When Sex Education aired its first season in 2019, it took the world by storm, acquiring 40 million viewers within a month. The show initially follows Otis, a high school student with a sex therapist mother, who starts a sex therapy clinic at his school with another student named Maeve. Sex Education was a breath of fresh air with a diverse cast and open, honest conversations about sex, unlike anything Netflix had done before. Four years later and the show has just released its final season, so the real question is: how does it compare to the stellar early seasons?
Warning! Spoilers ahead!
Season 4 has the characters (or at least most of them) moving on from Moordale Secondary School to Cavendish Sixth Form College, a school with a new and unique approach centered around positivity. Meanwhile, Maeve has gone to America to a school for her writing, Adam begins working with horses, and Otis’ mother Jean struggles with postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter, Joy. The show also introduces numerous new characters including Cavendish student and sex therapist O, popular kids Abbi and Roman, and Jean’s sister, Joanna.
While the show has always and continues to thrive on its diversity, the onslaught of new characters on top of the massive cast we already had going into season 4 (despite the loss of numerous main characters such as Ola and Lily) create some narrative issues. There are so many storylines from Otis and O’s election battle, to Cal’s transition and dysphoria, to Maeve butting heads with her new teacher in America, to Adam’s coming to terms with his parents relationship and his own identity, that it becomes somewhat difficult to follow and truly care for each character’s struggles. Logically, it made sense for these characters to end up in different places now that they’ve left Moordale Secondary, but with only eight episodes, it begins to feel like Sex Education flew too close to the sun because there was just no way to wrap everything up in a satisfying way that respected the intricacies and importance of every story.
Looking at some of the characters individually, arguably the worst storylines of the season come with Otis and Ruby. Otis, unsurprisingly, is being self-centered and disrespectful. He creates a battle with the existing Cavendish sex therapist O, claiming he is the originator of the idea, despite O’s business already being established at the school. He also, once again, disregards Eric’s issues in favor of talking about his own. Otis is a character I have had sympathy for in the past, but this season his actions continually pile onto each other, making it very difficult to root for him.
On the other hand, Ruby’s storyline feels like a disservice to her character. By making her follow Otis around for the majority of the season due to her grudge against O (which feels like the writers trying to villainize an asexual person of color for no real reason), she is made into background noise when she and Otis had no chance of ending up together anyways.
However, season 4 of Sex Education was not all negative. There are numerous highlights to this season, including Eric and Aimee. Eric’s storyline is an insightful exploration of the internal debate queer people of color can have between their sexuality and religion. This subject is rarely covered on TV and Sex Education does it wonderfully, ending with Eric deciding to become a pastor, which feels like a fitting end for one of the series’ greatest characters.
Aimee continues her journey in healing from the sexual assault she faced in an earlier season. She becomes close with Isaac, who helps her find peace through art, and Aimee ends up using photography as a way to express her emotions about the assault. Her storyline over the last few seasons has easily become my favorite in the entire show and season 4 closes it out in a way that does Aimee justice.
Writing this review proved itself to be incredibly difficult because I kept remembering another seemingly important plotline that I hadn’t so much as mentioned, but that speaks to the overcrowded, complicated, heartfelt chaos that was this season. As a whole, season 4 of Sex Education has its ups and downs, but centers itself on what it does best: telling diverse and unique stories about many different people. Even if in some moments the show lost its footing or took a story in a questionable direction, it ultimately did something we don’t often see on TV by representing so many groups of people that rarely get to see themselves on screen. This show will be remembered for the people it represented and the conversations it never once shied away from. Characters like Maeve, Eric, Aimee, and the whole rest of the group are unforgettable and will be missed dearly as this show comes to a close.