'The End of the F***ing World' sheds a dark light on teenage strife

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Netflix

A bloody coming-of-age story for the next generation of moody, intolerable psychopaths, “The End of the F***ing World” is funny, honest and graphic.

Based on the graphic novel by Charles Forsman and adapted by showrunner Jonathan Entwistle, the Netflix Original “The End of the F***ing World” follows James (Alex Lawther), a 17-year-old on the brink of adulthood who is also fairly sure he’s a psychopath.

All his life, James has wondered what it would be like to kill someone. One day, James meets Alyssa (Jessica Barden). She’s moody, cool and obnoxiously blunt. She is exactly James’ type — and his first chosen victim.

James and Alyssa’s inner monologues give us a view into the minds of two very private people. Initially it feels like a cop out, but as the series plays out, it becomes apparent that this privilege is a powerful tool for explaining both characters’ duality.

In spite of their differences, the pair start dating, and James agrees to go on a road trip with Alyssa. She is looking for her father, who abandoned her at a young age but still sends her a birthday card every year. James plans to murder Alyssa at some point on their journey, but of course, nothing about their road trip goes exactly according to plan.

The majority of the humor of the show comes from the contrast between the characters’ shown emotions versus their inner dialogue. James experiences newfound feelings for Alyssa, forcing him to debate whether he should actually kill her. Luckily for James, he is the only person Alyssa doesn’t hate.

Barden’s moody, obnoxiously blasé performance is scarily true to the behavior of a teenage girl, but Alyssa’s thoughts reveal an inner softness and her desire to be wanted. Unlike Alyssa, James is a man of few words, but Lawther’s sparse line delivery captures his character’s social ineptness and emotional distance. Although Barden and Lawther’s performances as Alyssa and James are fanciful, they are honest portrayals of children who have grown up as outcasts.

The “othering” of the pair stems from traumas experienced in their childhood and is what initially unites them. When Alyssa leaves her friends to sit with James at lunch, she doesn’t do it because she has any interest in him, but because she feels differently from them in some inexplicable and irreversible way and she can’t stand being around people she can’t relate to anymore. This continued “othering” of the duo serves to more closely bond them through their shared experience of running away.

“The End of the F***ing World” is exceptionally well-paced, even though it has an intricate story. The story plays out in moments and phrases which are closely followed by flashbacks. Aside from the scenes where James and Alyssa are on the run, most of the scenes move at a slow pace, giving the characters room to breathe and develop.

As good as the writing and characterization are, this series is not for those with weak stomachs. There are disturbing images of murder as well as scenes of sexual assault and harassment in moments when Alyssa’s stepfather is groping her, though it never progresses to rape. Viewer discretion is certainly advised.

“The End of the F***ing World” is an honest dark comedy that explores the complexities of growing up in a unique and subversive way. Ultimately, the series is worth every moment you spend watching it.

“The End of the F***ing World”

Episodes: 8

Rating: TV-MA

Rating: 4.5/5 stars