It always seems that right after the success of one Netflix original show, the popular television and movie streaming site pushes out another incredible series for viewers to binge watch and enjoy. After premiering in October on Channel 4, a publicly-owned British television station, “The End of the F***ing World,” an eight episode mini-series, was released to American audiences on Jan. 5. With an addictive storyline filled with rich characters and cinematography, the show manages to remain engaging up until its final scene. The series comes right after an incredibly prolific and successful year for Netflix with the release of new seasons of originals such as “The Crown,” “Stranger Things,” “Peaky Blinders,” and “Black Mirror” while also promoting extraordinary new originals including “Mindhunter,” “Marvel’s Daredevil,” “GLOW,” and “Big Mouth.” However, “The End of the F***ing World” provides Netflix with a refreshing new spin on the traditional television series, combing both the dry, dark humor expected from a British sitcom with a “Bonnie and Clyde”-esque murder mystery that keeps audiences in suspense and glued to the screen.
Based off a graphic novel of the same name written and illustrated by Charles Forman, the premise consists of two atypical teenagers, James (played by Alex Lawther) and Alyssa (played by Jessica Barden), as they battle their own inner struggles as well as the societal norms they are restricted by as minors. James, who’s pretty sure he’s a psychopath, tasks himself with killing an actual human being, and sets his eye on Alyssa—a brash, loud-mouthed wild child who he thinks would be “interesting to kill.” Meanwhile, Alyssa, an apathetic teenage rebel, is bored of her relatively well-to-do lifestyle and forms an unlikely connection with James, as they plan to run away from the self-centered civilization they seem to be stuck in. Both James and Alyssa have emotional turmoil built up within them, and although they both express themselves in different ways, they are able to neutralize one another like fire and ice.
“They are simultaneously mismatched and perfectly matched, these two. James claims to feel nothing, while Alyssa feels everything much too deeply. They bring out something new from one another, even as they’re pushing each other deeper and deeper into this mess they’ve created,” television critic Alan Sepinwall explains for Uproxx.
Ultimately, the contrast of these two characters mirrors the mismatch of the genres for the series, whether it is a comedy or a tragedy, “The End of the F***ing World” seems to have the perfect amount of both to provide for a rich and gripping television show.
Over the course of their trip, the two teens squat, steal, injure, and kill to sustain themselves. They commit crimes that often stand at odds with the childlike innocence that James and Alyssa both embrace and run from. While the intense and dark plot is definitely a key ingredient to the Netflix series’ success, the overall production quality of the show adds to the show’s largely brooding yet enthralling atmosphere. The series is basically designed to be binge-watched, and with each episode no longer than 22 minutes, the show feels almost like a two-and-a-half hour film rather than eight separate episodes.
Cinematography and editing play important roles in the show’s pacing. By juxtaposing beautiful shots of the British countryside with abrasive cuts to flashbacks, these formal elements mirror the racing thoughts going through Alyssa and James’ heads. The serenity of the landscape shots instills the sense of freedom and a carefree spirit that James and Alyssa embody. In contrast, the crosscutting, accompanied by somewhat humorous quips via voice-over, heightens the sense of urgency that the teens face throughout the entire series. The soundtrack is phenomenal as well, mixing an original score filled with jazzy guitar riffs and drum beats with mid-century classic American ballads such “The Day We Fell in Love” by the Ovations and “I’m Sorry” by Brenda Lee. The culmination of these artistic choices creates a visceral experience that allows an eight-episode series like this to be easily watched in one sitting.
“The End of the F***ing World” is a must-watch. With an intriguing plot full of twists and turns, the show portrays its two main characters and their problems as relatable to the general audience. The teenage angst evolves into something much deeper as the show progresses, ultimately asking questions of how one truly can show emotion, as well as how one can find happiness in a society that seems to have its only goal to deprive happiness. Alyssa and James’ brief adventure demonstrates the escape from reality that everyone secretly yearns for, and while the violent subject matter can cause the viewer discomfort at times, the overall message is something that can resonate with all people.
It will be interesting to see if Netflix will decide to ride the success of this show and order a second season, even though the series wraps up in a perfect, yet unorthodox, way.
No matter what the future holds, the first season of “The End of the F***ing World” promises to take the audience on an emotional roller coaster through the lives of these amazing characters, and it is the perfect start for another successful year for Netflix.
Gabriel Ballard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.