This miniseries came out in early 2018 and this gem developed some hype quite instantaneously.
TEOTFW is not super easy to get into. The title as well as the first two episodes feel kinda pretentious because the provoking stuff feels rather forced. One of the two protagonists, James (Alex Lawther), is introduced as a maniacal weirdo, who could be on the spectrum. He feels the urge to kill animals and wants to move on to killing a person. As the unnerving teenager Alyssa (Jessica Barden) initiates contact with him at school, he decides to pretend to like her and become her boyfriend so that the opportunity to kill her arises.
What kept me intrigued was the change of perspective within the pilot episode: Not only do we see the story from James‘ perspective, the episode also freeze-frames the very same shot when she talks to him and introduces a flashback that shows how Alyssa got to this point. This narrative shift and the alternating voice-overs felt refreshing, as did the growing and developing relationship between James and Alyssa in the next few episodes.
As soon as I got over the bumpy start with the highly unlikeable characters (which also involves the protagonists‘ families), I really appreciated how these two interacted as soon as they ran away from home. Whereas there initially was much pretense and playing along with what they assumed the other one wants, the show nicely portrays how the fragile flower of trust (and later also love) grows between Alyssa and James. It especially blossoms once we see that voice-over and actual spoken dialogue coincide, meaning that Alyssa no longer hides her fear from James. While some of the humor is highly nihilistic and dark, these rather earnest moments are one of the biggest strengths of this show.
The adventures the two experience on the road are very entertaining and riveting. As one would expect from teenagers, their spontaneous escape resulted in some laws being broken, which only gets them into further trouble. The story in itself is not revolutionary but thanks to the good and believable writing of the dialogue and the weird characters, which are strongly portrayed by the two lead actors, you cannot help but watch the next episode. The series drags a little towards the two-thirds-mark because the focus shifts from their relationship to Alyssa‘s biological father, who is an interesting character; nonetheless, the show loses its drive and gets a little distracted from its strong suit. However, the writing excels by making the viewer reevaluate the characters as it shows their motivations and how their current situation came about. This is most obvious with Alyssa, who initially feels like a resentful teenager who hates everything, but whose situation at home explains a lot It also applies to the kids’ parents and these dynamic characters contribute to what i would deem strong writing.
Overall, how James and Alyssa’s relationship develops is rather sweet and makes this three-hour-watch a mostly enjoyable and touching watch. Thanks to its brevity, there is virtually no reason to skip this show, even if in my opinion, it does not quite live up to the hype.
all pictures: © by Netflix, taken from imdb.com