The highly anticipated fourth season of Netflix’s “Sex Education” has made its debut, introducing a plethora of new characters to both adore and despise at Cavendish College. However, with the closure of Moordale Secondary and a significant shift in Jean’s storyline, some beloved characters have been noticeably absent. While the absence of Olivia and Anwar may not be a major issue due to their secondary roles, the departure of Jakob and Ola from the series has left a painful void. But the character whose presence is missed most of all in Season 4 is none other than Lily Iglehart, portrayed by Tanya Reynolds.
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Lily Iglehart is more than just a fan favorite; she has become synonymous with “Sex Education.” There are compelling reasons for this. From her quirky personality to her unique story within the story of Glenoxi, the “F***lord of the Universe,” Lily embodies the series’ core themes, from the intricacies of sexuality and various forms of desire to the importance of open discussions about intimate topics. Tanya Reynolds’ charming and effortless portrayal of Lily has a magnetic quality that steals every scene she appears in. Yet, when it came time to craft Season 4, showrunner Laurie Nunn made the drastic decision to exclude Lily. This decision, while possibly well-founded, did not go unnoticed and had a somewhat detrimental impact on the final season of “Sex Education.”
Lily Iglehart Became the Face of ‘Sex Education’ Over Three Seasons
Lily was introduced in the first season of “Sex Education” as both a tragic character and a source of comic relief, though it’s challenging to find comic relief in a show as funny as this one. On one hand, her struggle with vaginismus, coupled with her intense sex drive, highlights the complexities of the human sexual experience. It serves as a stark reminder of how the mind and body can be disconnected when it comes to matters of sexuality. Fortunately, Lily’s journey concludes with her realization that she has no interest in boys. Yet, she also provides comedic moments with her fixation on horny aliens and her eagerness to get intimate with anyone. She often finds herself at the center of jokes.
Despite this, Lily became the heart of the series, thanks to the combination of the show’s writing and Tanya Reynolds’ charismatic performance. In Season 2, her role expanded significantly as she entered into a relationship with Ola and showcased her creative talents in a risqué, alien-themed adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. By Season 3, fans were treated to an animated sequence based on Lily’s Glenoxi, an unforgettable moment that became integral to the show’s identity.
Lily Deserved a Happy Farewell After ‘Sex Education’ Season 3
However, Season 3 was not kind to Lily. Her relationship faced challenges as Ola struggled to accept Lily’s belief in aliens. Furthermore, Lily was publicly humiliated by the school’s new headmistress, Hope Haddon, when one of her explicit stories was published in a local newspaper. This event, which should have been a cause for celebration, left Lily deeply traumatized, causing her to withdraw from school and suppress her true self. She was left broken and unrecognizable. Thankfully, with the help of Otis, she managed to bounce back, and she and Ola decided to stay together despite their differing views on life beyond Earth.
For showrunner Laurie Nunn, this was a fitting conclusion for Lily. Nunn explained in an interview, “Those storylines felt like they had just come to a really lovely ending in series three, and I felt like the characters of Lily and Ola just really felt like they ended in a really happy place. Particularly because they’re a lesbian couple, I wanted them to not have any more pain or trauma and just be left happy together. So that felt like a very organic place to leave them.”
While Nunn’s reasoning is sound, one might wonder if removing Lily from the show was the right decision. Lily’s Season 4 storyline did not have to revolve around pain or trauma. After the humiliation she endured in Season 3, it would have been more fitting for her to have a plot centered on her personal growth, similar to her Season 2 arc or Aimee’s development in Season 4. Considering Lily’s unique personality and the new setting at Cavendish College, there was untapped potential for her character. As a talented writer with a penchant for the fantastical, her storyline could have involved recognition of her talents by the school or a journey of self-discovery. Ola, her partner, could have been included off-screen.
These are mere possibilities and fan musings, but regardless of the chosen plot, it would have been more appropriate for “Sex Education” to bid farewell to its viewers with one of its central characters still in the cast. Lily is an integral part of what defines the show, and her absence leaves a noticeable void. Removing Lily from the equation is akin to cutting off characters like Eric or even Otis himself. She embodies the essence of “Sex Education,” and without her, the show loses a significant portion of its personality.