The End of the F***ing World, review: TV's blackest comedy is as dry, wry and hopelessly romantic as ever
Well, that lipstick scene will certainly linger in the memory. Storming back in style came The End of the F***ing World (Channel 4), the BAFTA-winning comedy-drama about a pair of star-crossed teenage runaways. Its 2017 debut run was well-received on Channel 4 but became a full-blown international hit when it streamed on Netflix last year.
In a comeback double bill, we rejoined the story two years on and met a new character, Bonnie (a brilliantly blank performance from Naomi Ackie, who was impassive but somehow expressive). It was audacious to dedicate an entire episode to a stranger but we soon discovered that this nihilistic outsider, , fresh out of prison, had a mysterious connection to protagonist Alyssa (Jessica Barden).
The second episode found Alyssa rebuilding her life in the Forest of Dean following the shooting of her lover James (Alex Lawther) – until a bullet with her name on it (no, literally) arrived in the post.
Meanwhile, gunned-down James was disappointed to find that he’d survived the cliffhanger. “It was a fitting end,” he deadpanned. “A doomed love story. A perfect tragedy. And then I didn’t die.”
Writer Charlie Covell and director Lucy Forbes conjured up a distinctive fictional world, combining retro flourishes (brown Ercol interiors, torch song soundtrack, references to Polaroids and fondue) with a sense of millennial angst and the stylised storytelling of a graphic novel. Not surprising, as it was originally based on cult comics by American author Charles Forsman.
The result was bleak but dry, wry and hopelessly romantic, like Badlands relocated to Seventies suburbia. The series is stripped across the schedules for four nights, promising to surprise and beguile as much as the first.