A new year has started, so American entertainment company Netflix thought it would be a great idea to release its new series internationally with the powerful, positive and optimistic title: The End of the F***king World. The British black comedy drama which hit the screens here on January 5, 2018 is based on one of the most talked-about graphic novels of 2013 by Charles S. Forsman. Charles S. Forsman, who is not even mentioned on Wikipedia, was born in Pennsylvania in 1982 and graduated from the Center for Cartoon Studies in 2008. The A.V. Club, a pop culture media entertainment website, describes Forsman as “one of the strongest and most vital young cartoonists currently putting pen to paper — not to mention one of the most fully, uniquely realized.“
TEOTFW, as fans call the series, consists of eight parts. The series premiered in the United Kingdom on October 24, 2017 and is written by Charlie Covell, directed by Jonathan Entwistle and Lucy Tcherniak, and produced by Kate Ogborn. One of the production companies is Clerkenwell Films, a British film and television production company which has series like Misfits or Lovesick among its credits. So these shouldn’t be new names for the Netflix community.
The story of Forsman’s first graphic novel is easily told. You have two teenagers who go on a road trip. Sounds like any other teenage-romance-indie film, doesn’t it? But don’t be misled. James, the male protagonist, portrayed perfectly by newcomer Alex Lawther, is profoundly convinced that he is a psychopath and has been since he was a child. Back then, when he wanted to see if he had any emotions or feelings inside his tiny body, he put his hand into a deep fat fryer. Moreover, his hobbies are observing and studying potential victims, and killing animals. This lovely 17-year-old person is accompanied by Alyssa, who is portrayed by the aspiring Jessica Barden. Luckily, there’s nothing psychopathic about this girl, but she could be described as way more rebellious than her fellow human beings of the same age. She makes a point of speaking her mind, always. Her relationships with her mother and especially her stepfather are disharmonious. Alyssa is driven by memories of her Robin Hood-like father who taught her that it is totally okay to steal from big chains. That she should never steal from smaller, independent businesses is manifested in her father’s slogan “If it’s a chain, it’s free rein.” To pay in such a shop would be to fund terrorism.
So far, so promising – especially when you learn that James only wants to join the road trip to kill Alyssa. But here we are with two sweethearts determined to visit the Robin Hood among fathers…and commit more than just one crime. Possibly even murder?
For the first few minutes I felt a little uncomfortable watching the episodes because the teenagers are weird. I mean really, really weird. You have many of those odd moments where you can’t decide whether you should start laughing or feeling incredibly awkward. One such scene takes place in a petrol station which Alyssa and James try to rob. The miserable young employee who works there is called Frodo. Frodo, who is played by Earl Cave, the son of Australian musician and author Nick Cave, acts as strangely as an employee could possibly act in this situation. I won’t go into detail because I don’t want to give away the surprise. But let me give you a hint: it involves a lot of milk. However, this is probably just the show’s dynamic and at some point you get a feeling for it and are better able to handle all the bizarre scenes.
But what is the best thing about Netflix’s new success? On the one hand the characters are extra strange, but on the other they are still authentic and their actions seem comprehensible (well, sometimes). You get the impression that the two protagonists are very honest personalities who don’t hide their feelings, although James still needs to develop this character trait. I like to mention the fact that the show isn’t only about comedy. An essential aspect of the series is the fact that it brings up important and serious issues which teenagers in particular have to deal with, like the relationship with your parents, first love, rape and various other topics. Of course, James and Alyssa don’t respect the law but they have a feeling for what is right or wrong that makes the characters lovely and refreshing in their own way. Besides the excellent performances of the two young stars, the soundtrack is also convincing and could be described as a list of romantic retro songs (thank you, unknown Spotify user who collected all this music which puts me in a cheerful mood). For all these reasons, I recommend The End of the F***ing World to people with a dark and odd sense of humour and an interest in extraordinary characters because it’s a great story about two weirdos who rush out of their lives to actually find life.