“The End Of The F***ing World” Starts 2018 Off Right


James and Alyssa (Alex Lawther and Jessica Barden), learn to overcome their own self-destructive flaws and grow to depend on each other through the course of eight episodes.

Sarah Borsari

(5 out of 5 Paw Prints)

Released on Netflix UK in October, but hitting the US only in early January, The End of the F***ing World has officially blown up. Based on the comic series of the same name written by Charles Forsman, this series is just aesthetic and angsty enough to have won the hearts of teens everywhere.

James (Alex Lawther) and Alyssa (Jessica Barden) are two high school seniors living in a suburban town in England. James is a self-diagnosed psychopath, who has lived his life – until this point – emotionally detached from all things. When approached by Alyssa, he decides she is the perfect target for something he’s been building toward for a long time: killing a human being.
Shortly after Alyssa is prompted by her mother’s boyfriend to leave home, she asks James to go with her. Seeing this as the perfect opportunity to kill her, James agrees. They steal his dad’s car and hit the road.

Now liberated, they venture just beyond their home, driving and hitchhiking and squatting wherever they wish, that is until one of their stops goes horribly wrong, and Alyssa and James are now forced to reckon with a decision they’ve made. It is at this moment where James discovers that Alyssa has led him to “feel things” again and is no longer as empty and stoic as he once was. Grappling with their newly birthed demons and their necessary attachment to the other, they head for the coast where Alyssa’s father is known to reside: the end of the world where they hope their answers lie.

When considering this show, it is hard to separate James and Alyssa, as they both serve to complement each other. James is quiet, generally reserved, and unsure of himself. Alyssa is quite the opposite: loud and outspoken, one who acts without thought and takes herself into regard above all others. It is easy to see how these two dynamics fit well together. Alyssa knows how to move and speak up, and James knows how to step back and consider the best course of action. Each aspect is best seen when James and Alyssa separate, but there is such discord caused by their detachment, that it serves as a testament to the characters and their codependence.

James’s character arc is also worth noting. In the beginning, he has nothing that drives him or gives him meaning, however we quickly see the first cracks in his character begin to form. Alyssa’s actions, even as James plans his many attempts to kill her, slowly warm him up to her. We see occasional shared laughs and wild dancing, as James lets loose all the things that have held him back for so many years. While James isn’t necessarily an unlikeable character, he has dark motives for the majority of his introduction. The duo performs some morally ambiguous acts later in the series, but their humanity is still visible. Alyssa is loud and rude and impulsively insulting, and sometimes when watching this show, her intolerability challenges the viewers’ empathy, but that all changes as the series progresses.

This series provides breakout roles for these unknown leads, Jessica Barden and Alex Lawther, who play the roles convincingly, capturing the fear, indecisiveness, and immaturity that comes with learning and growing up. Not a single scene presents as unbelievable. Proper tension and emotion builds between characters before blowing up or breaking down. This pacing is attributed to the show’s debuting directors, Lucy Tcherniak and Jonathan Entwistle. While the show is short enough to have easily been made a movie, it was produced as a series to allow them the space to develop the story and to stay true to the graphic novel format and the source of the original story.

With a feeling that the whole show is coated in a layer of grime, each set feels authentic in its own right, with nothing forced or pristine about the places they visit. When James and Alyssa are on the beach, while beautiful, it is not a perfect skyscape; there are shots of broken down posts and decomposing docks floating by the shore, illustrating the broken world they inhabit. Musical choices and silence never overload the audience’s senses but develop plot and character in how they are used. This show also features some great songs, and I recommend finding the soundtrack at your earliest convenience.

Last but not least, this show focuses on the importance of the people in our lives and the deconstruction of innocence. James and Alyssa lacked drive until they met each other. Neither believed they had reason to mend their ways until they discovered the hidden love their parents harbor for them. This show focuses on the building up and breaking down of relationships between people, how much relationships can drive one’s life, and how much people will risk for those about whom they care. And it is from this union that James and Alyssa discover parts of themselves they never knew they had, steadily realizing the importance of having someone to help us back on our feet.