Sex Education season 4 has finally hit Netflix in all the right spots — and we couldn’t be more satisfied. After Moordale Secondary School finally shut its doors at the end of season 3, the fourth and final season had the challenging job of not only wrapping up the main cast’s stories but also integrating a new background and host of supporting characters across the final eight episodes. And it just about pulls it off.
As we follow several Moordale veterans — including Otis (Asa Butterfield) and Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) — trying to adjust to the ultra-hip, student-led Cavendish College, it’s arguable that this is just the kind of shake-up the show needed to avoid becoming stale and repetitive. Even in their final seasons, the best TV series always left you wanting more, and by introducing us to the world of Cavendish, Sex Education season 4 definitely succeeded in that.
With plenty of awkward sex mishaps blended with the heartfelt exploration of mental health, transgender issues, faith, and love, the final season of Sex Education reminded us all why it is one of the best Netflix series the streaming service has to offer, while also relishing in its much-needed setting change.
After being introduced as the love interest of Jackson (Kedar Williams-Stirling) in season 3, Cal (Dua Saleh) becomes a pivotal part of season 4. Their transition journey and issues with gender dysphoria are underpinning storylines throughout season 4. Through this, along with the introduction of popular power couple Abbi (Anthony Lexa) Roman (Felix Mufti), Sex Education does what many shows seem to be afraid to do at the moment: it normalizes and raises awareness of what it’s like to be a transgender teenager.
Thanks to the rise of rampant misinformation and transphobia, the culture around transgender issues has become especially hostile as of late, so Sex Education making a stand like this with such sensitively handled storylines is a prime example of why it will be missed as an unapologetic advocate for modern teens.
Sex Education has always strived to genuinely educate its audience on subjects that are considered taboo, and in its final season, the drama series does this better than ever. Sex Education succeeds in this sense not just with storylines surrounding transgender issues but also with other narrative themes like Aimee’s ongoing trauma around her assault, Jackson’s anxiety and identity issues, coercive control, disability advocacy, and grief. Without giving away too many spoilers, the coercive control storyline is especially impactful because it builds up over time, allowing audiences to notice ‘warning signs’ and open up a dialogue.
While the new characters this season are mostly well-developed, the absence of characters like Lily (Tanya Reynolds) and Ola (Patricia Allison) is still felt. The show doesn’t necessarily suffer from previous characters’ lack of screen time, but given it’s the final season, these kinds of characters still deserved a proper goodbye.
You’ll be pleased to know, however, that just because they’ve rightfully shot to fame away from the comedy series, that doesn’t mean Eric’s or Maeve’s roles in this series are reduced. Both these characters are still as lovable as ever, as Maeve continues to carve out the best character evolution on the show while Eric continues to deliver some fantastic one-liners. Eric’s storyline especially feels like something that hasn’t been explored much on mainstream TV before, and Gatwa, as usual, carries his story with plenty of grace, humor, and humility.
But with such a large ensemble cast, it felt like the development of some characters this season, like Ruby (Mimi Keene), was a little stunted. While Ruby remained a pivotal character this season, she deserved more standalone character development outside of her proximity to Otis.
Similarly, when it came to Jean’s paternity storyline, it felt like there was so much set-up back in season 3 but little payoff. That said, a well-thought-out story of sisterhood and post-natal depression is much more valuable than a soapy paternity story. Gillian Anderson delivers her best performance in the show yet as a more frazzled, vulnerable Jean.
Too bad that her son, Otis, is literally the worst. This wouldn’t bother me as much if it weren’t for the fact that Sex Education has proven time and time again that they’re very much capable of developing initially unlikable characters into people we can root for — with Jackson, Adam, Ruby, Isaac, and even Michael becoming progressively more likable as the show has gone on.
Yet, while so many characters have developed for the better, Otis seems to have gone the other way. He’s still a good therapist, still good at reaching people, and Asa Butterfield is still hugely charismatic, but it’s hard to care about a character who, when it comes to his own life, is such a monumental pissbaby. But maybe that’s the point of his character. Teenagers aren’t meant to be perfect, and it would be unfair of me to expect season 1 Otis to be exactly the same as season 4 Otis. But damn, they could’ve made him a little bit nicer. It feels like the writers have hated him ever since season 2.
But when it came to Sex Education season 4’s ending, those writers certainly didn’t do things by halves. I can see some fans being disappointed by the way certain relationships end up, but this is an occasion where I think the ending some fans want isn’t necessarily the best ending from a storytelling perspective. So, I firmly believe the direction the writers went in ultimately made the most sense, and I’m glad their vision of the season wasn’t marred by the obligation to fulfill fan service.
If, just for a moment, we can move away from our obsession with shipping everybody in the show (yes, even if that show is literally all about sex), I think that the best thing about Sex Education is their portrayal of genuine, loving friendship that is treated with the same tenderness usually preserved for romantic connections. From Otis and Eric, to Maeve and Aimee (Aimee Lou Wood) and Jackson and Viv (Chinenye Ezeudu)— Sex Education shines brightest when we see these besties supporting and affirming each other.
It’s rare for a show’s ending to actually get things right, but it felt like each and every character, for the most part, got a satisfying end to their respective story arcs, giving those crazy kids from Moordale the send-off they deserve.
Sex Education season 4 is now streaming on Netflix. To see what else has arrived on the streamer this month, including Netflix movies and Netflix documentaries, check out our guide to everything new on Netflix.
Sex Education takes to its new setting like a duck to water, and is just as racy, heartfelt, and outrageous as ever.