As Netflix original TV shows go, the first season of The End of the F***ing World was one of the more original and interesting outings. This show came out of nowhere, but its dry humor combined with the fantastic writing and acting made it a memorable experience. Following the unexpected critical and financial success of the first season, the arrival of a follow-up was inevitable, especially since Season One left off on a massive cliffhanger. While Season Two doesn’t quite capture the magic that the first season brought to the table, it is still a worthy follow-up and never betrays the personality that made the show so fun in the first place.
When the audience last saw James and Alyssa (spoiler alert for Season One of The End of the F***ing World) their fates were left ambiguous, for James (Alex Lawther) may or may not have been shot and Alyssa (Jessica Barden) remains in police custody after the wild events that preceded the finale. I will not reveal James’ fate here, but Alyssa begins Season Two having gotten away with community service for the misdemeanors she committed and has moved on with her life. We are also introduced to a new central character named Bonnie (Naomie Ackie), an ex-con who vows to kill both James and Alyssa because of some decisions they made in the first season. Her storyline and the main couple’s storyline intertwine as the season progresses, with the signature dry/dark humor prevalent throughout.
Like the first season, one of the strongest parts of the show is the incredible acting, specifically by Alex Lawther and Naomie Ackie. Lawther was the best part of the first season and he continues to steal the show with his shy and authentic personality. His role in this season is different from that of last season, but Lawther has no problem adjusting to his character’s plights and delivering a fantastic performance during every scene. Ackie, meanwhile, proves to be a worthy addition to the cast, and is even more interesting than the main couple during most episodes. Her backstory may be a bit predictable, but it proves to be enough to create tension and investment for the entire season. Because of Ackie’s performance, I ended up wishing they’d have followed through on her character a bit more, because the second half of her story arc seems pushed to the side to make room for James and Alyssa’s story.
Nothing in this season of The End of the F***ing World is awful, but nothing seems to be as good as Season One. One thing in particular that has not carried on from the first season is the chemistry in James and Alyssa’s relationship. Before, they had a natural chemistry which the rest of the show thrived off of; but here the sparks seem to have disappeared. The actors are good on their own, but by the end of the season I wasn’t as excited about seeing them together as I was during Season One. The writers are great at making their individual storylines interesting, but the relationship is nowhere near as strong as it should be.
However, the one thing this season nails is the overall themes that the writers are attempting to convey to the audience. Every single character in these eight episodes is dealing with getting over a defining event from their past, and the show does a great job of tying together all of the threads to make one coherent message. Letting events from the past define one’s personality and motivations in the present can be consuming, and everybody–Bonnie in particular–has some kind of connection with this message.
Another notable strength is the persistent dark humor that defines the show. The humor is great when it is utilized, but it isn’t relied upon nearly as often in this season as in the first. This is sometimes a good thing because of the tension and tender moments that substitute, but at other times the show just feels tonally lost, as if it’s trying to recreate what the first season did so well without a basis of where to start. The tone never gets horrendous, but it is very uneven for much of the season.
This is an enjoyable and entertaining season of television overall, but some infuriating plot decisions are made near the end that cheapened the impact of the climax. One scene involving a hallucination (no spoilers) was one of the more dumb direction choices I have seen in recent television, and it made me audibly groan when the scene ended. The season also doesn’t have a particularly memorable ending (I am having trouble remembering what the final scenes were), which is another aspect the first season nailed.
Season Two of The End of the F***ing World is by no means bad, but it never rises to the high bar the first season set, settling instead for a good and average season of television. It has too much going for it on technical and performance levels to be considered anywhere near mediocre, but it isn’t particularly memorable either. However, this show also remains one of the most bingeable television shows on air, with each episode flowing into the next perfectly and the ends of each chapter making the audience want to watch “just one more.” Those who loved the first season will definitely find much enjoyment in the second season because the heart and soul of the show remains for audiences to enjoy.
I give The End of the F***ing World: Season Two a B.