Sex Education season 4, the popular Netflix teen comedy-drama about awkward high school student Otis Milburn and his sex therapist mother Jean, returned for a highly anticipated fourth season in 2022. While the new season provided fans with more of the show’s signature humor, heart, and open conversations about sexuality, many viewers and critics feel it fell short of the high bar set by the first three seasons. Here’s a look at why Sex Education Season 4 is not better than what came before.
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When Sex Education first premiered on Netflix in January 2019, it was an immediate critical and pop culture hit. The show stood out for its sex-positive messaging, diverse cast of characters, and willingness to tackle topics like sexual identity, relationships, and consent in thoughtful ways.
Seasons 1-3 charted Otis’ journey from giving out secret sex advice to becoming an official school therapist, while expanding the world of Moordale Secondary School and its array of students. Key storylines followed Otis’ tense friendship with bad-girl Maeve Wiley, his blossoming sexuality, and his mother Jean’s personal and professional adventures as a sex therapist.
With each season, Sex Education earned strong reviews and developed a passionate fanbase. So when Season 4 arrived in September 2022, expectations were high for it to continue the storylines and character development that made the show so special. Unfortunately, many viewers feel the new season fails to fully deliver.
Reason 1: Too Many New Characters
A common criticism of Season 4 is that it introduces too many new characters without sufficient time to develop their storylines.
At the end of Season 3, Moordale Secondary closed down and the students transferred to the fictional Cavendish Sixth Form College. This shift allowed for a time jump and the introduction of new environments and characters.
While shaking things up is not necessarily bad, the sheer volume of new characters in Season 4 left less screen time for fan favorites. Important characters like Adam, Aimee, Jackson and Mr. Groff spend large portions of the season off-screen.
Meanwhile, new students like Cal, Layla, and Vivienne are introduced but not fully fleshed out. The season also brings in adult characters like Cal’s dads, the new headteacher, and Otis’ college professor, adding to the overcrowded feel. There are simply too many new personalities to balance and not enough time to make them feel three-dimensional.
Reason 2: Spreads Itself Too Thin
In addition to thepacked cast, Sex Education Season 4 also suffers from trying to juggle too many storylines at once. With only 8 episodes, there is not sufficient runtime to dig into each plot line in a meaningful way.
For example, key characters like Adam, Aimee and Jackson are given dramatic storylines about distance, breakups and alienation that feel rushed. Maeve and Otis, the show’s central “will-they-won’t-they” couple, finally get together but also break up in the same season, making their trajectory feel off.
Even the introduction of joy, a pivotal non-binary character,serves more as set-up for next season rather than meaningful representation in Season 4. There are seeds of great stories here, but they needed more room to breathe.
Reason 3: Weakest Season Overall
Looking at the season as a whole, many reviewers and fans agree that Season 4 is weaker than what came before. The season lacks standout episodes like Season 1’s “Sex Education,” Season 2’s “Love and Other Drugs,” or Season 3’s “Episode 5.”
While still entertaining, Season 4 relies more on zany antics, like the students volunteering as dominatrixes or a botched anti-bullying musical, rather than the nuanced teen drams of previous seasons.
Even the talented cast cannot save some of the weaker writing and forced humor of Season 4. The magic and heart that made the first three seasons so special is missing.
Counterpoint: Even Weaker Sex Education Is Still Great
However, it’s worth noting that even reviewers who found Season 4 disappointing still found things to praise. The Daily Dot, which called this season a “step down,” still awarded it a rating of 4 out of 5 stars.
Meanwhile, Rolling Stone’s 2.5 star review conceded that the show is “still miles ahead of most teen programming” despite the messy storylines.
Fans likewise note that subpar Sex Education remains witty, sex-positive and emotionally resonant TV. So while it fails to reach its greatest heights, Season 4 still outshines much of its genre.
Themes and Standout Elements
- Excellent acting performances, especially from leads Asa Butterfield (Otis) and Emma Mackey (Maeve)
- Continued diversity, including non-binary representation with joy
- Creative cinematography and set design transports viewers back to Moordale
- Celebration of found families, as characters create new bonds and supports after moving schools
- Ongoing sex-positive messaging around intimacy, acceptance, and open communication
Conclusion: High Expectations for a High-Quality Show
While Season 4 may be the weakest of the series so far, the high expectations speak to just how stellar the first three seasons of Sex Education were. The show has set the bar incredibly high.
There is still a lot to appreciate about Season 4. It continues the show’s legacy of spotlighting underrepresented voices, approaches sex-related topics thoughtfully, and gifts us more of the beloved characters we’ve come to adore.
Yet the crowded storylines and lack of narrative focus prevent this season from being the show’s best. There is hope that a potential Season 5 could get things back on track. Yet for now, Season 4 stands as an entertaining but imperfect installment.
The main takeaway is that three excellent seasons raised the stakes. Even with some flaws, Sex Education remains refreshingly heartfelt TV. Otis, Maeve and the rest of the Moordale students continue to teach important lessons around sexuality, communication and acceptance.