‘The End of the F***ing World’ Season 2 Says F*** You to Romanticized Tragedy | Review

     November 5, 2019

Brace yourselves, The End of the F***ing World is back for another season of brutal emotional truths, sporadic fits of shocking violence, and absolutely killer needle drops, and against the odds, they’ve almost gone and lived up to the electric first season. Almost.

The End of the F***ing World’s first season did just fine when it debuted on Channel 4, but like so many imports, the UK series absolutely caught fire worldwide when it landed on Netflix. A breakout hit with the kind of buzz no marketing machine can buy, The End of the F***ing World’s first season took us on a deeply dark and perversely funny road trip with two lawless teens; Alyssa (Jessica Barden), a rebellious young woman with so much pent-up rage she practically spits venom with her words and shoots lasers with her eyes, and James (Alex Lawther), a boy who thinks he’s a psychopath and decides to join Alyssa on the road with the intention of killing her. Instead, the two fell sloppily, dangerously in love on a Bonnie & Clyde road trip to meet Alyssa’s father and start a new life together.

the-end-of-the-fing-world

Image via Netflix

But nothing went to plan. They made a damned mess. James discovered he definitely isn’t a psychopath when he killed a man who tried to rape Alyssa and it shook him to his core. And Alyssa’s dad… well, he sucked, calling the cops on his own kid for a cash reward. James realized what was up and took the blame, and in the season’s final moments, James ran across the beach to draw the cops away, finally understanding “what people mean to each other” and a shot rang out. Cut to black. Heartbreaking, but perfect, cementing the two characters in a precise and beautiful arc that said all it needed to say.

Which is why there was, predictably, so much hand-wringing about whether or not there should ever be a second installment. After all, Season 1 was based on a pre-existing graphic novel by Charles Foreman, and the ending was part of the genius. But here we are, with eight new half-hour episodes upon us, and in a delightful surprise, the second season never undermines the impact of the first. Instead, it says “F*** you” to romanticized tragedy and makes the surprising decision to grow up, face consequences, and still make room for that spark of searing heart and humor that made Season 1 so special.

Netflix has asked the press not to reveal whether or not James lives, which makes it pretty hard to discuss the season at all, but suffice it to say, if Season 1 was built on the frenzy of first love and two teenagers learning that self-isolation has fruitless rewards, Season 2 takes us through the thrumming hollow of heartbreak, the cold calm of depression, and once again, how it’s the spark of hard-won human connection that can pull us through.

the-end-of-the-fing-world-season-2-naomi-ackie-jessica-barden

Image via Netflix

Oh, and Season 2 has a killer on the loose. No, not James, who turned out to be a pretty shitty killer after all. Meet Bonnie (Naomi Ackie), a young woman with a traumatic upbringing who has a murderous vendetta on her mind. Like James did in the first season, she fancies herself a bit of a cold-blooded outsider, but she already found her person. The bad news is, it was the philosophy professor that James and Alyssa killed (in self-defense) in the first season and Bonnie’s hell-bent on old-fashioned eye for an eye vengeance.

Ackie is outstanding in the role, bringing all the pathos, downright weirdness, and surprising tenderness to the table that make Barton and Lawther such an irresistible duo. She makes a fine pairing with Barton, in particular, bouncing steely gazes and unyielding willfulness off of each other in every scene. Worldwide audiences are about to become familiar with Ackie in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and if her performance here is any indication, we should definitely start getting excited about meeting her mystery character.

The first season of The End of the F***ing World felt like a dazzling magic trick, zipping by in eight trim 20-minute episodes that thrust you face-first into the world’s carnal cruelty while lighting hearts aflame with a passionate story of emotional rebirth and first love. Season 2 feels like picking up the pieces after the magic trick set the whole damn theater on fire, taking a look at the damage in the clear light of day, and deciding “I’d never do that again. But it was worth it.” If that doesn’t sound as magical or electrifying as the first season, well, it’s not. But it’s still an impressive, emotional piece of storytelling that keeps hold of what made us fall in love with these characters in the first place without forcing them to regress.

Most impressive is the way The End of the F***ing World Season 2 rebukes the very intoxicating tragedy that made the first season end with such a wallop. It’s a story that wants to slap the poison out of Juliette’s hand and tell her to get her shit together. Once again, it’s a story about the light that slips through the cracks in broken hearts; this time, the light may not be quite as dazzling, but it’s absolutely still worth capturing.

Rating: ★★★★

The End of the F***ing World Season 2 is now streaming on Netflix.

the-end-of-the-f-ing-world_2

Television

Close