Sex Education’s conclusive series is here after a two-year hiatus, and with the show’s cast beginning to start careers elsewhere, there is an absence of what made the show so strong whilst attempting to serve an appropriate conclusion for audiences.
After the closing of Moordale school at the end of series 3, the soon-graduating students must start afresh in Cavendish College to complete their A-Levels. Unlike Moordale, Cavendish initially seems too good to be true, offering meditation areas and promoting wholesome vibes where gossip is banned and for Otis (Asa Butterfield), another sex therapist on campus to compete with.
Starting fresh with a new location is a hard sell, and even harder to do when the show is knowingly trying to wrap up, as its principal cast say that this series is their last, such as Ncuti Gatwa (Eric Effiong) soon to star as the Doctor in BBC’s Doctor Who.
Initially, the new campus is refreshing, boasting a more comprehensive range of body types, sexualities, and disabilities that the show’s likes had yet to explore fully. However, as mentioned this comes with the knowledge that this series is the last, so raises concerns about whether these newly characters are to be revered by audiences in a similar capacity to other characters from its history.
Meanwhile, overseas, Maeve (Emma Mackey) is studying at a prestigious American school to learn to be a writer under the watchful eye of teacher Thomas Molloy (Dan Levy), all the while trying to maintain a relationship with Otis.
With its ever-growing roster of supporting characters, there is a final storyline for Jackson (Kedar Williams-Stirling) and the exploration of testicular cancer that became one of the stronger narratives to follow, which the show hadn’t previously explored. To see testicular cancer, an illness affecting 2,300 people a year in the UK, demonstrated on-screen will undoubtedly encourage audiences to check themselves for any new lumps or changes to their body, and is where Sex Education truly shines in being a beacon for progression within the sexual health space for its demographic.
Similarly, Adam Groff (Connor Swindells) and father Michael (Alistair Petrie) are given closure with their relationship whilst Adam pursues an alternative education with an apprenticeship. Their unspoken awkwardness a perfect demonstration of the perpetual failings of masculinity, and where two men are unable to properly express their feelings, even when they’re related.
Conversely, the story arc about Eric’s devotion to the church and whether his community could accept his sexuality is handled disappointingly throughout the series. Though Ncuti Gatwa exceeds in every scene, the execution of religion as a storyline offering it up as a manifestation of surreal imagination becomes its undoing, where the story’s core is between Eric, his family, and the church, rather than the hallucinations he saw.
Meanwhile, Gillian Anderson’s phenomenal performance is similarly mishandled as she reprises her role as therapist Jean Milburn. She’s struggling with her duties as a new-again mum and maintaining her career capacities, trying to re-enter the professional industry.
Again, much like Gatwa, Gillian Anderson illuminates every scene; however, whether due to the finality of the show or how the actors have grown more prominent than the sum of their parts, Anderson feels unfortunately neglected to a minor supporting role, giving airtime instead to her newly introduced sister Joanna (Lisa McGrillis), or younger therapist replacement Sarah ‘O’ Owen (Thaddea Graham) who challenges Otis’ reputation at Cavendish.
Sex Education has meant a lot to many over its tenure. As the actors and crew pursue careers elsewhere, there is certainly an appreciation for the show, its progression, and its representation of storylines that needed attention. Audiences will no doubt recall the bus scene from series two, again revisited by Aimee (Aimee Lou Wood) for a final time in series four, addressing now how the events affected her, and it’s in these smaller moments that audiences will remember the show.
Whilst the final series is messy in its delivery of its conclusion, it understands entirely the show’s sentimentality and importance to many communities and identities. To see themselves represented on-screen, funded by Netflix, and repeatedly reassured that they belong and are accepted is needed and is, I hope, what will make Sex Education‘s legacy outlive its years.
All episodes of Sex Education, including the eight new episodes from series four are available to watch exclusively on Netflix.
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