Arts, Television, Review

‘End of the F***ing World’ Flops Despite High Expectations

Everyone’s favorite troubled teens returned to Netflix on Tuesday for the second season of The End of the F***ing World. After the Season One finale ended on a cliffhanger, with the fate of main character James (Alex Lawthner) up in the air, fans have been itching for answers.

The dark comedy follows two misfit teenagers: James, a boy who has convinced himself he feels nothing, and Alyssa (Jessica Barden), a girl who feels everything a bit too much. In the first season, the pair runs away from their dreary suburban lives. The teen outcasts’ adventure ends with the murder of a pedophile and confrontations with the police, not to mention a budding romance.

Season Two deals with James and Alyssa’s attempts to move on after these traumatic events. It takes place two years later, with the friends living separate lives. Yet fate brings James and Alyssa back together when the unhinged girlfriend of the pedophile they killed in Season One, Bonnie (Naomi Ackie), hunts them down. 

While Season Two is a solid follow-up to the events of the first season, it lacks the emotional intensity of Season One. This switch in tone is a result of the show’s decision to portray James and Alyssa as adults rather than the rebellious teens they once were. Season One had such a large emotional impact because it explored the trials and tribulations of young adulthood, but in Season Two, James and Alyssa are suddenly all grown up.

It’s possible that the abandonment of James and Alyssa’s youth is an intentional choice made by the writers to help highlight the effects of trauma later on in the characters’ lives. Although they’re 19 years old in this season, their behavior and the manner in which adults treat them would lead you to believe that they are much older. Even if this was a conscious choice, abandoning the juvenile aspects of The End of the F****ing World sacrifices much of the show’s appeal. The first season was filled the vibrance of teen angst, and, in the shadow of this, the lack of youth in Season Two leaves it feeling a bit gray. 

Additionally, the drama of Season Two, which is filled with plotting, secrets, and more murder, feels a bit redunant. The plot remains captivating, but it’s not fresh. The introduction of a new character is intended to add life to the story, yet it only ends up mimicking the sense of danger created in the first season by James’ plot to kill Alyssa. Once again, James and Alyssa find themselves running from a variety of pursuers, but this time they have less direction. This aimlessness leaves their adventures feeling more stale than their quest to reach Alyssa’s dad in Season One. 

Although the plot is by no means uneventful, it simply doesn’t live up to the success of Season One. The writers succeeded in constructing a plausible story following the events of the first season and maintaining some tension and sense of danger. The problem is simply that the storyline doesn’t feel unique or innovative.

Despite issues with the plot, Season Two  is full of the same dark humor that charmed viewers in Season One. James and Alyssa’s tumultuous relationship remains a source of comedic relief as they try to navigate their feelings toward each other. A disconnect is created between the two by Alyssa’s aggressive yet standoffish behavior and James’ unfamiliarity with emotions.

Because of the shadow cast by the first season, the return of The End of the F***ing World feels underwhelming. The first season introduced an intriguing narrative, loveable characters, a quirky romance, and emotional intensity. It’s difficult for this season to live up to these high expectations. As a result, a collection of episodes that would otherwise be entertaining on their own end up feeling inadequate in comparison.

Featured Image by Netflix

November 10, 2019

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