Season one of The End of the F***Ing World was based on a graphic novel of the same name by Charles Forsman and was written for the screen by Charlie Covell (who has also worked as an actress in Brit staples like Holby and Midsomer Murders). The first season saw James (Alex Lawther), a 17-year-old who believed himself to be a psychopath, meets nihilistic Alyssa (Jessica Barden), a girl he thought could be his first human victim. Alyssa’s home life was not only spectacularly chaotic but featured predatory men galore so the pair ended up going on a darkly comic road trip.
The series started life on Channel 4, but was picked up for international distribution by Netflix and it’s blend of black humour and sharp examination of the hardships of being a teenager together with a quirky visual style soon brought it not only cult status, but it became one of television’s hottest properties. What had been a sleeper hit when tucked away late night on Channel 4 (and for streaming on All 4) became a runaway hit when it went global. The series’ rabid fans were keen for there to be a second season but stars and show runners alike had said it was an impossibility. The first season had explored the entire arc of the graphic novels, so where was there to go from there?
Two years on and they have managed to bring back the offbeat teen comedy thriller in a way which not only doesn’t feel forced but remains entirely true to the characters. The season also retains the short, sharp episode format (8 episodes all under 25 minutes each) which means it can easily be binged in one evening (and probably will be). It also manages to keep the balance of warmth and humanity with the blackest of comedy about the human condition.
Also set two years on from the traumatic events of season one, Alyssa and her mother have moved away and Alyssa is now dating Todd, a nice but bland local lad. She is working a quiet job in a quiet cafe and her life is apparently a million miles from her previous Bonnie and Clyde existence with James in season one.
Meanwhile a new character, Bonnie (a wonderfully dead-eyed performance from soon-to-be Star Wars star Naomi Ackie), is reflecting on her horrific treatment at the hands of her mother, her time in prison and her life with a familiar ethics Professor.
While season one was very much about James’ journey as a would-be serial killer and felt as if it was largely told from his perspective, season two feels very much a female affair. Alyssa and Bonnie’s inner monologues come to the fore, exploring some of their past traumas and future fears. Directorial duties for the series are split between two female directors, Lucy Forbes and Destiny Ekaragha, both of whom keep the feel of the first season while subtly shifting the perspective from dealing with teen angst to dealing with trauma.
Keeping with the non-nation specific settings and weirdly out-of-time architecture, it’s hard to say where or when The End of the F***king World is set, which is part of it’s enduring appeal. It could be the U.S. mid-West or it could be at the heart of the UK. Yet the story and feel remains resolutely British, with characters burying feelings and trauma as if, well, their lives depended on it. Technology plays no part in proceedings, all the cars appear to be from the 1980s and the clothes the characters wear could be vintage or might just be era-appropriate. Visually it looks like nothing else, which is quite a feat.
Charlie Covell’s writing remains laser-focused and lean, with a real ‘show don’t tell’ approach to the narrative which, rather than being at odds with the characters narration, provides the perfect foil. Once you reach the end of the season you will marvel at how much emotional ground has been covered in such a short time span. While that might sound heavy, there are some genuinely hilarious moments which arise from some of the darkest sections of the story.
The incredible soundtrack is once again provided by Graham Coxon, complemented by a mixture of classic and contemporary songs that really help shape the story and cement the characters inner dialogue.
Despite the dark premise, The End of the F***ing World season two is really sweet, really warm and with some truly laugh out loud moments unexpectedly becomes one of TV’s most romantic tales.
Cast: Jessica Barden, Alex Lawther, Steve Oram, Christine Bottomley, Jonathan Aris, Naomi Ackie