THE END OF THE F***ING WORLD: Episode Four – Review
Starring: Jessica Barden, Alex Lawther
Director: Jonathan Entwistle
Writer: Charlie Covell
Based on the comic: TEOTFW by Charles Forsman
Review by: Joshua Leto
Episodes one and three used Bernadette Coleman’s Laughing On The Outside as de facto theme music for the show. The music in four doesn’t start immediately, but when it does, it kicks in with a driving guitar from the song T.B. JerK +++ by Pascal Comrade & Les Limiñanas. It sets a tone of both anxiety and drive. This is a good example of Graham Coxon’s positive influence on the show. When a song fits the feeling of a scene, it adds a layer of depth.
This episode features a couple key turning points. Alyssa realizes just how weird James is and that she might be in over her head. Before she says almost exactly that in voiceover, we see our heroes change their looks. James ends up in a Hawai’ian shirt that belongs on someone twenty years his senior. Alyssa ends up in a blonde wig that we’re supposed to think is her real hair, styled by James.
There is a sequence in which the director makes the most of short bursts of visuals without any dialogue. James shows Alyssa the videotape that their murder victim made of him killing young women. We see short shots of grainy imagery overlaid with bursts of violent soundtrack noise which work together to tell us how the characters experience them.
James and Alyssa move on. There is an odd divergence in tone as we meet the detectives who are investigating the murder that James has committed. When I see them, I feel pulled out of the world that Alyssa and James have been inhabiting. We barely learn their names. They seem to offer mostly comic relief and exposition, but there is a significant amount of screen time spent on them. They even have their own musical theme, which gives them a Coen-esque feel.
In my review of episode two, I said that it seemed to me like James had spent a decade pretending the world wasn’t hurting him, and that he mistook his numbness for psychopathy. In this episode, that approach reaches its breaking point. He admits that he can’t handle being alone with his thoughts and even says he is “pretty sure” he isn’t a psychopath.
Late in the episode, James pays a group of young men to beat him up. After his self-inflicted assault, we see James laying on the ground in an overhead shot with framing that recalls a shot of Alyssa in episode one. When we see Alyssa from this position, the first thing she says is, “I get these moments where I have to lay down because everything is sort of, too much.” Now we see James achieving a similar level of devastation and self-realization as he says, “I was never Alyssa’s protector, she was mine.”
The episode ends with James dialing 999 to report the murder, hanging us off the cliff.