"I hope you understand that there are some things in life that can be neither undone, nor escaped, nor forgotten. You will have to go on with life knowing that you did it to yourself; you will close your eyes and find regrets tattooed on the inside of your eyelids…” — the decision was made long ago, but I could hear some part of me still bargaining, urging me to reconsider. And frankly, I was extremely tempted to give in: the idea of risking something so precious, so dear to my heart sent chills down my spine.
Before I had time to change my mind, my fingers raced over the keys to summon the Netflix website. At last, I saw the message I had been dreading for months: “Now Available: The End of the F***ing World Season 2”. I pressed the play button.
The End of the F***ing World (TEOTFW), a British dark-comedy drama based on a comic book of the same title by Charles Forsman, became an unforeseen success when it premiered in 2017 — so much as to be described by the BBC as “a cult TV phenomenon”. Nonetheless, it was just a matter of circumstance — some free time on my hands after the graduation exams, a newly obtained Netflix subscription, and maybe a couple of aesthetically pleasing fan edits I saw on Pinterest — that I decided to give TEOTFW a shot. Utterly disappointed in young adult entertainment with its unoriginal and worn-out tropes, I did not expect TEOTFW to be any good, let alone exceptional in any way.
On paper, it does not, in fact, look like a show that could bring something new to the table. A self-diagnosed 17-year-old psychopath on the run with his classmate after committing a murder? Sounds as if somebody Googled “things viewers are into these days” and mashed the first three results together into a half-viable plot. Little did I know that TEOTFW would become one of my favorite shows (that I might, or might not, have watched four times). Moreover, the show managed to break the solitude of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye on the dusty shelf of stories about teenagers that my sensitive facepalm reflexes find bearable. TEOTFW blew into my life and, before I even knew it, stole my heart, mind, and soul with its strong Tarantino-inspired visual aesthetics, brilliant selection of ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s doo-wop and folk-rock soundtracks, and dark, witty dialogues. But most importantly, the show won me over with the emotional authenticity of its characters. Ironically, TEOTFW, with all the artifice of its plot, manages to capture people and the ways they cope (or don’t) with their traumas in a far more genuine way than numerous other shows with a pretense to authenticity. Watching the protagonists, Alyssa and James, on the screen felt like a breath of fresh frankness, vulnerability, and just enough “edge” in a stuffy world of YA tropes dominated by one-dimensional Mary Sues™ and The Chosen Ones™ as protagonists.
But, as much as I love the show, I was initially quite disappointed with the news about the second installment coming up this year. Despite of, or maybe thanks to, its ambiguous ending, the story felt complete. The continuation could easily dilute this completeness, ruin the show that barely pulled off walking a thin line between a masterpiece and outright disaster.
Bearing an infinitesimal hope, I did watch Season 2, and although I do not want to spoil it for hesitant fans or for those who have not watched TEOTFW at all, I do have two things to share. Did the story need an afterword? Highly arguable. Does this fact make Season 2 bad? Absolutely not. Season 2 is worth watching on its own, as a story of growing up and facing the consequences of one’s actions, pulling oneself together and moving on — both physically and mentally; because, as the show has illustrated, sometimes the former takes place without the latter. The core message of Season 2 is summarized by the Jean-Paul Sartre quote mentioned subtly in Episode 1: “Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you”. And I suggest that the first thing you should do with this freedom is go and watch both seasons of TEOTFW.