It's Time to Accept That Otis Milburn Is the Villain of Sex Education
I've played out this moment—yes, this very moment, the one we're sharing right now—in my head a thousand times.
Sometimes, when I think about it, I laugh. It's a hearty Joker laugh, the corners of my lips inching toward my ears, my cackles loud enough to crack the thickest drywall. Other times, I feel like I want to cry. Tears never come. But there are these pockets behind my eyes, which well and well despite knowing, on some level, that this isn't something to cry about. Most times, I just get a knot in my stomach, twisted like a triple Windsor on the first day of prep school.
It's the moment I tell you what surely, somewhere in your heart of hearts you already know: that Otis Milburn is the villain of Sex Education.
Sex Education, if you haven't heard of it—though I'm not sure what else would've brought you here, other than morbid curiosity of the devil-horned portrait accompanying this piece—is about the life and times of about a dozen high schoolers who really, really like to fuck. Our alleged hero is a striped-shirted dweeb named Otis Milburn (played by Asa Butterfield), whose mom is a renowned sex therapist. Turns out that Otis—who doesn't even successfully orgasm until Season Two—has a knack for the family biz, so he opens up a clinic at school, helping his classmates with their R-rated problems. Sex Education, which just premiered its third season last week, has heart. It's hilarious. Every character, from Eric to Maeve to the newly introduced Goat, is a delight.
Except for Otis Milburn. Or, as I privately refer to him in conversations and public strokes of rage: Milbitch.
Otis, Sex Education would have you believe, is a lovable loser. Flawed but lovable, even cute on a good day. Kinda feel-sorry-for-him pathetic on a bad one. He's the hero of this proverbial rom-com, after all. If you stopped any random Sex Education fanatic on the streets of Dover and asked for a bare-bones rundown of Otis's journey in the show, they would tell you a couple things. He dates a few women, all several leagues out of his own. His friendship with Eric makes for the most adorable bromance on TV. He fights with his mom sometimes, but they always end up peachy keen with each other by the end of every season.
Now. If you have not seen Season Three of Sex Education, please turn back now. If you'd like to keep your idyllic vision of this blue-eyed buffoon intact, please turn back now. If you are Asa Butterfield (who was not available when Esquire reached out for comment), please. Turn back now.
Ok? Ok. Now that it's just us in here now, let's start with his relationships. Otis, like most questionably kind humans, has a pattern. First, he has a crush on someone. Maeve. Ola. Ruby. Maeve again. Then, said someone inexplicably returns the crush. They date. Otis initiates a straight-up theft of their heart, starts a fight, then moves on to the next person. (Usually Maeve.) Repeat. Let's take an example from Sex Education's new season. Otis dates Ruby, the most popular kid in school, who finally opens up when she introduces him to her ailing father. That night, Ruby tells Otis that she loves him. He says... "That's nice." Breaks her heart. They fight. Break up. Later on, when the class is on a trip to France, Ruby has to watch Otis kiss Maeve. Save for one heroic moment, we never hear from Ruby again. That's what Ruby gets for opening up her heart for the first time? A big, fat, embarrassing Otis pie smashed in the face.
Interlude: Remember Otis's brand-new sleazebro mustache? I do. looks like someone squished his mouth, nose, and' stache together, like someone fucked up a Nintendo Mii.
Now let's talk about how this kid treats his mom who is not incidentally played by Gillian Fucking Anderson. Season Three keeps up the great tradition of Otis verbally abusing his own mother. International treasure Gillian Anderson! Fictional or not, you don't say shit to Gillian Anderson. We catch him reluctantly buckling up mom-Gillian Anderson's shoes because, you know, she's pregnant and could use some help. They get to bickering, and he says, cold as ice, "Everything you do seems to turn into a mess, [Gillian Anderson]." Excuse me? Sure, most teenage boys sass their moms. But Otis talks to his single, working-all-the-time mother like she's squatting in his home, the one he bought from the job he doesn't have.
Interlude #2: Remember when Otis abandoned Eric on his birthday? To go after a girl? And Eric was attacked on his way home? I do.
Since I spend most of my days marveling at this fictional kid who is prone to meowing, whimpering, and tattle-tale-ing at any given moment, you could imagine my surprise when I saw Season Three's finale. After his mother—who is, let me remind you, played by Gillian Anderson—nearly dies after giving birth, he admits that he spent the entire semester being a horrible person. If I'm giving credit where credit's due, it's a beautiful moment, from which we might all stand to learn. We all have that time in our lives where we realize we're being shitty, and vow to do better. I'm sure I was hard to be around when I was in high school. You probably were, too. Sex Education is one of the best shows on TV because it finds the beauty in those who can't help but fail.
Interlude #3: Remember Otis's mac and cheese costume? I do.
This is a lesson, one which I personally hate to learn, about forgiveness. Which is why I suppose I will make like Maeve give Otis another chance, despite leading a show that's too good for him. Maybe I'll make like Maeve and give Otis another chance after all. But Otis, if you're reading this: know that if you hurt me again, the next piece will be a breakup letter.