School’s out… forever? The final season of Sex Education, Netflix’s underrated sex-positive British comedy series, is coming in hot and heavy for one last hurrah. In the aftermath of season three (which debuted at the streamer two full years ago!), Moordale Secondary has been completely dismantled, and the sex school is no more. Jean (Gillian Anderson) now fills her time with raising her baby while Otis (Asa Butterfield) tries to be as supportive as possible before beginning at Cavendish College. When we last left Otis, he and Maeve (Emma Mackey) had finally professed their love to one another before Maeve left Moordale behind to attend the Gifted and Talented International Program. Season 4 brings back most of the characters you love and remember from previous seasons (with a few notable exceptions), sliding into a new status quo. Too much time is wasted on the new blood, dulling the effectiveness of the endgame. Nevertheless, this final chapter of Sex Education features dynamic character pairings, hilarious sexcapades, and a divisive conclusion for folks we have followed since 2019.
Starting fresh at a new school, Otis is hopeful he can set up a sex clinic again to continue his passion for helping people in need. Little does he know, Cavendish already has a resident sex clinic run by annoying rival O (Thaddea Graham). O will not make it easy for Otis, but former fling Ruby (Mimi Keene) waits in the wings to swoop to his PR rescue. He is certainly going to need it after a botched introduction wherein dick pics meant for Maeve are projected for the entire school to see. Good thing Cavendish is way more progressive and liberal than Moordale ever was—the kids at school mostly find Otis just sad rather than make fun of him, mainly because all gossip is prohibited.
Other strange quirks about this new school? The entire thing appears to be student-led, presenting a wider berth of freedom when it comes to literally anything. Students are encouraged to help with cleaning and gardening, all facilities are gender neutral, daily meditation and yoga is strongly encouraged, and there are zero regulations about school clubs or sex clinics. Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) seems to be adjusting nicely, unless of course one counts his brewing religious existential crisis that plays out over the eight episodes in this series. The direction Eric is taken may be surprising, and also feels a little out of character. One thing very upsetting about this last series is that Eric’s relationship with Adam (Connor Swindells) never reemerges. Adam never even returns to school, and has minimal contact with those outside his family, or at the farm apprenticeship program he dives into. At least Sex Education recognizes that this is a character we all know and love by now, worthy of his own storylines. I just wish those had actually connected to the main one. Swindells steals the show with his signature charm.
This is more than can be said about characters like Anwar and Olivia, or Lily and Ola, who earn nary a handful of mentions. Jakob also does not return, leaving Jean and her rocky relationship with her sister to take shape instead. I understand the distance necessary for Jean to become her own person again, and build both professionally and as a mother. However, I wish it had not felt like a footnote. Otis and Jean should be closer than ever before, but their relationship is more strained than in previous installments. The rest of the carry-overs all get distinct stories that send them careening in different directions. Jackson (Kedar Williams-Stirling) discovers he may have a lump on his balls that could be cancerous. Vivian (Chineyne Ezeudu) courts a new romance despite maintaining that she wants to shift focus back to her studies. Aimee (Aimee Lou Wood), still on a road to recovery from her trauma, begins to develop a crush for Isaac (George Robinson); Isaac’s character shifts from conniving love interest for Maeve to rallying efforts for lift repairs for the disabled when the elevator keeps breaking down. Cal (Dua Saleh) continues their transitionary journey to become their truest self.
As good as some of these tertiary supporting roles may sound, Sex Education has always orbited around the relationship between Otis and Maeve. Despite being far away, Maeve gets weaved in and out of Otis’s own tale. The will they/won’t they hangs over each episode like a rainy cloud, hovering over a potential endgame even in the midst of insurmountable relationship struggles. This goes all the way to the very last episode. Maeve, following her dream to write, grapples with finding self-worth when cult writer Thomas Molloy (Dan Levy) demeans her skills in class. On the other hand, Otis goes back and forth with O, constantly trying to get ahead of her. The duo finally make a bet to allow only one sex therapist standing at Cavendish, meaning the student body will have to decide who is more worthy. Secrets comes to light, feelings are hurt, and mostly their whole campaign just seems like a way to pad the runtime.
Sex Education has been one of my favorite Netflix shows for years now, and a series I have always recommended to others when they ask for something new. Yet, in its home stretch, there are quite a bit of stumbles. The series overestimates how much we care about the new characters at Cavendish, wasting substantial bits that should have served others instead. There are character pairings we never knew we needed, but not all of them work. The overall ending is, quite simply, emotionally underwhelming. On the flipside, Sex Education’s trademark wit returns in spades. A live acoustic version of “With or Without You” highlights an especially emotional sixth episode. Otis finally evolves as a character. While some things truly work in this nostalgic send-off for Moordale’s finest, Sex Education closes out its weakest season yet by shutting the book for good on this wonderful ensemble cast. Perhaps we’ll be seeing a school reunion at some point in the near future—those are a thing in the UK too, right?
Prep for one last lesson in Sex Education when season 4 debuts exclusively to Netflix on Thursday, September 21st.