The End of the F***cking World: Season One Review
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Being a teenager is really hard. Even if your not covered in acne, don’t routinely embarrass yourself in front of your crush or get picked last for P.E, it’s still an excruciating few years to live through. Add in the the raging hormones and puberty rearing it’s angry head, it’s a recipe for disaster. Especially if you are on the run for murder. Enter The End of The F***ing World. Originally airing on Channel 4, it’s now showing worldwide on Netflix, and is basically brilliant. Starring Alex Lawther (who you may recognise reprising his role as an absolute weirdo from Black Mirror) and Jessica Barden (Coronation Street, Penny Dreadful), The End of the F***ing World is a black comedy about first loves, first murders and everything in between.
Played out over 10 episodes, the show follows James (Lawther) and Alyssa (Barden), two highly troubled teens who are running away from home. In a unique move, the show utilises both characters voice-over for narration - giving the audience a unique (and hilarious) insight into their individual thoughts about any given event. A smart move, creatively and practically, this constant internal dialogue makes Alyssa and James far more relatable characters - which helps a lot seeing as both of them are monumentally messed up people. As a young child, James watched his mother commit suicide and has been obsessed with death ever since - even going so far as to kill small animals. He’s decided now though that this isn’t enough and (as well as self-defining as a psychopath) he wants to kill a human being. Alyssa, a product of a broken home and an incredibly handsy stepfather, has a crush on James. When Alyssa asks James to run away with her, James agrees, mostly because he sees this as an opportunity to kill her. Taking a knife in-case the opportunity arises, and his father’s car, the two set off on a series of misadventures.
Dealing with attempted sexual assault, parental abandonment, parental suicide, abuse and of course murder, The End of F***ing World doesn’t sound like a particularly fun experience. Yet the way in which it deals with these issues sets it apart from other YA programmes (Netflix's 13 Reasons Why springs to mind here...). The End of The F***cking World is, at its heart, a black comedy and directors Jonathan Entwhistle and Lucy Tcherniak are masters of employing humour to talk about these dark topics, without diminishing the importance of them. Writer Charlie Covell uses Alyssa and James' internal monologues to give them their own voices to talk about the horrific things that are happening to them and around them - and the result is a funny, messed up and emotionally engaging series.
Of course, as well as the general teenage angst, James and Alyssa are also incredibly traumatised people who need help. Serious help. Naturally, the police are not far behind their trail of destruction and two DC’s are assigned to their case. I, for one, am rooting for a spin off show for DC Noon (Game of Thrones’ Gemma Whelan) and DC Darego (Wunmi Mosaku). Like a modernised Cagney & Lacey with more sexual tension, Noon and Darego are an integral part of the series.
Though not introduced until episode 5, Noon and Darego are given a heavily implied subplot of a one night stand, romantic liaisons and a heartbreaking rejection. They don’t have nearly the same screen-time as Lawther and Barden, but their characters are nuanced and interesting. They aren’t merely props for Alyssa and James to be running from, and they both become absolutely vital to the narrative. My only concern is that there was simply not enough of Whelan and Mosaku in the show. Again, I will be petitioning Channel4 / Netflix for a spin off, so look out for that.
Other cast members include Barry Ward as Alyssa’s deadbeat dad, Christine Bottomley as Alyssa’s despairing mother and Steve Oram as Phil, James’ incompetent father. Looking at the adults in The End of The F***ing World, it’s easy to see how the two kids became so monumentally messed up. This, I think, is exactly the point. The adults behave erratically, acting without consequence and with no one to nurture or support our two protagonists, the whole escapade seems pretty inevitable. Sure, Alyssa and James are angsty, moody teenagers but in a very real way, they are more mature than all of their parents put together.
Any review of The End of the F***ing World wouldn’t be complete without mentioning it’s unique design and cinematography. Resembling an indie film rather than a TV series, each shot has a textured feel, reminiscent of the likes of Lynne Ramsey or Andrea Arnold. Gritty realistic set design is interspersed with moments of surrealism. At a tight 22 minutes per episode, the editing is pacy and precise - to it’s credit, it feels more like a five hour film than a TV series (especially if you watch it all in one go, which I would recommend).
The End of The F***ing World captures the exact feeling of angst, anger, hurt and confusion of being utterly out of control in your own life. It also manages to instil that very precise feeling on utter despair of remembering your own teenage years. I’m not saying that we all went on murder sprees (and I am definitely not saying that I did) but the show perfectly portrays the cringeworthy-ness of being a teenager. Of falling in love with someone you barely know, of overreacting to situations, of believing that the whole world is against you and there’s absolutely no-one who has ever felt the way you are feeling right now. So, what can you do other than take the situation into your own hands? And, we've all been there right?