In this day and age, branding a show a “Netflix Original” is essentially the Midas Touch in a TV series’s success. Originally debuting in the U.K. in Oct. 2017, the take-off series “The End of the F***ing World” is brought to the U.S. and “only available on Netflix.” While being under the golden label may be indicative of immediate success in itself, the show has the goods to back it up.
This dark dramedy, based on the comic series “The End of the Fucking World” by Charles S. Forsman, follows a 17-year-old, self-proclaimed psychopath, James (Alex Lawther, “The Imitation Game”), who is looking to graduate from killing small animals to “something bigger.” Alyssa (Jessica Barden, “Hanna”), a crass, rebellious girl who is the picture of teen angst, finds herself involved with James — romantically she thinks, though his intentions are much more malevolent. The two misguided teens steal James’s father’s car and take off with nothing planned, other than James’s underlying motive to murder his partner in crime.
The pilot episode is dedicated primarily to establishing these two young protagonists than it is to rapid plot movement, and though some may describe this style as “slow,” I believe this character-centric focus helps build the viewers’s connection with them. James and Alyssa, as two emotionally unavailable characters who finally find human connection with each other, have an interesting dynamic — reminiscent of the cold, but deep, connection of the young protagonists in Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom.” With the narration switching between James’s and Alyssa’s respective inner monologues, the viewer sees through their projected tough personas with the help of their vocalized internal fears.
Another way this series is reminiscent of Wes Anderson is in its cinematic symmetry, most clearly evident in the cataloging shots of animals James killed or letters Alyssa received from her absent father, all neatly arranged. The show's cinematography is crisp, unique and compelling; when Alyssa is first introduced, she lays perfectly centered in the frame, staring up at the sky and out at the viewer. The writing could be described in a similar way. Alyssa’s unfiltered, sharp tongue, ready to attack at any given moment, paired with the all-but-silent James, provides for quick-witted and multi-dimensional conversations between the two. The aforementioned cutting between characters’ narrations also leads to this dynamic flow of the script.
While my parents argued that they “didn’t quite get” the show, I think that there is something in these angsty teens that most, if not all, young people today can identify with. The relatable, underlying theme of the us-against-the-world mentality has the audience rooting for the success of these misanthropes. I found myself connected to the protagonists, for reasons unbeknownst to me since they are so rough around the edges; I believe that the ability of the show to keep the audience’s sympathy with these outsiders despite their (at times abhorrent) actions speaks to the quality of the series at large. With the combination of strong cinematography, witty writing and a stellar soundtrack, this U.K. series has just what it takes to nestle itself in the hearts of Netflix bingers across the country.