The big lesson of this episode? Don’t underestimate teenagers, even if
they’re named after hobbits. But we’ll get to that soon enough.
Something fundamental has shifted for James and Alyssa. Where they once were merely accessories to each other’s personal journeys — someone to pay attention to Alyssa, someone for James to kill — they are now intrinsic parts of each other’s motivation. Alyssa even admits that she feels most like herself around James. As James puts it, what’s different now is that she came back for him. They’re no longer accessories, but necessities. They make each other better. And isn’t that what love is all about?
James hot-wires a car with no radio and only one working song (I can’t be the only one for whom this brought to mind the “500 Miles” debacle from How I Met Your Mother) and he and Alyssa make their way to her dad’s last known address. They make a pit stop on the way so Alyssa can call her mom from a pay phone. She only has two messages: “You’re never going to see me again” and “Tell Tony I said, ‘Fuck off.’” Afterward, her mother lies to Tony about who was on the phone.
James and Alyssa are feeling very Bonnie and Clyde, very cool and alive and comfortable with each other, and are even starting to feel better about the murder. Unfortunately, their car runs out of gas. Our heroes stop at a little gas station with a convenience store run by an older woman and staffed by a teen cashier named Frodo. (No, really, that’s his name.) The manager berates Frodo for his work performance, and his failure to encourage customers to buy key rings, but gets distracted when James and Alyssa pull up. The car is clearly stolen — they have no idea which side the pump is on, and they keep it running the whole time because it’s hot-wired — so she goes outside to investigate.
The manager mouths to a confused Frodo to call the police, but Frodo seems uninterested in listening. She then pulls Alyssa into the gas station to try and catch her in a lie. Alyssa stays tight-lipped, so the manager tries to physically apprehend her. Thinking quickly, James enters with his hand in his jacket pocket to make it look like he has a gun. Using his somewhat scary knowledge of gun types, he tricks the manager into doing what he asks, and Frodo helps Alyssa and James lock her in the bathroom. As they’re about to leave, Frodo insists on coming with them. They’ve inspired him to be more alive, and he trashes the convenience store as an act of youthful rebellion. He’s not … super good at it (his idea of rebellion is knocking over the key-ring basket and chugging a bottle of milk) and Alyssa and James distract him just long enough to lose him. They peel out of there, leaving Frodo to deal with the literal mess he’s made. Plus, he’s now another witness.
James and Alyssa arrive at her dad’s address, only to find that he’s not there anymore, but the home’s new occupant gives them directions to the new place where he lives with a woman named Leslie. Alyssa is upset that he moved and didn’t tell her, so James tries to make her feel better about it. Maybe it was a recent thing? It’s sweet to watch a boy who not too long ago thought he was a psychopath work so hard to make the girl he’s falling in love with feel better. They arrive at the trailer, and someone unseen opens the door. With hope in her voice, Alyssa says, “Hi, dad.”
Meanwhile, Teri and Eunice interrogate James’s father over the recently discovered murder weapon — specifically, why did Phil give his 13-year-old son a hunting knife? “Because he wanted a machete,” Phil explains.
Eunice thinks something is off. She does some digging and learns that Clive has a history of sexual-assault charges and suspects there may be more to this story than they’d previously thought. Teri is unconvinced. After all, these are teenagers who were just reported as committing an armed robbery.
The detectives head off to Clive’s mother’s house, where questions about the charges are dismissed with bullshit victim-blaming that’s all too familiar to anyone who’s been paying attention to the news lately. As they leave, Eunice impresses upon Clive’s mother the fact that in these situations, the truth will always come out, and that it would be in her best interest to control that narrative.
Later, when Eunice is alone at the station, Clive’s mother arrives with the video camera and tape that she took from the crime scene. Upon seeing the disturbing footage, Eunice interrupts Teri on a date and insists she come look at the new evidence. Teri is annoyed and assumes Eunice is acting out of a place of jealousy, but once she comes outside to see the tape, she begins to see things from Eunice’s perspective. Hopefully, she’ll also start seeing their relationship that way too? (“Teri x Eunice 4eva!!” I scribble on my Trapper Keeper.) Even so, if it’s found to be self-defense, that’s still a manslaughter charge.
With only two more episodes left, I sincerely could not give you a decent guess on where The End of the F***ing World is heading, except that I do know it’s an exciting enough ending to warrant an entire piece from Vulture. (Which I obviously haven’t read yet due to spoilers.) James and Alyssa may be in deep trouble, but from where I’m sitting, they have done nothing wrong. They ended the crime spree of a serial rapist. They allowed each other to become the people they were meant to be. They brought two detectives stuck in a will-they, won’t-they relationship closer than ever. And they are forcing their parents to interrogate what they could have done better for their children. Somehow, I suspect that last one is the key to all of this. Like I’ve said before, Alyssa’s mom is a character crying out for redemption, and I look forward to seeing just what that entails.