The End of the F**king World - A F**king Masterpiece
By Graham Janson
With such a polarizing title, surely you would expect a stark, unorthodox, unique bit of television. Well, that’s exactly what you get with The End of the F**king World, an eight-episode series (available on Netflix for optimal binge-ability) based on a 2013 graphic novel. The series follows the moving adventure of two 17-year olds: James, a dark, suppressed, self-proclaimed psychopath, and Alyssa, an outspoken, extreme stereotype of a rebellious teenager. When the characters are introduced, it seems as if they couldn’t be any different. In one of the first scenes of the show, Alyssa approaches James when she sees him sitting alone at lunch. From the frequent character voice-overs, Alyssa makes it clear that she was drawn to James because he was “different,” while James stated that he began spending time with Alyssa because “she would be interesting to kill.” In fact, when Alyssa asks James if he wants to run away from home with her, he agrees merely because he thinks he has time on his hands when it comes to murdering Alyssa. However, James seems quite sympathetic to Alyssa’s gripes about the boring, almost fake town they live in, as the first episode ends with James punching his misguided father in the face and stealing his car.
From that fateful moment on, we witness numerous cringe-inducing scenes of Alyssa’s bombastic, outgoing sexual nature combating James’ cold, reserved demeanor. However, as the series goes on, the relationship between the characters and the characters themselves develop beautifully; instead of witnessing constant awkward interactions between two polar opposites, we see the development of an unlikely relationship built on a shared middle-finger attitude to society.
The first few episodes contain many intense moments that emphasize James’ intentions to murder Alyssa and satisfy his psychopathic nature. Whenever we see James reach for his hunting knife, we hold a collective breath as the brief flashes of a mutilated Alyssa appear on the screen, displaying James’ dark and twisted fantasies. However, even in these first few episodes we see James’ psychopathic nature begin to dissolve as his feelings for Alyssa begin to grow. At one point, James discovers graphic video footage of a rapist’s victims in the house he and Alyssa are squatting in. Instead of enjoying the gory details as a psychopath, James cannot bear to further watch the torture of others. When the rapist unexpectedly returns to his house, he attempts to force himself on Alyssa. James, conveniently hiding underneath the bed, slays the perpetrator to save Alyssa. This climactic scene proves to be a turning point in the series: after finally killing someone and fulfilling his psychopathic desires, James realizes that he’s not a psychopath after all: the thought that he killed someone, even in self-defense, weighed heavily on his shoulders throughout the rest of the series. The murder also signified a marked shift in tone on the series as a whole. The first three episodes were extremely dark; every character James and Alyssa encounter, whether they be a pedophile, perverted stepfather, or rapist, embody the selfish attitude James and Alyssa repudiate about society. Also, the amount of awkward, astonishingly blunt, and, frankly, flat-out weird scenes in the first half of the series can be off-putting in that they can be seen as an odd attempt to be “edgy.” However, in the latter half of the series, the show moves away from edgy, awkward, shock-value material and focuses more on character and story development.
After James murders the rapist, the plot gradually transforms from a freaky psychological horror show to a more familiar storyline. James and Alyssa renew their twisted adventure by continuing to search for Alyssa’s father, who Alyssa believes will be able to help them with their new lives. The rest of the series portrays the investigation into the murder of the rapist, as well as James and Alyssa’s numerous adventures on their way to escaping to Alyssa’s dad’s house. As I mentioned before, this storyline is certainly quite common in literature and movies alike, but in The End of the F***ing World it becomes quite special. Although the storyline is familiar, it is wildly unpredictable. Throughout the series we see aspects of characters, not just James and Alyssa, that reveal their true colors, so to speak. An important example of this exquisite character development is James’ father, who at the beginning of the series is portrayed as an insensitive and rude father figure in James’ life. However, as the series progresses we learn that James’ father was simply misguided, and he really cares for James. He lied to the police about James’ punching him, kept a photo of James in his wallet, and broke down crying when he thought about the effect his wife’s suicide had on James.
Of course, out of all the characters, the development of James and Alyssa’s relationship is done the best.. Each TV relationship has its bumps and arguments, but TEOTFW focuses so much on James and Alyssa’s relationship rather than their plan to run away that their relationship is portrayed candidly and wholesomely. As each short episodes progresses, you can’t wait to see what happens to James and Alyssa next, and you actually begin liking these weird social outcasts. The question is, are you supposed to like these characters? Are you supposed to root for the psychopath and the bratty and demanding girl? Many flashbacks and important scenes are sprinkled throughout the show that beg for empathy for the two characters. You understand why they desperately want to be away from society, and you also begin to understand why they get along so well.
It’s hard to describe exactly what makes The End of the F***king World so uniquely excellent. The cinematography is incredible, and the soundtrack is amazing. Both elements give the whole series an 80’s vibe, but the story is set in present day. This gives the show a more cozy, quirky feel that fits with the equally peculiar main characters. Also, somewhat lost in the excellent story-writing, music, and cinematography is the acting, the fundamental part of every TV show or movie ever created. The acting is simply phenomenal; you can’t have a great script without great acting. Without the brilliant performances of Alex Lawther (James) and Jessica Barden (Alyssa) and the numerous other characters, the script would come across as forced and awkward rather than natural and relatable.
Although it isn’t perfect, The End of the F***ing World is a great watch. The episodes are only about 20 minutes each, and with 8 episodes, that’s a total of about 2 hours and 40 minutes, an ideal amount of time to watch the whole series in one sitting. Also, there are so many twists and turns in the series that it hooks you into watching the next episode. No twist, however is bigger than the massive cliffhanger at the end of the series. There has been much debate over the past month over whether the series should be renewed for a season 2 given the cliffhanger, and I for one am hoping for another season of this excellent show.