The End of the F***ing World is a Netflix original series based on the graphic novel by Charles S. Forsman. It stars Alex Lawther as James, a self-diagnosed psychopath, and Jessica Barden as Alyssa, a rebellious teenage girl who tends to bottle up her emotions. Both teens impulsively begin a relationship, but James intends to kill Alyssa to see what murdering a human would be like. However, after Alyssa proposes they run away together, their relationship goes through a series of mishaps, including the biggest one of all: falling in love with each other.
One of the biggest failings in most teen dramas is how the characters are written. The End of the F***ing World is what happens if you took the unrealistic snark from a series like “13 Reasons Why” and applied a degree of self-awareness to it. The dialogue and reactions carry a brew of acknowledged shallowness and bleak introspection. You know their sardonicism is a front, but they have a good reason to mask their angst. It is not treated as a regular way teenagers talk or act, as most adults would assume.
Something witty about the writing is how the characters’ proposed archetypes are quickly subverted as the series progresses. In many ways, Alyssa is a more accurate portrayal of antisocial personality disorder than James. James’s attempts at appearing sociopathic range from unnerving to nothing more than the teenage desire to be different (e.g., killing animals is disturbing, but not finding your father’s dad jokes funny is not).
Meanwhile, Alyssa is insolent, impulsive, and far more calculated in many areas than James is. While she has brief flashes of regret and empathy, she consistently does not care about her well-being or that of others while James comes up with every excuse not to kill her under the guise of not being prepared. This makes their relationship significantly engaging, as the guy who was initially manipulating his girlfriend for his nefarious purposes realizes he is no match for her vicious nature, which sparks a genuine attraction.
The series’s stellar writing is elevated by outstanding performances from its cast, particularly Alex Lawther and Jessica Barden in the titular roles. They encapsulate both the wannabe edginess and candid restlessness that comes with being a teenager, especially given their situation. Their actions are irrevocably abhorrent, but you end up rooting for them to beat the odds due to how close they become and how tragic their circumstances are.
In an unusually glamorous fashion, “The End of the F***ing World” shows how unglamorous being a teenager can be. “The End of the F***ing World” offers the most insightful fact about adolescent angst and young love: teens have no idea what they are doing.