Although Sex Education‘s cast departures seem like disastrous news for the show’s future, they actually set up the perfect potential ending in season 4. Sex Education has tackled many heavy concepts in its three seasons, ranging from mental health to identity and discrimination. However, despite the success of its ensemble and the power of the performances from the likes of Emma Mackey, Gillian Anderson, and Ncuti Gatwa, the show’s main focus has always come back to Otis and his personal journey through adolescence. It’s this concern that can actually be effectively addressed by other departing characters.
In many ways, it makes sense that Sex Education is having to deal with multiple departures. Despite its critical success, the show’s high school setting means that, sooner or later, almost all its main protagonists will have to leave. This issue is reflected in the departure of actors like Emma Mackey, Simone Ashley, and Tanya Reynolds – all of whom have confirmed their absence in seasons 4 or 5. Losing key members of the cast is never ideal for any series. However, while the news inevitably means that any future seasons of Sex Education will have to be very different, there’s at least one way that the departures can make perfect narrative sense.
Mackey’s confirmation (via Radio Times) that she will in all likelihood not be returning for a season 5 actually allows Sex Education season 4 to end where the whole series began – with Otis. Over the previous three seasons, Sex Education has cemented its reputation in large part because of the strength of its ensemble cast. While Otis has remained the ostensible protagonist, characters like Eric, Maeve, and Jackson have come to the fore with their own equally compelling stories. Although this has made the world of Sex Education a richer and more vibrant place, the consequence is that Otis’ personal story has been somewhat sidelined.
The departure of characters like Maeve promises to change that. Along with Eric and Jean, Maeve is undoubtedly the major influence in Otis’ life. As he has come increasingly out of his shell, thanks to his amateur and occasionally ill-advised approach to sex therapy, Otis’ original feelings of isolation and inability to fit in have melted into the background. Over the course of his arc, for instance, he’s had a relationship with one of the most popular girls at Moordale – a huge development from where he was in Sex Education season 1. By having one of the major pillars of his life leave him, Sex Education season 4 can not only revisit the original themes of adolescent isolation and awkwardness but also show how far Otis has come.
How Sex Education’s Cast Losses Can Make Otis’ Ending Arc More Powerful
Implicitly, it’s already clear that Otis has changed a great deal since season 1. Like every character on Sex Education, his experiences at Moordale transformed him, seeing him grow from a quiet introvert to a capable, mature, and emotionally intelligent young man. However, while he has certainly had his ups and downs after navigating the choppy waters of teenage life, he is arguably yet to face a true test by which to measure his progress. The departure of Maeve – both in season 3’s dramatic end and from the series as a whole after Sex Education season 4 – can certainly do that.
Seeing how Otis handles losing one of the most important figures in his life can highlight how much he has changed. Considering that both Maeve and Eric (as a result of Ncuti Gatwa’s Doctor Who commitments) are likely to be peripheral figures at best in the character’s story beyond season 4, it’s inevitable that Otis will have to confront his season 1 difficulties with isolation and inability to fit in. Only, this time, he will have the experience necessary to move on and continue his personal growth. As a result, the Sex Education cast losses can not only bring each individual story to a (hopefully) happy end, but also improve Otis’ character in the process.
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