The first episode of Sex Education’s latest and last season can be a bit… jarring. With a change of setting, a whole slew of new characters and an interesting new dynamic between the show’s titular characters Otis (Asa Butterfield) and Maeve (Emma Mackey), fans of the series may feel a bit discomfited upon starting the first episode. In Season 4 of Netflix’s un-sexiest series about sex, most of the core ensemble we’ve grown to love have begun school at a progressive college where they’re met with a new world, new challenges and new sexual encounters.
Emma Mackey, who recently shared the screen with Hollywood stars Armie Hammer, Gal Gadot and Kenneth Brannagh in Death on the Nile, gets to work with Canadian legend Dan Levy as Maeve begins her semester at American college studying under Professor Malloy (Levy). She remains the same brilliant yet angsty girl who we find so fun to watch but enters a completely new environment, endearing viewers who love her (like me).
When we catch up with our favourite best friend duo, Eric and Otis, it seems nothing has changed. Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) remains charismatic and vibrant as ever, thriving at Cavendish while Otis struggles to find his place as a sex therapist on campus. This presents an entertaining arc for him, as the antagonist this season takes shape in the form of another (more popular) sex therapist. But Otis isn’t the only one having a tough time finding their place at this new school.
Having enrolled at Cavendish without her posse, Ruby (Mimi Keene) finds herself in a situation she’s never been in before: nobody knows who she is. And worse, nobody cares. In a sea of colours and queers, Ruby couldn’t be more unrelatable or uninteresting. Yet she continues to be one of the most brilliantly crafted characters on the show, containing a depth we explored last season in her relationship with Otis. Ruby’s character proves Nunn’s practical theory that the popular girl can have an original arc if you write her with substance—as all women should be written. Like in Season 3, it’s already clear Ruby will be a standout character this season. Which leads us to…
Otis and Maeve’s relationship. Although they remain a large pillar of the series, the pair are doing long distance from across the pond which seems a bit odd to OG viewers of the show. The first episode played pulseless and leaped forward in all aspects—time, characters, setting, absurdity in its comedy—but found its footing when folding back into the show’s tried and true characters. We were also able to finally watch Otis play therapist, which fans of the series know is the crux of this show.
It’s clear the second episode of Season 4 is about power. From the opening scene when Jackson (Kedar Williams-Stirling) takes a finger up there and feels vulnerable in the face of his seemingly resolute masculine and heterosexual identities to Otis’ student standoff against O as Cavendish’s official sex therapist to Adam’s inability to saddle a horse… Nunn finds the heart of this show again through playing with the various power dynamics between the characters we’ve grown to love over these four seasons.
The complete fourth season of Sex Education is now streaming on Netflix.