Back in January, Netflix added an original series titled “Sex Education” to its streaming service and I immediately added it to my queue because, well it had Margot Robbie in it.
It wasn’t until months later, in April, when I finally decided to binge the eight episode series. Early into the first episode did I realize that even though the character of Maeve Wiley looked strangely familiar, she wasn't Margot Robbie after all.
Maeve Wiley is actually portrayed by French-British actress, Emma Mackey. Who after some online digging, is in fact not Margot Robbie's long lost twin sister.
“Sex Education” is Mackey’s first main role, having only previously appeared in a 2016 British film titled “Badger Lane.”
The show, “Sex Education,” follows Otis who with the help of Maeve, sets up an underground sex and relationship therapy clinic at their school. Otis offers advice and counseling to his peers while Maeve handles all the scheduling and payments.
What Otis doesn’t know, and what viewers soon come to find, is that cool girl Maeve lives alone and supports herself with her share of the money from “the clinic.” Maeve has no at home support system, her father ran out on the family when she was young, her mother is a no show drug addict, and her brother pops in and out.
She does have one friend, Aimee Gibbs. But due to Aimee’s social standing with “the untouchables” they keep their friendship a secret. And despite her infamous words of “I don’t do boyfriends”, Maeve eventually begins a public relationship, after having a hush hush casual hookup relationship, with the schools star athlete, Jackson Marchetti.
After a few episodes, Otis and Maeve begin to develop a friendship. She even trusts and leans on him during a difficult time. Having no one else to turn to, Maeve has Otis take her home after an abortion appointment. Originally confusing the after school hangout invitation as a date, Otis is caught off guard when he realizes where he is and what Maeve is about to do. But he doesn’t judge or pry on the situation. After the procedure, Maeve is surprised to see him still waiting and ready to take her home with hands full of flowers and a sandwich.
Maeve walks into the women’s clinic alone and immediately after a mother and daughter, presumably there for the same reason. We see the same mother and daughter sitting behind Maeve in the waiting room and on their way out after Maeve’s procedure. In my opinion, this duo represented her desire to have a motherly figure present during this vulnerable moment.
Moments before completing the pregnancy termination, Maeve is seen in a hospital gown sitting beside older women Sarah and another young girl. Having met Sarah in the waiting room and finding her annoying, she reluctantly takes the woman's hand and has a moment of solidarity with the two strangers.
Maeve’s abortion is never talked about in later episodes and she seems to get over it quickly. In an interview with Teen Vogue, Emma Mackey states “I think the main point of the episode is we didn’t want to sensationalize abortions, and we didn't want to make a huge, dramatic difficult decision.” Maeve’s decision to have an abortion is quick. She doesn’t cry or ask others what she should do, she just knows that she has to take care of the situation. “She’s very pragmatic” said Mackey about her character.
Maeve Wiley is first introduced as a mean, scary, and rude social outcast. Throughout her school years, rumors about her family and sex life have spread. So much so, that her peers call her “cock biter.” She doesn’t seem to be phased by the nickname or care what anyone seems to think about her at all.
Eventually the truth behind her moniker, “cockbiter,” is explained. In an episode where an explicit photograph is shown to the entire school, Maeve tries to help mean girl Ruby find out who released the picture. Otis advises her to go to the police if they really want to find the culprit. She doesn’t think Otis understands the situation because he’s “such a man.”
Having ditched his friend, Eric, on his birthday to help Maeve with the situation, Otis becomes frustrated and confronts her by saying “I just find it funny that you only ever want me around when you need something.”
She tells him to leave and as he begins to walk out, she begins to explain that she didn’t take any money to help the girl whose picture was released. She’s helping because she knows what it’s like to be slut shamed. For the past four years, her classmates and even strangers call her “cock biter” to her face. She follows up with other rumours that people have made up about her sexual interactions.
The camera slowly inches in on Maeve as she explains that it all started at a friends 14th birthday party when a boy, Simon, tried to kiss her and she said no. Afterwards, Simon told everyone that she had performed oral sex and bit him in the process.
“And that was it. This kind of thing sticks. And it hurts, and no one deserves to be shamed, not even Ruby,” states Maeve.
Despite people believing her to be “mean” and “rude,” Maeve is actually kind and cares about the wellbeing of others.
So much so, that when her brother shows up unexpectedly and begins to sell drugs to students, she takes the blame when the headmaster threatens to call the police to report her brother. The headmaster has seen Maeve and Otis sneaking around before and after school, completely unaware of “the clinic” and believes they run a drug ring. She faces expulsion from the school and is banned from the property. To no one's surprise, her brother leaves without saying goodbye.
The part that resonated with me the most personally, was when drunk boyfriend Jackson admits to Maeve that he paid Otis to help him make their relationship official. He admits that even though he’s always liked her, it’s been difficult to get to know her on a deeper level. Maeve has a strong feminist personality and her taste in books and music can be daunting to some. Jackson pretended to like the same things she did with advice from Otis.
This is a breaking point for Maeve. The one person she always trusted, Otis, was keeping a huge secret from her. He even tried to justify his actions by admitting he gave her the money that he received from giving Jackson the advice. Later on, Jackson drunkenly admits he loves Maeve.
She doesn’t reciprocate the feelings. If anything, Maeve has underlying resentment towards Jackson. Early in the relationship she describes herself as “not a shiny person” to which he responds by presenting his own demons. He’s on anti-anxiety medication due to his extreme panic attacks, he doesn’t sleep, and his parents may be getting a divorce. His seemingly perfect life is a lie. Despite all this, Maeve wishes he would just focus on how lucky he is to have two parental figures that clearly love him.
Before “the clinic” Maeve used her writing skills to write school papers for her classmates. Her English teacher knows she's intelligent and she suggests Maeve take an aptitude test. Of course this all happens before her supposed drug ring expulsion.
Maeve can credit her writing to some of her favorite authors like Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, and Roxane Gay.
The students are given a writing assignment for the school’s writing competition to which submission is required. The headmaster's son, Adam Groff, pays Maeve to complete his essay. To everyone's surprise, including Maeve, Adam is later announced as the winner of the essay competition and receives an award as well as reads the paper aloud at the school’s morning assembly. Their english teacher quickly realizes that the essay was written by Maeve and brings the act of plagiarism to the attention of the headmaster. He shrugs it off and is once again disappointed by his son.
The show ends with Otis stealing the award from the headmaster's office and scratching Maeve’s name on it. The award is delivered to her at home, just as she realizes that her brother has abandoned her once again. She rushes over to Otis’ house, presumably to thank him and maybe admit that her feelings for him go beyond a friendship. However, the first season of “Sex Education” does not have a happy ending for Maeve.
Her only family is gone, her romantic relationship with Jackson is over, she’s been expelled from school, and she may be losing Otis, too. But she has Aimee, her best friend who dumped “the untouchables” to finally have a public friendship with not so popular Maeve.
But as Eric said early on about Maeve Wiley, “She’s better than popular, because she’s cool. And she’s the best kind of cool, because no one in this place even knows it yet.”
Rock on Maeve, you’re a fighter. The fictional character has had to grow up fast and her clever and bold personality will carry on into season two.