The hit Netflix series came to an emotional end on Sept. 21 and with it, came closure for beloved characters Otis, Maeve, Eric, Aimee, Adam and Jean
Warning: this post contains spoilers for the final season of Sex Education.
It’s time to say goodbye to Moordale.
In July, creator Laurie Nunn announced that a new season would be coming to Netflix in September, marking the return of the series after more than two years. Nunn also announced that the “fourth season will also be the final installment of our show,” noting that “as the themes and stories of the new season crystallized, it became clear that this was the right time to graduate.”
Nunn described the series, which she first devised in 2017, as “a show that would answer some of the questions we all used to have about love, sex, friendship, and our bodies. Something that would have helped our inner teenagers feel a little less alone.”
She added, “It’s been overwhelming seeing how the show has connected with people around the world, and we hope it’s made some of you feel a little less alone too.”
Following season 3’s emotional ending, in which Maeve (Emma Mackey) told Otis (Asa Butterfield) it wasn’t a “goodbye” but a “see you soon” as she jetted off to America to enroll in a prestigious writing program, Sex Education’s final season kicked off with a new school, a slew of new characters, and a whole lot of identity searching.
As the stories of Netflix’s resident sex-obsessed teenagers wrapped up, Otis, Maeve, Eric (Ncuti Gatwa), Aimee (Aimee Lou Wood) and Adam (Connor Swindells) grappled with major life changes and some challenging identity-searching.
While Maeve was off studying at prestigious writing program in the U.S., Otis, Eric and Aimee — along with Ruby (Mimi Keene), Jackson (Kedar Williams-Stirling), Viv (Chinenye Ezeudu) and Cal (Dua Saleh) — struggled to adjust to life at a new school after Moordale Secondary, dubbed the “sex school,” was shut down. At Cavendish College, an ultra-progressive, high-tech school where students never gossiped and kindness was preached, Eric and Cal found community, Otis found competition for his sex clinic for the first time, and Ruby found herself lost as she was no longer queen bee. While Jackson dealt with a major health scare — a casual hook-up led him to discover he had a lump in his testicles — and started to ask questions about his parentage, his best friend, Viv, fell in love for the first time — and it wasn’t pretty.
Cavendish already had a resident student sex therapist, O (Thaddea Graham). The realization was a major shock for Otis, who had been more than prepared to pick up where he left off at his new school. What ensued was an eight-episode long competition between him and O as they fought to prove that they were the better option to be the student’s sex counselor. The campaign led Otis back to Ruby — no, not romantically, likely a disappointment to some fans — who helped him with his election strategy. It was a move fueled by her own desire to take down O, who, the former queen bee revealed in a rare moment of vulnerability, bullied her in middle school.
As Otis worked to win the election, he and Eric, who found a sense of community in Cavendish's all-queer popular group, known as “the Coven” — Roman (Felix Mufti), Abbi (Anthony Lexa) and Aisha (Alexandra James) — faced their first real hurdle in their decade-long friendship. Eric confessed that he felt like Otis didn’t listen to him or care about what was happening in his life. Otis said he felt the same way, and the two decided to take some space from each other — though neither was particularly happy with that solution. In the end, though, they closed out the show thick as thieves — just as they started — after Otis admitted to Eric that he “couldn’t survive” without him.
It wasn't just his friendship with Eric that Otis struggled with this season. After three seasons of buildup and almost's, Maeve and Otis were finally sort of together. But, with Maeve abroad, the two struggled to keep their relationship — and intimacy — alive. Otis was jealous of Maeve’s friend, who turned out to be gay, and faced new challenges as he struggled with sexting, which Maeve was keen on.
Their long-distance troubles didn’t last long, though, as Maeve ended up rushing home after learning that her mother, Erin (Anne-Marie Duff), had overdosed again. Before Maeve and her older brother, Sean (Edward Bluemel), could see her, Erin died. The loss compounded Maeve’s ongoing challenges: her professor (Dan Levy) had told her not to “get her hopes up” about pursuing writing as a career; her relationship with Otis was withering; and she was back in Moordale, the place she was eager to escape.
As she struggled to process the loss — she didn’t cry until the day of Erin’s funeral — Maeve’s grief manifested itself in her staunch defense of her mother’s character to her brother, who was quick to disrespect his largely absent parent, and at the funeral.
In a poignant moment, spurred on by Isaac (George Robinson), who encouraged her to give Erin a proper goodbye despite their ups-and-downs, Maeve delivered a beautiful eulogy for her mother. “A mother can be a pretty s--- parent sometimes and you can still love them, and want them to get better. And someone can be an addict and still be generous and kind,” she said through tears. “I really hate her for everything she put me through, but I also miss her with every cell of my being.”
In general, the funeral scene was a culmination of sorts that brought up several of the season’s ongoing themes all at once. Jackson’s anxiety over the lump in his testicles grew, and in a moment of panic, he nearly dropped Erin’s casket. (Him, Eric, Otis and Adam were pallbearers.)
He later learned that the lump was benign, but it had already piqued his interest about who his father was. Despite telling him he'd come from a sperm donor, Jackson eventually confronted his mothers, Sofia (Hannah Waddingham) and Roz (Sharon Duncan-Brewster), and learned that Roz had an affair with a married man and fell pregnant with Jackson as a result. It's a confusing and emotional revelation for the family, especially since Jackson's father denied having any interest in getting to know him to his face.
The intensity between Viv and her boyfriend, Beau, was also on display at the funeral, and Jackson’s concerns over his best friend’s relationship mounted as Beau rarely let Viv and Jackson have a moment alone.
Later, Beau got handsy with Viv, restraining her by her wrist and hurting her, and the physical altercation, on top of his already borderline emotionally abusive behavior, led them to break up.
The funeral scene also brought a long-awaited reunion for Eric and Adam, which was tense but heartwarming, as Adam shared that he’d finally come out as bisexual to his parents, but was struggling with the change. “Adam, you have to love yourself,” Eric advised his teary-eyed ex-boyfriend.
Throughout the season, Adam pushed himself in more ways than one. He dropped out of school and began working on a horse ranch, where he faced his fear of horses, met a girl who he confided in about his issues with his dad, Michael (Alistair Petrie), and even ended up scoring a date with her. Outside of work, he faced his fears, too. He and Michael were working on their relationship throughout the episodes, but eventually, Adam confessed how he really felt.
“I messed up at work today and the first thing that I thought is, ‘I’m gonna disappoint my dad,'" Adam told his father in a powerful scene. "You have made me feel like I’m s--- at everything since I was born. I don’t wanna feel like a failure anymore because I’m not a failure. You’re a failure. You are just a sad man who does a job that he hates because he’s too afraid to do anything else. I thought you were actually interested in me but you weren’t. It was all just about getting back together with Mum. You don’t like me, so stop pretending.”
In the finale, Michael confessed his own truth, too. “I just don’t like myself and I’ve made you feel small because of that and I deeply regret it,” he admitted before he told Adam “I love you,” presumably for the first time ever, but certainly the first time ever onscreen.
While Eric didn’t spend much time reflecting on his past with Adam in the final season, he did struggle with some major questions about his identity — namely, his relationship with God. After debating whether or not he wanted to get baptized, Eric proudly admitted in front of his Church that he wouldn’t do so until he was truly accepted for who he is — a proud gay man.
In the following scene, he ran into a woman (Jodie Turner-Smith) who had appeared to him multiple times throughout the season while he’d grappled with the decision about getting baptized. She revealed herself to be God — and told him that he was destined to spread the word of God, that it was his “calling.”
Eric’s “life’s work,” God said, would be to “change hearts and minds and let everyone know that I love them for who they are.”
“I made you this bright so that others would see in the darkness,” the God figure told an emotional Eric.
After sorting through their issues, Otis was the first person Eric told of his newfound path.
While Otis struggled with many of his closest relationships, his mom Jean Milburn (Gillian Anderson) had her fair share of challenges, too.
After welcoming her newborn, Joy, at the end of season 3 in a scary, near-death birthing experience, Jean struggled to adjust to life as a mother of two. Though she denied it, she struggled with postpartum depression, and Otis called in his aunt Joanna (Lisa McGrillis) to help as his mother crumbled. At the same time, Jean was also juggling a new professional commitment, as she’d agreed to host a radio show despite being just eight weeks postpartum.
Eventually, Jean admitted that she needed help and started taking medication to treat her depression. In the season finale, she invited over banker-slash-“motorcycle man” Dan (Daniel Ings) — who she’d told Joanna she was 95% sure was Joy’s father — presumably to tell him about Joy. She also decided to continue on with her radio show, "Sexology," despite taking a brief break — making both Otis and Joanna proud.
As for Aimee, who regularly stole the show with her ridiculous one-liners and quirks, the final season brought clarity and healing. Despite getting off to a rocky start, she found a strong friendship in Isaac at Cavendish, and he taught her to explore art. After an almost kiss, Maeve — who dated him on-and-off in seasons 2 and 3 — told Aimee she’d prefer if she and Isaac kept things platonic, so Aimee shifted her focus back to her art as she realized her passion for photography.
In a moving scene, she admitted that her traumatic experience on the bus in season 2 still haunted her — and she wanted to use her art to get past it.
“These are the jeans I was wearing on that day when I was assaulted on the bus. I keep meaning to throw them away but for some reason I can’t,” she confessed to Isaac. “Every day I feel more like myself, and that’s great. But sometimes it feels like even when I’m doing something I love, like eating ice cream, it feels like I’m still wearing them. Like it never goes away.”
The show ended with Aimee fully facing her fears. She put the dreaded jeans back on and had a photoshoot at the bus stop where things had all gone wrong before burning the denim.
With Maeve’s permission, she started to explore her feelings for Isaac, and pushed herself to kiss him despite her reservations about intimacy.
The season ended with a heartbreaking goodbye as Maeve decided to return to the U.S. to study — where she learned a publisher was interested in one of her writing excerpts — and she and Otis agreed to go their separate ways. Before that, though, they finally spent the night together after several failed attempts, thanks to a resurgence of Otis' sexual performance anxiety.
In a letter left by Otis’ bed, Maeve bid farewell to her sex clinic partner-turned-great love. “I want you to know that however much it f---ing hurts that we can’t be together, I won’t ever close myself off again. Meeting you cracked my heart open, and now it’s forever changed. And because of that, I will carry part of you with me wherever I go. I think what I’m trying to say is, thanks for everything, d---head.”
As the series came to an end, with Maeve’s explicitly non-love letter closing it out, the cracks all seemed to be getting filled in. Jean was getting treatment for her depression and had seemingly told Dan that Joy was his child. Eric’s questions about religion prompted him to decide he wants to be a pastor. In Isaac, Aimee found a way to heal herself from the inside out — and got herself the first true boyfriend she’d ever had. Back in America and unsure what the future will hold, Maeve had writing opportunities at her fingertips. After the bumpiest ride of possibly all the character’s families, the Groff's spent a night together, watching TV, one family — though still working on the happy part.
As for Otis, who started the show feeling sexually stunted and completely alone, the devastating heartbreak Maeve left him with showed him for the first time just how much he could love — and just how much his work at the sex clinic had changed lives, his own included.
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All four seasons of Sex Education are now streaming on Netflix.
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