Sex Education is an incredibly difficult show to talk about. This is because it went from something special to something almost unrecognizable. In the first two seasons, it was an amazing show that was able to tackle serious subjects like race, sexuality, and gender identity in a mature way that didn’t talk down to its audience. And while season three showed some cracks, it was still a good season overall, and I had high hopes of season four. I was hoping that since this new season would be the last, it would fix the last season’s problems and end the show with a bang. Unfortunately, season four is where the show truly went from something great into a broken mess.
This season starts with the students of the now-closed Moordale Secondary going to college. This new school is called Cavendish College, and Otis (Asa Butterfield) sets up his sex therapy program there as well. However, a new rival sex therapist soon begins to take people away from him and he has to figure out why. Meanwhile, Maeve (Emma Mackey) attends Wallace University in the United States and tries to get on her own feet. She also has to deal with trying to keep the long distance relationship between her and Otis going, now that they are countries apart.
One of the biggest problems was this season did not feel like a finale. The stories we follow and the character growth that happens in the show does not feel like it’s wrapped up at the end. It feels as though the writers were planning for more episodes but wrote around what they had when they learned this would be the last season. This makes the finale come out of nowhere with how it tries to wrap up everything even though they definitely needed more time to work themselves out.
Many characters have had their problems from last season exasperated or are actively ruined during the new season. Otis is a character that has been repeating the same lesson of learning to not be a jerk over and over again, and it really comes to a head in season four, as he faces no consequences for anything he does, stunting his character growth and leaving him the same as he was in the beginning. His friendship with Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) even goes through the same exact arc as it did in season one. The only new aspect of his character is his poorly handled relationship with Maeve with a lot of forced drama that doesn’t feel natural.
Other characters have very little to no screen time, and sometimes get interesting arcs only to have them be mishandled at the end. Ruby (Mimi Keene) doesn’t feel like she belongs in the show anymore and needs a lot more time in order to really make her compelling and give her an interesting story. Jackson’s (Kedar Williams-Stirling) story of being born through a sperm donor was actually kind of sweet, but is immediately ruined with an out-of-nowhere twist that destroys any emotional investment in his story. Eric getting prophetic visions and literally meeting God in an otherwise very grounded show is one of the most egregious examples of jumping the shark I’ve ever seen on a modern show. Despite Aimee (Aimee Lou Wood) becoming a better character through her relationship with Isaac (George Robinson), Isaac himself doesn’t improve at all, making their relationship unable to have any sort of investment or vital chemistry that it needs to work. So many early season characters like Lily, Olivia, Anwar, and Raheem are no longer in the show, replaced with new characters who don’t add anything to the show or its characters and take away time that could have been used to develop the remaining ones. Even the characters and storylines in America felt very inconsequential to the story and didn’t add anything meaningful to Maeve’s story.
That’s not to say everything about this show is bad, though. The production of the show is top notch, as to be expected from this series. The performances of the main cast are all amazing, with some standouts including Gillian Anderson and Emma Mackey. They are really allowed to shine in this season and are one of the few great parts that carried over from the earlier seasons. Adam’s (Connor Swindells) story makes very logical sense and shifts his character from a bully to someone trying to do better in a way that gives great emotional depth to his character. Viv’s (Chinenye Ezeudu) story about falling into an abusive relationship is also great, and can serve as a warning for other young people about not falling into that same trap she fell in.
Sex Education season four left a lot to be desired in terms of both story and characters. While many of the ideas it introduces aren’t all that bad, it’s mostly the way they handle these ideas that make them fall flat in the eyes of the viewer. All this put together leads to a very broken mess of a finale that could have been the perfect send off for this otherwise amazing show.
Rocco Lippi is a first-year film, photography and visual arts major who hates to see a good show fall off. You can reach Rocco at [email protected].