Sex Education‘s third season recently premiered to positive reviews. The latest season of the Netflix series takes its characters in a new direction; for one, Moordale gets a makeover when Mr. Groff is replaced by Hope Haddon. Hope brings shame upon the students of Moordale, leaving them questioning their identities and sexualities.
The third season of Sex Education may have a different, darker tone, but it doesn’t lose its sense of humor. The characters continue to grow, and their progressing individual arcs are clearly the focus of this season, but it is, after all, a show about relationships. These aren’t limited to romantic or sexual pairings; Otis’s bond with his mother is one of the core relationships of the series, as is his friendship with Eric. Both of these relationships remain strong and steady throughout season 3, having resolved prior conflicts in season 2. Thus, here are some of the best and worst relationships introduced in season 3, or reintroduced with new conflicts.
BEST – Maeve and Otis
Season 2 ends on a cliffhanger when Isaac deletes the voicemail Otis leaves on Maeve’s phone, telling her he’s loved her all along. In season 3, the missing message is the elephant in the room for the few interactions Maeve and Otis share in the first few episodes. However, the two characters can’t dance around the issue forever – by now, they both know they have feelings for each other, regardless of the message.
Eventually, Isaac tells Maeve the truth, and she confronts Otis, demonstrating her strong sense of self-worth, courage, and honesty. Still, she’s not willing to throw herself into his arms. Maeve takes the time to consider if she really wants to be in a committed relationship with Otis, who has just broken off a casual fling with Ruby. Between their romantic drama, Otis and Maeve manage to inspire the students to take action against Hope, whether they realize it or not.
The pair no longer runs the clinic, but they use any opportunity they get to spread empowering messages surrounding sex positivity and autonomy. In this way, their journeys are still very much intertwined, and it’s clear that they’re meant for each other – at least at this stage of their lives. At the end of the season, Otis tells Jean that Maeve is “[his] person”. Maeve, on the other hand, decides to take the opportunity to study in America, but she reassures Otis that this isn’t goodbye. While she cares about him, she’s not going to sacrifice her own future prospects for him.
WORST – Otis and Ruby
Unlike Otis and Maeve’s relationship – romantically and platonically – nothing about the dynamic between Otis and Ruby is healthy. From the get-go, Ruby tries to change Otis and essentially transform him into one of the Untouchables. He doesn’t put up with this for long and tells Ruby he won’t see her anymore if she doesn’t learn to accept him as he is. Ruby reluctantly agrees, but she still doesn’t treat him with the respect he deserves. She believes herself to be above him, and Otis’s patience with her and his disregard for social status is a sign that he’s matured since season 2.
For the duration of their relationship, it’s clear that Otis’s feelings for Ruby aren’t as deep as they are for Maeve. Nevertheless, he tries to get to know Ruby and understand her behavior. When Ruby confesses her love for him, she assumes that he’ll reciprocate the sentiment. This assumption speaks to who Ruby is and calls back to the moment the pair shares in season 2 when she tells Otis that she likes “nerdy boys” because “they think they’re in love with [her]”. Even then, Otis reassures her that he doesn’t think he’s in love with her, but she carelessly dismisses this claim.
When Otis is unable to echo her confession of love, Ruby’s reaction is understandable, but also reveals qualities in her that make the pair incompatible for a serious relationship. She treats him with cruelty, which Otis expects and brushes off. While she doesn’t transform completely, Ruby does grow a lot in season 3. In the final episode, she stops Hope’s attempts to sabotage the student protest. This moment seems to come from nowhere, but fans who read between the lines can infer that she’s driven more by her personal feelings for Otis than her desire to stand with the other students. Along with the other Untouchables, she continues treating the rest of the students like she’s above them. Overall, Ruby never makes the effort to get to know Otis the way Maeve and Eric do, and thus, she can never truly accept him.
BEST – Adam and Rahim
The friendship between Adam and Rahim is one of the most unexpected dynamics to come from season 3 of Sex Education, but they make a surprisingly delightful pair to watch. Now that Adam is dating Rahim’s ex, the two bond over their shared affection for Eric. They may not want to spend time together at first, but they find themselves being paired together during the French trip when Eric isn’t around.
The two boys have little in common apart from their relationship with Eric, and it’s their differences that lend their scenes a natural comedy. Their differences are also something the boys discuss themselves. When Adam wonders how he can make Eric happy, Rahim turns up asking for his poetry back. But when Adam asks for advice, Rahim recites an insulting poem about Adam and his “head shape: so average”. Adam recognizes that he’s no poet, but he’s willing to try anything if it means impressing Eric. However, as his friendship with Rahim develops, Adam begins to realize he shouldn’t be in competition with someone Eric didn’t love in the first place. For his part, Rahim helps Adam understand that he should be himself with Eric.
One of Adam’s final scenes of the season is after the dog show, where he only scores an honorable mention, which makes him feel like a disappointment. Afterward, he comes out to his mother and tells her that Eric was his boyfriend. This is where viewers hear his poem to Eric through voiceover while a touching montage of the main characters unfolds. They may not be a romantic pairing, but Adam and Rahim help each other grow and overcome inner obstacles in season 3.
WORST – Eric and Adam
Eric and Adam’s relationship begins promisingly, but cracks begin to appear early in the season. Referring to his confidence in his identity, Eric says he’s ready to fly but Adam is only just learning to walk, which frustrates him and makes Adam feel insecure and inadequate. He constantly compares himself to Rahim, who appeared much more confident in himself when he was with Eric.
Though this couple’s dynamic in season 3 makes sense, it doesn’t make it any less frustrating. Eric is usually depicted as a caring, understanding person, but he doesn’t have the patience for Adam in season 3. Adam tries very hard to better himself as a person and a romantic partner, but it’s never enough for Eric. Given Eric’s own past with shame surrounding his identity – especially in the context of his relationship with his own father – viewers might expect him to be more patient with and supportive of Adam.
In the end, Adam is worthier of sympathy than Eric is, even if his reasons for breaking up with Adam are understandable. Having built up the romance between these two characters for so long, seeing them happy together is a promising start to the new season. Adam and Eric have both suffered a lot over the course of the show, and they aren’t granted a happy resolution in season 3.
BEST – Isaac and Maeve
Though it’s clear from the beginning that Isaac and Maeve aren’t going to work out romantically, the development of this pair’s bond is pleasant to watch. Season 3 sees them grow closer as friends, which makes sense for both of them. These interactions are fun and lighthearted, and Maeve could certainly do with more of those. The transition to a romantic relationship feels natural. Rather than being an obstacle in the way of Maeve and Otis’s relationship, Isaac is a person with his own conflicts and desires, and his time with Maeve is sweet, if short.
Even if representation is one of the only reasons they share an intimate scene, it’s a huge step in the right direction for authentic disability representation onscreen, especially in the context of a show like Sex Education. Giving Maeve and Isaac a chance proves that he’s a real contender for Maeve’s affection rather than an opponent to Otis. The two boys share a few immature but very much in-character scenes where they bicker over who deserves Maeve more. However, Maeve’s own storyline in season 3 proves that she isn’t just some prize to be won, and ultimately, she chooses herself over any boy. Her romance with Isaac comes to a natural but amicable conclusion when she moves out of the caravan park. It’s clear that neither character will forget the other anytime soon, as they’ve both shared some tender experiences and have impacted each other in unique ways.
WORST – Adam and Michael
Michael Groff spends most of the season separated from the other main characters. Unemployed, he lives with his arrogant brother, where Michael is able to reflect on their childhood. Viewers get an insight into why Michael is the way he is, and though it doesn’t excuse his actions, it allows him to grow in a more natural way.
But disappointingly, Michael doesn’t get even a single scene with his son. The only moment they share together is a brief glance through a window. Throughout the season Michael attempts to make amends with Maureen, but despite her encouragement, he never speaks to Adam, who feels rejected by his father. Adam could really use his love and support in season 3, but instead, he only worries that he’s disappointing him. At the dog show, he even asks Maureen not to tell Michael that he didn’t win anything.
By the end of season 3, Michael is a completely different version of himself, and perhaps he feels too ashamed to speak to Adam. On Adam’s part, he’s also changed a lot. He now seems to better understand himself and his desires. Hopefully, these two characters’ journeys will align in season 4.
BEST – Aimee and Maeve
Aimee and Maeve’s friendship has remained strong and steady from the very first episode of the series. In season 3 they have their first argument, which proves to be a real test in their relationship. It reveals flaws in both of their characters; Aimee realizes that she’s a people pleaser, and Maeve tries to open up more emotionally. Seeing them overcome their fight and try to work through their flaws together is very empowering.
Unlike Eric and Otis in past seasons, Aimee and Maeve have always been capable of treading their own paths. In season 3, they continue to have their own individual storylines outside of their friendship. However, this doesn’t mean that they can’t support each other. In fact, when Maeve leaves for America, Aimee isn’t at all upset at her departure – she’s the one who encourages her to go. This leaves Aimee without any real friends, but she’s so happy for Maeve’s success that she hasn’t even stopped to consider this.
Maeve, on the other hand, hasn’t forgotten about Aimee’s trauma in season 2. She organizes for Aimee to see Jean, a real therapist, where she begins to work through her experience. In the end, both girls are mature enough to set aside their differences to remain supportive friends. Season 3 allows them room to grow together and individually, which is a refreshing perspective for onscreen female friendships.
WORST – Jean and Jakob
Despite the drama surrounding their relationship, Jean and Jakob don’t get quite as much focus as the teens in season 3. Most of their scenes focus on the lack of trust between the pair, particularly when it comes to Jean’s pregnancy. Jakob believes that the baby may not be his – an accusation that Jean feels is unfair. The couple sees a counselor, but the sessions only highlight the differences between the two.
Jakob grows closer to Otis, but Ola rejects Jean’s presence in her family. She’s still mourning her mother and feels that Jakob has forgotten this. She also doesn’t think that Jean is right for him, given the amount of conflict in their short history. Jean, too, points out the cracks in their relationship, even though she’s the one to approach Jakob about getting back together. She tells Jakob that they don’t actually know each other very well, which is true.
This season leaves the future of Jean and Jakob’s romance in the air, after proving that though they’re attracted to each other, they may not be right to love each other. The season also ends on a note of suspense – though the clues aren’t too hard to follow – that Jakob might have been right about the baby’s paternity. Though this couple keeps trying to make things right, perhaps they’re only meant to be co-parents – at least, that’s the impression left after this rocky season.