“Everything that the audience and the characters of the show need to finally move on”
The first season of The End of the F***ing World (2017) was damn-near perfect. It started with two angsty teens yearning to escape their reality, and it lifted off into a story of young love, murder, burglary, and dramatic acts of heroism. This was all done in a perfectly timed 8-episode saga, leading up to an iconic cliffhanger of James (Alex Lawther) running on the beach, Alyssa (Jessica Barden) screaming after him, a magnificent monologue about “what people mean to each other”, and then a gun shot. Many took this as an indication that James was dead. It was the perfect ending to a passionate, but knowingly short-lived, adventure.
But then that wasn’t the end anymore, because there was news of a second season. As beloved as the first season was, an additional season felt arbitrary. James, himself, even points out this season that the last finale was the ‘perfect’ ending for his character arc: “A doomed love story. A perfect tragedy. And then I didn’t die.” What more could they even have to say?
Well, if season one was the ‘Bonnie and Clyde,’ escapist fantasy, then season two is the aftermath set in a sobering reality. It has the malaise but not the energy that was so adored in the first season. It does, however, offer second chances, recovery, and still, a little bit of murder.
It has been 2 years since the events of season one. Turns out, James indeed survived, and Alyssa has moved to the English countryside with her mother (Christine Bottomley.) From the beginning James and Alyssa were on the same mission – to escape their current lives. Now, Alyssa is the only one grasping for an escape, while James fights to cling to the past. Alyssa is trying to escape all sense of feelings, memories, and self with a new beau – Todd (Josh Dylan) – who is an emotional dud. Just like she says in the first episode, she can go on not feeling with him. It’s gotten easier for her to not feel.
James, however, has stopped running from his emotions. He has to, because after the events of season one, he is stuck in a hospital bed. Stuck with his thoughts and his memories. James only knows of one time in his life when he was truly happy – when he was with Alyssa. So, while James is headed right to Alyssa, she is trying to run from their grizzly past, specifically Clive Koch.Oh yes, you can’t forget about Clive Koch (Jonathan Aris) – the sadistic professor James killed in season one. Koch, as we know him, is a brutal rapist and a genuinely terrible person who deserved what he got. To the new character Bonnie (Naomi Ackie), however, he is the love of her life who was wrongfully murdered and who’s assailants need to be punished for their actions.
Bonnie is introduced early on as not much different than our two main characters. She has suffered a home life devoid of healthy love, so when she encounters Professor Koch, she believes she has found that in him. When she finds out her “lover” has been killed by Alyssa and James she has a heart for vengeance. Introducing the new character Bonnie creates a game of cat and mouse. The cat, being Bonnie, spending most of the time in the backseat of James’ beat up car with a revolver in her backpack and murder on her mind, to the complete obliviousness of the two mice.
Naomi Ackie is a surprisingly strong addition to the season. She delivers a controlled performance of boiling rage, pain, and loss of control. She comes in by storm, and her character offers a jarring, third perspective on emotional healing.
This season tackles depression on many fronts, especially from the two main female perspectives. Each character is dealing with their emotions in distinctly different ways, yet all are equally unhealthy. Alyssa has chosen not to feel. James has chosen to become completely emotionally reliant on Alyssa, making her the answer to his problems. Bonnie has taken her anger and placed it into a pointless revenge plot.
The first season is highly revered for its dialogue and relatable quotes, and this season definitely does not slow that down. Charlie Covell, Andy Baker, Emily Harrison, and Ed Macdonald are not just thoughtful storytellers, they are also great conversation creators. Every piece of dialogue between the characters contains depth, blunt honesty, and a little bit of dry humor that mixes perfectly into astonishing chat, which sticks with you even after you’ve finished the show. Meanwhile, directors Destiny Ekaragha and Lucy Forbes continue to bring the audience in with beautiful direction, a strong focus on each character’s emotions, and a range from high-intensity to slow, melancholic feelings that the audience can fully divulge in.The finale of this stark, emotionally jarring show is anticlimactic compared to the first season, but it was the ending the two characters deserved. It is an honest conclusion that sees a positive future for the two main characters and an escape from the hellish nightmare that was once thought of as a passionate adventure in season one. A season that almost felt pointless before it even aired, turns out to be everything that the audience and the characters of this show need to finally move on.
Dir: Destiny Ekaragha, Lucy Forbes
Prod: Andy Baker, Dominic Buchanan, Jonathan Entwistle, Murray Ferguson, Ed Macdonald, Jenny Frayn, Charlie Covell, and Vaughan Watkins
Cast: Jessica Barden, Alex Lawther, Steve Oram, Christine Bottomley, Jonathan Aris, Naomi Ackie, Josh Dylan, Navin Chowdhry, Alexandria Riley, Kelly Harrison, Florence Bell, Django Reeves, Pippa Evans, Tim Key, Nadine Marshall, Divian Ladwa, Paterson Joseph, and Tierro Smith
Release Date: October 27, 2019
Available on: Netflix