Review: “The End of the World” starts an arc

Above: Jessica Barden and Alex Lawther in the promotional poster for “The End of the F***ing World”. Photo Courtesy:

Kalleen Rose Ozanic, Editor-in-Chief

I find that popular shows that the public deems binge-worthy are often more addictive than they are quality material. I save some shows from this judgment, such as “Stranger Things” or “Sherlock”, but I am here to say that “The End of the F***ing World” (“TEOTFW”) is a quality show. Premiering October 24, 2017 in the United Kingdom and airing internationally January 5, 2018 on Netflix, “TEOTFW” has made its mark in entertainment culture this year. More than the average teen show, I believe “TEOTFW” can find its place in any binger’s “continue watching” docket. More than presenting a teen pair falling in love, the show elaborates upon the strong emotions with which love is packaged. James, a self-diagnosed psychopath, and Alyssa, the flighty and mercurial new girl at school, run away together on a cross-country tour around England to escape their home lives and emotions. Through all this, they learn that falling in love is a whirlwind, and under certain circumstances, it can feel like “the end of the f***ing world.” In kind with “Stranger Things” and “Sherlock”, “TEOTFW” broadly stands out with the strides it made in character development, especially with its short time limits.

“Stranger Things”, in its two seasons so far, consists of eight to nine episodes that vary in length between forty minutes and one hour. In “Sherlock”, the series consists of nine episodes divided evenly among three seasons, each of which is approximately ninety minutes long. Such long episodes allow ample time to show relationships between characters and they way such characters change. “The End of the F***ing World”, on the other hand, aired one season of eight episodes, each approximately twenty minutes in length. It is an incredible feat to portray a dynamic character in such a short amount of time.

In the first episode, we see James struggling with his emotions, or lack thereof, as he considers himself to be a psychopath. He has made a habit of killing animals in the past, and keeps close records of his exploits. It is important to keep in mind that a psychopath is one who feels emotions far less intensely than the average person, or feels no emotions. In the first few episodes, it truly seems as if James is a psychopath. He has obsessive intrusive thoughts of brutally murdering his companion Alyssa. He shows no romantic interest when she asks him if he would like to start dating, despite his assent. He shows no physical reaction when he is molested in a public bathroom. In every way, James is written to be hated by the audience. Alyssa is shown to be struggling with an abusive stepfather at home and an apathetic mother, and James is just biding time until he can kill her, finally graduating from animals to humans. He seems to be the predator to a struggling Alyssa.

But by the third episode, Alyssa and James break into a house, seeking shelter after they have run out of money. At this point, James is still having thoughts of killing Alyssa, but cannot compel himself to do it. Quite unlike a psychopath, James is developing feelings for Alyssa. As a matter of fact, when the homeowner, a serial killer and rapist, returns and makes harmful advances towards Alyssa, James saves her by stabbing the man in the neck. This is James’ first murder, and he responds promptly by throwing up. Such a physical reaction is not characteristic of a psychopath. This is also where most of the trouble begins for Alyssa and James, as they have to remove any traces of evidence from the scene and try to outrun the police.

In the following episodes, when Alyssa abandons James, fearing his murderous capabilities, James feels lost and alone. He depends on her and loves her. She led the way for them on their adventure and he has no purpose without her on their grand trip. Perhaps most important to James’ character development is when we learn that his mother killed herself in front of him. As a young child, he froze and didn’t know what to do, something which has haunted him later in life. It becomes clear that James’ obsession with murder and death has more to do with a lack of closure, which seems to border on post-traumatic stress disorder, than being a psychopath. In fact, it could be said that he became averse to emotion as a way of coping with his mother’s suicide.

In the last episode, when James sacrifices himself for Alyssa’s freedom, it is evident that he has emotions. He loves Alyssa. He regrets killing a man. He defends Alyssa, and most importantly, himself. He feels enough to defend himself from the harsh words and actions of others. By the end of the series, we can see that James has become much more than he was in the first episode. He no longer wants to stick his hand in a fryer just to “feel something”, to quote James from the first episode. He has emotions and feelings. By the end of the series, he is a beloved character whose fate was not deserved. True character development is seen not through the character’s actions, though. It is seen in the audience’s emotions most clearly. If James was hated in the first episode and loved in the last, it is because his actions redeemed him. If you don’t watch “The End of the F***ing World” for its significant character development, then watch it for its catchy and upbeat indie rock soundtrack or its stark cinematography that reveals the characters emotions. Watching “The End of the F***ing World” was worth every second, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy this dark comedy as much as I did.