In the wake of a disastrous, pregnancy-inducing French exchange trip a year ago, the parents of Abbey Grove School are understandably concerned about another outbreak of hormones. When the school’s attitudes to sex and sexuality are found wanting by mums and Mumsnet alike, it’s time to pull out the big guns – Alfie opens up his sex education class to all comers!
The writing of this episode is even sharper than last week’s opener, and we are left in no doubt of Whitehall’s satirical intent. This episode brilliantly represents the patchwork of sex ed offerings in the UK education system by cutting between four very different sex education lessons, ranging from the inspiring (removing the embarrassment from names of sexual organs) to the bizarre (an elderly teacher showing a ‘home video’ recorded by her husband).
Characterisation is great this week too. Although he only had time to relieve Alfie of his shoes last week, school bully Grayson is now a malevolent force in the plot- and you may not expect how poetically his involvement pays off in the closing minutes.
Fraser, meanwhile, is the focus for the senior teaching staff this episode. The man isn’t just incompetent – he’s completely oblivious to the offence and chaos he leaves in his wake. Horne is delightful in the role as he is cringe inducing. His reaction to the exchange students – actually Dutch rather than French – is another highlight. Surely this should be an end to the sex problem? As a result, it’s OK for us to dislike Fraser, as he is thoroughly dislikeable: not to the point of actually hating him, but it does sympathise us more towards Alfie.
This is no bad thing because if Alfie was a bit lazy but loveable last week, he makes more of a move towards Machiavelli this time (albeit a slightly impotent one). Once again, poor Joe is dragged in to make Alfie look good in exchange for Alfie getting Joe out of the exchange trip.
This leads us to the catastrophically cauterising final act, as Alfie opens his sexual soul up to his students, their parents and the whole of Mumsnet. Each element of the plot, no matter how seemingly disparate, comes together in a glorious defeat of Alfie’s efforts to impress.
This is made all the more glorious in that Alfie is offered a way out. However, this doesn’t fit into Alfie’s plan, and a few unfortunately phrased double entrendres later, we have an ending that manages to both be surprising and inevitable.
There are still concerns over the series’ format – Joe is once against foregrounded whilst supporting students get a few gags a piece, and Alfie’s motivation needs a little more depth – but overall this is another very well constructed and well acted episode. If the series can continue in the same throbbing vein, a happy ending is assured.
Aired at 10pm on Tuesday 21st August 2012 on BBC Three.
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