Critic’s Corner: Not Your Typical Protagonist

Brace yourselves, it’s “The End of the Fucking World” in Net ix’s British dark comedy recently released to the U.S. Based on Charles Foreman’s comic book series, the show follows a self-diagnosed psychopath and his girlfriend who he plans to kill as they embark on a road trip.

Though the series was released in the U.K. around Halloween this past year, it just came onto U.S. screens on Jan. 5. The main character, James (Alex Lawther), is hardly a typical protagonist. James is a 17-year-old who’s pretty sure that he’s a psychopath. To make himself feel something, he stuck his hand in a deep fryer when he was younger, and he once killed his neighbor’s cat. This act sparked him to kill more animals, and prompted him to want to kill someone “much bigger.”

“The End of the Fucking World” introduces a much more controversial protagonist for this show than the main characters in some of the other Netflix original series. This complex character development prompts audiences to question their own ethics and morals. The script for the show is written in such a way that James’ character is not entirely unlikeable, and for a psychopathic character, this lens can feel unusual.

The dark humor, which can make the audience feel uneasy, is one of the most intriguing elements of the show. Even watching the trailer can be an emotionally confusing experience.

In contrast, Alyssa (Jessica Barden), feels emotions deeply. Her mother has gotten remarried and now she has a stepdad, and two twin half-siblings. A picture-perfect family, in which she feels she doesn’t belong. Her estranged father sends her a birthday card every year and through him, she has learned not to trust people who t in. At school, she smashes her cellphone when her friend, who’s sitting across from her, chooses to text her instead of talking to her.

She approaches James thinking, “I’m not saying he’s the answer but he’s something.” His thoughts in turn are, “She’d be interesting to kill.”

James pretends to fall in love with Alyssa in order to lure her into eventually kill her. A er some failed attempts, Alyssa prompted by her stepdad decides to leave the boring English town that they live in. James, whose father has a car, goes with Alyssa and thus begins their road trip.

Alyssa and James discuss a variety of topics on their road trip: love, sex, consent and sexual harassment, making this series not only interesting to watch, but also relevant to popular discussion.

With eight, 20 minute episodes in the first season, the show features a very retro-American soundtrack of British artists. The music, a vital enhancement in the show, ranges from American blues to country and soul with dark themes. Despite it being a British show, “The End of the Fucking World” has an American feel which the script even alludes to.

“If this was a film, we’d probably be American,” Alyssa said in the beginning of the second episode.

Songs featured in the “The End of the Fucking World” soundtrack include a vast assortment of 1950s country and doo-wop. Some of the more popular artists on the soundtrack include Fleetwood Mac, Ricky Nelson and Hank Williams. e creators of the show crafted a very American playlist for a very British show.

This show, as interesting as it is, has garnered a lot of hype and sparked many different opinions. The show is currently rated at 8.4/10 on IMDb. Many believe the beginning is too slow, as the show does take its time to introduce the spunky, forward personality of Alyssa and the dark, contemplative character of James.

Despite Alyssa and especially James having dark backgrounds, the series does a great job of highlighting the thoughts and reasoning behind their actions. Every single scene and motivation feels eventually justifiable. Whether it’s through their flashbacks or through the secondary characters our main duo encounters, the team of “The End of the Fucking World” does a great job of making everything seem natural, believable and real, even if the scenarios are a little bit outlandish.

Unfortunately, a second season has yet to be confirmed, making the season finale of this series especially interesting. The creators left the ending much like the beginning: ambiguous, intriguing and confusing. The openendedness may be intended to extend the possibility for the show to continue. In the meantime, it’s “The End of the Fucking World” and you really should watch it.

The editor may be reached at
arts@su-spectator.com