THE END OF THE F***ING WORLD: Episode Seven – Review
Review by: Joshua Leto
Alyssa has been perceptive throughout this series in identifying the desires of adults. She quickly reads many different people: the dangerous driver who picks them up while they hitchhike. The gas station employee who wants a little excitement. The non-threatening suburban loiterer she propositions; and the hotel clerk she pays off. All of this contrasts with her inability to read her estranged father when they finally meet.
In this case, Alyssa is blind to the selfish, self-destructive, and immature man in front of her. She swoons almost immediately and looks up to him for most of the episode. Barry Ward, as Alyssa’s father, Leslie, is both charming and roguish while still dim and narcissistic. He’s the adult in the series who is most quickly made into a whole character, although his specter was floating over Alyssa’s side of the narrative throughout.
James has been consistently naive and hesitant before now, but he is the one to notice the trouble spots in Leslie’s behavior. Work from home entails drug dealing to teenagers; knife-throwing is a bonding pastime; and a weatherbeaten, beached craft is the boat for a sailing trip. James recommends they move on fairly quickly. Alyssa is sold on the reunion.
We never lose sight of the detectives pursuing James and Alyssa. DC Noon continues to be the perceptive one in this duo as well. We learn more about her empathy for James and Alyssa, which has been shown previously through her emotional directness with her partner, DC Darego.
Alyssa’s idolized picture of her father begins to fall apart when she learns she has a half-brother who looks to be about eight and her Dad runs off. His careless escape culminates in a clumsy set-up to a powerful metaphor for how Alyssa and especially James have changed over the course of the series.
Leslie runs over a dog, and James and Alyssa see that it’s dying and needs to be euthanized. In an earlier episode, we are shown James killing a rabbit, and shown the body count of small animals he’s slaughtered. Here he freezes and can’t bash the dog’s head. He tells Alyssa he can’t do it, and she sees him crying. She takes the rock and kills the dog. It shows James’s steady transformation from self-described psychopath to a person with some access to his emotions. His emotional transformation is coming to a close.
Verdict: Watch It. As I reflected on Alyssa’s change throughout this story, at first, I saw little emotional growth. She started out by expressing her emotions through outsize actions: smashing phones, breaking into houses, and destroying evidence of the murder. Here she continues by smashing the head of the dog in the act of mercy killing. It appears all her changes are communicated through interior emotional changes. She recognizes that she can do small things like holding James’s hand (“not the gross one”) and helping a little girl separated from her father. These are more selfless actions. I almost missed them for the outrageous swings she continues to take.