‘Sex Education’ ending explained: Do Otis and Maeve end up together?
(Credit: Netflix)

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‘Sex Education' ending explained: Do Otis and Maeve end up together?

Sex Education has become a global streaming phenomenon, thanks to its no-holes-barred approach to teenage (and middle-aged) sexuality. But the show wouldn’t be as popular as it is without the warmth and humour at its heart. And our investment in the fates of its two central characters, Otis Miburn and Maeve Wiley.

As Maeve tells Otis in the final episode’s closing moments, everyone whose problems caused others harm in the series “really just needed connection”. Finding other people they could genuinely open up to seemed to make a world of difference to their lives. Sex Education’s capacity for empathy and finding the good in everyone, presenting a nuanced and layered perspective on even the most secondary of characters, was its real gift to viewers.

And so, what about Otis and Maeve? Did they find their people? Well, surely their best connection was with each other. At several points the whole series seemed geared towards a climax in which the two of them ended up together. Several near-misses and a difficult long-distance relationship resulting in a breakup set up this ending.

Yet it’s not the one we get. In the show’s penultimate episode the two confess their love to each other and finally consummate their relationship. There’s just one catch: Maeve is leaving on a plane to another continent the next morning. The two decide they have no choice but to break up. As gut-wrenching as it may be, this feels like a realistic ending to a high-school relationship about to be tested beyond its limits by an indefinite period of physical separation.

How about Otis and Ruby?

With Maeve seemingly out of the picture, many fans of the series were preparing for a final episode in which Otis ends up with former high school queen bee Ruby Matthews. But, having had her heart broken by Otis before when he chose Maeve over her, Ruby finally decides she doesn’t need him in her life.

While this might not have been the outcome many viewers were expecting, it’s arguably a more empowering ending for Ruby herself. She deserves better than to be Otis’ backup girl. And it might be what’s best for Otis in any case, as he needs time to get over his break-up with Maeve.

Ruby even gets her own back for how Otis treated her earlier in the final season with a classic put-down. As he comes to her at the school dance and tries to smooth things over with an offer of friendship, she tells him coolly, “I’ve actually got enough friends, now, Otis.”

Ultimately, Otis ends up with the person he should have paid more attention to all along, his best friend Eric. With Otis taking a break from his love life and Eric having reconciled his religion with his identity, the two lifelong pals have the chance to spend some quality time together before they leave school. Which is surely what matters most when you’re a teenager.

And, before the show comes to a close, there’s still room for Maeve to make one more brief appearance in the form of a letter she wrote to Otis before she left. In it, she tells him, “Your relentless optimism about human beings that gave me the courage to start opening myself up to other people.” In many ways, Otis’ profound empathy for everyone he meets defines the series. That, and Maeve’s almost superhuman bravery and resilience in the face of extreme suffering and adversity.

When the two characters combined, they made a formidable team. “For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel alone,” Maeve continues, “which allowed me to imagine something bigger for myself.” 

Otis has played a more important role in Maeve’s young life, then, than simply ending up with her to round out the show. He’s proved to be the catalyst for her journey to bigger and better things. Likewise, Maeve has given Otis the courage to accept himself, whether he’s able to help others as a sex therapist or not.

There’s no shame in being yourself. Except, perhaps, when that involves sharing photos of your birthday suit during a presentation to the entire school.