Netflix’s tendency for putting out great content has become routine. Their streaming service has an effortless ability to give unique ideas a platform to shine. “The End of the F***ing World” is a British dark-comedy drama based on Charles S. Forsman’s graphic novel of the same name. Netflix’s remarkable streak of success continues with this show, one of the most bizarre, hilariously cynical and insightful ones I have seen in quite some time.
The main premise involves James, played by Alex Lawther, a 17-year-old boy who believes himself to be a psychopath. Fans of Netflix’s other massively popular drama series “Black Mirror” will recognize the actor from season three’s “Shut Up and Dance” episode. He soon runs into Alyssa, played by Jessica Barden, a rebellious classmate who believes James could provide her the chance of escaping the dissonant home life situation she finds herself in.
Together the two decide to run away, ignoring the desires of their delusional parents, and embark on a journey of self-discovery, if you want to call it that. James is so mentally disturbed that he yearns to experience what it is like to kill a human being.
Summarizing precisely what “The End of the F***ing World” is about and what makes it so refreshing is difficult. On one hand, it feels like a coming-of-age comedy about two hilariously troubled weirdos. On the other, it can be a thrilling, yet deeply insightful deluge of questions concerning themes like morality, love and nihilism. It feels like a roller coaster that flashes pretty images along the way that are just as memorable as the adrenaline rush from the speed of the ride itself.
What is interesting is that the show does not seem to take a direct stance on these issues. This is a compliment though because the ambiguous nature of the story is what makes it so fascinating. There are no clear lessons to be learned here, no overarching theme that gives a viewer an answer to what is good and what is bad. It is just a story about two troubled teens seeking asylum from the world.
Much of this can be accredited to to the superb writing as well as the main performances of Lawther and Barden. These two characters have plenty of layers, making them a lot more endearing than their misanthropic ideologies and tendencies. From early on, the show’s blatantly crude title certainly proves to be fortuitous enough as there is plenty of profanity spewed throughout and some violent moments that display gory images.
This journey is not one for the faint of heart but rather for those that enjoy a darker gradient of comedy. It is often best when the main protagonists share their observations through narration or their inner thoughts, like Alyssa pondering whether or not she should become an alcoholic since at least then she would “always have something to do.”
All of this is not to suggest the show is perfect. Around the final two or three episodes, I felt that the show peaked a little bit. There wasn’t anything shocking or remarkable left in the tank. The conclusion itself is great. I couldn’t help but feel as though there had been a slight dip in quality in the series’ final stretch overall. Things come to a halt and there is not much in the way of character development. Regardless of this, it is not a deal breaker. I am sure most people will be too infatuated with the beginning and middle developments of the plot to be bothered much by the relatively mundane nature of the last act.
For those looking for something different that offers hysterically vulgar comedy with acute observations about life underneath the surface that isn’t overly pretentious about it, “The End of the F***ing World” is the latest binge-worthy show for them. If not, take a gander at it anyway. When everything seems to be going to hell, it is strangely therapeutic to have a front row seat for it.