“The End of the F***ing World” drew in international viewers with witty dialogue and endearing characters after its Netflix release in January 2018. Inspired by a graphic novel, this dark comedy follows rebellious and possibly disturbed British teenagers James and Alyssa. James identifies himself as a psychopath and accompanies rebellious teen Alyssa as she runs away to escape her family, hoping to kill her.
This adventure then accelerates into an exploration of teenage angst and self-discovery. James and Alyssa, trying to adapt to a life on the road, must overcome various obstacles, including adults who try to exploit the two teens. The show handles these dark topics with ease, making these two unlikely heroes into characters that the audience feels for. The first season had generally high critical acclaim, with a critic rating of 96 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Many critics praised the first season for its nihilistic humor and interesting interpretation of teenage romance.
Many fans of the first season, including myself, were excited to hear that season two of “The End of the F***ing World” would release Nov. 5 on Netflix. After an unclear ending of the first season, I was incredibly curious about the fate of the main characters, especially James. However, the first episode does not return to James and Alyssa.
The first episode of season two introduces Bonnie, played by Naomi Ackie, who is seeking revenge for actions taken by James and Alyssa in season one. Bonnie is the main antagonist of season two, but I found that her character arc humanizes many of her cruel intentions and it is possible to see how she may incorrectly justify her actions due to her experiences with love, loss and rejection. There is thought put into Bonnie’s character and her motivations, just as there was thought and intention put into James and Alyssa’s characters in season one.
Season one spoilers ahead!
Episode two of season two reintroduces Alyssa, who is planning on getting married. Alyssa only had to complete community service after killing a man named Clive Koch as an act of self-defense but otherwise seemingly does not dwell on the experiences of season one. she and her mother had moved with the twins to stay with their aunt, Leigh. Alyssa works at her aunt’s diner and meets Todd, a young man from town who she asks to marry her on a whim.
A major theme within season two is survivor guilt after instances of sexual assault and abusive relationships. Episode one of season two establishes that Bonnie was a student and lover of Clive Koch, the man who tried to sexually assault Alyssa — also the man killed by James in season one. Blinded by love and devotion, Bonnie believes that Clive was innocent and targeted by Alyssa for murder.
Meanwhile, Alyssa is still struggling to come to terms with what happened to her. This becomes far more apparent later in the season. Alyssa did not seem hindered by this experience at the end of season one, so this conflict seems to take on much greater meaning this season.
This is related to my main criticism of the new season, which is that character motivation not apparent in season one emerges as a driving force of the plot in season two. There are relationships that are formed supposedly in the time between both seasons, yet it is difficult to empathize with these relationships because they were not developed on screen.
Additionally, there are points in season two where it is obvious that the source material had run out. Season one is able to stand alone as a comprehensive story with a strong, but dissatisfying, ending. Season two is not capable of this. It seems as if the individual character development behind the two protagonists halted at the end of season one, and season two simply elaborates upon the relationships between characters and the repercussions of season one.
Despite this criticism, I still binged all 8 episodes of “The End of the F***ing World” season two the day after it was released. It is a really enjoyable series and kept me glued to the screen, wondering what might happen next. Additionally, the retro soundtrack of season two works really well with the tone of the show and added to the overall aesthetic of the dark yet comical writing.
I would definitely recommend anyone who enjoyed the first season to watch this next one and form your own opinions on it. Personally, I prefer season one, but season two is still incredibly enjoyable overall and worth the 174 minutes.