It’s always tempting for producers to cash in on a successful first season, even if the risk of diluting the overall quality with a second season is strong. The End of the F****** World was released to a muted reception, but it evolved into a sparkling success once it hit Netflix. The captivating performances of Alex Lawther as James and Jessica Barden as Alyssa made the series an underrated must-watch. It was dark but also humorous, and that balance was captured perfectly. With the open ending of James (apparently) sacrificing himself for Alyssa, it always left room for a sequel.
If the show ended there, it would have been a perfect ending. The first series covered the entirety of Charles Forsman’s comics, upon which the series is based, meaning that writer Charlie Covell had a blank slate for the second series. However, they had to ensure that the dynamic of the show would evolve beyond the two stars, especially Alex, given his survival was in the air.
While fans go into the show expecting to find out what happened at the beach, expectations are inverted when a new character is introduced. Bonnie, played by Naomi Ackie, has had a troubled past – with her mother even forcing her to eat lipstick at one point. The initial focus on Bonnie lays the seeds of intrigue for the futures of Alyssa, and the show picks up from there. The trailer indicates Bonnie’s vendetta against Alyssa, and as it progresses you notice that Season 2 is nicely tied into Season 1 – it’s a smooth progression.
That leads into the larger themes of trauma that epitomise Season 2. Season 1 was all about the two characters and how they dealt with the prospect of criminal punishment for the accidental murder. Season 2 is much more about the human aspect as Barden brings out the brashness of Alyssa with aplomb. However, the pain from past experiences is also visible. Ackie, who is acting in the upcoming Star Wars movie, is equally impressive as a troubled teenager.
What’s striking is the show’s lack of any grounding: it could belong to any era, any place. Its dystopian setting matches the characters well. The videography is stunning, the soundtrack is reflective of the setting, and it adds to the aesthetic nature of this show.
Season 1 was packed with action, and by contrast Season 2 is much more of a slow-burner. It allows for more reflection and understanding, however. The 20-minute episodes are concise, allowing for much more meaning to be explored. It could have been clumsy to pull off, but Covell manages to balance the different tones well. It’s dark, it’s violent, but there’s enough dry humour to keep the watcher wryly amused. That sums up the show best: it’s unique enough to hold its own. This season wraps the plotline much more quietly, but the impact is no different.
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