What started out as another raunchy teen drama, Netflix's Sex Education has gradually become a torchbearer of sensitive and inclusive storytelling. With its fourth and final season, the show transcends the boundaries of stereotypical narratives, offering an unabashedly queer exploration of teenage angst.
From the divine intersections of faith and queerness to poignant narratives of gender dysphoria, asexuality, and disability, the show crafts a rich tapestry of authentic stories.
After three seasons of frenzied, Mean Girls-esque high school drama, the final season unfolds in a utopian, gossip-free, queer-led college where trans students, Abbi and Roman (featuring the perfectly cast duo, Anthony Lexa and Felix Mufti), reign as a power couple. This new setting challenges the notion of 'wokeness,' emphasising the universal need for safe and inclusive spaces.
Eric's (masterfully played by Ncuti Gatwa) exclamation upon entering Cavendish, "All the gays, everywhere!" exemplifies the immediate sense of belonging and acceptance this new world offers to Moordale's queer students.
In an era when representation matters more than ever, Sex Education deftly explores the complexities of queerness in a way that's breathtaking and authentic, making it a standout in the world of television.
Having queer icons like Dan Levy (co-creator and actor of Schitt's Creek) and Hannah Gadsby (remember Nanette?) portray Maive's brooding writing professor and Jean's tongue-in-cheek radio producer, respectively, adds to the charm, offering a nuanced portrayal beyond their LGBTQ+ identities.
Now let's delve deep into some of the most impactful facets of queer storytelling explored in this season:
Queerness & Religion
The final season of Sex Education opens a Pandora's box of emotions as we delve into Eric's struggle to harmonise his faith, family, and Christian community with his true identity. The surreal portrayal of his spiritual encounters is a testament to the show's unparalleled storytelling.
A pivotal role in his journey is played by newcomer Abbi as they jointly navigate their relationship with Christianity and queerness.
Eric's profound realisation echoes the experiences of countless queer pastors worldwide, underscoring the power of faith as a guiding light rather than a weapon of exclusion.
Amid the more prominent storylines, Sex Education presents a silent yet poignant narrative in Cal's journey through gender dysphoria. Six months into testosterone and on the cusp of top surgery, we witness the repercussions of prolonged wait times for gender-affirming care on the mental health of trans and non-binary people.
The scene where Cal grapples with the onset of their period is a raw and authentic portrayal of period dysphoria, shedding light on an issue that often remains unspoken for many transmasculine individuals.
Personally, I have been touched by several scenes over the last four years of Sex Education, but watching Cal is the first time mainstream media has reflected, one of the most difficult and private struggles, back to me.
Asexuality, often overlooked in mainstream media, takes center stage in the final season of Sex Education. The topic had been briefly touched upon in previous seasons, but it is now dissected with depth and nuance.
O, initially introduced as Otis's rival, unfolds as a multi-dimensional character as she candidly reveals her asexual identity.
Her story reflects the often-ignored challenges of asexual folks, especially the pressure to conform to the norms of a sex-crazed, heteronormative society. O's heartfelt confession to Otis opens a window into the intricate struggles of being true to oneself.
T4T or TLT is an acronym that stands for 'Trans Loving Trans'. Simply put, it's a term used for relationships where both/all partners are transgender. Abbi and Roman are not only a T4T couple, they make two-thirds of the group that runs Cavendish.
After their argument, the entire college mourns the anticipation of their break-up and celebrates when they get back together. While instances like these are farthest from the reality of an increasingly transphobic era, shows like Sex Education hold up the possibility of a future worth fighting for.
The final sex scene in the show, portrayed as a delicious display of t4t intimacy, cements this season as the biggest, boldest and queerest of them all.
You never see two trans people having sex (onscreen), ever, especially on their own terms. We felt like we were creating a queer archive for people to relate to. T4T people never see representation on TV, so the fact that we could be the faces and voices and bodies behind that was really special.Felix Mufti, Actor [In an interview with Gay Times]
Disability & Queerness
The final season of Sex Education triumphs in its commitment to authentic representation.
Trans actors portray trans characters, and disabled actors inhabit disabled roles, steering clear of the pitfalls of mimicry and mockery that often plague the industry.
They aren't preoccupied with playing the 'transness' or 'deafness'; allowing their characters' struggles and desires to breathe with authenticity.
Sex Education took a notable stride in its third season by casting George Robinson, an actor with a disability, as Isaac. The final season builds on this foundation by introducing Aisha (played by deaf actor Alexandra James), a part of Roman and Abbi's 'cool group', Coven.
The intertwined narratives of Aimee and Isaac, involving a perpetually malfunctioning elevator, offer a moving exploration of the daily accessibility challenges Isaac faces.
Sex Education bows out with grace and leaves a legacy in the world of television. Its fearless exploration of complex issues, commitment to authentic representation, and masterful storytelling set it apart as an industry standard.
Beyond its queer characters as well, Season 4 doesn't neglect other compelling subplots.
Aimee's utilisation of art to process sexual trauma, Maive's navigation of grief and plummeting self-esteem, and Jean's postnatal depression – all add layers of complexity and authenticity to the series.