A self-diagnosed psychopath and a not-so-manic-pixie-dream-girl walk into a mansion of a professor by day, serial rapist by night. What ensues next? Beautiful, teen angst driven escapades that are sure to make for a perfect two and a half hour Netflix/half-priced chocolate binge-a-thon.
Adapted by Charlie Covell from Charles Forsman's graphic novel of the same name, End of the F***ing World originally premiered on UK’s Channel 4. The series was later added to Netflix’s library for us all to indulge our darkest (literally... knife play anyone?) fantasies and rebellious teen spirits. It focuses on two troubled teens who decide to run away together, Alyssa to escape her neglectful mother and gag-worthy creep of a step-father, and James to, well, murder Alyssa in cold blood. From there it goes the only way a show such as this could: a Bonnie and Clyde-esque tyrade of an adventure with an ending(?) that truly feels apocalyptic.
Alyssa and James are written in a way that caught me off guard in the beginning, because at first glance, they really have no redeeming qualities. In the first episode, James comes off as that one certain brand of SadBoy -- ya know, the murder-y kind -- with some seriously concerning mental health issues that he seems to be deliberately feeding into. Alyssa comes in bold and brash, and while I love her bluntness and assertion, she very quickly seems much younger than 17. She works to cause scenes, and throws childlike tantrums when she is not given what she wants, this often being James’ affection. To be quite honest, I wasn’t entirely hooked after the first episode because of this. Don’t get me wrong, I adore the certain type of dark humor alternative British tv has to offer, and a serial killer who finds love was embarrassingly a major fantasy of my 15 year old self, but I was not used to the idea that a killer tv show (pun intended) could offer so little in it’s main characters’ surfaces. That is really what I love so dearly about this show.
The main characters seem to be sort of awful at first. but they each fade into loveable personalities that are just relatable enough. This is a testament to the actors who make up the cast: Alex Lawther and Jessica Barden respectively play our protagonists in their full teenage angst, Wunmi Mosaku and Gemma Whelan masterfully play a pair of detectives with a complicated relationship, and newcomer Earl Cave’s role is indescribably glorious (#TeamFrodo). The story is so touching that our Editor in Chief, Em, noted that Alyssa was the first TV character she’s ever really been able to relate to. The dimensions the characters possess while still maintaining the sardonic tones of the show amazes me. They are deeply human. The situations within the show are ones you’d never want to be in, but it all holds tight to that romantic nostalgia that makes you want to fall in love for the first time...and maybe also for the last time.
I think the biggest driver of the rich emotional undertones throughout the show is the soundtrack. Along with the fact that neither teen has a cell phone with them the entire series, and the retro cinematic visuals framing each 20 minute episode, the dreamy 50’s-style score takes viewers somewhere else in time that is neither here nor there. The show’s composer, Graham Coxon, mixes his indie singer-songwriter style with his own interpretation of the show to create a soundtrack that made me somehow feel empathy and longing when there was nothing but deadpan conversations, followed by seemingly endless awkward car rides on screen.
Although fans of the original comic may be disappointed that the mini-series doesn’t stay entirely true to the hand mutilation scene, among others, I’m sure most would agree it does justice to the beautifully cynical teens whose impulsive, personalized self destruction originally garnered attention for Forsman. Entwhistles’ take on the story is entirely bewitching, and rare for it’s genre. This is definitely not another overly-predictable teen show that will leave a bad taste in your mouth. I mean, it probably will leave a bad taste in your mouth, but for very, very different reasons. Just cover it up with the one dollar candy we all stocked up on this Valentines Day.
Images via Netflix.