In the second series of the end of the f***ing world James and Alyssa grapple with their past and their fraught relationship, not knowing there is someone out to kill them.
Doing a second series is hard, especially when the plot of the first series is so insular and wrapped up. The End of the F***ing World seems aware of this, and the second series constantly references the events of the past, highlighting the effect that they had on Alyssa (Jessica Barden) and James (Alex Lawther) as they struggle to process what happened two years ago. James and Alyssa dealing with the trauma of what they did and what they went through drives the plot of this series, making clear, unlike some other TV shows, that it isn’t easy to put your past behind you.
It wouldn’t make sense for the characters to have remained exactly the same in the face of this, and much of this series is devoted to chronicling the change in the characters and the effect on their relationship. The big question of the series seems to be, two years on, are Alyssa and James still compatible? Do they still understand each other, away from the heightened tension of the first series?
In one of the first episodes James, attempting to reconnect, suggests they dine and dash – an activity that Alyssa had suggested and justified when they first met. But this time Alyssa shuts him down. The waitress has to pay for that out of tips, she says irritably. The message is clear: Alyssa and James are different now, and their attempt to try and recreate their close relationship may be futile.
I enjoyed this deeper look into their fractured relationship but it did have negative consequences, especially in terms of plot. The first series was driven by a series of bad decisions from James and Alyssa, and then a series of panicked decisions as they try and escape the situation they’ve gotten themselves into. It felt as if there was a new location or plotline introduced every few episodes, and with the number of events covered in only eight episodes, it’s amazing that it doesn’t feel rushed. In contrast, without Alyssa and James’ panicked desperation and teenage impulsivity, the second series feels… slow. By the time the climax came around, it feels as if barely anything had happened.
To be fair, the series does spend two episodes catching the viewer up although the first episode introducing Bonnie, whilst well-made, does feel unnecessary. Even so, new side-characters that are introduced, with the exception of possibly Todd, feel one-note and irrelevant, probably because they aren’t in more than a couple of scenes. The constant reference to the first series only reinforces the lack of drive and pacing that these episodes suffer from.
The show continues to look beautiful and showcases terrific acting and writing. It still utilises every awkward scene and ironic juxtaposition to wring humour out of even the bleakest of situations, and I appreciate the way the characters were allowed to grow and develop. But this does mean that the urgency of the first series is gone, with something slower and more retrospective in its place. I enjoyed the emotional closure for the characters, but can’t help but feel that the first series stands better by itself.
The End of the F****** World (Series 2) is available to stream now on All 4.
Check out the trailer for the series below: