The End of The F***ing World explores the story of the young adult would-be serial killer, rescued by his first friend in school when she gives him a little faith. Alyssa goads James into stealing his father’s car and running away with her. By that time, he’s already decided to make her his first human murder victim, but in his words, he’s “not in a hurry”.
Their misadventures are quirky, dark, and full of character. Both youths are paradoxically endearing. James is unsure, quiet and creepy, but he wins you over with his candour and hidden sweet side. Alisa is aggressive, standoffish and blunt but her quick wit and brash confidence will make you root for her in the end.
Running away isn’t as simple as it seems. Alyssa and James face a litany of bizarre characters and unfortunate circumstances, somehow at once defying predictability and conveying coming-of-age platitudes.
The show is imaginative enough for the platitudes to feel novel, and the poignancy only develops as the plot thickens. Although The End of the F***ing World is set in contemporary England, it captures the nostalgia of The Breakfast Club and the romance of Bonnie and Clyde. Alyssa smashes her smartphone in Episode One, outraged by a girl messaging her from just a few feet away. When she tells James later, tentatively hoping to impress him, they bond for the first time. He hates phones too. But there is more than just a generation gap isolating them from their parents and peers.
Alyssa and James grapple with experiences of sexual abuse, loss and trauma. In the pilot episode, directors Lucy Tcherniak and Jonathan Entwistle deftly hint at the past events that have shaped them with their usual suave cinematography. Alyssa’s birthday letters from her father appear one by one on a white background, lined up just as the small animals James has killed growing up had been moments beforehand.
It’s many of these small polishes and perfect cuts that generate the brilliantly unique humour of the show. No time is wasted with long explanations. The End of the F***ing World forgoes subtlety in favour of an unapologetically abrupt look at real issues that adolescents face. On the way, they don’t brush up or romanticise the awkward growing pains that come with the process. It’s unforgiving, captivating and an utter masterpiece.
Image: the jo naylor via Flickr