Birds, Bees, and Goodbyes: Is the Final Season of Sex Education the Farewell We Deserve?

Madison McMahon ‘27 / Emertainment Monthly Head TV Section Editor

Netflix’s Sex Education premiered in 2019 and has finally come to an end with its fourth season, released on September 21st, 2023. Over these four years, we have watched the heart-felt character progression of our main and side characters– Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield), Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey), Eric Effiong (Ncuti Gatwa), Adam Groff (Connor Swindells), Aimee Gibbs (Aimee Lou Wood), Jean Milburn (Gillian Anderson), Ruby Matthews (Mimi Keene), Jackson Marchetti (Kedar Williams-Stirling), Vivienne Odusanya (Chinenye Ezeudu), Cal Bowman (Dua Saleh), Issac Goodwin (George Robinson), Michael Groff (Alistair Petrie), and Maureen Groff (Samantha Spiro). 

Did you skim through all those names listed? Those are just some of the characters that are still around in the final season. Lots of people, right? Well, that is the main criticism Sex Education has faced and, unfortunately, has succumbed to in its ending narrative. 

Although these characters are beloved by many viewers, Sex Education struggles to finalize their arcs, and instead, elongates them to the point of redundancy, or adds unrelated new problems. The show’s already straining bandwidth breaks as it welcomes even more central characters, such as, Sarah “O” Owens (Thaddea Graham), Roman (Felix Mufti), Abbi (Anthony Lexa), Aisha (Alexandra James), Beau (Reda Elazouar), and even Schitt’s Creek’s Dan Levy as Thomas Molloy. While these characters add perspectives we have not otherwise seen, the show is unable to balance the new characters’ problems and simultaneously wrap up the pre-existing ones.

Sex Education has been applauded for its open discussion of taboo topics, including mental health’s correlation to sex, masturbation as a form of self-discovery, and religious identity in the queer community. This season takes on much heavier themes, such as familial death, suicide, and domestic abuse. Unfortunately, the show is unable to blend a more mature and solemn tone with its original boldness and vibrance. Each episode is frantic with several storylines that range in emotional intensity, hurling the audience into emotional whiplash. 

As much as the audience clings to the reliability and nuance of their favorite characters, every one of them overstays their welcome. The writers cannot wholeheartedly resolve (or in the case of the lingering season one cast, re-solve) any singular character’s issues in just eight episodes, already brimming with over twenty storylines. The brilliance of the first season is that, while the show still juggled a variety of differing issues, there were fewer characters, allowing enough time to give each one the attention they deserve. Although none of the new topics in the final season are handled in an offensive manner, how rushed they are causes the audience to forget the charm that made this show great in its first season. 

It is truly a shame Sex Education, a show that has made a number of awkward teens– and even adults!– feel seen, buries itself in its own goal. By trying to represent every issue an individual could face, the show sacrifices its depth and complexity, detaching itself from the hearts’ of long-time viewers.

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