The Big Picture
- Eric’s journey towards self-discovery and acceptance takes center stage in Sex Education Season 3, as he navigates his identity as a gay teenager and breaks free from an unhealthy relationship.
- Breakups and heartbreaks abound as various characters, including Aimee and Maeve, face the challenges of love, sexuality, and personal growth.
- Jean’s life becomes more complicated with an unexpected pregnancy and a looming paternity test reveal, setting the stage for awkward and tense moments in Season 4.
In January 2019, Netflix premiered a new series called Sex Education. It was an attention getter with that title, but there was so much more going on beyond the clever built-in intrigue. The show early on focused mostly on awkward teenager Otis (Asa Butterfield) and his sex therapist mother, Dr. Jean Milburn (Gillian Anderson). It was an interesting coming-of-age story following Otis at Moordale Secondary School starting his own sex therapy business even though he has no experience with the deed himself. Along the way he falls in love with the school’s bad girl, Maeve (Emma Mackey), but Sex Education quickly expanded its scope.
As the seasons went along, the focus spread out more and more to its other characters, from Otis’ flamboyant gay best friend Eric (Ncuti Gatwa), to the secretly gay bully Adam (Connor Swindells), Maeve’s funny best friend Aimee (Aimee Lou Wood), and the love life of lesbian couple Lilly (Tanya Reynolds) and Ola (Patricia Allison). The upcoming fourth season of Sex Education is going to be the last, but before we say goodbye, here is where we’ve been.
Eric Is Becoming the Best Version of Himself
Few characters have grown like Eric. He’s more than Otis’ sidekick. If anything, he outshines his friend in any scene they share together. There’s a reason why Ncuti Gatwa became the next Doctor Who. Eric has always been by Otis’ side, cheering him on and giving him a kick in the ass when he needs it, but behind the gregarious attitude and big smile lies pain. Eric isn’t ashamed of being gay, but he does have to deal with the judgment of others, mainly his bully, Adam. Season 3 of Sex Education saw Adam really open up, as the quiet bully fades, revealing a closed off boy ready to smile and fall in love…with Eric. Bully and tormentor become a couple, but it’s not a happily ever after. While Eric wants to be out in the open, Adam wants to hide. Eric is always suppressing his true self in some way.
That all changes when he goes to a wedding in Nigeria, meets another gay man named Oba (Jerry Iwu), who is very open with who he is, and is taken to a gay nightclub. Eric is in awe. He’s found his home, a place where he belongs and can be as flamboyant and free and happy as he wants. This can’t mean anything good for Adam. When Eric gets home he reveals to Adam that he kissed another man, Adam is ready to forgive and move on, but it’s not that simple for Eric. It’s not about one man. It’s about an identity and a yearning spirit. Eric breaks up with Adam. He tells him it’s not his fault, he just can’t stay in the life he has now. “I just feel like I’m ready to fly, and you’re just learning to walk. And I’ve worked really hard to find myself, and I’m beginning to lose who I am.” Adam takes this news better than the former bully would have. It forces him to grow, and he decides to come out as bisexual to his mother (Samantha Spiro). He even confesses that Eric was more than just a friend, but a boyfriend. Adam uses his energy to then enter his dog into an agility competition. For him, that’s a big deal.
So much of Season 3 of Sex Education is about breakups. Eric and Adam aren’t the only non-straight couple going through hard times. Adam’s mom and dad, Maureen and Michael (Alistair Petrie), have broken up, but later in the season they have a fling. Michael, such a closed off man, is feeling happy, thinking he’s getting his wife back, going so far as to want to impress her by cooking her dinner. Nothing has changed for Maureen, however. While she still loves this man in some way, the lack of affection for decades has deeply wounded her. She needs to be single and on her own for the first time. A life with Michael is just “too complicated.” Meanwhile, Jackson (Kedar Williams-Stirling) falls for Cal (Dua Saleh), but it leads only to heartbreak, as the non-binary Cal can’t get over the idea that Jackson looks at them and sees a girl.
The most heartbreaking breakup belongs to Aimee and her boyfriend Steve (Chris Jenks). Season 3 of Sex Education saw Aimee transformed from the cute, bubbly blonde to a young woman severely damaged by sexual assault. Steve is a good guy who doesn’t pressure the now scared Aimee for sex, but every time she sees him she only feels fearful and guilty, so she lets him go. The only relationship in a state of strength is Lilly and Ola. They went from a near breakup, with Lilly thinking Ola judges her oddities, to stronger than ever. Alas, this couple won’t be in Season 4.
Jean’s Life Has Gotten Even More Complicated
You can’t have a series without someone getting married or pregnant or moving away by the end. After beginning a relationship with Ola’s father, Jakob (Mikael Persbrandt), Jean learns in the Season 3 premiere that she’s expecting in an unplanned pregnancy. Fear turns to acceptance, and then some scares, as when the moment of birth comes to a daughter named Joy, Jean hemmorhages and almost dies.
With Jean and baby healthy, and Dr. Milburn’s relationship with Jakob stronger, it seems that they are living their fairytale, but it’s not that easy. As a sex therapist, Jean has lived an open sexual life. Though she’s with Jakob, she did have a regretful moment where she slept with her ex-husband and other men too. When Jean opens the paternity test she took, a look of horror crosses over her face as she mutters, “Oh shit.” While we don’t get answers as to what this means, it’s pretty obvious by her reaction that Jakob is not the father of her child. Season 4 is certain to have some very awkward moments when Jean reveals the news, or worse, the unbearable tension, should she decide to hide it.
Maeve Finally Believes in Herself
One of the biggest plot points of Season 3 of Sex Education has been the status of Moordale. Things are bad going into the year after it became known as the “Sex School”, due to their pervy interpretation of Romeo and Juliet, which Lily directed. A new head teacher named Hope Haddon (Jemima Kirke) comes in, and while she does inspire hope at first, she is revealed to be a strict disciplinarian. The students fight back, humiliating Hope. While they succeed at getting her removed, it’s then revealed that Moordale is closing. By the next year, all the student have to find somewhere else to go to school.
We go into Season 4 not knowing where these friends will be, except for one. Maeve, like Eric, has grown tremendously. She went from the bad girl with the troubled home life to a young woman who accepted that she was really smart and did something with it. The end of Season 3 sees these gifts truly tested, when Maeve is invited to study in America. With how little she believes in herself, she rejects the offer. It’s bad timing anyway, as she and Otis have just gotten together, but Aimee convinces Maeve that she can’t pass up the opportunity. She shows up on Otis’ doorstep to tell him the news, and while he is hurt, he is also not the type to get in her way. There is hope in the sadness. She’s not moving to America forever, just for now. This isn’t a forever goodbye, but as Maeve puts it, an “until later.”
The final episodes of Sex Education have so much going on. Where will these students end up? Will Jean and Jakob back together? Will Eric and Adam find happiness apart? And will Maeve and Otis ever see each other again? Season 4 has a lot of issues to solve before Sex Education can say goodbye.