Netflix’s new comedy/drama series, “ The End of the F***ing World,” based on the graphic novel by Charles Forsman, begins with a monologue from protagonist James (Alex Lawther) explaining that he is a psychopath who has spent much of his youth killing animals in an attempt to feel emotion. James then explains to the viewer that he wants to escalate his killing to a new level and kill another human, or, as he calls it, “bigger prey”. What follows is an eight-part series following James and his target-turned-girlfriend, Alyssa (Jessica Barden), as they run away from home and begin an adventure to find Alyssa’s estranged father.
The opening sequence of episode one is set to the song “Laughing on the Outside,” performed by Bernadette Carroll. This establishes a lighthearted yet intense mood that remains prevalent throughout the first few episodes of the series. Gaining momentum quickly, the series pulled me in and engaged me with the rapid-fire trading of insults between characters, the suspense of knowing what James is planning, and the tension between the teens as they find their way in the world away from their parents. I felt as if I was running away with James and Alyssa, completely immersed in their reality.
Following the third episode, the series lost the momentum it very rightfully maintained in the early part of the story. An incident involving breaking into someone’s house in an attempt to find a place to sleep escalates and results in the police (specifically detectives Eunice Noon and Teri Donoghue, played by Gemma Whelan and Wunmi Mosaku respectively) attempting to find James and Alyssa. From this point until the end of the series, airtime is split between the teens on their adventure and the police and their investigation. By including so much of this investigation, the viewer is pulled out of the storyline. By switching the perspective of the viewer so dramatically, I felt more detached from the experience, which originally felt so tangible and vivid, and felt more like an omniscient outsider rather than an engaged participant.
With any show, especially one as short as this, it is absolutely essential for a director to establish a connection between the characters and the viewer. This rapport is very well set up early on in the series, but fails to build after the third episode. It almost feels as if the development of the characters becomes second to the progression of the superficial storyline. By the time the series ended I felt indifferent一almost to the point of disinterest一to the fate of James and Alyssa and the conclusion of their journey.
The series set itself up to be a tremendous success, following closely in the footsteps of a very well written graphic novel, but seemed to lose its energy and motivation as the story progressed. Even though the series has beautiful and creative cinematography, is very well put together, and is incredibly engaging early on; the later part the story failed to meet expectations when adapted for the screen.