How do you get a psychopath to fall in love with you? That's the question Netflix’s newest dark comedy addition, End of the F***ing World (writer: Charlie Covell) seeks to answer. 17-year-old Alyssa (Jessica Barden) finds herself attracted to fellow classmate James (Alex Lawther) and begins to pursue a relationship with him. She’s heartened when it seems that James agrees to run away with her. But, what she doesn’t know is that James, who suspects himself incapable of human emotion, is plotting to kill her. A buddy comedy road trip like no other quickly ensues. Considering the extreme circumstances of the plot, is there any chance that End of the F***ing World is based on a true story?
Luckily for vulnerable teens everywhere, the story of James and Alyssa is not based in reality. It is, however, an adaptation of a graphic novel of the same name (but with the full expletive) by Charles Forsman. The book began as a series of mini-comics before coming together in a 128-page black and white graphic novel. The Atlantic reports that the idea to turn the popular comic into a television series occurred when the show’s director, Jonathan Entwistle, saw a discarded page of Forsman’s series outside a comic-book store in London. Charlie Covell, who is a writer on the show, shared in an interview with British Comedy Guide that Forsman’s email was on the back of the page, and Entwistle wrote to ask Forsman’s permission to create an adaptation of the series. The rest is history.
And for loyal fans of the original comics or graphic novel, don’t worry— the new show sticks very closely to the original source material. Covell shares in the same interview that the show’s divergences from the book are meant to flesh out the two characters, and make the series as compelling to watch as the comics were to read:
"There were a couple of strands in the comic that didn't quite work in terms of a TV audience. And we invented two cops, Eunice and Teri - there was a cop in the comics, but it doesn't work in the same way. And we've fleshed out the family backstory, so Alyssa's parents aren't really seen in the original, they're just mentioned. The bare bones of it are pretty similar, and I hope the essence is similar, but there's stuff we've had to truncate and change to make it as a TV show."
But even though this series isn't based on any real events, the emotional core of the show is based in the very real experience of being a teenager who is totally confused about life, and still trying to figure themselves out. So no matter how ridiculous or outlandish some of the events may seem (like James sticking his hand in a deep fryer in an attempt to feel anything ) the show somehow still feels relatable.
Actor Jessica Barden, who plays Alyssa in the series, emphasizes the universality of her character's emotions, if not necessarily her road trip with a murderous psychopath, in an interview with The Scotsman :
“I’ve played a lot of teenagers and I think sometimes they tend to make them a bit too mushy, because you’re not actually connected to yourself at all really when you’re a teenager. I love playing Alyssa because she is like me and my friends when we were younger, where you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing in your life. You make terrible decisions and one minute you are horrible to your parents and your friends and feel like the entire world hates you, then the next you feel like the most confident, smartest person in the entire world and totally formidable, yet you’re constantly having to deal with the repercussions of things you do because you’re changing all the time."
So even though the dark comedy often veers towards the absurd, the core of the show is something just about anybody can relate to. That's part of what makes End of the F***ing World beloved by critics and audiences alike — the show doesn't sacrifice emotional depth and complexity for its comedic ridiculousness, even though one of its protagonists ostensibly has no emotions.