By Daisy Murguia
This dark British comedy series follows James, a self-proclaimed psychopath, and Alyssa, a rebellious outsider too honest for her own good, and their twisted journey. After meeting for the first time, it takes only a few short days for them to embark on a road trip. Alyssa wants to run away from home so she can get her mother’s attention while James wants to make her fall in love with him so he can gain her trust… and kill her; it’s a match made in heaven.
Their road trip leads them into dark hotel rooms, creepy older men, life-altering crimes, changing their physical identity, and ultimately, falling in love.
The show’s concept is original and doesn’t use the same cliches that other teen television series tend to. There is no cheesy “love-at-first-sight” moment, and the two main characters are realistic, rude, apathetic and not easily likable (at least at first).
Another important aspect of the show is its soundtrack; it heightens every feeling the show portrays and meshes well with its story. The opening scene of the first episode begins with James introducing himself saying, “I’m James, I’m 17, and I’m pretty sure I’m a psychopath.” This scene is paired with “Laughing on the Outside” by Bernadette Carroll, a dreamy but eerie song which sets the scene for the rest of the season. The lyrics, “I’m laughing on the outside, crying on the inside ’cause I’m so in love with you,” foreshadow the unconventional romance about to unfold.
The songs that play during the episodes range from “The Day We Fell in Love” by The Ovations, “The Funnel of Love” by The Cramps and Wanda Jackson, and “Walking All Day” by Graham Coxon. They all have an old-fashioned, classic sound that represent how both James and Alyssa long to live in a “simpler time”.
The entire show has an old-time feel to it. The show explicitly has a scene in which James and Alyssa discuss their dislike for cell phones and the superficial technological era they have been born into. The show was clearly made to portray an overall longing for the good ol’ life of the past while retaining its relevance by the setting in modern times.
The setting, wardrobe and filming style feel vintage, colorful at times, but grey and dreary for the rest of the time. There will be a scene where both main characters dance freely to music coming from a record player nearby, but then James’ dark tendencies are displayed in another scene where Alyssa passionately kisses him while he keeps his eyes wide open and looks uninterested. Alex Lawther, who plays James, does a great job of portraying so many different expressions and emotions as a self-proclaimed psychopath. At first, he truly believes this original declaration but as the show progresses, we see hints of a smile, of worry, disappointment, and joy, up until he actually has an emotional breakdown. Many of these scenes do not have much dialogue at all, but you really feel for James as he begins to experience his own feelings.
What gives the show its artistic appeal and success is the showing of parallels and dramatic irony to relay such a unique story. In the beginning, Alyssa says she thinks she can fall in love with James, but then the scene immediately cuts to him sharpening his knife, flashing back to when he still had plans to kill her. It is in moments like this that the show’s dark humor shines through.
Throughout the show’s short eight episodes, we are shown that Alyssa and James aren’t as tough as the facade they had originally developed. They’re just two young people on a quest to belong, to be loved, and to surpass the sad things from their pasts. The themes of self-discovery and teen romance are relatable, endearing, and heart-wrenching despite all the far-fetched situations the characters find themselves in. The escalation of these bizarre situations ultimately lead up to the last moments of the final episode that leave you confused and curious, but wanting more.