After four seasons, Netflix’s hit British dramedy about the complexities of sex and adolescence has come to an end, with Sex Education’s fourth and final season releasing on the 21 September earlier this year. First released in January 2019, the show has amassed an extremely significant following, with the first season alone garnering over 40 million viewers on the streaming service.
The show primarily revolves around the relationship between Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield) and Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey), and their decision to set up a sex advice clinic at their school following the discovery that Otis has inherited therapeutic expertise from his mother, Jean (Gillian Anderson), who has made a career out of sex therapy. The show is a landmark in television in terms of its relatability for young people and stands apart from similar series in that the range of personal and social issues it expertly tackles is vast. The story goes well beyond just talking about sexual problems, exploring friendship, homophobia, parenthood, post-natal depression, trans issues, sexual assault, gender identity, addiction, disability, coming-of-age, and so much more. These are stories full of heart and passion, written so that they may provide empathetic guidance to people both young and old who have experienced similar situations.
With no time for these characters to undergo any such development, fans cannot truly appreciate them
Seasons 1, 2 and 3 were exceptional from start to finish, portraying authentic stories that followed some of the most well-crafted characters Netflix has ever produced. However, season 4 failed to achieve the same levels of complexity and nuance as the first three, and its problems are clear from the outset. Firstly, half the cast seemingly vanishes into thin air, with some of the most compelling characters not appearing for the final season, including sex-and-alien-obsessed Lily (Tanya Reynolds), Otis’ first girlfriend Ola (Patricia Allison) and her father Jean’s love interest Jakob (Mikael Persbrandt). On top of this, we are thrust headfirst into an entirely new school setting with an ensemble of new characters.
Otis has a new rival in sex therapist O (Thaddea Graham), whilst the rest of the cast tries to navigate their new school under the watchful eye of ‘The Coven’ of Abbi (Anthony Lexa), her boyfriend Roman (Felix Mufti) and their friend Aisha (Alexandra James), the elite clique that rules with a strict no-gossip rule. The main issue with introducing this many new characters in the final season of a show is that the audience will not have enough time to truly appreciate them or grow to like them.
And whilst their individual stories and problems may be compelling … the season seems to rush to conclude them all
With no time for these characters to undergo any such development, fans cannot truly appreciate them. And whilst their individual stories and problems may be compelling (particularly Aisha’s relationship with Cal (Dua Saleh) and her struggles being deaf), the season seems to rush to conclude them all as fast as possible, rather than allowing them to play out for a while longer so the audience gains a better understanding.
The final season does have some extraordinary highlights though, in particular the conclusion of Maeve’s friend Aimee’s (Aimee Lou Wood) story. In Season 2, Aimee is sexually assaulted on the bus to school, preventing her from ever wanting to use the bus again. In Season 4, as her romance with Isaac blooms, Aimee finally comes to terms with the fact that her assault has left her fearful of intimacy with anyone, no matter how much they may care about her. After pursuing her passion of photography throughout the season, Aimee’s story ends with her burning the jeans she wore on the bus that day and taking pictures of it. It is arguably the most satisfying conclusion of any character in the show, with Aimee’s tale showcasing the horror of sexual assault and the true impact it can have on a person’s wellbeing in the months and even years after the incident.
Overall, Sex Education remains a wonderful and compelling show that can be recommended to anyone. It is funny, sad, uplifting and empowering, with these features not being inhibited by its rushed conclusion. An icon of Netflix original shows, Sex Education may have come to an unremarkable climax, but the journey that both the characters and audience went on to get there is nothing short of astounding.
Final season rating: 3 stars out of 5.
Overall show rating: 4.5 stars out of 5.