Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for Sex Education Season 4.
The Big Picture
- Season 4 of Sex Education excels at creating fresh dynamics and relationships between characters, which reflect real-life social dynamics.
- The unexpected romance between Aimee and Isaac is a breath of fresh air and brings much-needed levity to the season.
- The show continues to pair up fan-favorite characters in compelling ways, such as Maeve and Jean, and explores new connections and friendships.
Season 4 of Netflix’s Sex Education may have drawn a slightly more mixed reaction from fans than previous installments — but when it comes to the chemistry between its characters, it still never misses. The show has always excelled at creating new relationships that diverge from the already-established friendships and romances, and this trend continues in Season 4. From Season 2 onwards, the series starts pairing up characters that weren’t initially introduced as friends, like Adam (Connor Swindells) and Ola (Patricia Allison), or originally intended to be romantic, such as Ola and Lily (Tanya Reynolds). Powerful performances and characterization enable pretty much any character to have chemistry with anyone; as a result, these fresh dynamics never feel forced and instead reflect how real-life social dynamics are constantly evolving, especially during teenage years.
One of the most successful and notable examples of this is Otis (Asa Butterfield) and Ruby (Mimi Keene), who randomly hook up in Season 2 before becoming a fixture of Season 3’s storyline. The fact that they have a dedicated fanbase of shippers who hoped they would end up together over the show’s “main” love story, Otis and Maeve (Emma Mackey), is a testament to how the show can make almost any couple work. We went into Season 4 intrigued to see what new attachments would form, and we weren’t disappointed; the burgeoning relationship between Aimee (Aimee Lou Wood) and Isaac (George Robinson), in particular, is one of the season’s highest points.
Aimee and Isaac’s Romance Is a Breath of Fresh Air
It’s a bold decision to pair up Aimee and Isaac for the final season, but the risk pays off. Aimee is one of the show’s most beloved characters, and the arc resulting from the sexual assault she experienced in Season 2 is one of the series’ best. Isaac, on the other hand, is a polarizing character, often considered a villain by fans — not just for being an obstacle to Otis and Maeve’s romance, but for his controlling behavior at the end of Season 2; fans will remember that he famously deletes a voicemail from Otis confessing his love for Maeve before the latter can listen to it. The moment sparked outrage online, including a slew of memes referencing violence toward wheelchair users that were subsequently criticized by actor George Robinson.
It’s safe to say that nobody saw this friendship-turned-romance coming — especially after Isaac’s past involvement with Aimee’s best friend Maeve — and yet it makes complete sense. Their interactions bring some much-needed levity to a somewhat more somber season, and their personalities complement each other perfectly. They support each other through their own personal struggles; Aimee assists Isaac’s efforts to improve accessibility at Cavendish College, and Isaac guides Aimee on how to use art and photography to heal from her trauma. Their shift from friendship to romance feels natural and earned, and fans have largely welcomed their relationship. We doubt anybody would’ve predicted them to be one of the sole endgame ships of the series and yet by the show’s finale, we were absolutely rooting for them to make it.
Season 4 Saw Fan Favorite Characters Pair Up
Sex Education’s ability to turn any two characters into a compelling and watchable duo doesn’t just apply to romance. Fans had waited for years for Maeve and Jean (Gillian Anderson) to finally meet. As the two female leads, and two of the most important people in Otis’ life, it was easy to forget that they didn’t actually know each other. When the encounter finally materializes in Season 4, it surpasses expectations and becomes one of the best moments in the entire show. With Maeve overwhelmed by grief following the death of her mother, and knocked back by harsh criticism from her new writing professor, Mr. Molloy (Dan Levy), Jean assumes the role of a parental figure, restoring her confidence and backing her the way no one else has throughout her unstable upbringing. It feels fitting that Jean is the one to encourage Maeve to return to the US, even if it’s at the expense of her relationship with Otis, and their scene together is surprisingly poignant.
Also in Season 4, we see characters that rarely interact one-on-one get together, like Otis and Aimee. The scenes of them waiting for Maeve — who’s in hospital anticipating news about her mother — are a delightful treat, as they play Scabby Queen in a callback to the show’s first season. The sequence leaves us wanting more out of their friendship and wondering what other amazing pairings could’ve come from Sex Education had there been more seasons and episodes. The show also bravely introduces several new major characters, such as O (Thaddea Graham), a rival sex therapist to Otis, and Abbi (Anthony Lexa), a new friend to Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) who bonds with him over being queer and Christian. We miss all the screen time Otis and Eric used to share, but it feels realistic and necessary for them to start broadening their social circles as their time at sixth-form college nears its end. These new acquaintances only enrich their character arcs, and the distance makes their friendship with each other better and healthier as well.
Throughout its four seasons, Sex Education stays exciting through its formation of new pairings, preventing it from retreading old ground and turning stale. Of course, this is always balanced by the development given to existing connections at the heart of the show, like Otis and Jean and Maeve and Aimee; significant relationships are never abandoned, and our investment in them pays off. In fact, the show arguably could’ve gone even further with prioritizing new dynamics, as many felt that the relationship between Otis and Maeve ran its course a while back — but for the most part, Sex Education knows when to let pairings go and try something new, and that will always set it apart from the dozens of teen shows that came before it.