Thought you had nothing left to learn after three seasons of Netflix’s Sex Education? Think again. The hit British comedy drama’s fourth and final season was released on Sept. 21 and is already back at No. 4 on Netflix’s list of the top 10 TV shows in the United States.
The season adopts an entirely new setting, as well as introduces a few new characters. The now-mature cast are confronted with complex new issues, and viewers get further glimpses into their pasts. The show’s new setting maintains the shock factor that made it a hit at the beginning, but we get to see satisfying endings for old favorites of past seasons. It feels familiar and novel at the same time.
When the series debuted in 2019, its main focus was the students of Moordale Secondary School and their relationship problems, whether romantic, platonic, or familial. The school itself became the central issue of season three after gaining a reputation for unorthodox sexual education and unruliness among its students.
The season concluded with Moordale being shut down, and with it, viewers’ hopes for a fulfilling fourth season. How is a show about intimate relationships supposed to continue when its characters have been indefinitely separated?
The show’s answer? Just put them in a new school. While an awkward idea at first (introducing a new location and cast usually feels like a sign of a show’s tiredness), a new school with new students to torment turns out to be exactly what Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield), the show’s protagonist and resident teen sex therapist, needs.
At the beginning of the first episode, Otis and his best friend Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) bike onto their new school’s grounds. Eric’s exclamation of shock perfectly sums up the new setting of Cavendish College.
“It’s like Amsterdam … but in space. And everyone seems … happy?” Eric says.
With its rainbow windows, paperless classrooms, and progressive students, Otis and Eric’s new school is the complete opposite of Moordale. Otis’ plan of setting up his free sex therapy service on campus seems like it will be welcomed with open arms, and the setting itself feels like a caricature of a modern secondary school rather than a real place at first. As Otis and the viewers learn, nothing is as it seems.
The different setting breathes new life into the show, giving old characters a unique environment to tackle. Otis must face competition in his therapy service at Cavendish, as well as deal with Eric making new friends whom Otis doesn’t feel comfortable around. On top of that, Maeve (Emma Mackey), the girl Otis has liked since the very first season, has gone to America for an academic program just as they confessed their feelings for each other.
This new environment causes its fair share of mishaps, like Otis accidentally showing a nude photo to his new class on his first day. In season four, viewers get to see the characters handle things more maturely than they would have in previous seasons. Some of the awkwardness that made Sex Education relatable is gone, but its appeal definitely isn’t.
In the second episode, Otis has his first client, Cal (Dua Saleh), after struggling to draw business. They confide in Otis about a personal issue.
“I thought I was disgusting,” Cal says.
“No,” Otis replies. “And I know it’s hard, but you should try and enjoy the journey”—that’s pretty wise advice from a teenage boy.
Otis, his friends, and his enemies have spent the past few years trying to enjoy the journey, with very different degrees of success. But season four proves the real worth of their so-called education, no matter how untraditional or chaotic it may have been. And viewers have gotten to grow up with them.
Whichever character you’re rooting for, season four promises a satisfying end to their story even if it’s not the ending you were expecting. The setting’s new characters, both lovable and insufferable, will draw you in. The old characters’ relatability will keep you watching. Despite some disappointment that the series is ending, Sex Education finishes at just the right time.