Sometimes you don’t realise you want something until you have it. This pretty much sums up both The End of the F***ing World’s plot, and my own feelings after watching this odd, aesthetically stunning, eight-part series charged with deliciously black humour and poignant, emotionally-driven character development that lingers in the mind long after viewing.
Available on Channel 4 and Netflix, the series focuses on two 17-year-olds who don’t fit in to their bland suburban surroundings. Episode one introduces us to James, a self-described psychopath who fantasises about murder, and Alyssa, the new girl at school who’s neither interested in making friends nor afraid of speaking her mind. Bored of “the most boring town on the planet”, and fed up with her negligent mum and creepy stepdad, Alyssa decides it’s time to run away. James willingly follows, planning to murder her during the course of their journey.
“The script crackles with electric dialogue”
What follows is a fascinating road movie pastiche, blending comedic, romantic and horror themes to create an intriguing, unsettling and incredibly watchable experience. The script crackles with electric dialogue, utilising a combination of deadpan one-liners and occasional narration via the protagonists’ inner monologues to connect inner and outer personalities, revealing the character’s hopes, fears and complexities as young adults. Despite James and Alyssa’s ages, in the spirit of Skins, Bates Motel and Thirteen Reasons Why, The End of the F***ing World embraces its characters’ youth whilst refusing to shy away from disturbing content. Covering everything from mental illness to sex, drugs and murder, the show’s writers succeed in creating a complex narrative that reminds us about the absurdity of life. Most importantly, it carries the message that whilst the big issues are terrifying, finding humour in tragedy can be a welcome antidote when just about everything appears bleak.
As the series progresses, the couple’s doomed journey spirals out of control, their desire to escape their monotonous lives and break free of convention leading them down a path that’s equally dangerous and exciting. This may seem a little cliché on paper, but the writers seem to be well aware of their own points of reference, with Alyssa remarking, “If this was a film, we’d probably be American”, in an amusing reference to the genre’s metatext. Without giving too much away, it’s safe to say James’ intentions towards Alyssa take a different direction as the two face increasingly high-stakes situations and their outcast status propels their journey towards the fringes of society, bringing them closer to each other emotionally. At the start of The End of the F***ing World we see two don’t-give-a-shit kids feeling alienated and directionless; by its conclusion, cynicism and anger give way to a belief in the capacity we possess for developing tangible human connections.
“magnetically entertaining alternative portrait of adolescence that revels in its weirdness”
The End of the F***ing World’s cinematography perfectly complements its off-kilter, Bonnie and Clyde-esque tone perfectly. Muted colours give the camera a nostalgic filter, reminiscent of James and Alyssa’s desire to get off the grid and get away. It could be argued the protagonists are naïve in their belief that running from their problems will change things, and some people may see this as the series’ most obvious shortfall. I would argue the creators truly embrace the fascinating mix of innocence and complexity found in their teenage characters without patronising them. Presenting a magnetically entertaining alternative portrait of adolescence that revels in its weirdness, The End of the F***ing World terrifies and delights.