It turns out The End of the F***ing World is here and it’s pretty great.
Netflix’s newest edition, The End of the F***ing World is an entertaining, stylish portrait of love, growth, and murder. The eight-part series of Charles Forsman’s graphic novel of the same name hit the streaming service internationally and exclusively on January 5th of this year and has gained a lot of positive attention by viewers and critics alike, despite having to lower your voice every time you mention the show’s title.
This British dark comedy follows the oddly charismatic, but lonely 17-year old James, played by Alex Lawther (Black Mirror), whose sociopathic tendencies slowly take over the ability to control his bloodlust. He self-consciously makes up his mind to finally kill someone. Anyone. Preferably someone from his high school.
Cue the potential victim: Alyssa, played by Jessica Barden (Penny Dreadful, Mindhorn). Alyssa is equally as empty, equally as odd, and equally as charismatic as James. Her outright lack of empathy and discern between what’s right and wrong instantly intrigues James. His lack of emotion and submissive, indifferent demeanor quickly appeals Alyssa.
But before James can stick a knife in his potential target’s back, he agrees to flee town with her on a whim. Alyssa wants out of her mother’s seemingly picturesque life with her new husband and children, a place she clearly does not fit into. James feels suffocated by the single father he can do all but identify with. Dependent on the other’s decision, it’s the perfect excuse they both have to escape the mediocre home lives they both detest and really cause some anarchy. James will let Alyssa live, for now.
The two ensue on a juvenile, Bonnie and Clyde-style excursion across England with little money and little direction save for the annual birthday cards sent to Alyssa from her biological father. After a series of mishaps, James and his unknowingly future victim take refuge in the luxurious, empty home of a famed author. From there, the events of the series start to unravel. Quickly. So to speak, things get pretty f***ed up.
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The End of the F***ing World is a surefire treat for any viewer that enjoys a good laugh, an unexpected twist, and superb character development.
Lawther, like his character in Black Mirror’s ‘Shut Up and Dance’ episode, is surprisingly likable from the start. He appears to be pretty at home in the role of a withdrawn, wounded teenager with self-proclaimed homicidal urges. His layered performance is unlike most anti-hero archetypes out there giving the series a fresh, cool feel. Through his outrageous adventures with his mouthy, irrational counterpart,his character of James is able to find something more to himself than just being a psychopath. In time, and with a little persistence from the girl he’s grown fond of, he is able to find something deep within himself that he was positive he was born without: feelings.
Barden is as lovely as she is real and alienating in the role of Alyssa. She is a vibrant illustration of a temperamental, narcissistic teenage girl willing to test anyone she comes across for pure entertainment. Like Lawther, Barden gives her character layers exposing Alyssa’s charm and not-so-surprising vulnerability. Like most coming-of-age stories, Barden’s character, Alyssa realizes that her brash decisions and impulsive actions do, in fact, have consequences and the ones who matter most are the those backing you up while you spontaneously decide to rob a gas station.
Lawther and Barden are both exceptional actors who embody their complex, adolescent characters fantastically. They portray the hardships of growing up, being an outsider, and experiencing the first-time comfort of companionship with ease.
Gemma Whelan (Game of Thrones) and Wunmi Mosaku (Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them) , playing the roles of the detectives hot on their tails, give equally praiseworthy performances. The two represent the fist of the law, but over time begin to drift apart into the constant revolving sides that justice faces: what is fair and what is not?
Steve Oram (A Dark Song), plays the part of James‘ pitiful, yet oddly supportive father. Though initially appearing to be the typical door-mat of a man that James lacks any empathy for, we all learn there is much more to the grieving surface of his character. The exact opposite roles are those of Alyssa’s parents: her biological deadbeat, absent father played by Barry Ward (The Fall) and her neglectful, superficial mother and stepfather, played by Christine Bottomley (Fearless) and Nevin Chowdhry (The Replacement). All fit the bill and purposely juxtapose that of Oram’s endearing father character.
The dynamics between the relationships of these secondary characters paint the strong portrait of comparison to that of James and Alyssa, essentially giving this series the depth it deserves.
What makes the story so special? A few pretty important things.
Aside from tremendous performances, style, and excellent writing and directing from newcomer Jonathan Entwhistle (Seafret: Oceans), this story turns out to be the opposite of what it started out as. As a viewer you head into this series with the pre-notion that it will follow a certain dark story line, a boy with American Psycho qualities, preying on a fellow female classmate. What you get is a very smart, clever coming of age story depicted through the dynamics of two characters under very unique circumstances. The events are just as unexpected for them as it is for us. The element of surprise is planted and executed perfectly. By the time you’ve finished the second episode you’ll have to finish. Like with most popular Netflix series, you will want to binge through to the end just to see what happens next.
The script is dynamite with tense, awkward, and hysterical dialogue thrown into each episode between all of the characters. Entwhistle certainly doesn’t miss a beat with the quirky, yet sullen tone that sets the stage for our misfit pubescents and the unfortunate reality that surrounds them. The inner-monologue of both James and Alyssa in voice over narration is not only amusing, but it is incredibly effective. This divisive technique really
allows you to get familiar with both characters and successfully allows the main characters’ perspectives to prevail in the most entertaining way.Finally, the soundtrack is absolutely killer. Following the ongoing praise from critics, musician Graham Coxon of British rock band Blur announced recently that he will release his original soundtrack from the series. The soundtrack will include 16 tracks, including the score and “Walking All Day”, and will be available for streaming and digital download on January 28th, 2018. The vinyl record is set for release later in March.
Though I’m sure this series won’t exactly break any new ground and may even cast a few side-ward glances should you recommend it to a friend (again, that title is hard to get out verbally), but it is as sincerely deep as it is simple. Its wit and charm will initially lead you on into the mind of an aspiring sociopath and before you know it you will be sitting shotgun on a fun, dangerous, and sometimes scary, ride next to two very unlikely heroes.
Ultimately, James and Alyssa both feel nothing from the relationships they have with the people around them. Naturally, they confuse this with being empty, however they’re both anything but empty, they’re truly lonely. The story works itself out into a love affair between two wounded teens who, through a series of very real, almost traumatic events find out that they feel just like everyone else does. It ironically takes them finding each other for selfish reasons to realize they actually need one another. Together they recognize that the world, and the people in it, is a pretty awful place. However, it’s a lot less awful when you have someone standing faithfully by your side, gun and pocket knife in hand.
This series is an interesting, humorous, and sometimes all too real look at the world and the relationships that make it up. Those relationships, for most of us (sociopaths excluded) are created through feelings, bad and good. Feelings almost always throw us into unexpected sets of circumstances, but we shouldn’t worry about that. Things are inevitable, and more ironically, unpredictable. If you’ve got someone by your side, anyone, your person, you can make it through. Whatever happens, it’s not the end of the f***ing world.
One more piece on that title: I suspect Forsman named the series The End of the F***ing World because that’s pretty much how it will feel to you after you’ve binged all eight episodes on a Saturday afternoon.