A little over a week after season 3 of “Sex Education” premiered, Netflix announced that season 4 was on its way. Season 3 introduced many new and dynamic characters — Cal, Hope, Layla and Peter, shifting the focus of the story away from Maeve and Otis and onto the secondary characters. This shift does help the story move along; their relationship seems to be getting stale as we wait for the screenwriters to decide whether they will end up together or not.
Cal’s character especially was explored in-depth and thoughtfully. Actor Dua Saleh does an amazing job of showing Cal discovering themself. As a queer BIPOC actor who identifies fully with the role, Saleh is able to draw from their personal experiences. From nonchalantly correcting Jackson’s usage of their pronouns, to confidently speaking up against Hope when she labelled Layla a “good” non-binary person and Cal a “bad” one, to warmly helping Layla find a safe binder, Cal has moments that are vulnerable but also ones that show how secure they are in their identity. By giving them an entire arc in the story rather than a single episode, Sex Education does well with their representation of non-binary people on Netflix.
Other notable character transformations are those of Adam Groff and his father, Michael. Both of them started out in the series as stoic, inexpressive characters. Towards the end of season 3, we see both of them become more receptive, empathetic and make efforts to communicate. Adam learns to vocalize his emotions, finds healthy coping mechanisms and finds a support system to rely on. Michael goes on a journey of self-discovery too after his divorce. He was introduced as an emerging villain in season 2, but learning his backstory and seeing his attempt to win back Maureen explains his thought process a little more. While that does not excuse his drastic actions in season 2, it provides a sort of explanation. The only thing lacking is the fact that Michael hasn’t apologized to Adam yet. Seeing two characters that are so similar but don’t realize that is a trope that always will be painful, and until Michael finds a way to repair the damage he has done he will not be a completely changed character.
Hope’s character, however, had some highly problematic scenes. While her story of not being able to get pregnant was an attempt to humanize her, it doesn’t negate the fact that she was abusing her power as head teacher in many ways. She is eerily similar to Dolores Umbridge, with unreasonable punishments and authoritarian values, and is a terrifying antagonist mainly because there are people like her in real life. However, the scene where she physically assaulted Ruby and the ones where she made students wear signs with their perceived misdemeanors are over the top for the 21st century and a court case waiting to happen. Hopefully season 4 addresses those shortcomings.
Overall, season 3 was a success. While it did have some unrealistic events, like the explicit (but in character) sex song at a school assembly, Sex Education continues to have open, honest conversations about sex and gender identity that are commendable. The ending left Moordale Academy and the futures of all the main characters hanging in the balance. But this isn’t a goodbye, as Maeve Wiley told Otis — “It’s a ‘see you soon,’” and hopefully we continue to see them thriving in season 4.