After the tragic ending in season one, viewers of “The End of the F***ing World” weren’t sure if the show would continue. Much to the excitement of many fans, Netflix released a season two of “The End of the F**king World” on Nov. 4.
While there were plenty of people who were enthusiastic about the show’s renewal, others were skeptical about a season two due to the finality of season one’s ending. I wouldn’t say season two was better than season one, but I think it was necessary in terms of development and unanswered questions.
Season two picks up some time after that day on the beach, and the most pressing question – is James (Alex Lawther) alive? – is left unanswered at first. We are immediately introduced to the show’s new antagonist: Bonnie (Naomi Ackie), a woman and ex-lover of the man James and Alyssa (Jessica Barden) killed last season in self defense.
It is revealed that James is in fact alive, and has been trying to find Alyssa as well. The two are broken up due to interference from Alyssa’s mother, and Alyssa is engaged to a new man. The wedding doesn’t go so well, and James and Alyssa end up running away together once again. This is when they come across Bonnie, a seemingly innocent hitch hiker.
They are both oblivious to the fact that Bonnie is trying to kill them until James ultimately puts the pieces together. By then, it is too late, and Alyssa is already stuck in the diner she works at alone with Bonnie. He tries to play the hero, and in the end, the pair are able to talk Bonnie down and they are safe.
This season does some things wrong, but I’d argue that it does a lot more right.
Admittedly, it wasn’t as good as season one. This season lacked the action that the first season had. The stakes were lower overall, which makes it less effective that its prior season.
Much of this is due to the antagonist of this season, Bonnie. While her backstory was interesting, she just wasn’t as scary or unpredictable as many of the antagonists in season one. Her motive was simple, and it was predictable as soon as she bonded with the teens that she wouldn’t kill them.
However, what this season lacked in suspense it made up for in development. James’ development in particular was astoundingly well done. Last season, we were meant to be afraid of him, and he himself was convinced he was a psychopath. This season, it would be fair to argue he is the most empathetic character on the show. For a character who was once emotionless, we see a wide range of emotion from him.
A particularly powerful scene was when he and Alyssa are sitting in the car, and James finally explodes. He spends most of the season pining after Alyssa, trying to earn her forgiveness and feeling guilty. When he finally has enough of her dismissing him, he explodes in the car, yelling “I nearly died!” over and over, in what is possibly the loudest voice we’ve heard from James.
Alyssa is also constantly trying to improve herself this season, and acknowledges the many mistakes she’s made that have hurt people.
Another thing this season that I thought was done well was the steady build of anticipation. All season, you’re aware that Alyssa and James are being hunted down. You’re just waiting for them to figure it out, and wondering when Bonnie will strike. This is due to both the writing and phenomenal acting this season.
The show also portrayed trauma and the effect it has on mental health very well this season. Both James and Alyssa are clearly traumatized from the previous season, and I think it is commendable that the writers didn’t simply pretend it didn’t happen.
Alyssa’s trauma is shown in her recklessness in the beginning of the season as well as her internal monologues in which she describes a feeling of hopelessness and being trapped.
The show addresses James’ childhood trauma as well. When Alyssa leaves a note promising to return later, and to look after James, James is reminded of his mother who committed suicide when he was a child. He has a panic attack, and collapses into Alyssa’s arms out of pure relief when he finds her alive.
Contradictory to the name, “The End of the F***ing World” ends on a happy note. While some critics say this is an anticlimactic ending and lackluster compared to the ending of season one, I have to disagree. I think too many shows or movies kill off beloved characters in finales in order to evoke emotion and shock from its audience. After everything we watched Alyssa and James go through the last two seasons, it was satisfying to see them happy. It wasn’t out of character either- Alyssa specified she needed time before jumping into a relationship again, and James was understanding.
The ending shot left me feeling content, something the season one ending did not do. “The End of the F***ing World” proves that an ending does not have to be sad or tragic to be good.
After all, did we not first fall in love with stories when they all ended in happily ever after?
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