It's called Sex Education for a reason—the characters are still learning.
Case in point: The show's Ncuti Gatwa can see why people are upset with his character Eric's decision to date his high school bully Adam [Connor Swindells], but after putting himself in the shoes of a 16-year-old boy, he's giving Eric some room to make mistakes.
While speaking exclusively with E! News, Ncuti explained that as he read the script, he tried to get into the "mental space" of Eric Effiong, who is more than a decade younger than he is, before judging him for his actions. "16-year-olds don't make the best decisions for themselves," he remarked, adding that "queer youth don't have a blueprint for life."
He acknowledged that immaturity doesn't excuse Adam's behavior in seasons one and two, saying that if Eric were a woman "you would not be encouraging him to get with somebody that has beat him up for six years."
But Ncuti said there's a real "connection" between the high schoolers. "It's a relationship of two people that really care about each other and have a connection with each other," he mused, "but it hasn't came from the healthiest beginnings, it has been a toxic relationship up until this point, and throughout season two as well."
"I think the relationship is quite, it's very bittersweet isn't it?" he said. "I don't know that they ever get the happy moment, because I think they're constantly still trying to figure out themselves, and trying to figure out how to be themselves with each other."
As an outsider, Ncuti has an entirely different perspective of this new romance:, "If I was Eric's dad, I think I'd have a few different words to say about that relationship.
"I think Eric was definitely stifling himself for the purpose of Adam's growth," the Rwandan-Scottish actor shared. "And now that they're in this relationship on an equal footing, you have friction there because of the fact that they're in such different spaces."
The 28-year-old added that Eric and Adam's romance takes on a different trajectory when—spoiler alert—the Effiong family travels back to Nigeria. "[Eric] learns how to kind of incorporate a lot of elements of himself, in terms of his religion and his race and his culture and he's in a place where it's illegal to be gay," he said. "And yet, in that space he has a moment where he ends up being the most seen he's ever felt. Somebody says like, 'I know the shoes that you're standing in,' and I think he learns that he needs to find happiness within himself."
He added, "So, for me, I would love Eric to find happiness within himself and strength within himself, and know that he doesn't have to reduce or shrink himself at any point for anyone else's growth."
And this "complexity," Ncuti said, is what makes it "so fun" to portray Eric. He explained, "As an actor, it's really juicy, because there's a lot to get my teeth into."
So critics, there you have it.
Season three of Sex Education is streaming now on Netflix.