[Editor’s Note: The following article contains spoilers for “The End of the Fucking World” Season 1, including the ending.]
The title “The End of the F***cking World” is turning out to be quite apropos. Everyone is clamoring for the new Netflix series to be over after Season 1 — they want the end of the “The End of the F***ing World” to be the end of its fucking world.
The proverbial “they” is mainly made up of critics, including those who explicitly ask for no more seasons (like Uproxx’s Alan Sepinwall) and others who argue the ending is “seemingly definitive [and] definitely satisfying,” like The Ringer’s Alison Herman. And I, yet another critic shouting into the void, am with them: The ending is too good to ignore, as are the arguments asking that its artistic integrity be preserved by capping the series at eight episodes.
But that’s not going to happen. Netflix is in the content business. They revive series, they don’t end them; they cancelled very few shows prior to last year, and even then the number of axed series remains relatively low. Most of those shows had poor reviews, a lack of interest, or were cost prohibitive given the buzz they were generating. And since Netflix doesn’t provide ratings, acclaim and perceived interest is about all we have to gauge success.
By both measurements, “The End of the Fucking World” is a success. Season 1 is sitting at a plum 82 average rating on Metacritic.com, and reddit (among other fan sites) have been active around the show. And at least on a few accounts I’ve checked, “The End of the Fucking World” is being given prominent placement in the Originals section and other parts of the homepage.
So, without any official word from Netflix or the writer Charlie Covell, it’s likely that Netflix (and partner E4) will want more entries. Is that a bad idea? Who knows? it sounds like a bad idea, but, as I’ve mentioned before, so did “The Godfather Part II,” “The Leftovers” Season 3, and pretty much every “Toy Story” sequel. What’s interesting about Season 1’s ending vs. the ending in Charles S. Forman’s comic series is that they’re slightly different:
In the comic, the man who attacks Alyssa (Jessica Barden) and is then killed by James (Alex Lawther) has a wife. She, like her husband, tortures young women and practices Satanism, but the key detail is that she’s a cop, too. She’s pretty pissed off about her dead hubby, so she comes after James and Alyssa.
In the show, Covell created two new characters — the police officers DC Teri Darego (Wunmi Mosaku) and DC Eunice Noon (Gemma Whelan) — to replace the vengeful, satanist wife, and thus they’re the ones involved in the fateful ending. In the comic, the wife is the one who catches up with James in the comic, and even though a different police officer intervenes, he fights the wife and a gunshot rings out.
There’s a cut to black, just like in the show, but the comic continues. An epilogue of sorts shows Alyssa’s mom referring to James in the past tense and talking about how glad she is to have Alyssa home safe and sound. Readers then see Alyssa running a nail through the flame of a candle and using it to carve James’ name into her arm.
Such a bleak and emphatic ending certainly lends more finality to the story, and the change from page to screen could indicate that there’s more to come from the television adaptation. Alyssa wasn’t shown to be in mourning. No one talked about James. In the Netflix version, he could still be alive.
But he doesn’t have to be for the series to continue. If anything, the first season transitioned from James’ story to Alyssa’s; starting with a stronger focus on a young boy’s predisposition toward killing animals (and pursuing a life as a serial killer) before slowly becoming a complex portrait of a rebellious teenage girl working through a particularly painful adolescence. James’ life may have ended and ended very well, in terms of his tragic arc — just as he discovered his purpose in life was greater than studying his fascination with death — but Alyssa’s is going to go on; how she moves forward with the lesson learned in her young romantic relationship is a compelling question.
One would hope Alyssa discovering light in a world of darkness through her time with James will encourage her to seek that kind of happiness again and again. But it could easily have the opposite effect — one more in line with the comic. James, her one light, went out, and it could be hard to reignite. The conflict between Alyssa’s two paths post-trauma could be explored in very interesting ways, be it through a change in venue, another educational adventure, or the introduction of a new person in her life (perhaps a platonic friend).
And even though James’ arc is tremendous (more so because of its devastating final note), he doesn’t have to leave the show to avoid blemishing the first season’s beauty. There are ways for the story to continue with James in it, be it in flashback, survival, or as a f***ing ghost, who knows? All of these ideas are risky on paper, but so is writing a series with as much narration as dialogue. Covell has proven she’s got a good grip on this story, its characters, and when and how to change things up from the source material. To claim anyone knows better than she does — especially if Season 2 is a collaboration with all creative parties — seems presumptuous.
Trusting creators is important, even in a world where success fuels continuation more than necessity. It’s often hard to tell why a new season comes about, be it motivated by artistic curiosity or financial influence. No greater example of it is in television’s revival trend, but some of those are worth watching. The 2018 TV landscape is better with new episodes of “One Day at a Time” and “Will & Grace.” With many hoping “The End of the Fucking World” is already dead, there’s still reason to believe it’s OK for the world to keep on turning.