The End of the F***ing World Season 1 Review

I've been counting down the days until the end of the world. The days until British comedy-drama The End of the F***ing World arrives on Netflix, that is. The series has been available in the UK for over two months now, premiering in late October on Channel 4, and on January 5th Netflix released it internationally. This is my first season review, as in the past I have stuck to episodic reviews of shows airing weekly. This review will be somewhat episodic in nature, I will discuss each episode and give episode scores, but it will also take a look at the season as a whole, and it won't spend as much time on each episode as my episodic reviews do.

The End of the F***ing World S1

The first episode is short, only eighteen minutes, but it does what it needs to do. We meet James and Alyssa. They are both really interesting characters, especially James. He considers himself to be a psychopath, put his hand in a deep fryer intentionally, kills animals, wants to punch his dad in the face, doesn't have a sense of humor, and masturbates once a week for medical purposes (this detail likely being something that Black Mirror fans would enjoy, considering the episode that Alex Lawther, the actor playing James, was in). Alyssa is interesting as well. She isn't as unique of a character as James is, but she is entertaining in how blunt she can be, she tosses profanities into her language all the time, sometimes randomly it seems, and she appears to have some issues, considering how she smashes her phone on the ground in anger when she receives a text from someone she is sitting at the same table as.

The episode provides us with quite a bit of humor, but it's all humor that helps us get to know the characters. James's dad is funny in the scene where he meets Alyssa, James is entertaining as he prepares for Alyssa to arrive and hides the knife, and it's completely hilarious when Alyssa asks James out of the blue "Have you ever eaten a p***y before?" then tells him that she wants that from him and schedules it for the next day at eleven. The end of the first episode is of course when things really get started, as Alyssa, who is tired of her life in this town with her family, suggests to James that they leave, and James punches his dad in the face and takes the car.

The first episode flies by, feeling even shorter than the short eighteen minutes it is because it is so much fun. James and Alyssa narrate the story, which can be entertaining since they are such interesting characters. I also like how the characters contrast. Alyssa talks a lot, and as a result we know all about her family situation. James, on the other hand, isn't much of a talker, and only reveals anything about his mom when prompted by Alyssa, telling her that she lives in Japan. Yet, somehow, it feels like the first episode got to know James better than it did Alyssa.

When the first episode ends, it's unclear if there is any destination in mind; it doesn't seem that there is. That's true for most of the second episode as well, and that seems to be part of the problem with how the show handles Alyssa and how it handles James up to that point. James has a clear motivation, he wants to kill Alyssa. Alyssa's motivation is less clear. She wants to escape the life she has been living, and she does that at the end of the first episode, but that leaves the question of what now? Luckily, the second episode answers that, when Alyssa tells James that she is going to her dad's.

Alyssa's relationship with her dad is an interesting thing. Usually, characters who have a parent that abandoned them tend to feel resentment towards that parent. Alyssa, however, understands that her dad left because he is a free spirit, and she idolizes him in a way. When she and James realize they don't have any money for the food they have eaten, she recites a motto of her dad's, concluding they can dine and dash because the restaurant is a part of a chain. We also see in this episode how screwed up Alyssa's home life is. When she calls home, she asks her step dad if she can speak with her mother, and without consulting her mother, he tells her she can't. Alyssa's mother appears to want to speak to her daughter, but says nothing.

What I found most interesting in the second episode, however, is Alyssa's worries that James doesn't actually want to be a part of this adventure of sorts that they are having. Alyssa gets to worrying about this due to a very strange and funny situation that occurs, when the man giving James and Alyssa a ride uses the restroom at the same time as James, takes an interest in his hand, and then holds the hand as he continues to pee. This moment is used for entertainment, to get to know more about James, that he just goes along with things sometimes, and to cause Alyssa to worry. While she doesn't seem to care what most people think of her, insulting the looks of the man's child earlier, she does care what James thinks, or maybe she just cares that he is doing what he is doing out of his own free will.

This is not all that happens in the second episode though, which manages to pack a lot in. James is still trying to find the right time to kill Alyssa, and something interesting happens near the end of the episode. He waits outside the bathroom for her with a knife, but then abandons the plan to kill her at that time because he hears her crying. In the last few minutes of the episode, James seems to actually care about Alyssa, at least a little bit.

The first two episodes are mostly spent getting to know the characters and sending them off on their journey. The third episode is when things escalate. James and Alyssa decide to spend the next night in a house that they find that's empty. I'm not exactly sure why, after making it obvious that they have quite a bit of cash now, they have to do this, but it's what Alyssa decides on. Alyssa also wants to delay seeing her dad. While she has decided that they are going to see him, it seems she is beginning to worry if it will be as good as she hopes that it will be.

The house that James and Alyssa find ends up leading to a lot of trouble. It seems perfect at first, but then we get some hints as to what type of person the owner of this house is. He arrives home and finds Alyssa, who says that she is alone. Thinking that the two of them are alone, he attempts to rape her, but James, who is hiding underneath the bed, stops that from happening by killing him. James wants to kill someone, but the person he was prepared to kill was Alyssa, who he now just saved from getting raped and likely murdered. This also happens after he realizes that Alyssa is making him feel things, which he does not like. Now, his relationship with Alyssa is even more complicated.

The third episode also deals with sex. Alyssa has expressed since the first episode that she wants to have sex, but in reality she seems to have mixed emotions about it. When James is not aroused right away when she starts to give him a blowjob, she bails on him. (James later tries to apologize to Alyssa for this, but she doesn't even acknowledge that, which seems out-of-character for her.) She finds a guy who wants to have sex with her, but right before they are about to, she changes her mind. Alyssa seems to want sex, but is scared about it. Alyssa's exact feelings and worries about sex aren't made clear in this episode, but it is clear that there is some conflict inside her on the topic.

In the fourth episode, James and Alyssa now have to deal with what happened. This means both that they have to clean up the scene, and that they have to deal with the different dynamic between them. Alyssa realizes that there is something seriously wrong with James, and she doesn't really buy his answers to her questions about the knife. James also has a realization near the end of the episode, a part of the episode where Alex Lawther really shines, when he is lying on the ground after paying some guys to beat him up (which rids me of my worries that James was getting too normal in this episode). He realizes that Alyssa has been protecting him, without him realizing it. James also realizes that he is not a psychopath, though given his past with killing animals, he certainly still has plenty of issues.

While I really liked the realizations and Alex Lawther's performance, I found the fourth episode to be the weakest one so far. Without Alyssa providing that much humor in this episode, the detectives that are working the case are relied upon for comedy, and it doesn't work very well. Also, the show attempts to get the audience to care about these two characters and whatever happened between them, but it feels like a waste of time that could be spent with James and Alyssa, or one of the two, as they split ways late in the episode. My one other criticism for the episode is that early on there seems to be some urgency to get to Alyssa's dad's, as she concludes that he will know what to do, but everything after cleaning up the crime scene feels like it is in no hurry at all.

The fifth episode begins with a flashback that takes place eleven years before the time the rest of the episode takes place. A young James seems totally normal, which is bizarre because other flashbacks to his childhood have shown him being weird, indicating that he wasn't always that way. Sure enough, the flashback gives us something that likely made James be so strange: he witnessed his mother kill herself by driving her car into a pond. In the present day, James reports his mother's suicide to the police, indicating that the fact that she killed herself is a secret that he has kept until now. The flashback provides interesting insight into James's life, but other than that, his part of the episode isn't that interesting, as he decides, inspired by a police officer's question if there is anyone to take care of him, to try to find Alyssa.

Alyssa's story isn't as interesting as what we have witnessed before in this show, but she is an entertaining enough character to make it enjoyable. Without money, since she gave it to James, she has to steal when she gets her period and is unprepared. She steals out of necessity, and returns a lost girl to the store instead of escaping, making Alyssa seem like a completely moral character, but then she steals a bra from the store after the manager decides not to report her attempted theft to the police. In the scene after this, we really get to see Alyssa doubt her decisions, as she wonders why she stole the bra when she didn't need it, and why she left James when he was trying to protect her. She feels conflicted, and wants to see James again, and then miraculously finds him. Thank god the two of them found each other though, because they are both more interesting when playing off each other.

In episode six, James and Alyssa are reunited again. We get to spend some fun times with them then, the highlight being when an attempt to steal some gas ends up going much farther than either of them had expected. The one employee at the gas station that wants to go with them is endearing, and I kind of wish that they had let him come with them, but this show is rooted in the two of James and Alyssa, so the two of them facing things together is important. Speaking of facing things together, the unusual happens in this episode with James comforting Alyssa. She expresses her worries about her dad to him, and he is surprisingly good at comforting her. He probably wouldn't be able to comfort others well, but James and Alyssa have really gotten to know each other, and now they understand each other and have a relationship, unlike James has with anyone else.

This episode also brings the police closer to finding them and finding out what happened when the man was killed. After they found the knife at the end of the last episode, they have determined that it is a murder weapon. The victim's mother is persuaded into giving up information revealing who her son is, which gives the police potential motive for James and Alyssa killing him. Finally, the robbery of the gas station gives them a direction to go, making it not as challenging now for them to track down James and Alyssa. I liked how this progressed, and I also liked how one detective seems to sympathize with them. It does seem harsh that they would be convicted of manslaughter.

The seventh episode is largely spent with James and Alyssa getting to know Lesley, Alyssa's father. He is probably exactly what most viewers were expecting him to be. He seems to spend most of his time having fun, he lives in a mobile home, and he is a drug dealer. This episode isn't as funny as the early episodes of the season, but Lesley does provide some humor. The biggest thing that Lesley does though is impact James and Alyssa's relationship. Alyssa has idolized her father, so she loves spending time with him, and that leaves James, who doesn't really like Lesley, feeling alone. It's saddening, and that's largely because the show has done a great job of establishing James and Alyssa's relationship.

Near the end of the episode, Alyssa discovers that she has a half-brother, and she feels betrayed by Lesley since he withheld this information from her. Most shows would use this as a moment for James to comfort Alyssa. Instead, the opposite ends up happening. When Lesley injures a dog, and James is unable to bring himself to put it out of its misery, Alyssa steps up. Then, they hug. Alyssa has realized that no matter what happens in the world around them, she and James have each other.

With the seventh episode being the penultimate one of the season, the detectives of course get closer to finding James and Alyssa. They arrive at Lesley's old address, but the woman there gives them no information. The most interesting thing in these detective scenes are their different perspectives on the situation. These different perspectives make the ending interesting, as the detective who believes that James and Alyssa need someone to talk to them rather than to be locked up is told where Lesley is staying. Now, she has to make a choice, and this sets up what has the potential to be a thrilling conclusion.

The conclusion didn't disappoint. The season finale reflected on James and Alyssa's relationship while bringing the police to them and presenting them with a series of choices. After jumping ahead to the very end, with James running on the beach, the beginning of the episode has James and Alyssa on the beach. Alyssa stops James before they are going to have sex, saying that she wants to wait a few days and that they have a lot of time. We, however, know that they do not have much time at all. They also make a plan, they will take Lesley's boat and leave the country.

James and Alyssa put their plan into action, and this is where everything goes wrong. Lesley won't give them the boat keys, and because he saw them on the news the previous night, he calls 9-9-9. The scene in the mobile home gets more and more intense, as James grabs a gun, Alyssa stabs her father in the leg, and the detective enters the scene. This scene works wonderfully, and I love how it ends with Alyssa refusing help from the detective when she gets confirmation that she and James won't end up in the same place.

With boat keys in hand and time running out, James and Alyssa try to make their escape, but they realize it's too late. While James and Alyssa have grown together, they have different perspectives on the situation. Alyssa wants the two to be together, no matter what. James doesn't want Alyssa to get in trouble when he was the one that killed the man. It's heartbreaking as James hits Alyssa with the gun and runs down the beach in an attempt to save her, not realizing that what she wants most is to be with him. At the end of the episode, the police are shooting at James, and it's unclear what the results of this are. It could be implied that James has been killed, and if this were presented as a mini-series I would infer that, but Netflix lists this as season one.

This show was a quick watch, perhaps too quick (it takes less than three hours to watch the entire season), and it was a delight the whole way. The parts of the season where James and Alyssa were separated weren't as strong, and I didn't care much for the police investigation in the first couple of episodes that it appeared in, but these were the only parts of the season that I didn't love. The characters were introduced in an efficient and entertaining manner, and the show didn't waste any time getting to its climax.

The sense of humor that the show displayed, primarily in the earlier episodes of the season, was right up my alley. I wish the show had continued to be so funny as the season progressed, but they had more serious subjects to deal with. Alex Lawther and Jessica Barden were absolutely terrific, no matter if the material they were dealing with at the time was comedic, dramatic, or some mix of both. They helped make their characters thoroughly engaging, and had a great chemistry. The writing of their relationship was also strong, and I really enjoyed how it evolved throughout the season.

In conclusion, I am so glad that I have been paying a lot of attention to what Netflix is releasing, because I would not have wanted to miss this show. I've been thinking about how to define this show, and honestly, when it comes down to it, I would say that this is a dark coming-of-age relationship comedy-drama, but it feels like the show is even more than that. Whatever it is, The End of the F***ing World is a show with great acting, great writing, and great directing.

Episode scores:
Episode 1: 9/10
Episode 2: 10/10
Episode 3: 9.5/10
Episode 4: 8/10
Episode 5: 8/10
Episode 6: 9.5/10
Episode 7: 9/10
Episode 8: 10/10

Season score: 9.125/10

What did you think of the first season of The End of the F***ing World? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

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