Spoilers ahead for The End of the F***ing World Season 2. The End of the F***ing World could have ended with Season 1. In fact, many people wanted it to. Its final image — James running away from the police as a single shot rang out — was both dramatically ambiguous and darkly poetic. He'd sacrificed himself for the very girl he'd set out to murder. And yet, the End of the F***ing World Season 2 ending feels more right for these two unconventionally in-love teens. In lieu of an exciting cliffhanger, we get to see them become more whole.
By many metrics, The End of the F***ing World's second season is even darker than its first. James, having spent the last two years recuperating from his gunshot wound, is now struggling to grieve both of his parents and the end of his relationship with Alyssa. She, meanwhile, is still coping with PTSD from that night at Clive's house, and impulsively gets married to a sweet but ultimately dull boy in an attempt merely to feel something.
In the end, though, the tone is infinitely more hopeful than the nihilistic Season 1. If the first season followed Alyssa and James acting out and wreaking havoc, Season 2 shows them finding their footing in the same f***ed up world. It's not just that they're several years older and somewhat wiser, but that the events of the last few years have fundamentally changed them. Here, it allows them to grow.
Alyssa, while still treating people poorly, has become more self-aware and apologizes to Todd for leaving him at their wedding reception. It's obvious that she's still processing how much pain she can (and has) inflicted on people, but she begins making amends. After asking Todd for a divorce, he snaps that she doesn't "deserve to be with anyone because you don't treat people well enough," and she responds flatly, "I know." It's a cruel thing for him to say, but she recognizes it's something she needs to work on.
James, meanwhile, is a far cry from the stoic, would-be psychopath who murdered small animals in Season 1. Remarkably, he is now capable of compassion — not just for Alyssa, but for his father, who he previously mistreated and misunderstood. He even extends empathy to Bonnie (Naomi Ackie), who is, in many ways, where the two protagonists were last season: angry at the world as much as she is herself.
By the Season 2 finale, James and Alyssa are both able to exorcise their respective demons. Alyssa returns to Clive's house — where, mentally, she has remained since that fateful night — while James finally dumps his father's ashes. They have both experienced, and continue to experience, tremendous amounts of pain, but their ability to begin confronting it is reassuring.
Perhaps most importantly, they are together, and able to express what that means to each of them. As such, Alyssa reciprocates James' declaration of love, which he'd whispered to her earlier in the season.
Since this is still The End of the F***ing World, there are no sepia-toned final credits or an epilogue explaining how they lived happily ever after. The final scenes take place as James and Alyssa eat french fries on a well-lit hillside, which is about as picturesque as this show will ever get. Alyssa still owes her mother £10,000 for the wedding, and they're still terribly young and unsure of themselves. But that only makes it more lovely when Alyssa reaches out and grabs James' scarred hand — the one she didn't want to hold back in Season 1.