‘The End of the F***ing World’ Should Only Come Once

The second season of the much-loved show is as funny and touching as ever, but unnecessary all the same.

The End of the F***ing World Season 2 premiered on Netflix in early November. (Via Facebook)

The end of the first season of “The End of the F***ing World” was not, in fact, the end. James and Alyssa are back. Maybe it was stock foolishness, but I was surprised to see that Netflix came out with a second season of its genuinely great show, simply because half of its protagonists met a bloody end in the final episode of the first season. As it ended believably, I truly thought the show was over.

But it’s not. The second season finds James (Alex Lawther) and Alyssa (Jessica Barden) two years after the events of the first season. James winds up in the hospital, making a miraculous recovery that only TV magic (and Netflix’s desperate need for more original content) could bring about. Alyssa finds herself living with her mother’s half-sister in some nondescript area of the English countryside.

Season two also introduces a third central character, Bonnie (Naomi Ackie). Nothing happens in a vacuum. Bonnie was madly in love with Clive (Jonathan Aris) (yes, that makes them Bonnie and Clive), the man who sexually assaults Alyssa and is subsequently stabbed to death by James in season one. Unaware of the videotapes James and Alyssa found as evidence of Clive’s violent crimes against women, Bonnie blames them for Clive’s death and vows to exact revenge for her lover.

During the events of the first season, Bonnie was working at a university when she was taken advantage of by the soon-to-be murdered sociopath. Her story is one deeply marked by tragedy, beginning with her mother and ending with Clive. She mails bullets to both Alyssa and James with their names carved into them and the suspense mounts when the two pick up Bonnie on the side of the road, believing her to be a hitch-hiker. 

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The second season uses many of the same brilliant techniques as the first, including giving the audience a window into the inner monologues of the central characters, striking a beautiful and engaging contrast between that which is said and that which isn’t.

The second season retains the first’s heartfelt qualities of humor combined with tenderness and deep emotion — but there are some new qualities I found somewhat irritating that make the second season feel like a Hail Mary contrived by Netflix. The plot feels forced and the addition of Bonnie, while certainly touching and heartbreaking, is hard to care about simply because we’re already so invested in the show’s central characters.

On that note, while James and Alyssa’s character arcs were among the greatest components of season one, they flatline throughout the duration of season two. Netflix gives their subscribers a happy ending for James and Alyssa, despite the fact we were completely happy with the tragic ending we got the first time. All said and done, the season is unnecessary — but still worth watching.

Email Ben Linder at [email protected] 

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