There’s no easy way to say this: Sex Education has lost its magic. That’s why, days after the announcement that streaming service Netflix has just renewed the TV series for another season, I’m sitting here dreading what’s to come.
Look, I didn’t hate Sex Education season 3 – I just felt it lacked some of that special sauce that made it so great in the first instance. Creator Laurie Nunn is at her best when she writes about true human experiences, bringing complex personal relationships and taboo subjects to the fore unapologetically. But in season 3, it felt like those magic moments were sacrificed for a villainous plot that not only felt forced, but wildly unrealistic.
Hope Haddon’s arrival as headmistress always promised to shake things up in Moordale, but in reality, she did more than just that – she uprooted the very foundations that make this show tick. Her big, bold actions, which see her preaching abstinence, shaming students by forcing them to wear signs similar to those found in history books, and locking them in rooms, overshadowed major developments in the story, leaving the show’s main characters gasping for air.
Otis and Ruby’s relationship, which sees Ruby tear down her walls for the first time, is just a footnote in the Sex Education story, as is Ola and Lily’s struggling relationship. Eric and Adam’s is really the only relationship that gets a decent amount of screentime, and the show is all the better for it.
Sex Education made its name by breaking boundaries. Hell, it was even the first show to hire the now infamous intimacy coordinator. In season 3, though, it felt like Nunn and her team were struggling to find ways to push the envelope further – depicting only a couple of groundbreaking scenes, like Maeve and Isaac’s relationship, in ways that have never really been done before on screen.
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At times, it often felt that the writers had lost touch with the human stories at the heart of Sex Education – or at least struggled to keep their arcs afloat in this ever-growing world. It’s this, plus the way in which the story is now headed, which has me worried for season 4.
Season 3 ends with Hope’s reign of terror coming to an end and the school unceremoniously closing. Maeve decides to go to the United States to study, leaving her fresh relationship with Otis hanging in the balance, and Eric goes it alone after breaking up with Adam.
These conclusions, while not necessarily satisfactory, do tie off most of the loose ends we have for the characters, and in my view, serve as the perfect way to leave what’s been a monumental series. Except, as you know, that’s not going to happen, and that’s what’s got me so concerned.
If Sex Education season 4 is anything like the last, we’ll be strung along with a middling subplot with no end in sight. And that’s exactly what needs to be avoided heading into what’s potentially going to be the show’s last season. Nunn needs to return to her roots and give the characters she’s so beautifully created the air they need to breathe, and the resolutions they (and their actors) so desperately crave.
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There’s also a big elephant in the room at the moment – and that’s the cast list for Season 4. It’s still early doors yet, and we expect many of the big stars, like Asa Butterfield and Gillian Anderson, to sign on again, but there is a big question mark hanging over one of the central characters: Maeve.
In several interviews recently, Emma Mackey, the actor that plays Maeve, has raised concerns about being the eternal teenager. In other words, she’s got itchy feet and can you blame her? She’s an absolute star with a brilliant career ahead, but I’m not sure the show will feel like Sex Education without her.
Of course, I’m happy to be proven wrong, but right now, Sex Education season 4 is a bridge too far for me. I’ll still tune in and watch, but the idea of another season leaves me feeling deeply unsettled. Maybe it’s the sour taste Season 3 left in my mouth, or maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been stung by so many other shows going for one last hurrah.
Either way, I hope for everyone’s sake that we’ll see a return of the special sauce that made the first two seasons of Sex Education an absolute delight. But only time will tell.