What’s up: Netflix’s “The End of the F***ing World” is a dark comedy about two maladjusted teens who flee the constraints of Western civilization through road trips across England. The first season ends with the duo getting in over their heads. This second season picks up with the characters dealing with the trauma caused by the conclusion of the first season.
This second season also introduces a third character who wants to kill the duo, given a misunderstanding caused by their original journey. In the first season, the male co-protagonist would repeatedly say that he wanted to kill the female co-protagonist (but in a quirky, perhaps emo way). That specific tension goes away in this season, so having a character kind-of-sort-of want to kill the duo serves as somewhat of a callback to the original formula.
The season begins with an introduction of the new character, “Bonnie.” The opening minutes spend much time establishing a villainous mood, with a shot of a shadowy driver steering a car through an English night. The driver goes to a gas station and the camera does that cliche, underneath-the-car shot of the driver’s boots stepping onto the ground. Basically, the show wants you to know this character is “bad,” and ultimately has the character tell the gas station attendant that she just got out of jail for killing someone on purpose.
The main cast includes Naomi Ackie, Jessica Barden and Alex Lawther.
“The End of the F***ing World” runs eight episodes of roughly 25 minutes each in the second season.
Sum-up: This season establishes early on that Alyssa, the female co-protagonist, can no longer feel anything given the tragic events of last season. “It’s good not feeling,” Alyssa says in a voice-over narration. “It’s like a superpower.”
Meanwhile James, the male co-protagonist, slowly recovers in a hospital from the bullet wounds he got in the first season’s cliffhanger finale. When his dad dies shortly after his recovery (and their re-connection), James becomes more emotionally inert than ever. He can barely walk and he can barely think. Needing a crutch, he starts to carry his dad’s urn with him everywhere. He also lives in his car.
The season tries to portray the emotional fallout of the swashbuckling adventure the duo experienced in the first season, and it does so admirably. But for a show that was so funny and fun, this extreme pivot to wallowing in grief makes this season feel aimless and little more than a misguided narrative experiment in comparison.
Heads up: While the first season had a thrilling narrative and leaned heavily into perverting classic storytelling tropes, this season just lingers around in nothingness. The writers were clearly interested in showing the physical toll of the first season’s adventure, but that means this season basically doesn’t have a story to tell ― it exists to show that violent adventures aren’t actually cool or worthwhile endeavors. The show’s introduction of Bonnie seems like a lazy attempt to insert some “story” into this season, but that character’s actions feel repeatedly forced and unrealistic. This season is still more “good” than “bad” and is much better than most shows. But because it fails to come close to the extreme heights of the first season, it would be better off not existing to preserve the legacy of the original.
Close-up: Much like the first season, the show sets its events in beautiful forests and otherwise natural landscapes. An early episode clearly demonstrates the awkward tone of the season balanced against beautiful scenery: Alyssa and her new boyfriend sit on the hood of his truck on a side road that overlooks rolling hills covered in trees and tree stumps. A grill emanates smoke into the air near the truck.
After Alyssa refers to the traumatic events of last season, the boyfriend responds, “Shit.” “Yeah,” Alyssa says with an eye roll. “Do you like chicken fajitas,” the boyfriend asks. Alyssa smiles and in narration says, “He gets it.” Then out loud, she asks him to marry her. The show has a succession of under-a-second flashbacks to her time with James. “Yeah, fuck it, why not?” the boyfriend responds. In narration, Alyssa concludes, “Yeah, fuck it.” The camera lingers on the green backdrop.