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It’s ‘The End of the F—— World,’ and there’s this girl …

| Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Andrea Savage | The Observer

2017’s “13 Reasons Why” treated us to the melodramatic horrors of teen angst turned lukewarm. The series (likely a televised incarnation of an unreleased My Chemical Romance album) whipped out its suicide porn like a toneless battering ram — slathering every arid line in gobs of undue emotion.

Will Toledo’s tweet captures the heart of the atrocity: “As someone who contributed to the soundtrack of ‘13 Reason’s Why,’ I’m obliged to tell you all that it’s kind of f—–.”

2018’s response to “13 Reason’s Why” is also f—–. In fact, it’s “The End of the F—— World.” But it’s f—— done right — jet black, razor sharp, immensely funny and so absurd that it manages to convey something realistic.

“The End of the F—— World” began as most teen romances do — from a torn piece of paper outside a London comic store (which happened to be a page of Charles Forsmen’s self-published comic book series of the same name). Director Jonathan Entwistle, who was lucky enough to stumble across the scrap, fell in love with its prototypically juicy elements of teen drama.

The endearing tale of self-diagnosed psychopath James (Alex Lawther) meets potential victim Alyssa (Jessica Barden), as one might expect, dabbles in darkness. But it doesn’t wallow. In lieu of “13 Reason Why’s” ultra-American melancholic gloss, Entwistle’s British sensibilities leaves the dialogue dry and the frames unadorned. His leads, Lawther and Barden, look like actual 17 year olds — not 25 year old models, and their dialogue jettisons impassioned explosion for the condensed chirpings of rattled teenagers.

Their adventure, which takes place over the course of eight 20-minute episodes, evokes Bonny and Clyde with a healthy dose of existential pain (courtesy of a budding adulthood). Senseless violence, sexual tension and unsolicited kindness stand in for zits, breakups and house parties as James and Alyssa slowly come to terms with the world’s absurdity, leading the teens — loners by trade — towards nature’s hardest truth. There’s no punishment worse than loneliness and no better enforcer than the broken human spirit.

While most dark shows — like “Black Mirror” — broach their subject matter by introducing tragedy to comfort, “The End of the F—— World” manages to squeeze comfort, humor even, out of impenetrable bleakness.

“I feel sort of safe,” Alyssa says of James as he secretly plots her murder. We, the viewers, also feel surprisingly safe as we witness their grim trials. Perhaps it’s because we know the facets growing up — figuring out that adulthood isn’t so much a victory over the bitterness as it is an embrace of it. Things don’t always get better with age. Most of the time, they get worse. No time for angst-ridden existential moping.

As humans, we have the tools to be happy in spite of it all, to laugh at the lamentable state of the universe and find solace in those capable of laughing with us. “The End of the F—— World” may be dark, but it’s far from hopeless.

In fact, its eight short episodes may be the brightest glimmer of blood-soaked hope in contemporary television.

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