‘The End Of The F***ing World’ Was Great. Let’s Hope Netflix Doesn’t Order More

Senior Television Writer
01.08.18 20 Comments

Netflix

The End of the F***ing World — a dysfunctional teens on the run story mashing up bits and pieces of True Romance, You’re the Worst, and more — debuted Friday on Netflix. I liked it a lot, but also had one significant concern that I can discuss in more detail now that the show is out there and people have had a chance to watch all eight blessedly brisk episodes. Full season spoilers follow, just as soon as I encourage you to buy a key ring…

“I’ve just turned 18, and I think I understand what people mean to each other.” –James

Like a much more famous TV show that ended with a cut to black, there are at least two ways you can interpret what happens at the end:

1) James, whose life — the part he enjoyed, anyway — flashes before his eyes as he runs away from Alyssa and the cops while carrying the stolen shotgun, is killed by the gunshot we hear as the screen cuts to black. His suffering (particularly his pain and guilt from witnessing his mother’s suicide) is over, he won’t have to answer for the many crimes he committed over the course of this season, and will, perhaps, spare Alyssa from significant punishment, too. James’ life is over, and so is this story.

2) The bullet doesn’t kill James (maybe doesn’t even hit him at all), and the story continues with the authorities trying to figure out what to do with these two damaged kids, who made many stupid decisions but were also forced into the biggest one (James cutting Clive’s throat to save Alyssa from a serial predator).

It’s not impossible that there’s an interesting story to tell from the latter version, but it wouldn’t have the emotional weight of this one because it would require the two main characters to be separate for most of it, whether both are in custody or James is somehow still at large.

But it’s hard to fathom any continuation of the series, and any other ending, being quite as resonant and sadly perfect as this one. James’ tale, in particular, feels complete: from the boy who felt nothing and thought he’d like to be a killer to the man who has learned to understand and appreciate his feelings for other people after he’s done too many things to be able to enjoy that knowledge. You could follow Alyssa as she grapples with losing the latest man in whom she’d devoted her entire heart (and a much more deserving one than her shiftless, selfish father), but the core of the show was the balance between these two: how Alyssa’s relentless emoting forced James to admit that he could feel things too, and how James’ detached view of himself and the world finally made Alyssa see her father for the waste of time and energy he always was.

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