Minor spoiler warning for the eight-episode first season of “The End of the F***ing World.”
Surprising, endearing and stunning are the first three words that pop into my head when I think about this series. Originally airing in the United Kingdom on Channel 4, “The End of the F***ing World” was released internationally on Netflix early in 2018, introducing the world to the characters of James (Alex Lawther) and Alyssa (Jessica Barden). The story is rather simple, yet compelling enough that each episode feels full and complex. With some incredible musical moments and brilliant cinematography, this series is an absolute treat from start to finish.
Following a young man named James who views himself as psychopath, the story links him up with Alyssa, a troubled girl that is desperately trying to get away from her fractured family. Alyssa and James decide to flee their small town and set off on a journey across the countryside as they figure out who they are and what they want to be in life. While traveling, James tries to figure out the best time and place to kill Alyssa, but slowly realizes that he may have feelings for her. A major turning point in the narrative comes when James and Alyssa find themselves wrapped up in a murder and become key suspects by detectives Eunice Noon (Gemma Whalen) and Teri Donoghue (Wunmi Mosaku), who have a troubled romantic past.
“The End of the F***ing World” can best be described as a coming-of-age post-apocalyptic story that is set in a normal world; James and Alyssa act as if the traditional norms of life are no longer in place, allowing them to essentially do whatever they want, similarly to how one would act at the actual end of the world. During their journey, the duo steal, commit “armed” robbery, break into homes and commit murder, all the while trying to reach the home of Alyssa’s father Leslie (Barry Ward). The setting and story are extremely bleak, matching the tone of a post-apocalyptic story, yet the characters bring a light to the world that keeps things from being totally hopeless and depressing.
Aside from a gripping story, a major draw of this series is the characters; all bring something unique to the table, specifically in their interactions with one another. James and Alyssa are the primary focus and their blooming love/friendship takes center stage, developing at the same time as their individual arcs play out. Alex Lawther manages to bring both humor and genuine fear to his performance, making even the viewer question if James is indeed a psychopath; Lawther’s role in the “Black Mirror” episode “Shut Up and Dance” has a similar vibe to it, but there is far more depth here. Jessica Barden’s portrayal of Alyssa is a definite highlight of the series as she manages to make the viewer both pity and feel annoyed by the ridiculous antics she gets up to; the character is absolutely hilarious at moments, but she also has a real emotional side that helps to make her arc feel totally believable.
Two aspects of “The End of the F***ing World” that heavily stand out is the musical score and the cinematography. The music supervisor deserves complete praise, because every single song that is utilized perfectly and matches the scene, setting, dialogue, etc. on screen. Each episode features a selection of songs, most of which have an indie-feel to them; it’s worth noting that the series itself feels like an indie-film, mostly because of the aesthetic and low budget. The cinematography is absolutely stunning and helps to reinforce the themes and coming-of-age aspect. Cinematography is something that is incredibly important to a series and “The End of the F***ing World” knows it; utilizing light, camera angles and framing, this series is by far one of the best in recent memory in terms of cinematography.
2018 is off to a fantastic start with this hidden gem of a series. While it certainly has elements that feel cliché, the overall story and execution is damn near perfect. Netflix hasn’t done much in terms of promotion for the show, so it will likely fly under the radar of most people, but it is absolutely worth checking out. With only eight episodes, each of which clocking in around 20 minutes, this is a show that is incredibly easy to binge. Following the characters of James and Alyssa as they get themselves into trouble is wholly entertaining, mostly because of their interactions and development. The viewer is able to immediately become wrapped up in their story and feel concerned as the authorities close in on them. “The End of the F***ing World” knows exactly what it is and it runs with it. Because of this, the show is able to tell a compelling story with eccentric characters and touching messages.
“The End of the F***ing World” is available to stream now on Netflix.