The Netflix Highlight: “The End of the F***ing World” Season 2
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.
History: Smithsonian Magazine had a piece about Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker’s (aka, Bonnie and Clyde) final days. Their youth and unglamorous desperation mirror the characters of “The End of the F***ing World” in many ways. Barrow died at 24 and Parker at 23, a little younger than the actors in this show (but older than the characters). Here’s a snippet from the Smithsonian piece that feels particularly in line with the show: “They robbed small-town banks and mom-and-pop stores, or tried to. They sometimes broke into gumball machines for meal money.”
Comparable Shows: The first season had strong parallels to the now-classic story of Bonnie and Clyde. The second season’s choice to grind the narrative to a halt and focus on trauma puts this more in line with the show, “You’re the Worst.” That show started as a rom-com with a dark bent and then spent a season with a lead dealing with unrelenting depression.
The Characters And Money: Much of the forced action comes from the characters having no money. The “getaways” include a shared hotel room that brings the two characters together, an unreliable car that needs freeing from an overly expensive auto pound, and Alyssa as a runaway bride who steals the wedding money. The adventure must continue, resources be damned, which ultimately leads to more adventure.
Bonus: Earlier this week, Netflix released a “top moments” video of Season 1. For a show so dark, the choice seems strange. But if you want to see for yourself...
“The End of the F***ing World,” Season 2 Trailer:
And a Recap of Season 1:
A Couple Of Netflix News Stories From This Week
1. Seth Meyers debuted a new comedy special called “Lobby Baby.” The special notably features a skip button for his politics jokes. Meyers requested the feature himself as an experiment/meta-joke. He said the inspiration came from Netflix’s “Bandersnatch” release which featured all sorts of viewing buttons.
2. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings defended the company’s decision to cede to pressure from Saudi Arabia’s government to edit an episode of Hasan Minhaj’s “Patriot Act” that criticized Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman’s suspected role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The edit affected the Saudi Arabian version of the service. “We’re not in the news business,” Hastings said at The New York Times’ DealBook conference. “We’re not trying to do ‘truth to power.’ We’re trying to entertain.” This is yet more evidence you should fear Netflix more than you do and maybe not trust the various documentaries and docu-series on the service uncritically.
And here are the shows and movies that joined Netflix this week:
- “A Holiday Engagement”
- “Christmas Crush”
- “Dear Santa”
- “The Devil Next Door” (Netflix Documentary)
- “District 9”
- “The End of the F***ing World” (Season 2, Netflix Original)
- “Seth Meyers: Lobby Baby” (Netflix Original)
- “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power” (Season 4, Netflix Family)
- “Tune in for Love” (Netflix Film)
- “Undercover Brother 2”
- “Burning Cane”
- “SCAMS” (Netflix Original)
- “The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open”
- “Busted!” (Season 2, Netflix Original)
- “The Great British Baking Show: Holidays” (Season 2, Netflix Original)
- “Greatest Events of WWII in HD Colour” (Netflix Original)
- “Green Eggs and Ham” (Netflix Original)
- “Let It Snow” (Netflix Film)
- “Paradise Beach” (Netflix Film)
- “Wild District” (Season 2, Netflix Original)
- “Little Things” (Season 3, Netflix Original)