The End Of The F***ing World, the Channel 4 show about misfit teen runaways James and Alyssa, is poised to make its return. But whether both runaways are coming back remains uncertain after that dramatic series one cliffhanger. And if you can’t remember what we’re talking about, read on for an all-you-need-to-know recap of the first series of this brilliantly dark and comedic show.
Although, with only eight, 20-minute episodes – the entire series is shorter than Avengers: Endgame – you may be tempted to head to All 4 and just watch the whole thing again…
What’s it adapted from?
A graphic novel of the same name by Charles Forsman, which also served as the basis for the 2014 short film, EOTFW. Series one premiered in 2017 and followed the novel to completion, so series two will be breaking out into new territory.
Who is James?
In a memorable introduction, the show opens with this voiceover from the first of the teenage leads, played by Alex Lawther. “I’m James. I’m 17. And I’m pretty sure I’m a psychopath,” he tells us. Intriguing, right?
And that line pretty much sets the tone and direction of the rest of the show. In the first five minutes, we’re given James’ analysis of his psychopathy, from the time he shoved his hand in a deep fat fryer (“I wanted to make myself feel something.”) to that classic psychopath hobby – killing the kitty next door.
It later transpires that James has had a pretty awful childhood. As a young child, he watched his mother commit suicide by driving her car into a pond. Whether he’s genuinely a psychopath is a major theme running through the show, but it’s certainly clear he has a lot of unaddressed trauma.
Who is Alyssa?
Outspoken and angry, Jessica Barden’s Alyssa is not short of her own teenage issues. Her mum, Gwen, has remarried a sleazebag named Tony, and they both seem far more interested in their twin babies than Gwen’s teenage daughter. Meanwhile, her real dad is out of the picture, and her only contact with him is the birthday card he sends each year.
Between Tony’s nasty and inappropriate comments and her mum’s lack of interest, she has more to deal with than the average teenager and she’s not coping well. In her own opening words, “I get these moments when I have to lie down, ’cause everything seems sort of too much”.
How did James and Alyssa meet?
Having practised on plenty of animals, James now wants to see what it’s like to kill a person. He hates school, but he thinks it’s the perfect place to select his victim. And who better than the brash, angry and slightly annoying new girl?
Deciding Alyssa would be “interesting to kill”, he reasons that pretending to fall in love with her is the best tactic. Meanwhile, Alyssa is sick of everyone else and drawn to James’ peculiar behaviour and the pair start dating.
Why did they run away together?
Alyssa wants to run away, James keeps insisting (to us through voiceover) that he wants to kill her. But, although he has the knife ready when she comes over to his house, James reasons that he doesn’t need to kill Alyssa right away. And so, with Alyssa leading the way, the two teens steal James’ dad’s car and make a break for it, James punching his poor, well-meaning dad in the face in the process (something he’s always wanted to do).
It’s not long before things start to go downhill. After spending all of their money at Laser Kill, they do a runner from a restaurant and hit the road again in the stolen car. Alyssa insists they have sex while driving, so naturally they’re halfway through undressing when James crashes the car into a tree. Alyssa rolls her eyes and insists the car won’t explode, “we’re not in a film”. Those are famous last words… the vehicle promptly explodes.
And so the teens are left with no car, no money and no plan. “Shall we go home?” Alyssa thinks and James asks. No one’s backing down, they’re not going home.
They end up hitchhiking with a questionable middle-aged man, much to Alyssa’s annoyance; “I am going to be so f***ed off if we get murdered.” It turns out Alyssa was right to have her suspicions. Starting with the man’s worrying dog-fighting hobby and ending with some inappropriate touching in the men’s service station toilets, the two have to make a quick exit, but not before Alyssa blackmails the guy for his wallet.
The pair book into a cheap hotel for the night and this is the closest James gets to killing Alyssa so far. He’s standing outside the bathroom with his hunting knife, she’s crying inside. They end up cuddling in bed instead; Alyssa feeling comforted, James’ twisting mind imagining her in a pool of blood.
Who did James kill?
Things really start to get serious when the pair leave the hotel and break into an empty house. At first it’s fun, they spend an evening together playing house, drinking the owner’s booze and eating his food.
But then, after an awkward sexual rejection from James, who is starting to wonder whether he actually has feelings for Alyssa, she invites a local man, Topher, back to the house. While they go upstairs to have sex (they don’t go through with it), James finds a disturbing collection of photographs in a drawer showing the owner, Clive Koch, to be a serial rapist. Minutes later, Clive returns from his holiday.
James, who was poised ready to kill a sleeping Alyssa, hides under the bed as he hears Clive enter the house. In a tense and horrifying scene, Clive discovers Alyssa in his bed and attempts to rape her. He is stopped in his tracks by James, who stabs him in the neck with the hunting knife.
Now really up s**t creek without a paddle, the two teens decide the best course of action is to arrange Clive’s incriminating photograph collection around him as evidence, clean up the scene and ditch the murder weapon. They burn their clothes and adopt disguises.
After a momentary blip, where Alyssa, distrustful of James after the whole knife/murder situation, deserts him and James nearly confesses to the police after paying a group of boys to beat him up, the two reconvene in a cafe. They hotwire a car and head in the direction of Alyssa’s dad, who knows how to handle things on the wrong side of the law (although probably doesn’t know what he’s getting himself into with this one).
Stopping for petrol on the way, they fall under the suspicion of the petrol station manager, who rightly thinks they’re planning to scarper without paying. The situation escalates quickly with James bursting in pretending to have a gun in his pocket. With the help of Frodo, the long-suffering shop assistant, they lock the manager in a store cupboard. In one of the funniest scenes in the show, awkward teen Frodo is filled with new confidence and starts low-key trashing the store, and the teens make their escape. Of course, this is all caught on CCTV…
Who are the two detectives?
While James and Alyssa continue their increasingly high stakes road trip, the police are closing in. This introduces the characters of Eunice Noon (Gemma Whelan) and Teri Darego (Wunmi Mosaku), two detectives on the case who have a comically awkward sexual tension going on and we later find out have been romantically involved. They arrive on the scene after Clive Koch’s mother has discovered the body (and, unknown to them, destroyed those incriminating photographs).
Naturally, the teens haven’t done a very good clean up job, and it’s not long before the police find the knife, speak to Topher and find out that they’re looking for two teens on the run. They quickly track down the burnt-out car, James’ dad and Alyssa’s mum, and the CCTV footage from the petrol station, which they show to the shocked parents.
What happens with Alyssa’s dad?
Meanwhile, things aren’t quite as expected when James and Alyssa track down Alyssa’s dad, Leslie, at his coastal caravan home. He turns out to be a drug dealer, has another child he doesn’t support, and, after a drunken night where he is confronted by his second child’s mother, he accidentally, but aggressively, runs over a dog. Not ideal parent material.
It soon transpires that Leslie already knows about the murder, which he reveals when James and Alyssa ask to borrow his boat, planning to escape the country together. Instead, Leslie stalls the duo lulling Alyssa into a false sense of security with a nice cup of tea.
But James, realising Leslie has already phoned the police, emerges with Leslie’s shotgun. Moments later, Detective Noon arrives, although not before Alyssa angrily stabs her dad in the leg.
Despite Noon’s attempts to reassure them and talk them down, James and Alyssa realise they will both go to jail, with James going to adult prison as he has turned 18 that day. Alyssa knocks Noon out with the butt of the gun and the pair take the boat keys and run off to the beach.
On a side note, in a heartbreaking confrontation, it also turns out that Leslie never sent those cards. Alyssa’s mum wrote them so that she didn’t feel completely abandoned – he really is the worst father ever.
Where does series 1 end?
The backup police arrive as the teens head towards the water. They have the boat keys, but they discover the tide has gone out, and the police are quickly approaching. James urges Alyssa to stay and tell the police that he was solely responsible for the murder. She objects, so he takes the gun, hits her over the head and runs.
As James sprints across the beach with police firing shots at him, he reflects in a voiceover that he finally understands what people mean to each other. A final shot is heard and the scene cuts to black.
And that’s it. We leave the troubled pair with a huge “is James dead?!” question mark cliffhanger. And so far, that question has not been answered, with Channel 4 keeping fans in the dark by confirming the return of Jessica Barden but not Alex Lawther as James. You’ll simply have to wait and see…
The End Of The F***ing World series two will premiere on Channel 4 at 10pm on Monday 4 November. The entire eight-episode series will air two episodes a night over four consecutive nights.