Photo courtesy of Clerkenwell Films

'The End of the F***ing World' Season 2 Review

On Nov. 4, Netflix released the second season of the critically acclaimed British comedy-drama, The End of the F***ing World. It picks up two years after the events of the first season, where James (Alex Lawther) was shot in a standoff with the police after murdering Dr. Clive Koch (Jonathan Aris) for his attempted assault of Alyssa (Jessica Barden).

Instead of focusing on the main characters from the first season, the first episode introduces Bonnie (Naomi Ackie). Bonnie was Clive’s girlfriend and, outraged by his death, seeks to exact revenge by murdering Alyssa and James.

The main problem with Bonnie’s plan is that James and Alyssa are essentially living off the grid. They haven’t seen or spoken to one another since James was shot. James has been living in his car with his father’s ashes, pining after Alyssa. Alyssa has been working in her aunt’s diner and is engaged to a kayak instructor, Todd (Josh Dylan), despite having lost all sense of emotion. Eventually, the three characters converge on a short, emotionally charged journey.

Although the first season was already quite dark, the new episodes become even more dramatic as they deal with trauma. The show has not lost its quirk or charm but focuses more deeply on the harsh reality of coping with severe mental and physical wounds. It doesn’t have an exciting or daring adventure to push the plot forward. Instead, it focuses on Bonnie, James, and Alyssa’s attempts to deal with their pain. Viewers can expect the same dry, dark humor but with some more thoughtful insights.

James tries to find solace in Alyssa, the person who made him realize he could feel. He thinks that if they can be together, it will somehow make up for past wrongs. Bonnie sees the answer to her lost love in punishing those who wronged him. She believes the murder of James and Alyssa will make the world right again. She grew up in an abusive home, so to her the only outlet for disappointment or anger is physical punishment. In the end, they are both wrong.

James and Bonnie’s attempts to make people their salvation are misplaced and, ultimately, just bring more suffering. Alyssa has no ability or obligation to make James feel whole again after the loss of his father. The deaths of James and Alyssa will not make up for the lack of love in Bonnie’s life. 

Alyssa can’t seem to figure out how to move on and originally settles for emotional complacence. However, after her reunion with James and escaping Bonnie’s attempts on her life, she decides what she needs most is time and real psychological help. What the second, and most likely final, season of The End of the F***ing World aims for is an honest depiction of the fixation, detachment, and derailment of grief. It would be easy to let the first season stand on its own and concentrate on the misadventures of two mischievous teenagers. The decision to continue with a second season brings another realistic dimension to the show, by depicting a sobering reality of what severe mental and physical pain does to people. Despite the name of the show, the end of Alyssa and James’s story is not some epic standoff, but rather an admittance of the help they need and the hope they have for one another’s futures.