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It’s f***ing back: ‘The End of the F***ing World’ makes its reckless, bloody return

| Friday, November 15, 2019

Diane Park | The Observer

When its first season came out, “The End of the F***ing World” felt like it was over as soon as it started. But then it didn’t die. Netflix resurrected the show with another full eight episodes Nov. 4.

The first season follows the misadventures of troubled teenagers Alyssa (Jessica Barden) and James (Alex Lawther). Well, troubled is putting it lightly, maybe. Alyssa is explosive and irreverent, armed with an impulsivity that is constantly getting her into trouble. And then there’s James, who’s convinced he is a psychopath.

On a whim, the pair ditch their English suburbia for a joyride across the countryside, leaving a streak of crimes trailing behind. Inevitably, their crime spree catches up to them. In the season’s final moments, we see James on the run from armed policemen. Shots ring out, the screen cuts to black and that’s that.

After the brick-wall ending of season one, it’s hard to have any expectations — literally, any at all — for season two. So why not let season one of “The End of the F***ing World” be the f—ing end?

Was it those nasty Netflix administrators, who for want of capitalizing on the show’s success, unraveled what many hold up as the perfect ending?

Honestly … probably. But it was also an opportunity for breakout writer Charlie Covell to spend more time on Alyssa and James. Frankly, I’m just glad we get to see eight more episodes of them.

As fans of season one will remember, character growth for both Alyssa and James was hard-fought.

“[Alyssa and James] start out as sort of comic-book characters, and then unravel to become messy and sad and bleak,” Lawther said in a February interview with British news publication the Independent.

There is not so much pretense this time around. Admittedly, most of season two is spent mopping up the emotional aftermath of their shared trauma. This may sound like an affront to the original season’s break-neck pace, but Alyssa and James are two years older now. In a way, the newfound maturity is nice to see. 

For one, James has thawed considerably. He’s himself, just not as haunted. Likewise, Alyssa — though she still has her moments — has lost quite a bit of her edge. These are characters that have done two years of growing up, and it shows.

And that means the softer moments that were few-and-far-between in season one are center-stage this time around. Yes, some of the intensity is gone. Season two is less hungry. It’s less angry. But it bears its heart a little more proudly. 

That’s not to say the two seasons aren’t cut from the same cloth. Stylistically, both seasons speak the same language. 

It’s still about two teenagers, a car and the road — plus some moderately gratuitous violence.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention season two introduces a new lead character, however.

Enter Bonnie (Naomi Ackie), a college-aged misanthrope whose emotional baggage is certainly on par with the likes of Alyssa and James. It sounds bad, having a third character shoe-horned into a show that barely has the emotional space for two. But with episode one all to herself, Ackie quickly proves her place in the season.

(And, if it’s any comfort, Bonnie doesn’t just come out of nowhere — she’s based off a minor character from the original comic.)

Aside from compelling performances from its leads, there’s plenty more to enjoy this season.

Yet again, the soundtrack does not disappoint, with Graham Coxon, best known from English rock band Blur, returning to compose a handful of originals.

And — true to the original comic — the show’s continued love affair with diners and small towns means this English show does a scarily good job evoking a trans-American road trip. For anyone who’s ever had the compulsion to hop in a car and drive off to God-knows-where, it’s a whole lot of vicarious fun.

On the whole, season two, like the last one, rambles along a little aimlessly, though to no fault of its own. This show was never about a destination, it was just about Alyssa and James.

Show: “The End of the F***ing World” Season 2 

Starring: Jessica Barden, Alex Lawther and Naomi Ackie

Favorite episodes: three, seven, eight

If you like: “Misfits,” “Black Mirror,” “Twin Peaks”

Where to watch: Netflix

Shamrocks: 4.5 out of 5

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About Mary Steurer

Mary is a senior sociology major and journalism minor from St. Louis. An aspiring religion reporter, Mary has spent the last year covering conversations about the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis at Notre Dame.

Contact Mary