The End of the F***ing World season 2 review: Two fingers up to Romeo and Juliet endings
In episodes one and two, we return to Jessica Barden's bride-to-be Alyssa — and reunite with a familiar character...
**WARNING: Contains major spoilers for episodes one and two**
“It was a fitting end. A doomed love story. A perfect tragedy… And then I didn’t die.”
Midway through the second episode of The End of the F***ing World season two, fans of Charlie Covell’s pitch-black comedy finally got the shot they’d been waiting for — ever since the literal gunshot that sounded right at the end of season one, leaving viewers guessing as to whether or not 17-year-old killer James (played by Alex Lawther) had survived the police showdown on the beach.
His death might have been the “fitting end” to a story about two teenage runaways, but by now fans might have realised that Romeo and Juliet arcs or neat narrative bows were never Covell’s style.
- 'Alyssa is dealing with depression in series two,' says The End of the F***ing World's Jessica Barden
- End of the F***ing World's Alex Lawther on James' season two return
- The End of the F***ing World creator Charlie Covell says there won’t be a season 3
At the start of the episode, we learn Alyssa (Jessica Barden) has been struggling to move on in the past two years. Since season one she’s become less sure of herself, which is reflected in the frequent white lies she tells herself during her voiceover narratives — viewers will remember that despite her brash outward manner, Alyssa’s voiceover was always endearingly honest and vulnerable.
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On the eve of her wedding (a rash choice that her anxious mother is more invested in than herself), she senses that there’s someone watching her from the car parked outside the woodland American-style diner where she works. Marching up to the car, she throws open the door — and there’s James, nervous and hopeful, the dysfunctional pair reunited once more.
Alyssa is shocked, as is the viewer — we’ve been led to believe that her stalker was Bonnie (Naomi Ackie), who’s introduced in episode one.
Bonnie, like James, is a young, troubled murderer. Unlike James, she’s served jail time, spending two years obsessing over the two teenagers who ruined her life: James and Alyssa. It’s revealed that Bonnie was in love with the rapist university lecturer whom James killed to protect Alyssa back in season one, and Bonnie has developed a vendetta, sending in the post two bullets with the pair’s names scratched on (she misspells Alyssa’s name, meaning the teen finds it hard to take the message seriously).
From the first two episodes, it appears the unstable and gun-toting Bonnie is the main threat to the teenagers’ future. But when it comes to their future as a couple, there are other issues at play, not least how much James and Alyssa have both changed in the interim two years (and not to mention the impending wedding).
The blustering, cocky Alyssa we once knew and loved is now isolated and struggling with depression, as revealed by Barden in an exclusive interview with RadioTimes.com. Meanwhile James has been in recovery following his gunshot wound: learning to walk again, waiting for his court date, and reconnecting with his dad— that is, until his dad dies unexpectedly, and James refuses to go back inside the family home, opting to live in the car outside.
When he and Alyssa reunite, he’s still dressed in the suit he wore to the funeral (when I spoke to Covell, she revealed that the costume was a nod to Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs). As Alyssa later dons her wedding gown and James remains in his suit, to any outsider the pair would look like a newly-wed couple — but there’s a disconnect. Alyssa is dressed for new beginnings, while James has just experienced an ending.
The juxtaposition reminded me of the Halloween outfits in Euphoria, which saw Zendaya’s Rue and her love interest Jules appear to dress up as the central lovers in (wouldn't you know it?) Romeo + Juliet (1996) — only to realise on closer inspection that Rue is inexplicably dressed as a different Leonardo DiCaprio character, from Titanic.
The End of the F***ing World costumes help enhance the unease between James and Alyssa, a visual metaphor for how close they could be, and yet how different their respective outlooks are two years on. Fans will be hoping that the pair find a way back to one another — but they might do well to remember how much screenwriter Covell hates fitting endings.
The End of the F***ing World season two will air on Channel 4 in the UK from Monday 4th to Thursday 7th November, with two new episodes double-billed every night across the week from 10pm. In the US, season two will be available on Netflix from Tuesday 5th November.