by Emily Worrell Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers for The End of the F***ing World Seasons 1 and 2. The headline of this review may come off as a bit of a surprise to readers who are familiar with my previous work. As a huge fan of The End of the F***ing World, I was not shy with my opinion about the decision to renew the show for a second season. It seemed silly to continue the show when the first season was concluded in such a tragic, beautifully ambiguous way; plus, the first season had ended where the source material (the graphic novel by Charles Forsman) did. Could show writer Charlie Covell pull off creating a completely new story arc that not only lived up to its predecessor, but also fit the quirky, dark tone that fans of the show had come to love? The answer, as it turns out, is yes. While the second season of The End of the F***ing World isn’t quite as good as the first—which is to be expected with TV shows like this—it’s still a surprisingly strong addition to Alyssa and James’ story that builds on both of their characters and has the same dark, comedic tone fans of the first season grew to love. Season 2 tells the story of Bonnie (Naomi Ackie), former lover of Clive Koch (Jonathan Aris), who is hellbent on exacting revenge on Alyssa (Jessica Barden) and James (Alex Lawther) after his death. Her revenge ends up reuniting the duo, who parted on extremely uncertain terms. Alyssa and James struggle to reconcile and come to terms with what happened when they were 17, all with the threat of Bonnie lurking right under their noses.
Same show, new materialMy biggest concern with this new season was whether or not the writers and director would be able to recreate the incredibly unique feel that made the first season so compelling. But the stylistic uniqueness was still incredibly present; it felt like it lived in the exact same world as the first season, but still had elements that were unique to Season 2. Such elements include new characters as well as a new plot arc that made the second season feel like a continuation, rather than an attempt to repeat the past. I was pleasantly surprised by how strong the writing was, and how it still fit the same tone as the prior season, even without any source material to go off of. I was worried that The End of the F***ing World would fall into the predictable second-season problem of shows like 13 Reasons Why (which took a 54% plunge on Rotten Tomatoes after moving away from source material in the second season), but Charlie Covell does a commendable job with the writing of this second season. She even acknowledges the fact that this second season betrays the perfect “tragic romance” ending of the first in James’ first narration, in which he states, “It was a fitting end. A doomed love story; a perfect tragedy. And then I didn’t die.” This acknowledgement was reassuring to the audience; a way of Covell saying, “I know I could’ve ended the show there, but just wait, I’ve got something even better in store.” In addition to the writing, the dark and quirky tone of the show was aided by the fabulous soundtrack, created once again by singer-songwriter Graham Coxon, featuring songs from the '60s, '70s, and '80s, along with originals by Coxon himself.
Wonderful characters played by strong actorsSomething that The End of the F***ing World has always done exceptionally well is capture a sense of emotional honesty that it is difficult to find anywhere else, and Season 2 is no exception. The characters feel genuine and real; James and Alyssa still feel like the same people they were in Season 1, but the viewer can see how they’ve evolved and changed throughout the show. From Alyssa’s PTSD and how it affects her relationships with others, to James to her mom to total strangers, it is all captured in a visceral and painfully honest way, and James’s emotional state following his father’s death and his reunion with Alyssa is powerfully, devastatingly real. It’s enough to make any devoted fan sob within the first two episodes. The new characters who come into play in Season 2 make strong and interesting additions to the show’s ensemble, particularly Bonnie and Leigh (Alexandria Riley), Alyssa’s aunt. Jessica Barden and Alex Lawther carry the show as Alyssa and James with their acting. The chemistry between them is undeniable, even in their awkward, broken-up, “trying to make things up to each other” state. Naomi Ackie is incredibly strong as Bonnie, crafting for the viewer a character who appears unfeeling on the surface, but is actually just an emotionally stunted and traumatized teen coping with her situation in the only way she knows how. The supporting cast is also very talented; everyone from James’ dad (Steve Oram) to the creepy motel owner (Tim Key) serves a strong role within the show and helps move the plot along.
Pacing issues detract from the otherwise strong seasonDespite all the things The End of the F***ing World Season 2 did right, there were still some obvious issues that prevented it from being quite on the same level as Season 1. The most glaring of these issues was in the pacing of the show. While this was also a problem in the first half of season one and therefore can’t be entirely attributed to a lack of source material, it was still unfortunate that writers were unable to eradicate this problem because it did make the show feel a bit sluggish and dragging at times. The other problem was that due to the pure emotional power of the last season’s ending, the end of this season felt lackluster in comparison. This is especially unfortunate, considering that this will most likely be the end of the show itself; however, these shortcomings certainly don’t outweigh all the positives about this season of The End of the F***ing World, and it is definitely worth watching. Overall, this new season is a pleasant surprise for The End of the F***ing World fans.
Images: IMDb Featured Image: IMDb