After airing on Channel 4 in October last year, the New Year saw the dark comedy The End of the F***ing World makes its way to Netflix. A co-production between the two companies the 8 episode series follows two 17-year-olds, Alyssa and James, as they break out of their day to day, lives in an English suburbia to embark on a cross-country road trip full of mishaps and murder. At 20 minutes per episode, this is the ideal binge watch to satisfy your teenage angst craving.
The twist that stops this show being just another ode to Bonnie & Clyde? James is a psychopath who has recently decided it is time for him to upgrade from the murder of animals to humans, making Alyssa his first victim.
The show opens in an unnamed English town as the characters meet in their school’s cafeteria and get to know each other as they stroll down the streets lined with trees. So far, so not British. This was something that I had trouble with in the first few episodes and it took me until about episode 4 to get used to, The End of the F***ing world seems to exist in its own F***ing world. The characters own smartphones, live in 80’s esque houses and wear throwback clothes all while listening to 60’s music. Confused? As I say, you get used to it and eventually the retro amalgamation becomes part of the overall charm.
The characters themselves are not immediately likeable. James is hell bent on his mission to murder an unknowing Alyssa whose most impressive personality trait is her ability to annoy others, as James notes. However, as the episodes progress their masks slip and we begin to see a more vulnerable and compelling side to the characters as unlikely romance blooms and they realise they might be all each other have in this world.
About halfway through the series as the duo leave a trail of destruction in their wake, we are introduced to another couple: the police partners assigned to track them down. This relationship, between two female police officers with an unspoken drunken history between them, keeps the audience on edge by introducing an element of consequence to James and Alyssa’s endeavours. They are not above the law and it is only a matter of time before the world catches up with them. It also provides for a humorous subplot as we observe the Policewomen following the duo’s trail all the while navigating their own awkward relationship.
Despite an unsure start what kept me watching was the style and my god did this show have style. Reminiscent of Channel 4’s previous endeavour ‘Utopia’, every shot looked amazing. The lighting, the framing and the graphics were a visual treat that never wavered in quality across the series. The show also remained fearless throughout, it didn’t shy away from disturbing and sometimes disgusting scenes, allowing us to become more endeared towards the duo as we experience every drop of blood and dodgy adult they do. We become more understanding of their plights, actions and thought processes become more understandable as the world continuously kicks them down. It turns out they are just a couple of misunderstood kids trying to find someone who cares, and they find it in each other although perhaps too late.
Now, let’s talk about that ending. The walls have closed in on our anti-hero’s and salvation seems impossible as the Police successfully track them down. The screen fades to black as a gunshot rings out leaving us in suspense over what has happened. Is one of our unlikely protagonists dead? Or are they both destined to face jail time apart from one another? A second series is yet to be confirmed but given its success and Netflix’s track record I think it’s safe to say there will be one. Honestly, I would be happy with the ambiguity of not knowing. Why can’t we live in the moment with these doomed characters, following their short-lived escape from normality with our journey ending with theirs? It really wouldn’t be the end of the world if one series of this tragic, funny and surprisingly charming show was all we got.