a teen boy and girl walk with their bikes against green shrubbery
Credit: Netflix

The fourth and final season of Laurie Nunn’s British show Sex Education is not the series’ best. The original concept—neurotic virginal Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield), the son of famous sex therapist Jean Milburn (Gillian Anderson), sets up a sex clinic in his school—has mostly run out of steam. Key characters, like alien-sex obsessed Lily (Tanya Reynolds) and Jean’s quietly unbending but emotionally vulnerable handyman boyfriend Jakob (Mikael Persbrandt), have left the show. The need to resolve every storyline with personal growth and reconciliation turns the last (extended) episode of the eight-episode series saccharine in unfortunate and predictable ways.

But while there are some letdowns, the core actors (including Ncuti Gatwa as Eric Effiong, Connor Swindells as Adam Groff, Emma Mackey as Maeve Wiley, and Mimi Keene as Ruby Matthews) remain wonderful. The show has also worked hard to correct its lack of trans rep with new characters and new storylines. 

Most importantly, Sex Education feels more relevant than ever in 2023, as we face the worst anti-sex backlash in years, possibly in decades. Abortion rights and queer rights are under attack. So is honest education for young people, definitely including sex education. Congress, including many Democrats, are currently preparing to push through an ill-conceived, so-called child safety bill which will make it possible to ban much LGBTQ+ content online. 

In that context, a show about teens that talks openly—with compassion and humor but never with stigma—about top surgery, anal sex, asexuality, bed-wetting, and erectile dysfunction, feels almost like a miracle. Nunn and her collaborators have created an imperfect but unique and necessary work of art. There aren’t a lot of television shows that make the world a better place by existing. Sex Education is one. TV-MA, eight hour-long episodes.