Watch out! This article contains spoilers for “Sex Education” seasons three and four.
Going into “Sex Education” season four, I definitely thought Ruby (Mimi Keene) and Otis (Asa Butterfield) would end up together. Maeve (Emma Mackey) and Otis were always wrong for each other — his obsession with her always felt a little too close to idealization (similar to Ken’s shallow love for Barbie in the “Barbie” movie, ironically), and their chemistry was also never actually so great; it always felt to me like they were too different from each other to really work, and the scenes where they finally did get together just felt awkward to watch.
Meanwhile, Ruby and Otis’s relationship was one of the sweetest parts of season three. He seemed to help her relax and open up, while she helped him get himself together and strive for greatness. They just seemed to work, and like many other fans, my heart broke when Otis rejected Ruby the minute Maeve became an option.
I definitely thought season four would see Otis realize that Ruby was always right for him, and it did feel like the show missed an opportunity to allow them to explore their relationship more deeply. However, thanks to season four’s writing, it would have been a terrible idea for the pair to end up together. Because, ultimately, Ruby deserves better.
Throughout all of season four, Otis treats Ruby poorly and shows her that he isn’t ready for a relationship with her. He proves that he’s willing to accept all her offers to help him but continues to drop her and even ghosts her afterward until he needs her again. He also shows her that he’s willing to act inappropriately with her despite being in a relationship. (I’m sorry, but falling asleep in your ex’s bed while you’re in a relationship just isn’t a great look, even if it is an accident.)
Ruby may be vain and a bit of a bully, and she definitely says some cruel things to Otis and others along the way. Still, no one deserves the kind of treatment Otis gives to her throughout the season. If she’d been willing to date him even after he prioritized Maeve while treating Ruby like she had no value outside of helping him win his ego-driven election, that would have set a pretty toxic tone for their relationship. And even if Otis hadn’t been so rude to her, he’d still need time to heal from his years-long infatuation with Maeve before jumping into something with Ruby. In short, it was never really the right time for them to be together.
Having been in a not-so-great relationship of my own with someone who didn’t treat me with as much value as I deserved, I can definitely say one of the key pieces of dating advice I picked up while trying to learn from it was this: when people show you who they are, believe them. Despite what Hollywood rom-coms would have us think, we can’t expect someone to miraculously step up and change their ways within a relationship, especially if red flags are visible from the start.
I’m not trying to say Otis is an irredeemable villain or that his behavior is abusive, but he’s definitely a jerk to Ruby. It’s easy to forget that thanks to his self-deprecating, nice-guy persona, but that makes his cruelty even more insidious in some ways — it allows him to get away with bad behavior more easily. Ultimately, despite what could have been, there are more than enough reasons to celebrate the fact that Ruby turns him down in the show’s last scene.
Still, it’s possible that maybe after they both mature a bit, they could reconnect. (They’re both literal teenagers, after all, which is sometimes easy to forget thanks to the actors’ real ages.) Maybe Otis spends some time healing after Maeve and learns to treat people in his life better. Maybe Ruby works on some of her self-esteem issues that make her act so mean all the time (but which merely hide incredible vulnerability) and finds some genuine friends and self-love. Maybe a few years down the line, they meet somewhere on the street and strike up a conversation. Or maybe Ruby just learns to thrive on her own, which — as much as I understand all the fans who still ship them — still sort of seems like the better choice to me.