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‘The End of the F***ing World’ Review: ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ Take Britain in a Gripping, Surprising Netflix Series
“The End of the F***cking World” is a near-perfect Netflix binge and, in all likelihood, an intolerable traditional television experience. Through three episodes, the adaptation of Charles Forsman’s comic book series comes across as a pointless odyssey copping themes and plot points from other, better stories: That “Bonnie & Clyde” is directly referenced does little to pique interest in the lead characters, James and Alyssa, as they embark on an unprompted road trip-turned-crime spree across England.
But then it clicks: A relatively late turn — over an hour into the two-and-a-half-hour series — provides a much-needed sense of purpose, and suddenly “The End of the F***ing World” becomes a darkly compelling journey of self-discovery and adolescent confusion. James develops into more than a disturbed wannabe serial killer; he’s a confused kid trying to cope with pain the only way he knows how. Alyssa isn’t an uncaring, self-destructive disruptor, but a child acting out to get the attention she actually needs.
That their relatable motivations comes out at the same time the two alienated and alienating leads start acting a bit nicer to one another may lead to a misunderstanding: The first half(-ish) of “The End of the Fucking World” (we’re done bleeping the name, thank you) isn’t frustrating because the characters are unlikable; it’s difficult because everything feels forced. The world turns bleak to accommodate their own bleakness; bad people lurk around every corner; darkness is definitely defeating the light.
Once we understand a bit more about their decision-making, the show opens up and starts to flow in a more natural manner. It’s fascinating, fresh, and exposes the viewer to surprising emotional depths. The ending is almost antithetical to the beginning, in that it feels authentic and inevitable while the beginning feels artificial and quirked up. (Before you understand where the story is going, so many early scenes feel designed solely to provoke, rather than inform and drive the story.)
And that ending is already a point of controversy. The series aired in October 2017 across the pond (on Channel 4 in the U.K.), and it’s stirring up discussion in the States now that “The End of the Fucking World” is popping up in Netflix queues. Below, we’ll dig into the events leading up to a surprising, satisfying finale, but if you’re not there yet, just know this:
“The End of the Fucking World” is worth sticking with (unless you’re utterly intolerant of animal abuse, which is a persistent theme). Even if you’re not immediately engrossed — and who knows, you very well could be — keep going to discover what’s got everyone talking. Then come back and keep reading.
[Editor’s Note: The following portion of the review contains spoilers for “The End of the Fucking World” Season 1 through the finale.]
There are a few key points of context to mention before digging into those final moments. In the final episode, it’s clear the walls are closing in on our young couple. Their sins, accidental and otherwise, have added up. There’s a dead body, two stolen cars, and a number of jilted businesses, be it a restaurant or a gas station or a hotel paid off with stolen money.
So it feels like a free-and-easy escape, or even some sort of return to normal life, is an impossibility. As soon as Alyssa asks if they’d end up at separate prisons if they did give themselves over to the cops, it’s over. The cops have already found them, and they were lucky it was Eunice (Gemma Whelen) and not her partner, Teri (Wunmi Mosaku), or other uncaring police officers, who got to them first. Their best shot at normalcy was surrender, and these kids were never going to surrender, just as they never were going to accept normalcy. “Normal” to them was terrible: It was a father who abandoned his daughter or a mother who killed herself.
So they ran, and we may never know for sure if James ran far enough, fast enough. As police drew their weapons and seized Alyssa, he kept running. One gunshot landed next to his foot, but the final gunshot is only heard. That’s the end, and we don’t know if there will be a follow-up. Given Netflix’s investment, one would think they want more seasons, but there’s no guarantee of that. Critics are already debating whether or not a Season 2 is a good idea.
No matter how you take the ending, each interpretation carries significance, which is exactly what the creator intended., The varying beliefs also reflect the developing attitudes of the series’ leads. If you believe James escaped, then you’re choosing to believe in second chances; that these kids were still becoming adults when they started down a bad path; that turning 18 isn’t the same as being a grown-up, especially in the days before you hit that pivotal age; and that youthful ignorance is youthful innocence, to one degree or another.
The belief that he died ties in with the characters’ early self-destructive desires; that the sins of the past will haunt you, even if they shouldn’t. Before they went through everything they went through, it would’ve been easy to imagine a bleak ending because James and Alyssa would’ve readily accepted one. They wanted out of their lives because they had nothing to live for. Perhaps those sins caught up to James, whether he was running as fast as he could away from them or he was accepting responsibility to save his girlfriend.
It’s also worth noting the title itself is given a whole new meaning, no matter whether you believe James is dead or not. Those final seconds earn that unique, earth-shattering sentiment many people only feel when the love of their life is threatened, if not taken away: It’s as if the world has ended, and James’ act of self-sacrifice combined with Alyssa’s wailing pleas evoke that exact feeling. It’s the ideal takeaway from “The End of the Fucking World” overall: There’s good things in this world — love, laughter, and life — even if you have to dig through the worst to find them.
“The End of the F***ing World” Season 1 is streaming now on Netflix.
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Some true crime series draw their allure from a certain sense of removal: a murder in an exotic locale, a felony with members of the billionaire set, a heist featuring bizarre, outrageous targets. But “Rotten,” Netflix’s latest documentary series, picks a decidedly more relatable topic: the very food we consume. While using familiar style and rhythms of bloodier, darker doc counterparts, “Rotten” still manages to use the immediacy of the dinner table as a way to help reshape the conversation about what we put in our bodies.
Each installment follows a different corner of food production, focusing on a specific subset of the industry. From the opening chapter chronicling unexpected developments in the world of bee pollenation to deep dives into garlic production and chicken harvesting, these individual hourlong segments are sturdy intros into areas eaters tend to take for granted.
As a result, these episodes feel like satisfying diversions from a familiar storyline, diving into the origins and lives of side character foods that most people may not have thought about beyond the confines of a supermarket. Looking at various steps in the process between cultivation and final sale, “Rotten” considers conglomerates and independent farmers, domestic producers and foreign exporters without framing any of the underlying crimes as solely coming from one force or another.
There’s a constant emphasis on the human side of the foods and crimes that make up the series, but they come on the heels of a full-view consideration of the economic factors that control so much of both. By the middle of the six-episode season, there’s a glaring pattern in how each industry struggles with the twin motivations of efficiency and quality. Some elements of this make for a policy Rorshach test: Even though “Rotten” often foregrounds working-class farmers and independent growers as the victims of these crimes, most of these episodes withhold judgment of whether the tenets of the global economic system are to blame or whether some of these chapters are inevitable byproducts of human nature.
These stories aren’t restricted merely to one section of America or the globe, incorporating stories and interests ranging from the California Central Valley to the peanut farms of Georgia, from rice fields in China to meat processing plants in Brazil. Uniting these disparate corners of the globe under the banner of a single food not only underlines the commonalities between various cuisines, it puts a hole in the theory that international trade can be “solved” by strong posturing or tough talk. If an hour-long installment can barely scratch the surface of the intricacies of the global honey trade, it puts the challenges of a shifting global landscape in further relief.
But regardless of where this food is coming from, another common theme of “Rotten” is that literal and figurative appetites are becoming less sustainable by the year. The series doesn’t get too mired in a sea of statistics, but through shots of massive storerooms and quick global map graphics, “Rotten” is as concerned with the challenges and consequences of volume as many of these industry food producers are.
In order to avoid being a completely grim antidote to “Chef’s Table,” “Rotten” still fits in some loving appreciation of the beauty of some food prep. For every dimly lit evidence wall and ground’s eye shot of meat being ground onto the camera, there are handfuls of slo-mo sequences of knife sharpening, veggie chopping and skillet swirling. Between the music and the episode-to-episode structure, this is a series focused more on substance than style.
With that structure, there’s also a tiny shift that elevates this over the standard single-issue doc. What sometimes is laid out in the pre-credits prologue as a simple tale of corporate malfeasance or interindustry sabotage is often revealed to have a few unexpected layers. A chorus of parents concerned over allergies, righteous international policy lawyers, and multinational executives rarely end up each episode as the individuals that they seem at the outset.
In this way, even with a laser focus on the fate of these food worlds, “Rotten” occasionally steps back and examines how we process our own comforts. The goal of each episode isn’t to draw clear heroes and villains and lay a clear path to which companies or growers to direct your purchasing power towards. The show doesn’t provide an easy path to absolution that buying from one supplier will bring about justice or that withholding business from another will cause an industry-wide sea change. But like the best documentary efforts, it puts forth these stories with the idea that a more informed audience is a healthier one.
“Rotten” Season 1 is now available on Netflix.
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When “Atlanta” returns for its second season this spring, it’ll be “Robbin’ Season.” As IndieWire reported earlier, executive producer/writer Stephen Glover explained that the title referred to a specific time of year:
“It’s not Season 2; it’s ‘Robbin’ Season,’” he said. “Robbin’ season is the time before Christmas in Atlanta where there’s more criminal activity than normal because it’s about to be Christmas time, it’s the end of the year, there are a lot of people with gifts, there’s a lot of robberies going on because people have nice stuff at the time or trying to make money for Christmas or during that end of the year period, kind of like a vibe in Atlanta during that time.”
While Season 2 premieres on March 1, the events on the show will kick off around “robbin’ season” and then continue through. It will continue Earn’s (Donald Glover) efforts to manage his rapper cousin Alfred/Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry).
On Friday, Donald Glover, Stephen Glover, Paul Simms, Hiro Murai, Bryan Tyree Henry, and Zadie Beets attended the Television Critics Association press tour to discuss the second season of “Atlanta”. This is what we learned:
Bone Up on Your “Tiny Toon Adventures”
No really. The Steven Spielberg’s ‘90s cartoon, which is going to Hulu, was referenced multiple times as an inspiration for how the executive producers conceived their approach to Season 2.
In particular, the Tiny Toons movie “How I Spent My Vacation” — which follows Buster Bunny, Babs Bunny, and their friends during their summer vacation — was cited. Stephen Glover explained that it was intriguing how the film was “a whole story, but told in a bunch of parts.” Donald Glover added, “You enjoy them when they’re all together.”
Thinking about the second season in this way allowed the producers to put “a different frame around the show,” said executive producer/director Murai.
Alfred’s Success Parallels Making Season 2
The panel wasn’t forthcoming on plot specifics, but the general idea is that Alfred’s journey as semi-famous local rapper Paper Boi very much reflects how the cast and crew felt in going back to Atlanta to make the second season. Fame in Atlanta doesn’t come with an instant upgrade in lifestyle, but instead, it’s about navigating a world that once felt familiar but has changed now that everybody knows you or thinks they know you.
“The industry isn’t part of your life [in Atlanta],” said Donald Glover. “That kind of information isn’t really passed on… I think the writers are still first-timers. They’re not in the game. They were living in the hood while we were shooting. People don’t realize how close we actually are to people.”
The flip side of the modicum of fame, though, came with suddenly feeling unsafe and not being able to live exactly the same way as before.
“It’s the narrative of anyone having success,” said Beetz. “The question applies to Alfred a lot, making the choice between, ‘Is he going to be homeboy from the street or follow his success?’ For me, this experience has completely changed.”
“Am I gonna sell drugs or am I gonna be a celebrity? You can’t do both. You can’t be a famous drug dealer,” said Donald Glover about Paper Boi’s mindset this season. “Are you going to eat or are you going to be eaten? The choice defines who you are.”
The Real Dangers
To further illustrate how close the production is to real life, Beetz said, “There was a shooting outside my house. We stopped shooting one night because there was a shootout, and I live a block from there.”
Henry added that since everybody recognizes him and greets him as “Paper Boi,” he can no longer do things that he could when he was safely anonymous, such as ordering from Grub Hub (“everyone would know where I live now”) or going out to celebrate Halloween. “We can’t roll here right now,” he said. “At the end of the day, the world is different. Same thing with each script. This is scary what we’re having to go through. We were saying it’s hard. You want this to be hard and not do the same blasé things you’d had to do.”
“This was a hard season,” agreed Donald Glover.
“That’s literally why it’s called ‘Robbin’ Season,’” Henry said. “That fear, it’s this land that you’ve known, but now it’s different.”
More Linear Storytelling
Despite the many different stories this season will bring, Murai said, “We approached this season wanting to do something a little bit more cohesive [than Season 1]. But…we are still making ourselves a little uncomfortable.”
Henry noted, though, that “by being linear so much, [filming] was so weird, so deconstructed.”
Don’t expect another “B.A.N.” type of episode, though. “Everybody wants you to do the thing they liked,” said Donald Glover, who prefers to do something new and “risky.”
Executive producer Paul Simms confirmed that the show will still be bringing some more experimental things this season. “There are some great surprises this season,” he said, “stuff that people are really going to talk about.”
Although it’s still too early to reveal any musical choices on the show, Donald Glover did note that the rap community has embraced what the show is doing.
“They’ve been super supportive of this show,” he said. “They know they’re part of the culture.”
After Glover mentioned Migos on the Golden Globes, that affected how the community viewed potential avenues to success. “They said I turned the hip-hop game like this, totally flipped.” In pursuing their goals, they don’t really calculate in what some sort of endorsement would do. “They were thinking about the hustle… That’s what hip-hop is.”
“Atlanta: Robbin’ Season” premieres on Thursday, March 1 at 10 p.m. ET on FX.
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The first week of January each year, the American Film Institute Awards lunch is one of the more relaxed Hollywood gatherings. Top players involved with the 10 movie and 10 TV winners know all they have to do is comfortably socialize for an hour or so, eat their salmon, and applaud 20 clips.
TV jury chief Rich Frank said he wished he was on the film side, as they had far less to watch — his team had to sift through more than 500 scripted series.
Among the studio executives on hand with uncertain futures are Fox Motion Picture chairman Stacey Snider (presiding with vice-chairman Emma Watts and producer Amy Pascal over “The Post” table, with Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks) and 21st Century Fox and Fox Networks chief Peter Rice, sitting next to Ryan Murphy (“Feud: Bette and Joan”), resplendent in a lime green jacket.
Whatever happens with the Disney/Fox merger, even if Fox and Rice’s old Fox Searchlight label survives, inevitably many people will lose their jobs and fewer two-hour movies will be made. For now, Fox players are proceeding on course — and might be tempted to take more risks than usual. Why not?
Streaming sites were on hand; Amazon hosted PGA nominee Judd Apatow’s movie “The Big Sick,” while Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos and his TV head Cindy Holland concentrated on celebrating three Original series, “The Crown,” “Master of None,” and “Stranger Things.”
“The Crown” showrunner Peter Morgan is busy writing the third season (Olivia Colman and Helena Bonham Carter will now play sisters Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, respectively). Isn’t Carter much shorter than Vanessa Kirby? “We’re returning to the size Margaret really is!” said Morgan.
With the PGA nominations announced Friday morning, the Warner Bros. folks were all smiles, from studio boss Kevin Tsujihara, production head Toby Emmerich, and marketing chief Sue Kroll to “Wonder Woman” star Gal Gadot and her AFI grad director Patty Jenkins (who huddled with A24’s “Lady Bird” director Greta Gerwig) and composer Hans Zimmer and Christopher Nolan.
Also feeling their oats were the Fox Searchlight team behind Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” and Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” although two Academy members at the lunch debated the merits of the latter — which is not unusual.
Willem Dafoe earned warm applause during the clip for Sean Baker’s “The Florida Project” (which did not land a PGA nod). The second he shaved his Van Gogh beard for Julian Schnabel’s next, “At Eternity’s Gate,” they told him to grow it back, Dafoe said. He communed with fellow hirsute Supporting Actor contender Sam Rockwell (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) on the way out of the event.
Nabbing the biggest applause in the room was producer Jason Blum and actor-director Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” (Universal), which movie jury chief, critic Ann Hornaday, described as “a cinematic primal scream — one that echoes today with epic power and an urgency that resonates… Bold and brave, the film shakes us awake to say the nightmare is now.”
The theme of the annual “March of Time” AFI video was angry women, including Rose McGowan along with this year’s model Frances McDormand; see below.
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