England brings ‘The End of the F***ing World’

By Heidi Cho
Arts & Entertainment Editor 

Drop everything — it’s “The End of the F***ing World.”

James and Alyssa disguise themselves. (Twitter)
James and Alyssa disguise themselves to evade police. (Twitter)

This British dark comedy was released worldwide as a Netflix exclusive on Jan. 5. It was based on the American comic book, “The End of the F***ing World.”

Riffing on “Heathers: The Musical,” the show follows the burgeoning relationship between a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde — fictitious British teenagers James and Alyssa.

James is a self-declared psychopath. When he was young, he put his left hand into a deep fryer because he wanted to feel something. He remembers each of his 35 furry victims fondly, but hasn’t killed a human, yet.

Enter Alyssa, the embodiment of teen angst. She often calls people out on their lies and excuses, causing trouble simply for trouble’s sake.

When her stepfather makes advances on her and her mother turns a blind eye, Alyssa sees her life for what it is. She decides to run away from home with James, and so begins the “The End of the F***ing World.”

When James and Alyssa’s stories intertwine with the lives of the people they encounter along their journey, the horrific truth comes out.

A war veteran buys dogs to abuse them. A distinguished author and professor turns out to be a serial rapist that keeps detailed records of his incriminating acts.

These characters set up a gritty realism that takes a nosedive towards the end of the series. James’ character dramatically changes once he falls in love, which perpetuates the unrealistic and damaging notion that love can cure mental illness — even though mental illness can be as permanent as the disfiguration of James’s left hand. Despite this, the rest of the show compensates for this fallacy by being realistic in other ways.

While the show doesn’t shy away from showing how terrible the world can be, it isn’t devoid of kind characters. One strong suit of the show is how it juxtaposed opposites to make both sides stand out — one security guard lets Alyssa escape with stolen merchandise, after Alyssa helped a lost child find her dad at a store at the risk of being caught and sent to a juvenile hall.

The show tugs at your heart in between the dark humor featured in the cold opens. Usually an episode starts with a scene from that episode that makes light of a bad situation using overhead narration and dialogue. While the narration reveals the character’s inner thoughts, the dialogue or actions performed often go in completely unexpected and hilarious directions.

Frequently throughout the show, a character might think or feel one thing, but say, do or go along with something else entirely. At times, this can lead to moments like a make out session with one willing participant and the human equivalent of a dead fish as the other participant. At other times, the narration can make not just one, but two trips to the bathroom heartbreaking.

These two 17-year-olds get to see more of life in the span of this one road trip than some people do in their entire lives, but both of them learn they can’t run forever. The audience is encouraged to follow their trail of blood to its very end.

This show delivers in a way that can remind even the staunchest critics that they still have hearts. None of Chekov’s guns are left untouched by the end, and in a world full of sequels, trilogies and remakes, it’s refreshing to see something that’s wrapped up in one season with eight episodes. With each episode ending on an unexpected twist — and acting that feels more real than scripted — this show is easy to binge watch, but hard to forget.