Review: End of the F***ing World | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Review: End of the F***ing World

TV Critic Dominic Lyons reviews Channel 4's latest dark comedy The End of the F***ing World

James is seventeen and so empty inside he once deep fried his hand just to feel something. A self-confessed psychopath, he's been killing woodland creatures for years and now he's ready to murder a real life human being. Luckily for someone with zero social skills, he doesn't have to do much to gain his would-be victim’s trust. Alyssa is an angsty live wire who spots a fellow outcast and develops something of a fascination for him. “I've seen you skating.” She lies. “You're pretty shit.” Alyssa is a captivating character who is sick of serving canapés at her mum’s shallow garden parties and being leered at by her creep of a stepdad. It's fortunate for us then that James abandons his plan to put a gruesome end to her and instead becomes her partner in crime. He’s just weighing up the best angle from which to slit her throat when she suggests running away from their small town and its small minded people. Next thing, our miniature misanthropes are on the road in a vintage Mercedes, prized possession of James’ dad.

The music is just one example of how the director transforms Middle England into a slice of Americana
James and Alyssa are rebels with a cause – that's to say, they have plenty to run away from. But they run straight into all sorts of trouble. In The End of the F*****g World, adults are right to be treated with suspicion. There are a couple of seriously bleak scenes where the teens’ vulnerability is exploited by sinister men who feign to help. Even left to their own devices, in the haze of their awkward teenage years they lack the self-knowledge to know what to run to. Unsure what to do with their newly won freedom, the road trip is really a game of chicken to see who is the most fearless and least sentimental.

For all that they defiantly assert their independence, the duo are as yet unseasoned in adulting and only know how to mirror the parents they so eye-rollingly loathe. They have broken into a house and are squatting overnight when Alyssa suggests that they go downstairs and have a glass of wine, in the manner of a mum who's just spent all afternoon scrubbing the bathroom. As ever in adolescence, the idea of the two having sex recurs, brought on not by desire but by a sort of nagging expectation. Each near sexual encounter is a cringeworthy reminder of the self-conscious, ungainly attempts at copulation that most of us endured during puberty. Having broken free from the shackles of social conformity (Alyssa's response when texted by someone sat next to her was to violently smash her phone), the only peer pressure comes from themselves and each other, and it is even harder to avoid.

The audience knows this because our anti-heroes’ true thoughts are audible as voiceovers. This Peep Show-esque device is also a vehicle for some caustic lines, providing many of the show’s laughs. The pitch-black humour of the misfits’ situation is juxtaposed against a  soundtrack of wholesome doo-wop. The music is just one example of how the director transforms Middle England into a slice of Americana. Classic cars, wide roads weaving through forestland, diners, run-down petrol stations and mansion swimming pools – The End of the F*****g World is All American, save for the accents. The beautiful cinematography is punctuated by slick flashback sequences and punchy cutaways. Both stylistically and thematically, the series pushes boundaries, and in encouraging us to laugh in the darkest moments, The End of the F*****g World is certainly a show for our times.

Article by Dominic Lyons



Published

21st November 2017 at 10:00 am

Last Updated

21st November 2017 at 9:23 am



Images from

The Guardian and Channel 4



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