It’s a love story for the ages: girl meets boy, boy takes girl on wild road trip with the intent of murdering her.
This was the underlying plot that put the events of The End of the F***ing World’s first season in motion. It’s a dark premise that was handled with a light touch. The twisted black comedy read as though Wes Anderson decided to tackle teenage misanthropy (though with undoubtedly more bloodshed than he would’ve bargained for), somehow giving us a charming and thought-provoking portrayal of nihilism.
As insufferable as they could both be, viewers made close friends with self-diagnosed psychopath James (Alex Lawther) and crude loudmouth Alyssa (Jessica Barden) throughout the first season. We all loved them and wanted the best for both of them.
And so, the gunshot that capped off the first season was just about drowned out with the sounds of the audience’s hearts breaking all together. James was dead, or so it seemed; the episode faded to black and cut to credits, with only the final shot of Alyssa, shaken and screaming, a hint pointing to what had happened.
Although upsetting, James’ ambiguous ending was an excellent way to end the story. I find the first season of this show to be a television experience like nothing else on Netflix and something unparalleled in recent teenage-targeted fiction: hopeless and hopeful at the same time. An equal balance of dark truths and light-heartedness.
It’s hard to speak about this season without revealing James’ fate, but know the weight of season one’s final gunshot barely carries on throughout season two. This is a definite missed opportunity for the development of multiple characters, knowing the gravity it had in the first season.
Both a negative and positive this season is the addition of Bonnie (Naomi Ackie), a lonely, lovesick woman bent on seeking revenge for the murder of both her professor and the man she’s in love with, Dr. Clive Koch (Jonathan Aris), the only life James and Alyssa had claimed during their road trip.
Ackie does a wonderful job with the character of Bonnie, humanizing her and giving reason to her murderous tendencies instead of simply letting her loose on the established plot.
But, after developing Bonnie and re-establishing where last season’s characters stand, season two’s plot is settled: an antagonist heading on a road trip with the hidden intent of hunting down her host. Although there are new motivations, this is clearly a lazy rehashing of the first season without any basis behind it.
Moreover, while the first season’s story had genuine depth to it, the second season attempts to match it, but ultimately has nothing as poignant to say as season one did.
Instead, we’re left with a happily wrapped up, Disney Channel-esque ending with a bow neatly tied on top of it, a stark contrast to the note the prior season ended on.
In the midst of so much media that dishes out happy endings with the intent of pleasing the widest group of people possible, The End of the F***ing World dared to be different. It firmly stated that life wasn’t always pleasant and pretty no matter how many Anderson-esque hues you painted it in. More importantly, it stated that that was okay; that you could still fall in love, get drunk and dance around your murder victim’s home so you didn’t have to speak. That things worth finding would show themselves in unexpected places, like the living room of the depraved professor whose house you’d broken into.
Then, upon renewal, it unravelled all of this and lazily attempted to put the pieces back together in a more pleasing way. To me, a die-hard fan of season one, The End of the F***ing World was never meant to be pleasing. That was the point.
The second season of The End of the F***ing World isn’t particularly bad — the characters’ careless charm was still evident throughout, even if the magic of the first season’s unlikely love story wasn’t all there — but as a fan of the show, it’s a huge disappointment. Its existence is much like the characters in this show feel about their own: pointless.