The Shield

Netflix provides honest take on love, violence

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“The End of the “F**cking World” is bleak in concept, but beautiful in execution.

James (Alex Lawther), 17 at the beginning of the series, is pretty certain he’s a psychopath. He’s had a troubled childhood and yearns to move from killing animals to killing real people. Enter Alyssa.

Alyssa (Jessica Barden) is the epitome of teen angst, swearing left and right while searching for her place in the world. Disgusted by her popular friends, she approaches James. They start to hang out together and eventually drive off together to find Alyssa’s estranged father.

Throughout the beginning of the series, James struggles with his feelings for Alyssa and the violent urges he has to kill her. This on paper should be depressing; it should be so screwed up that in real life, we’d label it a toxic relationship.

However, as James progresses, he turns away from wanting to kill Alyssa and eventually becomes someone who protects Alyssa. James’ narration makes him sympathetic— we watch him grow into adulthood and realize some people are worth loving. He’s a killer we want to root for, a boy who’s flawed but grows to appreciate the human experience.

Alyssa’s character development is striking as well. At the beginning, we see her as a crude complainer, some might say annoying and entitled.

But as viewers follow her through the series, we see her vulnerability. She’s harassed by men and doesn’t exactly have the perfect home life. She seeks reassurance and comfort, something she hasn’t been able to secure until she meets James.

James and Alyssa are being hailed as a new “Bonnie and Clyde,” roaming Britain for a general purpose and getting into lots of trouble along the way. It’s darkly comedic to watch as Alyssa rolls her eyes at authority, James violently defends her and law enforcement tries to catch up.

While the ending is a trainwreck for the two, it’s satisfying to watch them care for each other in final (we’ll see if there’s a season 2) moments after a dysfunctional relationship throughout the series.

Because this series is so honest and bleak, it’s not for everyone. If viewers are sensitive to animal cruelty, sexual assault, and violence, Google content warnings for each episode because as far as triggers go, this angsty British show is full of them.

But the series never feels like it’s vulgar or gory for the sake of being edgy. The chaos on the screen is poignant, a representation of the turbulence many feel during their formative years. James and Alyssa, as wild as their actions are onscreen, resonate with the teenager in us.

As much as I loved seeing the characters grow, I think the ending is conclusive. The story, based on a graphic novel by Charles Forsman, ends in a tragic way that’s still somehow rewarding for the viewer.

If Netflix decides to extend the narrative for a second season, I’ll definitely be watching, but this series is already satisfying. It’s more than video on your screen to binge to pass the time. It’s an exploration of character, relationships and anger poignantly portrayed onscreen by talented actors.

Don’t miss out on this surprise hit.

(5 / 5)
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Netflix provides honest take on love, violence