Hit show, Sex Education, returned to our screens on the 21st of September with the same slightly satirical, fable-like approach to sex and relationships as the previous three seasons, just in an exciting new school with a plethora of new characters.
From the trailers, we were promised that many loose ends would be tied: notably, Eric’s religious guilt, Adam’s struggle to grasp the concept of his bisexuality and the frayed relationship with his father.
These particular storylines were executed exceptionally well in my opinion. The right level of discomfort and awkwardness was achieved, bringing tears to the eyes of even the most stoic of viewers. Also, neither of these storylines had particularly cliché endings, leaving the door slightly open for interpretation and extrapolation.
The right level of discomfort and awkwardness was achieved, bringing tears to the eyes of even the most stoic of viewers.
Irrefutably, many fans had been long awaiting the coverage of Maeve and Otis’s love story, in suspense of season three’s cliffhanger where Maeve was seen commencing her big American adventure and Otis was left to pick up the pieces of his broken heart. Realistically, season four ended the way it should have done in regards to these two characters, it was saddening and slightly reminiscent of the modern classic novel and TV series, Normal People, but it carefully avoided the eye rolls that would have been caused by a surface level HEA (Happy Ever After).
Despite these triumphant moments in the show, the classic teenage angst and natural flow was very much stunted with the addition of some characters and themes that were simply included as tokens rather than being explored fully. It felt largely like the producers were sticking their fingers in too many pies rather than developing any of them fully. For example, Aisha’s character, bringing much needed representation to the deaf community, served only to remind people that she needed to see their lips in order to lip read and communicate properly- there was no depth to her. It’s fantastic to have the deaf community thoroughly represented in Sex Education, and it was refreshing towards the end to see her friends making attempts to learn sign language for her. However, the clunky speech centralised around the experiences of paraplegic Isaac and Aisha in which they correctly called out the inaccessibility of their school, would have been better used with noticeable action in wake of their distress. It felt more like a box ticking exercise than an actual upheaval of the ableist norms. This would have been very watchable.
Despite these triumphant moments in the show, the classic teenage angst and natural flow was very much stunted with the addition of some characters and themes that were simply included as tokens rather than being explored fully.
There were also ample opportunities to delve into Cal’s struggle with their identity as a non-binary student, going through testosterone therapy and awaiting top surgery. You could really sense their frustration and body dysmorphia as they slipped into a bout of bad mental health in wake of it. Also, episode five is particularly emotive as homage is paid to trans activist, Shay Patten-Walker who sadly took their own life recently, aged just 24. It’s the links to real life like this, just like the grief experienced with Maeve’s mother, that make Sex Education so impactful and binge worthy. We truly feel connected to the vast majority of these characters, their individual stories, and how they neatly interconnect with everyone else’s.
Overall, the season came full circle, just as it should have done. Greater focus was placed on previously more minor characters such as Jean, the unexpected arrival of her sister and Jean’s new baby. It tugged on my heart strings regularly, bringing a sense of catharsis and closure, which was necessary. I only wish the producers had focused less about shoe-horning in diverse characters and let it flow naturally, of course remaining very representative but also maintaining the down to earth, slapstick comedy of the previous three seasons.