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Monday, November 29, 2021

Your next binge-watch

GLOBAL PANORAMA [(CC BY-SA 2.0)] / FLICKR
New Netflix series based off comic book series

By the looks of the Netflix ad and the seemingly excessive title, “The End of the F***ing World” may not seem like the next stop on your journey to occupy procrastination hours with. However, give it a short 20 minutes (about the length of one episode) and the premise will soon reel you in, making the “Next Episode” button very inviting. Accompanied by a beautiful, fitting soundtrack, the short series captivates viewers in its poignancy, relatability and charming nuance. Although it might not seem so at the start, its main characters, Alyssa and James, will stay with you way past their final moments on screen.

James, played by Alex Lawther, is the first character we are introduced to. His opening lines, “I’m James. I’m 17. And I’m pretty sure I’m a psychopath,” are spoken within the first 30 seconds. He goes on to explain why he thinks this, noting he kills animals and remembers them all. This is where his high school peer Alyssa, played by Jessica Barden, comes in. After permanently rejecting her phone-obsessed friends, she makes her way over to him across the cafeteria. In her mind, she clarifies, “I’m not saying he’s [James is] the answer, but he’s something.” In his mind, looking up at Alyssa as she reaches him, James thinks, “I was going to kill something bigger, much bigger.”

This is the initial hook  — will James kill Alyssa or won’t he? Well it’s easy to believe he is a psychopath. The monotonic, indifferent voice, the shortness of his conversations and his overall emotionless, unaffected aura point to something being suspicious. Given Alyssa’s childish, blunt, vulgar, careless and tantrum-prone personality, it appears she will annoy James enough to trigger her murder. Maybe Alyssa is just putting up a front though, and maybe James has something other than psychopathy lurking below the surface. That’s for you to find out. Beyond the intriguing premise there is much more that unfolds.

For one, the way the show captures the essence of teenage years. Hollywood tends to over-dramatize teenagers’ relationships with their parents, and “The End of the F***ing World” is no exception. Aside from that though, it displays with ease the rebellious, arrogant nature of teenagers. The dark humor mixed in also helps cut the heaviness, reminding us that even when things get hard, maybe the best thing to do is just laugh at it all.

Without giving away too much, the directing style of Jonathan Entwistle & Lucy Tcherniak complements the script well, especially given that the series is based off of a comic book. The short internal monologues Alyssa and James each have that are cut off or spurred by their realities reflect those we all have with ourselves as we encounter daily life. For example, when Alyssa and James dance with their eyes closed and Alyssa stops in the middle of it to look at him and say to herself, “I think he is properly beautiful,” James continues dancing.

At the end of the series, you realize the title is aptly named. Everything is the end of the world when you’re a teenager. Alyssa and James aren’t going on an apocalyptic adventure and their world isn’t ending, but it might as well be given what they go through and the impact their journey has on their lives.

I’m glad I got to experience the show before I turn 20 in April. Most likely, teenage tendencies will still hold well into the end of my 20s. Yet when the teenage years are long gone, I can hopefully rewatch this series and reminisce on the intricacies of young life and how everything was felt with such intensity.

“That was the day I learned that silence is really loud. Deafening,” says James. “When you have silence, it’s hard to keep stuff out. It’s all there. And you can’t get rid of it.”

 

Written by: Cecilia Morales — arts@theaggie.org

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