Sex Education seems to be headed in the right direction as the upcoming season 3 will introduce a new and (hopefully) more effective villain to the series. The British comedy-drama series was created by Laurie Nunn and gained immense popularity when its first season came out in 2019. Season 3 of the show is set to release on Netflix on September 17, 2021, and will bring back recurring Sex Education cast members such as Emma Mackey, Asa Butterfield, and Gillian Anderson. It will also add in some promising new characters and storylines.
Sex Education follows shy teenage protagonist Otis Milburn as he uses knowledge from his sex therapist mother, Jean, to start a for-profit sex clinic at his secondary school. Otis’s endeavor is helped by his best friend, Eric, and the school bad girl, Maeve, with whom he develops a persistent and powerful infatuation. The rigid headmaster of Moordale Secondary School, Michael Groff (Alistair Petrie), is an antagonist throughout the first and second seasons of Sex Education. Mr. Groff’s son, Adam, bullies Eric in the first season, but it is later revealed that his rough treatment by his father has damaged him emotionally and led him to lash out at others. The headmaster sabotages Jean’s improvement of Moordale’s sex education program in season 2, however, his motivations become increasingly less clear.
At the end of Sex Education season 2, Groff is forced to go on leave as headmaster. The season 3 trailer introduces his replacement, headmistress Holly Haddon (Jemima Kirk), and hints at Haddon becoming the show’s new central antagonist. The trailer takes the form of an advertisement for enrollment at Moordale, with Haddon in the lead. Students including Maeve, Jackson, and Lily seem forced to participate in the advertisement, suggesting a strained and oppressive relationship with the new headmaster. Haddon expresses her intent for Moordale “to once again become a pillar of excellence.” To start, she has implemented a dress code, which none of the students seem happy about. The weakened Groff can be seen peeking out from behind the bushes at the end of the trailer, hinting at his continued presence in the series.
Sex Education is known for its complex and nuanced characters, but Mr. Groff’s believability has been deteriorating throughout the series. Season 2 makes Groff the main villain, but his portrayal in the season lacks nuance, and he becomes something of a caricature. The headmaster is also dispossessed of any real power, as he is repeatedly undermined by Jean and the school administrator and humiliates himself with an outburst at the school play. Groff also blames Jean for ruining his marriage and leaks her notes as revenge – an immature act that continues to erode his dignity. His replacement by Haddon shows promise in the potential for a more effective and realistic antagonist.
Mr. Groff is a strict, inept headmaster and is cruel to his family, but his role as a villain in Sex Education rarely rises above the bumbling school bully trope – much like his son in season 1. With Groff out of his position as headmaster, if not entirely out of the picture, Sex Education season 3 has a chance to develop his character while adding a more compelling villain to the mix. The new season will also introduce Groff’s older brother, Peter (Jason Isaacs), creating another opportunity to further expand his character. Beyond introducing an apparently more apt antagonist, the new season of Sex Education leaves an opening for Mr. Groff to become a better villain – or to learn from his mistakes and become a better man.