I’m James. I’m 17. And I’m pretty sure I’m a psychopath,” are the first words we hear in The End of the F***ing World; one way of looking at this darkly offbeat show is that it’s about a young man learning that the world is more twisted than he could ever aspire to be. It must be deflating at that age to realise you aren’t all that special or dangerous; that even if you tortured animals as a kid and scalded your own hand in oil, there are much worse, less self-reflective people than you around.
This tightly constructed, easyto-binge-watch British series (eight episodes of around 20 minutes each) centres on James and
Alyssa, his restless and depressive new friend—if that’s the correct description for someone whom he plans to kill (or so he claims). They agree to run away, leaving behind the town where they feel like misfits. “If this was a film, we’d probably be American,” she deadpans with the wisdom of one familiar with the Hollywood tradition of malcontents on the road, which stretches back at least to the 1940s’ They Live by Night and includes Badlands and True Romance.
Initially, James and Alyssa seem like cold fish—desultory, blank-faced, with a mechanical and bored attitude to even sex—but before one realises it, their vulnerable sides emerge and it becomes easier to root for them. The first three episodes alone give us two very nasty middle-aged men whose actions makes these kids seem like, well, kids.
I had heard this was a black comedy and was a little disappointed on that score— there is some dry, morose humour, only not as much as I had hoped for. But there are other things to enjoy, notably the super lead performances, a rock soundtrack that uses classics like “I’m laughing on the outside, crying on the inside” to unusual effect, and (if you’re into this sort of thing) a startling, stylised murder scene with a spurt of blood flowing dreamily at the camera. At times, the voiceover-driven narrative comes across as pretentiously, showily nihilistic—but that’s how you’d expect an angstridden teen to be.
The humour disappoints, but the lead actors and soundtrack stand out