Sex Education Ending Explained: Unpacking What Each Character’s Story Represents

Sex Education was a heartfelt show that explored the many facets of teenagerdom in a relatable, compelling way. Today we want to unpack where the show left everyone in the end and the deeper meaning behind each character’s arc and what it represents. Here’s our Take!

The Main Character Arcs & What They Represented


When we were introduced to Maeve, she was the edgy, confident, razor-sharp rebel who was also popular and gorgeous. She’s Otis’ dream girl, way out of his league, and an articulate feminist. But over time, something about Maeve softens — she’s still the same person with all those smarts and that sarcastic edge — but her attitude becomes a little more subdued. She lets her hair go back from the flashier blonde and pink to her natural brown. We also start to see more of what’s been truly difficult about her life as time goes on – her struggles growing up poor and with a single mother with addiction issues. These issues come to a head when Maeve’s mother overdoses and then passes away before Maeve is able to make it home from her writing program in America and the season culminates with Maeve having to process all of this. It’s important to Maeve to honor her parent, and where she comes from — acknowledging what was bad, but not only that. And it’s this mature perspective that she brings to Southchester, the book she starts writing about her childhood.

As the series focuses more on Maeve’s challenges, the final season also underlines the power of teachers and mentors in our lives, especially in times when we’re vulnerable – and even more so for people who don’t come from privileged backgrounds. We see how her esteemed university professor (that all of the students worship) almost crushes her writerly ambitions because of his own baggage. Maeve returns home and is overcome with imposter syndrome, but eventually finds her motivation again. And when she comes back to America, she calls him out. This is contrasted with Ms. Sands, who comes to Maeve’s mother’s funeral and reminds us how she encouraged and appreciated Maeve as a pupil.

Maeve and Otis’ on-again-off-again romance has been a throughline of the show, and the question of if they’d really end up together in the end hung over the entirety of season four. They’re both trying to hold on to one another, even as life is clearly trying to pull them apart. After Maeve comes back for her mother’s funeral and considers staying, it almost seems like the couple could reunite for good. But it’s not the right choice — and it’s in fact a key conversation with Otis’ mother Jean (of course!) that helps Maeve to grasp this… much to Otis’ chagrin. And so, in a move that surprised many viewers, the pair don’t get the rom-com, together forever ending – the series ends with Maeve leaving Otis, and the rest of her old life, behind to follow her dreams in America. So Maeve’s and Otis’ ending is one of those love stories of a specific age and moment — and if Otis really does love Maeve, he has to let her go. It’s a fitting end for the show’s initial “love interest” character who was always destined for bigger things than having her life revolve around being Otis’ Dream girl.

In the end, even if it was difficult, this was a very important choice for Maeve – to follow her ambitions required her to do the scary thing and fight against her feelings of inadequacy and worries that she’s not good enough. To have a chance at actually succeeding at her writing dreams, she had to take the leap to chase them. Maeve’s entire arc is really about the importance of self-determination and gaining the maturity to acknowledge everything that you’ve been through without letting it define you.


So did the story do as well by its main character, Otis? This is more debatable. Series Creator Laurie Nunn said the final season was about exploring Otis’ “privilege as a white, straight man.” So we see him behaving kind of badly as he starts a misguided campaign to replace his new school’s existing sex therapist, O; takes Ruby’s help for granted; alienates Eric; and fixates on Maeve while still managing to hurt her, too. From the beginning, Sex Education set Otis up as the typical teen trope of the “nice guy” — the slightly awkward and bumbling misfit who wins over his peers thanks to his depth of insight and good character. But early on, the show goes out of its way to poke holes in this trope. We see Otis being pretty egocentric and often not reciprocating his loyal friend Eric’s attentiveness and support. He can be insensitive and hurtful to some of his romantic interests, too.

This critique has always been done well, and ultimately Otis was something of a “Trojan horse” — the show seemed to be about him, but was over time at least as much about all the other vibrant and interesting characters around him. Though some have complained that the final season takes this a bit too far, feeling that the series was being a little too harsh on Otis for essentially just acting like a normal teenager. The way the show seems to punish Otis to make a point can start to feel a bit didactic. Would the typically sensitive and thoughtful person we’ve gotten to know really come in and be so threatened by O as to spend all of this time trying to take her down before finally realizing that… the school could just have two sex therapists?

But the most important facet of Otis’ story, even more than his romance with Maeve and his questionable personal choices, is his friendship with Eric. The pair had been friends since they were nine, but as they grew up their differing life experiences and cultures began pulling them in different directions. This was amplified by Otis’ inability (or refusal) to really listen, or focus on what was going on in Eric’s life in a real way. Watching the pair grow apart in the final season was so tough because, more than anything else, friendship has always been the heart of the show. Nunn told Tudum, “For me, Eric and Otis have always been the central love story of the show. Even though the show is about sex, it’s actually really about friendship.” Eric voices his feelings that Otis isn’t always the best friend, and always spends so much time wrapped up in his dilemmas and never has much time to focus on Eric’s. So it’s key that, for this relationship to be repaired, Otis finally recognizes that he isn’t the main character in everyone else’s life, and that he needs to take other people’s realities into consideration. Once the pair finally sit down and openly communicate, they realize how important they are to each other and that just because their lives are different doesn’t mean they can’t be there for one another. Their friendship reunion is one of the most heartwarming parts of the finale: they both articulate what’s been bothering them, and they forgive, and they come back together — reminding us that, while it’s important to make new friends you may have more in common with, your old friends who’ve known you forever still hold an important place in your life. In the end, Otis’ story was really about learning to meaningfully acknowledge his privilege, being okay with failures, and not getting so stuck in his own head that he forgets to consider anyone else.


Eric is vibrant, funny, beautiful, and an awesome friend, so it was incredibly important that the show allowed him to grow beyond just being the “best friend” and follow his own path. His journey, notably, did not revolve around Otis, but around his own issues and growth, and the show even occasionally used him to critique the tired “token best friend” trope. The final season follows Eric as he grapples with his faith. He’s a true believer and spends the season preparing to be baptized, but at the very last moment he has the realization that he only wants to go through with it if the church will accept him for who he is, without him needing to hide his sexuality. While the congregation might not accept him, his mother does – and in the end Eric realizes that he doesn’t need to be baptized to solidify his connection with God. And in fact, after communing with God herself, he comes to the realization that he wants to forge a new path with his faith by becoming a pastor.

Eric’s arc is about finding yourself and learning to love who you really are, regardless of what others might think, but it’s also, importantly, about owning when you have an amazing gift that only you can share with the world. Being himself loudly and proudly isn’t always easy, at school or at home, but Eric shows how important it is to not let the darkness of the world snuff out the light that makes you special. Not only is this crucial to keep you going, but also because the world just wouldn’t be the same without the brightness you bring. But his story also shows how difficult it can be to grapple with knowing you have a special talent but not being sure exactly what to do with it. This is particularly hard for Eric as his path isn’t obvious at first since the thing he’s so drawn to, his faith, is connected to a community that doesn’t accept gay people. But instead of letting this stop him, it instead spurs him to create a new way forward – not just for himself, but for everyone who may feel similarly left out. Eric’s arc shows the importance of never giving up on yourself or the special gift and joy that only you can bring.


One of the most revolutionary parts of the series’ conclusion is getting to see Otis’ mom, composed, powerful, incisive sex therapist Jean, struggling as she battles postpartum depression and tries to adjust to life with a newborn. We also learn it’s not the first time — we flashback to Otis’ childhood, after her marriage broke up, when Jean dealt with crippling depression. This moment of distress also draws her sister Joanna back into her life . Together, they uncover their past dynamics and realize that they both have trauma to process as Joanna opens up about the abuse she suffered as a child. Importantly, in the end, they realize that what they really want is to help each other work through all of the pain. All of which reminds us that struggling and feeling fragile or vulnerable can have the silver lining of making us reach out to people we love for help. Jean’s story highlights the importance of owning your weaknesses and learning to accept that sometimes you do need help. And watching Jean go through all of this and come out the other side is even motivating, inspiring all of us to take the journey she does to heal, open ourselves up to relying on loved ones when we can, and, most importantly, to be patient with ourselves.

Ruby & The Coven

In the final season, the show introduces us to Cavendish College, a super progressive and open place which at first seems like it might be hiding some darkness (not unlike we saw with the hypocritical principal Haddon in season 3.) Here the popular crew are queer, inclusive and preach positivity and kindness. The season does reveal some cracks in their group (like that Abby’s fixation on positivity is hiding some negative issues she needs to express) but in general, they genuinely are well-intentioned people trying to make the world better. This twist is especially fun when the series approaches it through the eyes of Ruby Matthews, its archetypal popular Mean Girl who’s an expert at rising to the top of social structures through strategic exclusion.

Ruby is dumbfounded by this group, and the season shows her trying to fix the problem of her newfound social isolation — as well as, eventually, reflecting on why she has such a profound need to be popular and cool. We flash back to her childhood bullying incident and see how she has really built up this cold persona because she’s running away from this feeling of being the looked-down-on outsider. But of course, the season concludes with Ruby being accepted into the popular group. Yes, she had to show kindness and vulnerability and growth to do it. But did she not also prove that, no matter what it takes, Ruby Matthews will rise to the top of any social order? Yes she did, and that’s why we love her. For Ruby and The Coven, the central message of their arc is about truly understanding the social power of vulnerability.. Whether you’re an ice queen or 100% sunshine and rainbows, to make real connections, you need to learn the importance of opening up and being real with the people around you.


Cal had been suffering from major depression due to their mental health issues being compounded by the extreme difficulty of accessing gender affirming care. In the series finale, this finally becomes too much to bear and they disappear. The group must come together to search for their friend, and in the end everyone decides to put money from their fundraiser towards Cal’s gender confirmation surgery. Nunn told Tudum, “I think we leave them in a place that is hopeful and I really believe that as a character, past that point, they’re going to move forward and thrive. But it felt important to me to explore the truth of that situation and how serious it is.” And Cal’s story truly highlights the importance of community coming together to uplift marginalized people that have been left behind by the system.


Adam has had a long journey to self acceptance over the show’s four seasons, but as things wrap up we finally get to see him hitting his stride. He gets a job as a farmhand and realizes that he’s great with animals, and this helps bolster his belief in himself. While his journey of self discovery and towards self acceptance has to happen separately from Eric, since they’re just in such different places, we do get one last nice scene between the two in which Eric offers Adam a little encouragement. A big win for Adam is that his father finally recognizes his talent and they’re able to begin to communicate more effectively. This journey is paralleled by his dad’s unlocking a more vibrant masculine existence and resurfacing his feelings of love for his estranged wife. In them, we see how accepting yourself and your loved ones for who they are is integral to building a happy family.

Amiee & Isaac

Over the course of the show, Amiee has struggled with not being taken seriously. But she begins to find a new strength within herself when she, perhaps a bit unexpectedly, begins dating the smart and cultured Isaac. She finds that she’s skilled at photography, and Iscaac helps her to unlock her inner artist. It’s through this powerful force of self-expression that she begins to process her assault and begin opening herseful up to loving and trusting others again.


The show had a huge number of interesting, lovable characters (some of which unfortunately got left behind in the school switch between seasons 3 and 4,) and overall worked to make sure that everyone got to have their own space and their own story told (even if it wasn’t always perfect.) There have been some criticisms that at times the show could feel a little overly preachy or didactic – occasionally making it feel like the identity or personal challenge a character was grappling with was the only salient thing about them, rather than just one part of a multi-faceted, well-rounded person. The series always felt larger than life—an American-feeling school set in the UK, where the teens are highly sexually active and articulate about it (counter to reports that this isn’t the trend with teens), and this was part of the fun – but it could leave us with some confusion about just how accurately it’s reflecting our world. Regardless, its true emphasis on developing a therapeutic understanding of one’s emotions does feel relevant to young people today. And it’s satisfying over the seasons to see how Jean’s ideas do work – learning to understand and talk about our feelings, to be in touch with ourselves, and to develop social-emotional maturity leads us to more fulfilling relationships, lives and senses of purpose.


Bentley, Jean. “Did ‘sex Education’ Get a Happy Ending? The Series Finale Explained.” Netflix Tudum, Netflix Tudum, 21 Sept. 2023,

Hailu, Selome. “‘sex Education’ Creator Breaks down Otis’ Privilege, Maeve and Jean’s Similarities and How Eric Finds His Faith during the Final Season.” Variety, Variety, 2 Oct. 2023,