The second series of the dark comedy won’t win back those who left the comedian behind two or three sitcoms ago
I should probably preface this one by admitting that I think Ricky Gervais is funny. A weirdly divisive statement to make these days, and one I am about to caveat thoroughly, but I think that any review of Gervais’s work – and it is impossible to take Ricky Gervais (the concept) out of any show featuring Ricky Gervais (actor, writer, creator) – needs to state where you are, on him, as a person. So: The Office was a masterwork, I think his naughty-but-actually-not Golden Globes monologues are good and he tweets too much about rescuing dogs for my personal tastes but I know it comes from a place of sweetness. There.
When the first season of The End of the F***ing World dropped on Netflix, it quickly became a cult sensation, despite many people being initially put off by the idea of a black comedy about a psychopathic teen boy luring a teen girl on a road trip with the intention of murdering her.
You couldn’t help but fall in love with the characters — even James (Alex Lawther), the “psychopathic” weirdo, but perhaps especially Alyssa (Jessica Barden), the prickly, loud-mouthed, opinionated, vulnerable, impulsive, caring, complicated heroine who is one of the best-written female characters in recent years.
Despite how incredible Season 1 was — or rather, because of it — another season of the show felt unnecessary.
While open-ended, the final moments of Season 1 were an exquisite completion of the character arcs of James and Alyssa. Where could they possibly go in Season 2 that would be anywhere near as satisfying as that final line, that final shot?
Time To Breathe
For writer Charlie Covell, the answer lay in the future, with Season 2 picking up two years after the Season 1 finale.
“I wasn’t interested in carrying on directly after Season 1 — I felt the characters and the story needed some time to breathe,” she tells Junkee. “I wanted Season 2 to feel like it had grown up a bit, for it to mature with the characters.”
The time jump allows both the audience and the characters space from the explosive Season 1 ending. We pick up with Alyssa in a very different place — literally, having moved away from her hometown with her mother, but also psychologically. Gone is the brash, argumentative give-no-fucks attitude; Alyssa smiles politely, does as she’s told, goes with the flow, and generally, just tries to get through the day.
For Jessica Barden, this new side of Alyssa was appealing to play. “Alyssa seemed to represent someone who always knew what to say and how to respond, but what happens when that person is struggling and how do you escape the persona you have given yourself? I think a lot of people feel like that.”
Consequences And Trauma
While Season 1 saw Alyssa and James trying to escape the immediate consequences of their actions, Season 2 is about dealing with the far-reaching consequences. The kind that don’t go away so easily, and that can’t be fit into a neat narrative arc.
“Season 2 is hugely about PTSD, and trauma that isn’t necessarily immediate — but buried,” says Covell.
“I think Charlie wrote Alyssa perfectly, especially how someone like Alyssa would respond to a trauma,” adds Barden. “It was not the most expected storyline to come from the series, but one that I think was important to show.”
Where Season 1 explored the way these characters found solace and hope in each other — the way they rescued one another — Season 2 focuses on the way you actually have to save yourself.
The addition of new character Bonnie feels a bit jarring at first, but her own story of trauma dovetails well with the main plot.
Like James in Season 1, Bonnie is haunted by her past, and it’s caused her to lash out in violent ways. Her desire for vengeance drives much of the tension in Season 2, and though her arc doesn’t land quite as powerfully as James and Alyssa’s, it does drive home the different effect the same events can have on people.
Like the rest of the characters on the show, Bonnie is complicated, and she stirs up complicated feelings in the audience. That’s part of what makes The End of the F***ing World so wonderful.
What About James?
The elephant in the room amongst all of this, of course, is James himself.
The last we saw of him in Season 1, he’d apparently been shot by police. A lot of fans feared he was dead. The beginning of Season 2 leaves us hanging — we don’t discover what happened to him until well into the second episode.
Without spoiling too much, his fate ties beautifully into the themes of trauma and grief that recur throughout the season, and his narrative concludes in a way that is sure to leave fans satisfied.
For Covell, a happy and hopeful ending was vital. “Because otherwise it’s so bleak! No, seriously — what was important for me was to suggest, tentatively, that there was a happy ending,” she says. “I think hope is important, particularly the way the world is at the moment.”
That’s one thing both seasons have in common: in addition to the incredible performances, writing, soundtrack, costuming, set design and all the rest, of course.
For a show titled The End of the F***ing World, it leaves you feeling remarkably warm and content. Which is, frankly, pretty damn necessary.
The End of the F***ing World is currently streaming on Netflix.
TEOTFW season 3 probably isn’t happening as creator Charlie Covell admits she likes where season 2 leaves off. The End Of The F***ing World premieres on Channel 4 on November 4 and heads to Netflix
Season 2 of The End Of The F***ing Worldwill hit our television screens from 4 November and for many fans it’s been a long time coming. It’s been two years since James and Alyssa landed themselves in some serious hot water at the end of season 1 and the suspense is killing us.
While you’re no doubt excited about the show’s return to Channel 4 and Netflix, don’t expect The End Of The F***ing World to be a show that continues on for endless seasons. In fact, don’t expect it to continue past season 2.
The show’s explosive season 1 finale saw James running from the police before an ominous gunshot went off and left James’ fate up in the air. Many thought the show could have actually ended there but, mercifully, TEOTFW was granted a second season.
Just in case you were already looking ahead to a third season of the hit drama, we’re officially here to burst your bubble. TEOTFW series creator Charlie Covell tells RadioTimes that it’s probably not in the cards.
Charlie said: “I think, for me, that’s it now. Yeah, that’s done. I think to try and eke more out would be wrong, I like where we’ve left it.”
That may sound disappointing but if the show’s creator is confident in where season 2 leaves off, then we have no choice but to stan and wait to see it for ourselves.
Charlie Covell also told the publication that she felt some pressure following up season 1. “There’s pressure, but there’s pressure because people like something that we all did together,” she explained.
In the suspenseful trailer for The End Of The F***ing World season 2, we see Alyssa trying to cope with her life after the incident. She back to waitressing and, oh yeah, she’s getting bullets in the mail, too. But, of course, the trailer left a bunch of unanswered questions. The most important one being…IS JAMES ALIVE OR WUT?!
Now that it’s clear that TEOTFW probably won’t return for a season 3, we’ll definitely be savouring each and every episode from 4 November.