On the spectrum of teen show dramas, Netflix’s Sex Education is fairly tame. Despite all the sex and sex talk that abounds in Moordale High, heroes Otis Millburn (Asa Butterfield) and Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey) aren’t dealing with actual high-level crises like drug-induced visions of RPG-inspired demon gods (like on Riverdale) or a multi-layered murder mystery with ties to a technology-based blackmailing scheme (like on Elite).
However, by the time the Sex Education’s season 1 finale comes around, fans will likely be scratching their heads over a confounding plot point: After episodes of mounting romantic tension, Otis and Maeve don’t end up together and Maeve might be out of Otis’ life for good due to a few incorrect assumptions from head teacher Mr. Groff (Alistair Petrie).
While viewers might be wondering about the future of Sex Education’s core duo, we probably shouldn’t lose too much sleep over it. What we’re seeing is textbook teen emotional turmoil, when moods and alliances can change as quickly as the wind — just ask Maeve’s portrayer Emma Mackey.
“We left them in a weird place, right?” breakout Sex Ed star Mackey jokes over the phone to Refinery29, speculating on an as-yet unconfirmed season 2. “They’ve been through things together and they have this kinship that’s so special, even though they might not fully understand it yet.”
Mackeys is right there. Sex Education only begins to show the true promise of its powers in its third episode, when Otis picks Maeve up for what he believes is a date. Instead, he arrives at a women’s health clinic where Maeve is getting an abortion. Otis accepts the reality of the situation and supports his new friend/crush. While Maeve has the procedure, Otis buys her a sandwich and a small bouquet; afterward, he walks her home.
“There’s something really special there,” Mackey continues. “Who knows, they might be able to form a solid friendship again, despite the old nod to romance — you never know.”
While she couldn’t comment on the possibility of a romantic future for Maeve and Otis, viewers do know there is one undeniable and compelling roadblock in their way: Ola (Patricia Allison). In Maeve’s final seconds of Sex Education season 1, she is moved to find out Otis stole an academic statue for her and dropped it off at her home. She bounds over to the Millburn house, seemingly ready to announce she’s in love (or, at least like) with Otis. Unfortunately, she gets there at the exact moment Otis is kissing the very cool Ola.
Maeve leaves before she can see the erection pushing against Otis’ pants or, thankfully, that he finally masturbates.
Yet, Mackey’s rumination on teen feelings suggests Ola and Otis may not be forever, like many young couples. “It’s a very confusing time being a teenager, isn’t it?” she asks. “So much confusion — you don’t know what if being in love is just being infatuated with someone. You’re in love with someone for a week and then you’re not.”
It’s possible Ola, she of delightful suits and straightforward humor, will lose interest in Otis or vice versa, leaving room an Otis-Maeve romance. The only problem is Maeve’s uncertain future at Moordale in the wake of her alleged drug dealing scheme, which obviously never existed. Although Maeve could have easily told Groff she didn’t dupe Otis into selling drugs with her, the working class teen doesn’t. That is how Maeve saves the true drug dealer, her older brother Sean (Edward Bluemel), from the police. It’s a frustrating choice Mackey is happy to defend.
“This is just classic Maeve. She just doesn’t look out for herself at all,” Mackey says, explaining Sean had been fully kicked out of school before Sex Education had taken place. Now, her character wants to keep her big brother out of danger; remember, both the Wiley parents have vanished or been sent to prison. “There’s this part of [Maeve] that feels a duty to protect [Sean] and look after him because he’s all she has,” she continues.
Even after Maeve makes her case — coming out of her punk rock shell to tout her intelligence for the first time in Sex Education history — Groff still seems determined to torpedo her education. In the head teacher's final season 1 appearance, he tells Maeve’s ex(ish) boyfriend Jackson (Kedar Williams-Stirling), who tried to leverage his athletic success into protection for Maeve, to “forget” about her.
However, everyone’s favorite new Netflix teen girl is so open-hearted that we should keep our fingers crossed something breaks her way. As Emma Mackey says, “Maeve is being dealt the worst of hands. At the end of the day, it shows she is an extremely selfless person and she cares about people.”
Can the right person care enough about Maeve to save the day?