Over the course of his arc, he becomes more open with his cross-dressing.
  • Dead Sparks: Mr. and Mrs. Groff are revealed to be going through this in Season 2; theirs has been a Sexless Marriage for around six years.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Maeve, for all her intelligence, doesn’t even have a password on her phone and decides to leave it at Isaac’s place only for him to delete Otis' voicemail where he was pouring his heart out to her.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Deconstructed in episode 7. Liam doggedly keeps trying to win Lizzie's affections, but since she's really not interested and he hasn't tried to get to know her, she's just annoyed by him and sees him as a stalker. Otis tells him to just accept that she rejected him and move on.
  • Domestic Abuse: Of the psychological kind. Otis' father Remi cheated on his mother with his patients regularly, and when she'd call him out on it he would try to gaslight her into thinking she was crazy, which we see did cause her a great deal of damage. Despite being broken up, he still seems to get a kick out of cutting her down about her writing and doing what he can to undermine her belief in herself.
    • Headmaster Groff is psychologically abusive towards his son, Adam and as we find out more about his family in Season 2, towards his wife as well. It finally leads to Mrs. Groff divorcing him.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: Ruby taking Otis’s virginity when he was blackout drunk is never portrayed as a misdeed, not even when they later become a couple.

  • Erotic Eating: Eric, Ruby, and Olivia simulate giving blowjobs on bananas at Aimee's party.
  • Everyone Has Lots of Sex: At their first day back at school, Eric points this out to Otis, kicking off Otis' sex therapy gig. This is consistently underlined to be the case throughout the series; basically everyone is obsessed with it.
  • Family Business: Otis's mother is a sex therapist and is extremely open about sexuality towards Otis, who has picked up a lot from her and subsequently freelances sex therapy to his classmates.
  • First Kiss: Otis and Ola at the end of the first season.
  • For Your Own Good: What Headmaster Groff says when he sends his son, Adam, to military school against his wishes.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Utterly averted, trampled on, and set on fire. When Maeve becomes pregnant, there is little debate on the subject. The clinic worker asks whether she has considered adoption, to which she jokes that no one would want a pregnant teenager. Aside from some anti-choice protesters in front of the clinic, no one else tries to dissuade her.
  • Girl Posse: The Untouchables are a clique of the most popular students. They're comprised of females Ruby, Olivia, and Aimee, with one gay man (Anwar) thrown in. The drama is pretty played up, as the other members exploit Aimee and there are definite rifts within the group.
  • Grand Romantic Gesture:
    • Conversed. Maeve says she hates these things in romcoms, and cites the boombox scene from Say Anything... as an example.
    • Invoked. In a moment of weakness, Otis suggests that Jackson stage a grand gesture for Maeve to confess his love and make her understand he loves her, and it surprisingly works in getting her to date him and be serious about their relationship.
    • Deconstructed in episode 7, where Otis's client Liam has tried every romantic gesture in the book. Otis chides him for not accepting his crush's "no". Liam argues that it worked for Jackson and Maeve but Otis fires back that it's different because Maeve actually likes Jackson.
      Otis: "No" means "no".
      Liam: ...Except for when it means "yes".
  • Gilligan Cut: After having sex with Otis, Ruby has to get the morning after pill but can't bring herself to go to the pharmacy. Otis tells her that no matter what, if she gets pregnant and have their baby, he will stop school and provide for them... Cut to Ruby buying the pill.
  • Green-Eyed Monster:
    • Otis goes through a phase of jealousy about Maeve's relationship with Jackson, even attempting to sabotage it. He mostly gets over it, only...
    • Maeve also seems a bit jealous of Otis going out with Ola, and rather cruelly lets slip Otis' lack of experience to her. While she's not too bothered about it, it does tip her off about the tension between Otis and Maeve, which strains things a bit.
  • Has a Type: Otis is attracted to confident, assertive girls who are happy to take the lead in a relationship: Maeve, Ola and Ruby.
  • Helicopter Parents: Jean stresses the importance of openness on all subjects with Otis, but it often seems more like compulsive helicopter parenting.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Otis and Eric. Eric is gay, but the two of them are as close as brothers.
  • Hidden Depths: Many of the initially less sympathetic characters are revealed to have unexpected traits: Adam loves dogs and watches the Kardashians and Disney musicals, Anwar knows Latin, and Ruby looks after her disabled father who has multiple sclerosis.
  • High School: Despite the fact that the show is nominally set in the UK, Moordale Secondary boasts many characteristics that are Suspiciously Similar to an American high school, such as varsity sports, locker systems, and a dance that is very much like a traditional American prom. This confused some British viewers.note 
  • High-School Dance: Moordale Secondary hosts a dance reminiscent of old-school American dances, featuring a live band and cheesy 80s decorations.
  • Hopeless Suitor: A subplot involves Liam, a fellow Moordale classmate, who is obsessed with a girl named Lizzie (to the point of spelling out "I love you" with leaves and baking her cake as Grand Romantic Gesture) who at first barely notices him and eventually considers him a stalker.
  • Horrible Camping Trip: In 2x05, Remi takes Otis and Eric on a camping trip, and it does not go well.
  • Hypocrisy: The quiz team is, understandably, not happy with Maeve's tendency to answer questions herself without conferring with the team. But instead of even trying to work with her on it, they jump right to kicking her off after one competition. And they talk about their need to win to burnish their own profiles for university applications. Great team players, huh?

  • I Am Spartacus: In episode 5, a picture of a student's vulvanote  is sent to the whole school, with the anonymous sender threatening to reveal another nude picture (this time with the owner's face) on the next day if the victim doesn't make a public apology for her rude behavior. It is resolved via this trope, with several students — including some boys — standing up to claim ownership of the photo. What's special is that the person who initiates the entire ritual is the one who sent the picture in the first place, having since learned a lesson via intervention from Otis and Maeve. This also allows the actual owner of the vulva to claim it in relative anonymity.
    • In season 3, episode 5, someone’s poo hits the windshield of a French person’s car. When Mr Hendricks asks who is responsible, Adam, Rahim, and Jackson all say it was their poo (it was Rahim's). Mr Hendricks even lampshades this trope.
  • I Just Want to Be Loved: A number of characters, to the point it's something of a running theme. Jean, Eric, Adam, and Maeve especially have some hang-ups with self-loathing and loneliness.
  • Interclass Friendship: Aimee, who's rich, lives in a mansion, and one of the most popular girls at school, and Maeve, who's poor, lives in a caravan, and is a school outcast, who have been secretly friends. Until Aimee finally dumps her popular friends for Maeve, embracing their friendship.
  • Interclass Romance: Maeve lives in a caravan, both her parents are gone, and she occasionally steals propane canisters to save money. Jackson is a popular star athlete whose parents clearly have money. Maeve seems to have some self-loathing over the whole thing and initially prefers the relationship not be made public.
  • Internal Deconstruction: Season 2 fully shows the flaws in the premise. No one without a degree in psychology, no matter how empathetic, is going to be able to provide the therapy actually needed by the students at Moordale. Otis has neither the formal education nor the expertise to actually competently handle truly complex issues, and his previous short-term success — with problems that had relatively simple, commonsense fixes, like suggesting a girl masturbate to learn what she likes sexually — has gone to his head.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: Eric and Adam are thrown in detention together. Adam keeps annoying Eric and then they start fighting. As Adam holds Eric down, Eric yells at him to get off, and then desperately spits at Adam's face. He immediately says sorry but Adam spits back at him. Their physical fight turns into kissing and then Adam gives Eric a blowjob. However, Adam threatens Eric to not tell anyone, but later initiates subtle touches when they're in class.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: While Jean's explosion of anger towards Jakob could have certainly been handled better, all her grievances were perfectly valid: he practically moved in with her, constantly left an assortment of clothes, loose change and papers around her otherwise neat house, kept interrupting important conversations that she had with her son, made changes to her own house against her express indications by installing a pan shelf and interrupted one of her workshops while doing so.
    • Hope isn't wrong about the need to re-build the school's reputation, and even the most tolerant and understanding of administrators would try to shut down some of the antics we see on campus (at one point Cal, no one's idea of a prude and attempting an Air Vent Escape, spies two girls having sex in a classroom and is pretty nonplussed). Unfortunately, she starts Jumping Off the Slippery Slope with extraordinary velocity and basically goes full fascist, at one point cruelly and deliberately humiliating Adam, Cal, and Lily at a public assembly.
  • Jerkass with a Heart of Gold:
    • Maeve comes across as cold and rude on the outside, but is also extremely principled and willing to help even the rudest of her fellow classmates.
    • Zig-Zagged with Adam, who is mostly just a big jerk, but has a few kind moments: he really loves Aimee, his mother, and her dog Madam, shares a sweet moment with Eric during class after they made out, is visibly at a loss how to live up to his father's expectations and is genuinely distraught when he forces him to go to military boarding school.
    • Olivia strikes back at Alpha Bitch Ruby by texting a photo of Ruby's vulva to the entire school, promising to text a full photo, including the woman's face, in 24 hours unless an apology is tendered. At the end of the episode, she repents by claiming the photo is of herself, triggering the I Am Spartacus moment.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Hope's initial changes (directing everyone to walk in single file on one side of the hallway and instituting school uniforms) annoy students, but they're not indefensible, and everyone goes along with them, if begrudgingly. After the France trip, however, she takes a hard turn and begins behaving more like a military strongman than a school administrator, at one point forcibly locking Cal in a classroom to prevent them from attending an assembly.
  • Junkie Parent: Maeve's mother, Erin, is a drug addict.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Michael Groff secretly copies Jean's notes and spreads them around the school out of spite, causing Jean to be removed from the school and a bunch of students to be humiliated. Though he never gets caught, it's cited as one more example of how he's not in control of the school, helping to lose him his job, and the stench of scandal still clinging to him keeps him from finding even a regular teaching job.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Sweet, ditzy Aimee is the light one and tough Maeve is the dark one. They're friends.
  • Loving Bully: It is revealed in the season 1 finale that Adam has feelings for Eric when they start making out in the music room.

  • Mushroom Samba:
    • Aimee's boyfriend Kyle at one point gets so high he claims he feels like a carpet.
    • Jackson and Cal inadvertently get high during their school trip to France, almost causing a bus crash.
  • Nerds Are Virgins: Played with; this is definitely the case with Lily, though she almost has sex twice and kind of settles on staying a virgin deliberately for a while. Averted with 'Warhammer Tom' who is, to everyone's surprise, quite sexually active. If Otis counts as a nerd (which he might), then he also qualifies.
  • Never My Fault:
    • Adam claims it wasn't his fault. As if he was forced to pick up an urn containing a beloved family member's ashes and smash it over someone's head, in a fight he started.
    • Eric blames Otis for the fact that he was walking home alone on a country road dressed in drag, leading to him being gay-bashed. No acceptance of responsibility for the fact that he left his coat with his wallet and phone in it unattended, so it was stolen and he couldn't buy a bus ticket, nor the fact that he chose to walk home rather than call for help, nor the fact that he didn't ditch as much of the costume as he could before starting.
    • Adam continues the trend at military school; when he struggles with the drill routine, he claims it's not his fault because the gun is broken. The teacher immediately tells him excuses won't fly there.
  • No Indoor Voice: Eric, so much. He tends to get very excited and yell things like, "YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE SEX TONIGHT!!!!!!!!!" at the top of his lungs in a crowded hallway.
  • Not Quite the Right Thing:
    • The very first therapy session. On the plus side: Otis and Maeve convince Adam to take ownership of his family name and his penis size and he manages to orgasm during sex because of it. On the minus side: The "taking ownership" part happens by him flashing the students in the cafeteria which costs him his girlfriend and sets in motion the (further) decline of his relationship to his father.
    • Otis inadvertently sets Maeve and Jackson up officially by uncontrollably spilling her likes and dislikes. It turns out to be a pretty healthy relationship for both of them, but he still went behind Maeve's back to do it.
    • Otis airs his grievances with Maeve and Ola during his house party. While he's arguably justified in thinking he's been mistreated (though he made some poor choices himself), he chooses to do this very publicly, deeply humiliating both girls. Once he sobers up, he is suitably horrified.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Just before Episode 2's house party, Eric and Otis get into a wrestling match that ends with Eric's rump landing in fresh mud. He spends the party explaining that he did not, in fact, shit himself.
  • Old People are Nonsexual: Headmaster Groff believes this. When his wife attempts to initiate sex after a years-long dry spell, he scoffs and dismisses it with "We're not 23 anymore, Maureen." Sex therapist Jean defies this notion, as many of her clients are older, and she gives Maureen advice on the topic.
  • Only Friend: Otis and Eric are best friends and socialize only with each other before the beginning. Otis then starts hanging out with Maeve and Eric auditions for a swing band. They both get other friends, sorta-friends and love interests.
  • Parental Fashion Veto: Eric's father quietly disapproves of his flamboyant outfits and crossdressing. This concern is justified as it incites violent homophobic action against him. By the end of the season, his father still disapproves, but supports his son nonetheless.
  • Percussive Therapy: The second season features a junkyard. Adam comes here to smash things as an outlet, which he shows Eric. Following the Detention Episode, the other girls come here and wreck things as In-Universe Catharsis for their shared experiences of sexual harassment.
  • Playing Cyrano: Jackson comes to Otis asking for help in getting Maeve to like him more. Otis refuses, then accidentally helps anyway by not being able to shut up when he talks about her.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: Maeve and Aimee end up going through this after the former finds out the latter paid for her trip fees, seemingly so that Aimee doesn't immediately notice that Maeve isn't on the bus, setting up the Big Damn Kiss with Otis.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Eric and Adam nearly break up in season three because their initial attempts to have sex for the first time go poorly, and Adam (a fairly uncommunicative person in general) can only say, "I don't want this." Eventually Adam manages to say what he really means: he wants to be the receiver, not the giver. Eric is quite OK with that.
  • Poor Man's Porn: Otis tries to masturbate to a textbook diagram of a vulva in the first episode but can't quite do it.
  • Power Trio: Otis, Eric, and Maeve. They're the three main characters, three school outcasts who sometimes hang out together.
  • Pretentious Latin Motto: Variation. As part of her plan to reform Moordale into a respectable institution, Hope changes the school anthem to something in Latin and debuts it at assembly. The students are not all that impressed.
    Hope: And speaking of changes, the choir will now sing the new school anthem, “Non Sibi, sed Toti.”
    Ruby: Why are they singing in elf language?

  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • After 16 years and one season of putting up with her invasive and inappropriate behavior, Otis finally gives one of these to his Mother in episode 8 after finding out about the book she wrote about him without his permission.
    • Michael eventually explodes at his brother in the middle of a dinner party, pushed over the edge by his brother constantly mocking the salad Michael had prepared (it was a very good salad, and the other guests actually really liked it). Of course, it's about more than just the salad — Michael points out that his brother had bullied him his entire life in order to avoid being bullied by their father, and Michael is done putting up with it.
  • R-Rated Opening: The pilot episode has very graphic sex scene in the first thirty seconds involving Adam and Aimee.
  • Retroactive Stepsibling Relationship:Otis and Ola date in Season 2, as does his mother, Jean, and her father, Jakob. However, both couples break up by the end of the season, but Jean accidentally becomes pregnant by Jakob. Come Season 3, all four are living in Jean's house, with her and Jakob resuming their relationship. Meanwhile, Otis and Ola must contend with their post-breakup hostility while facing the prospect of becoming stepsiblings.
  • Retro Universe: The show is set in the present day, but with 80s fashions, music and cars coexisting with modern phones and laptops.
  • Running Gag: Jean's lovers (and Ola) bursting into Otis's room, thinking it is the bathroom.
  • Scare 'Em Straight: The Sex Miseducation Class Hope introduces in season 3 mainly results in telling the students the disgusting potential outcomes of sex in hopes that they'll be discouraged from the act.
  • Scenery Porn: The small, unnamed English countryside town the series takes place in. Resplendent with rolling hills, sweeping views, verdant forests and some stunning homes, the sex sometimes takes a backseat to the overall beauty of the environment.
  • Schizo Tech: Modern day phones and computers coexist alongside 80s televisions, radios and vehicles.
  • Sex Is Evil: Subverted, as is...
  • Sex Is Good: Sex is treated like what it actually is: something that is important to most people, something which is intensely personal to everyone who participates in it, and something that basically everyone has some sort of hang-up about one way or another.
  • Sex Miseducation Class:
    • What we see of the school's sex ed class consists of the students fumbling to put a condom onto a prosthetic penis. It leaves the students woefully unequipped for the ups and downs of real-life sex, which is why the awkward and virginal Otis — who was raised by a sex therapist — starts making money from giving sex advice to his classmates.
    • In season 3, it gets even worse, when Hope Haddon, the new headmaster, sets up a new curriculum that preaches, essentially, abstinence and homophobic beliefs. Otis and Maeve are kicked out of their classes for speaking up on these issues.
  • Sex Montage: Season 3 opens with a montage of characters either having sex or masturbating, set to The Rubinoos' cover of "I Think We're Alone Now" by Tommy James and the Shondells.
  • The Shrink:
    • Otis, the child of a trained psychologist and sexual health therapist, has picked up the trade on his own. He's portrayed primarily as Type III Awesome shrink. He's surprisingly understanding, insightful, and helpful, and many fellow students seek his help.
    • Otis' mother Jean is a licensed therapist who focuses on sex and relationships. She also hosts vagina workshops. She's portrayed as Type III Awesome shrink who really helps her clients. However, her son Otis is her blind spot and she often tries to "therapise" him, and she spontaneously writes a book about his sex phobias.
    • Otis' father Remi is shown to be a Type I Harmful shrink; besides the fact he emotionally bullied his wife and cheated on her regularly, he cheated on her with his patients, who he's implied to have manipulated into desiring him during treatmentnote , and it directly leads to the trauma that left Otis unable to have sex.
  • Smug Straight Edge: There's a clique called the Sober Virgins who mostly hang out talking about how much they like non-alcoholic beverages and abstinence. They still look down on Otis.
  • Soup Is Medicine: Jakob brings Jean some soup when she's sick while he's fixing her bathroom. Jean finds him irresistible and she later tells him the soup was a nice touch.
    Jakob: It's for you. It's soup. For a sick person.
    Jean: Oh, no! Oh, you shouldn't have done that. I'm feeling so much better today. Just a scratchy throat.
    Jakob: Still, uh... eat the soup. It's good for you.
  • Spiteful Spit: Eric and his bully Adam are in detention together and are supposed to clean one room at school. Adam keeps annoying Eric and then they start wrestling. As Adam holds Eric down, Eric spits at Adam's face. He immediately says sorry but Adam spits back at him. However, their fight turns into kissing...
  • Sudden School Uniform: In the third season, Groff is replaced with a new headmaster, Hope, who makes it her mission to whip Moordale into shape. One of the first (and most obvious) reforms she institutes is a strict dress code complete with gray school uniforms, to the chagrin of the students.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Jackson tries to bargain with Headmaster Groff to keep Maeve in school, with his participation in an important swimming competition as a bargaining chip. The Headmaster is taken aback but doesn't say anything. Things quiet down for a short time and Jackson participates in the race, only to be told afterwards by Headmaster Groff that he doesn't take bribes, leaving Maeve's fate unrevealed by the end of season one.
    • When Jean finds out about the sex clinic, she's understandably angry. Otis thinks its because he kept it from her, but as she points out, he's 16 and unlicensed, and simply knowing the psychology involved doesn't mean he's qualified to give professional therapeutic advice to classmates. She is upset he's lying to her about it (mostly because his lying is too similar to Remi's), but the main problem is the unethical nature of his clinic. Otis is a smart kid and empathetic and he's genuinely trying to help his classmates, but there really are some issues where there's no substitute for formal education and professional experience. For example, Florence, a young woman struggling to understand her lack of interest in sex, comes to Otis for advice. Not having been fully educated in the spectrum of sexuality (especially asexuality and its various forms), he approaches the issue from a starting point of Florence repressing her libido, possibly due to trauma (the same way Otis previously had). This only serves to upset and anger her, and could easily have caused further and more damaging issues had she not been able to speak to Jean shortly afterwards. Jean, being experienced and qualified, very quickly identifies Florence as Asexual, and also reassures her that it's a valid way to be.
    • When a man masturbates on Aimee on the bus, she mostly shrugs it off and the episode mostly treats it as a light-hearted B-plot. Except the experience really bothered her - she breaks down crying after reporting it to the police (it very much was a form of sexual assault), and she struggles to get back on the same bus afterward. She spends Season 3 in therapy with Jean to try and deal with the trauma, and the experience basically renders her unable to have sex.
    • Near the end of Season 3, the students stage a protest of Hope's draconian measures during the an Open Day for the school's investors and prospective students. The students had been hoping to convince Hope and the administration to reverse the recent changes. However, as Hope had been trying to sell the investors on the idea that she had gotten the students under control, this gives the lie to that claim. This in turn spooks the investors into pulling all of their funding from the school, causing the administration to close the school before the end of the term. All of the students are thus forced to find alternative measures to finish their education. Lampshaded, as the students comment that their attempt at making a statement backfired massively.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Pretty much every antagonist, with the sole exception for the bigoted twats who assault Eric and the pervert who sexually assaults Aimee, for pretty much obvious reasons. Even the Untouchables, as well as Mr. Groff and Hope Haddon, all reveal vulnerable sides to themselves. Otis, Jean, Maeve, and Eric all get moments where they see them at their most vulnerable, and come to sympathise with what they've experienced as a result.
  • Teacher's Pet: Viv goes into extreme brownnosing mode when her school's new headmistress Hope shows up. One especially cringey moment is when Hope debuts the new school song to a thoroughly unimpressed student body, and Viv claps with a big grin, futilely trying to get other people to join in.
  • Their First Time:
    • A non-romantic version. Lily and Otis platonically attempt to lose both their virginities to each other, but it doesn't work.
    • His first sincere romantic attempt is with Ola. They plan it out for a full day beforehand and it gets shut down when she finds Maeve's texts on his phone.
    • In Otis' second non-romantic take on this trope, he finally loses his virginity to Alpha Bitch Ruby, a girl he is not interested in at all. Even worse, he is drunk and does not remember the incident at all, not even if he used protection. Interestingly, Otis doesn't show a lot of remorse after what has happened and the show doesn't treat virginity as something special.
  • Themed Party: The school hosts a fairytale-themed dance called "Happily Ever After".
  • Token Trio: The three main characters: Otis (White Male Lead), Eric (black and gay best friend) and Maeve (white girl).
  • Tragic AIDS Story: Defied by Anwar, who is gay. He tells the sexual health counselor that all the movies he's seen where the gay man dies of AIDS have taught him to always use a condom. The counselor then explains that in the current day, HIV is very manageable and no longer a death sentence.
  • Triumphant Reprise: In the Season 3 premiere, the Moordale Secondary choir is seen rehearsing "Fuck the Pain Away'' until a disapproving Hope stops them. The performance is finally delivered with gusto in episode seven after the students publicly rebel against Hope.
  • The Un-Favourite: Groff's attitude towards his son Adam, asking why he can't be "Diligent, reliable, resilient" like his sister as mentioned when he is reprimanding Adam in his office in 1x02.

  • Unintentional Period Piece: In-universe as season 3 has the male students shown a "sex ed" video made in the early 1980s. It takes a few minutes for the guys to call out the horribly outdated (and inaccurate) views of sexually transmitted diseases and blatant homophobia.
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo: Otis realizes his feelings for Maeve just before the latter enters a relationship. After this relationship ends, it is implied that Maeve realizes her feelings for Otis, but sees him kissing Ola.
  • Very Special Episode: Subverted. The large majority of episodes actually tackle something significant (abortion in 1x03, infidelity in 1x04 and 1x06, cyberbullying in 1x05, homophobia in 1x05, the importance of knowing yourself in 1x06, the ethics of psychological practice in 1x04 and 1x08, the Primal Scene in 1x06), and as such the show doesn't bother hyping them up.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Moordale is a fictional town and school. Despite being set in England (and shot in Wales), Moordale Secondary feels more like a classical American high school.
  • Why Couldn't You Be Different?: Headmaster Groff's constant way of treating his son Adam. He absolutely refuses to see and accept Adam just as he is, and tries to make him (what he views as) better.
  • Wild Teen Party:
    • Many things go down at Aimee's party in the second episode. Otis stumbles onto a relationship dispute and manages to fix it, Adam gets into a brawl with Aimee's new boyfriend, and Eric and the Untouchables give blowjobs to bananas, among the standard party staples.
    • Otis accidentally throws one in the second season, where he manages to get wildly drunk, insult both Ola and Maeve, and drunkenly lose his virginity to Ruby.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Otis and Maeve. At the end of Season 3, they do, but only briefly as Maeve chooses to leave Moordale to go study in America (though she doesn't exclude resuming the relationship once she comes back).

  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Happens to Maeve multiple times throughout the series, especially around her family life.
    • In Season 1, she finally gets some support when her brother returns, only for him to get caught selling drugs and running off, leading to her taking the blame and getting expelled.
    • In Season 2, she forgives her mum Erin and they actually manage as a stable family taking care of Elsie until Maeve discovers Erin is using again and has to bring in social services.
    • In Season 3, she at least has a quasi-family with Isaac and Joe next door, but then finds out Isaac went through her private messages and sabotaged her chance with Otis.


Video Example(s):


School Uniforms at Moordale

Frustrated by the individualistic attitudes of the Moordale student body, new headmistress Hope enforces a uniform and a strict dress code, to the horror of the students.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / SuddenSchoolUniform

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