For years, Sex Education has been pushing boundaries and sparking conversations about sexuality on our screens. It became an unexpected and beloved hit on Netflix, tackling topics that were often considered taboo in pop culture, all while maintaining a genuine and honest approach. In many ways, the show has been a game-changer, particularly for teenagers.
But as they say, all good things must come to an end. Recently, the fourth and final season of this quirky and surprising show made its debut. While the cast has grown, the central focus remains on Otis (played by Asa Butterfield) and his mission to provide sex therapy within the school. Alongside him is his best friend Eric (played by Ncuti Gatwa), who is embarking on a journey to a new school while embracing his queerness. Season 4 brings even more LGBTQ+ representation and an exceptionally touching storyline that sees Eric finally finding his community—a queer community that had always eluded him.
Discovering your own community might seem like a natural process for some, especially those who identify as straight. Seeing people who mirror your experiences can make you feel like you belong and reduce the sense of isolation. As a closeted gay teenager, I didn’t have that experience, and I know I’m not alone in this. While it’s true that not all interests of gay and straight individuals are polar opposites, there’s an undeniable comfort in knowing that your innermost feelings are shared by those around you. It makes you feel less alone and more self-assured, like you’re a complete person.
I didn’t get to experience a queer social circle until I reached university, and even then, it took until my final year of high school to become friends with one of the only openly gay students. The fact that the school in Sex Education is bursting with LGBTQ+ representation is a testament to how much progress has been made. My friendship with that fellow student was transformative, providing me with a level of self-acceptance I didn’t know was possible.
Eric’s journey mirrors mine in some ways. He never found his own queer community at Moordale, but with Moordale closing its doors, Eric and Otis head to Cavendish College, a fresh start filled with possibilities. Eric is immediately struck by how queer the new school is, and his excitement is palpable. It’s that eager longing to connect with others who share your identity.
Eric and Otis were the heart of the show’s first three seasons. However, in Season 4, a growing rift appears between them. While they cherish their friendship, they are fundamentally different individuals, and finding common ground becomes increasingly challenging. As the saying goes, opposites attract, but they can also drift apart.
Eric’s search for his own queer community doesn’t take long. LGBTQ+ individuals often have an uncanny ability to find each other, and Eric’s initial encounter with the school’s popular LGBTQ+ students, including the trans power couple Roman (Felix Mufti) and Abbi (Anthony Lexa), shows promise. Yet, Eric isn’t sure if he’s truly part of their circle until he receives a text inviting him to a school yoga session, which fills him with excitement. Finally, he’s becoming part of something he’s always longed for.
Throughout Sex Education, Eric grapples with the intersection of his queerness and his faith. In Season 4, this internal struggle continues to be a significant part of his storyline. Another barrier in his life is lifted when he discovers that Abbi shares his religious beliefs—a delightful and unexpected revelation for Eric. He understands that queerness and religion can often seem at odds, but these are two core aspects of his identity, and having them acknowledged and embraced by his new friends means the world to him.
For the first time, Eric has found people who accept every facet of who he is. In this scene, Gatwa’s performance is exceptional, as you can feel Eric’s long-established walls coming down while he talks to Abbi. Although Eric has always projected confidence, there has been an inner turmoil within him, and this conversation provides some much-needed relief. Through this new group of friends, Eric not only gains external confidence but also discovers a self-love he never knew existed.
In the final season of Sex Education, there’s a newfound ease to Eric that hasn’t been present before, all thanks to his long-awaited internal confidence. Eric has always been one of the show’s boldest characters, but it felt like something was holding him back. In Season 4, Eric reaches a whole new level of self-assuredness, making it a joy to watch him shine—and shine he does.
Sex Education is filled with moments of joy, where teenagers embrace their bodies without shame and embrace their differences. While these moments are often bold and exhilarating, the quiet subtlety of Eric finding his community stands out as the most poignant storyline the show has ever tackled.
However, Sex Education wouldn’t be itself if it didn’t raise the stakes. In Episode 3, there’s a big all-queer party where Eric dances the night away with his new friends. Despite originally planning to go with Otis, Eric encourages him not to attend, knowing that having his straight friend there would inhibit his ability to fully embrace himself. Without Otis present, Eric lets loose. The party is a vibrant, glorious celebration of queerness. There’s no moment in Sex Education where Eric—or viewers like myself—have been happier. The season is filled with queer positivity, but here it practically bursts out of the screen, enveloping you in a rainbow of emotions.
Sex Education is wise enough to recognize that queer individuals can have friends from all walks of life. However, it also understands the power of shared experiences and how it’s easier to be yourself around people who truly understand you on a deep level. A shift in Otis and Eric’s friendship is inevitable as they both discover more about themselves and realize they are even more different than they initially thought. Yet, this doesn’t mean the end of their friendship; by the show’s conclusion, their bond remains intact.
They may never have the same connection they once did, and that’s perfectly fine. Part of growing up and discovering yourself is finding a community that wholeheartedly embraces every aspect of your identity. It’s a beautiful and essential journey, one that Sex Education intimately understands—not just for queer individuals but for everyone.