The End of the F***ing World began worldwide streaming on Netflix this weekend after first premiering on Channel 4 back in October. The British series, which is based on the comic series by Charles S. Forsman, follows James, a disconnected 17-year-old who believes that he’s psychopath, and Alyssa, his schoolmate who is fed up with her wretched home life, as they fall in love and run away together.
If that sounds too sweet for your horror fancy- fret not. James secretly intends to murder Alyssa and fully become the psychopath he’s meant to be, and Alyssa tends to be abrasive and create unnecessary trouble. Their personalities and motives lend an abundance of pitch-black humor to the series, especially as the pair find their situation spinning helplessly out of control.
That’s not to say that the sweetness doesn’t exist, however. This is a dark series that finds a light in its two leads, their ever-growing connection to each other, and their journey of self-discovery and realization. The End of the F***ing World is vulgar, chaotic, and at times shocking, but these things exist among a palette of fun, awkward humor, and a running theme of these two troubled adolescents finding a place to belong among each other. Their lives suck, and the series does a stellar job of not only showing you why James and Alyssa ended up on this destructive path, but allowing you to understand the complexities of their individual situations, including truths about their home lives that they struggle to see for themselves.
Think Juno meets Natural Born Killers.
The performances in The End of the F***ing World are terrific all around. Highlights include Steve Oram’s layered performance as James’ misunderstood father, Gemma Whelan as a detective on the trailer of Alyssa and James, and Barry Ward as Alyssa’s piece of trash father. The biggest draw of the series, though, are the two leads.
Alex Lawther shines as James, showcasing the disconnected, troubled nature of his character without sacrificing teenage relatability. As the series progresses and James learns to feel emotions that he was otherwise distant from, Lawther seamlessly transitions into a character who has grown from Point A to Point B, while continuing to honor certain traits of the James that we began the series with. He never comes across as an actor playing two different versions of his character, but rather one who brings his character depth, allowing James to feel fully fleshed out. Lawther gives a truly special performance that must be taken in to fully understand its magnitude. He’s a blooming star.
Equally fantastic is Jessica Barden as Alyssa. Barden captures the troublesome nature of a confused, out-of-place girl who is on the cusp of womanhood. In James, she finds a fellow outcast, and although they are strongest together, it’s her strength that proves to be James’ saving grace. As previously mentioned, Alyssa can be riotously abrasive at times, and Barden breathes life into each vulgarity, allowing the dialogue to feel true to her character rather than just a device for laughs (Though it’s guaranteed to elicit laughter as well, so long as you’re the warped audience the series is aiming for). If anyone can force James to be aware of his own humanity, it’s Alyssa, and Barden makes you believe that.
The End of the F***ing World is a quick digest, as the series only has eight episodes, each running around 20-minutes in length. It’s an easy binge, and it’s one you’ll want to make time for ASAP.
Sweet, bloody, vulgar, and especially mental, The End of the F***ing World is mandatory viewing.