Sex Education concludes its run with season 4. The high school kids are graduating and moving on; the adults are making progress with their issues. The message is such a powerful affirmation of the importance of love and acceptance that I’d advise you to have tissues handy for the last couple of episodes.
Sex Education has been outstanding in every season. It never had a slump, it never lost focus. Season 4 is the best of them all. In other words, it’s really really really good.
The Young People
For the young people in the story it’s a year of transition. Several familiar faces are now at a new school, Cavendish College. Cavendish College is inclusive to the max: queer characters, disabled characters, every ethnicity. The rainbow truly exploded over this school.
Otis (Asa Butterfield) and Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) are both at Cavendish. Eric thinks he’s in paradise at this ultra liberal and accepting institution, but some of the disabled students point out its problems. There have been standout performances from many cast members in this series, but Ncuti Gatwa really brought the magic every season.
Other familiar faces at Cavendish include Jackson (Kedar Williams-Stirling), Aimee (Aimee Lou Wood), Ruby (Mimi Keene), Viv (Chinenye Ezeudu), Isaac (George Robinson), and Cal (Dua Saleh).
Maeve (Emma Mackey) has gone to America where she’s in a high-powered writing program. Her teacher is a well known writer, Thomas Molloy (Dan Levy). She’s brilliant, but he doesn’t know how to bring it out of her in ways that work for a woman with her traumatic upbringing.
Abbi (Anthony Lexa), Roman (Felix Mufti), and Aisha (Alexandra James) are the most popular kids in Cavendish. They bring Eric into their “coven” immediately. Abbi and Roman are both trans. Aisha is deaf.
Otis plans to bring his sex therapy business to the new school but discovers the school has a student sex therapist. Her name is O (Thaddea Graham) and she’s as good or better than Otis. Although he won’t admit it. O and Ruby have history from elementary school that takes all season to heal.
Viv gets involved with a math nerd, Beau (Reda Elazouar). There are important lessons to learn from this relationship.
Jean (Gillian Anderson) has an infant daughter. She’s not 100% sure who the father is so she’s telling no men about the child. She tries to go back to work doing sex therapy on the radio. Her boss is Hannah Gadsby! She’s hormonal, depressed, overworked, and going a little around the bend. Otis calls Jean’s sister, Joanna (Lisa McGrillis), to come and help out. Joanna is such a mess of a person, she does more harm than good. Putting the sisters together forces some reckonings in their relationship.
Gillian Anderson’s performance this season was a total highlight. She was frowsy, frantic, and close to hysterical at times. It was delightful to see how good she was.
Former headmaster Michael Groff (Alistair Petrie) is now a substitute teacher at Cavendish. Instead of enrolling in school, his son Adam (Connor Swindells) works at a horse farm. This family has plenty of healing to do before the series ends.
The absolutely oldest adult in the cast this season is God (Jodie Turner-Smith). Yes, God. God keeps appearing to Eric, steering him into this or that situation. Eric is conflicted about being baptized in a church that won’t accept him for who he is. His first day at Cavendish Eric saves Abbi from being hit by a car. She calls him “Savior” for the rest of the series. He grows into the name by the time God does her magic on him.
The thematic arc of Sex Education
Sex Education has been a masterwork in many ways.
Every season of this series created by Laurie Nunn has carefully and cleverly built on the theme of love and acceptance. Details piled on details, characters of so many kinds, problems of endless variety – all those meticulously thought out plot lines lead always to the conclusion that people deserve love and acceptance just as they are. Never be ashamed of your sexuality. Don’t exclude anyone because they are gay or trans or disabled or an addict or angry or traumatized or poor. Love people for who they are in order to help them grow into their best selves. Help them find that best self in accepting ways.
Alyssa McClelland and Laurie Nunn directed several episodes of the final series. Krishna Istha, a trans director, also worked on season 4.
Netflix dropped the entire season on the same day (thank you Netflix) so you can watch all of season 4 right now. What did you think of this final season?