Calling all Netflix binge offenders – we have a new series to indulge in.
A millennial spin on Bonnie and Clyde, a hint of Bates Motel and shared similarities with True Romance, The End of the F**king World is an unconventional love story between two very unconventional (and very damaged) teenagers.
Based on Charles Forman’s comic series, dark comedy/drama, The End of the F**king World (TEOTFW) was picked up by Netflix earlier this month and now it’s gaining the international recognition it deserves. (Plus fellow series splurgers can watch all the twenty-minute episodes in one sitting, free from advertising interruptions.)
A love story between two young teenagers seems cute and ordinary enough, right? Yet, having a self-diagnosed psychopath as a boyfriend slightly subverts the usual on-screen romances we’re used to.
It’s hardly surprising that James, (played by Alex Lawther – Black Mirror’s Shut up and Dance lead) is an outcast in society. Anybody who enjoys killing his neighbour’s pets is going to find it difficult to fit in. But for James, killing animals is more than just a pastime. It makes him feel something. Which, since witnessing his mother’s suicide, has been difficult. Like many classic portrayals of murderous psychopaths, killing animals isn’t enough and James soon becomes fixated on killing something ‘bigger, much bigger’. Cue Alyssa – the girl James wants to be his first human victim and (rather inconveniently) his new girlfriend.
Jessica Barden reprises the role of Alyssa from TEOTFW – the short film that became the pilot for this series. Neglected by both parents, Alyssa has deep rooted issues with the notion of love and experiences regular, unnerving encounters with her abusive stepdad. This, teamed with her inability to ‘fit in’ inspires her to leave her current life behind, eloping on a new adventure with her unusual boyfriend, James. Although we really, really want the pair to have a happy ending, the series title already indicates that this won’t be the case.
While embarking on their travels, Alyssa and James unknowingly break into a house owned by Dr. Clive Koch – a serial rapist, who returns back home to find Alyssa asleep in his bed. After Koch attempts to assault Alyssa, James slits his throat with a hunting knife (the one he planned to kill Alyssa with). Although murdering someone is an extreme method of self-discovery, in doing so James understands he’s not a murderous psychopath, and realises he has romantic feelings for Alyssa. The rest of the series follows the teens trying to escape the law while falling in love. It creates lots of enigma throughout and leaves the audience with a multitude of unanswered questions and theories behind their dysfunctional relationship. But we can at least speculate.
We’ll start with James. His plan to murder Alyssa was out of pure convenience, and not a personal attack. Essentially he wants to experience ending a human’s life and isn’t too fussy about who the victim is. With this in mind, the scene in which James is sexually assaulted by the man who gave him and Alyssa a lift, is even more unnerving. Why didn’t James kill him right then and there? He had his knife with him, nobody was around and he could have suppressed his murderous urges on somebody deserving. Although he might have felt threatened because the man supposedly served in the army, James didn’t attempt to stop him – and it felt as though this situation may have happened before.
Stay with me on this one.
Later in the series, a flashback scene explains where James’ extreme guilt comes from – he didn’t attempt to save his mum from her death. Realistically James (who was around 8 years old at the time) wouldn’t have been able to do anything to save his mum from drowning. Yet, what we do know is previous to her death, his mum was pretty harsh, snappy and difficult to live with (seemingly dealing with depression). Furthermore, a young James looked fairly uncomfortable in the car while his mum hugged him and said ‘I love you.’ This leads to my speculation as to whether James chose to watch his mum drown because she was abusing him. This would explain why James didn’t react to the army man in the toilets and gives a reason as to why his mum killed herself.
Then there’s Alyssa. Alyssa’s stepdad, Tony is clearly mentally (and possibly physically) abusive to her mum, Gwen. But, what isn’t as explicit is whether Tony has also been abusive to Alyssa. In episode one, Tony becomes disturbingly inappropriate with Alyssa, offering her a beer and complimenting her looks while his hand is on her waist. All of which, is witnessed by her mum, who does nothing. This explains Alyssa’s fake confidence around men – by offering herself to men, it places her in charge of her own body, rather than the other way round.
Throughout you’re pretty torn over the duo. Are they star-crossed lovers, Bonnie and Clyde or just two f**ked up teenagers? We’ll leave that one for you decide.
TEOTFW is a wonderfully weird, affecting, coming-of-age drama featuring fantastic performances from Barden and Lawther alongside comedic cameos from the brilliant Gemma Whelan and Matt King. And for those of you regretting binge-watching the entire series, I have two suggestions: just watch it again or fill the void and try Netflix original, Atypical.