Major spoilers for Netflix's Sex Education season 2 below.
In Sex Education season 2, we finally get to see Patricia Allison’s Ola truly shine. With her stunning suits and no-nonsense disposition, Ola instantly captured hearts when she was first introduced halfway through the show’s debut season. This time around, fans got to see more Ola than ever as she starts as the new kid at Moordale and has to balance the fact that her dad is also dating her boyfriend’s mum, while also discovering a whole lot more about herself throughout the second season.
From the get-go, it seems that everything is going well between Ola and Otis (Asa Butterfield) now that she’s at school with all the other Sex Education characters. While Otis seems to be able to fix everyone else’s problems, there’s something not quite right between him and Ola once they start engaging in some sexual shenanigans beyond heavy petting: Ola isn’t able to muster up the confidence to tell her boyfriend that his fingering technique isn’t hitting the spot. The whole debacle makes for quite the charming yet instructive adolescent conflict Sex Education has become known for. When Ola finally reveals how she truly feels about Otis’s attempts, it’s for much more than comedic value.
“That is one of my favourite scenes because Ola is supposed to be somebody that can literally speak her mind and she finds it really difficult to communicate with him at first about it,” Patricia, who goes by Trish, tells us. “It is essential to show that, because so many people have been in a situation, they just can't find a way to say, ‘I want something else,’ because they think it’s going to offend the other person or whatever. But actually, what we learn is that in the long run, it’s much easier to just sort of be honest in the beginning.”
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Ola’s journey throughout Sex Education season 2 is about much more than her relationship with Otis. In fact, even after they get past the fingering fiasco, things just aren’t quite working between the two of them, and Ola ultimately wants them to be just friends. Following their split, and has feelings for another Moordale classmate begin to bubble up, Ola starts wondering more about her sexuality. After taking an online quiz during downtime at the corner shop she works at with Adam, she realises that she might actually identify as pansexual.
“Ola is just the kind of character to me that you could never really put in a box. She really is the definition of pansexual, she will go based on the personality and who makes a laugh, and who catches her eye in that sparkly way,” Trish says. “I really like that we show that side of sexuality because a lot of young people are trying to figure out what sort of box they go in — there’s other ways that you can put your sexuality into. Pansexuality is also something that’s never really been discussed properly before.”
Realising she’s pansexual helps her start figuring out her feelings for Lily, the fan fiction-obsessed friend that Ola begins having steamy dreams about. Once Ola is able to process that she’s someone who doesn’t see her attractions limited by gender, her crush on Lily is able to blossom. Trish says the foundation for that is set the very first time the characters meet when they connect over a comic book named Tank Girl. There’s no doubt there’s a spark between the two of them, but Lily takes a bit more time to accept that than Ola.
“The way that Ola is quite headstrong also sort of throws Lily off in one way, and normally she’s very headstrong as well. So, it’s interesting to see these two characters together,” she says. “I find their relationships to be fantastic, and we get to see how they grow as friends as well. It’s just nice how it’s a surprise as well.”
Another surprise is the budding friendship between Adam and Ola. On paper, the two are polar opposites. But through working together, they eventually form a connection. Soon, the former bully is inviting Ola out to smash junk in his secret spot, and she’s sticking up for him at work.
“Ola just really sees him for the [blunt] guy that she really likes to get on with, and just wants to make him laugh and smile. She’s got a lot of love to give and she sees that he needs it. It's really moving,” Trish says. “It’s one of my favourite friendships. We get to see him for who he is and how difficult he finds it to accept himself and to communicate his feelings. I just thought it was so necessary for them to find each other. These two kind of oddballs.”
Trish’s character also lets the other girls of Moordale in on the fun of letting out anger by smashing things to smithereens. During detention in the extremely stirring seventh episode, the girls of Moordale come together through their shared experiences of sexual violence —catalysed by Aimee’s bus assault story. Still teeming with frustration, Ola suggests they head to the junkyard to blow off some steam.
Ola says the scene really challenged her and her castmates while being liberating at the same time. “We didn't know we had that much rage inside us,” she says. “Spending a couple of days with the girls in the library as well was just so lovely. When the boys came back it was kind of like, ‘Oh yeah, right. Yeah. Nice to see you guys.’”
Sex Education has been praised for all the ways it has explored sex, whether it’s having it for the first time, asking for consent, getting an abortion, or preparing for anal sex. Trish acknowledges the power that these characters have to illuminate topics or discussions about human carnality that have been less talked about.
“We've just been looking for a way to talk about sex that isn't sexy or you know, gratuitous. I love that we never ever see a truly successful sex scene. That's really impressive about the show and actually part of the success of it. Because then you kind of learn a bit about these characters and what's going on,” she says. Meanwhile, she adds that the show has been helping people “unlearn” and “re-learn” information taught to them about sex.
This article first appeared at TeenVogue.