Ever since it debuted earlier this decade, readers of cartoonist Charles Forsman’s violent coming-of-age graphic novel, The End of the Fucking World, have been haunted both by its brutality and its poignancy. The scenes are as swift as they are dense with meaning and viscera, and they’re not soon forgotten. So anyone who has devoured the book will be struck by two aspects of its filmed Netflix adaptation, written by Charlie Covell and directed by Jonathan Entwistle and Lucy Tcherniak. For one thing, it’s horrifying to see the familiar bloodletting depicted with real people; for another, it’s disorienting to see just how much was changed in the porting from book to show.
The twin meanings of the tale don’t change. It’s still a story about how no one, however much of a weird and troubled loner they may be, is condemned to be alone; and it still posits that the world is much more dangerous than it appears once you cross the borders of acceptable conduct. But the latter lesson is made far more forcefully in the show, which is much more pessimistic and bloody. Here’s a look at every change made in the TV adaptation.
The cops: Eunice Noon and Teri Donoghue, the police officers who go after James and Alyssa, are a pure invention of the show and have no presence in the comic. Same goes for Eddie Onslow, the cop who tries to help James when he turns himself in. The police do appear in the comic, but in the form of an officer who’s secretly a member of a lethal cult that also counts Alyssa’s attempted rapist as a member.
Topher: The young man who almost has sex with Alyssa after she and James break into the rapist’s house isn’t in the comic at all.
The convenience store: The sequence where James and Alyssa rob a gas station, lock the manager in a bathroom, and leave behind that poor cashier named Frodo also doesn’t happen in the comic.
The dead cat: In the early stages of both stories, we learn that James killed a cat as a youth. But in the comic, he does it with a rock, while he does the deed with a knife in the show.
The hand injury: In the comic, young James deforms himself by sticking his hand in a sink garbage disposal and losing some fingers. In the show, he puts his hand in a deep-fat fryer and severely burns his skin. (In the show’s voice-over narration, James states that he did it to feel something, while the comic gives no such explanation.)
Alyssa’s stepdad: In the comic, Alyssa’s narration at one point mentions her mom’s “pervert boyfriend,” but we don’t see him. In the show, a guy named Tony is her stepdad and we see a lot of his leering, condescending presence.
The dance: In both show and comic, while at the rapist’s house, James and Alyssa share a dance sequence. In the comic, the record player bangs out a performance of the much-covered classic “Frankie and Johnny”; in the show, it’s Hank Williams’s “Settin’ the Woods on Fire.”
The pedophile: In the show, before they go to the rapist’s house, James and Alyssa hitchhike with a friendly man who later molests James in a restaurant bathroom. In the comic, the man only shows up after the murder, and the molestation happens in the car. Unlike in the show, they don’t steal his wallet.
The disguises: In the show, James gets a slight haircut and Alyssa becomes a blonde after the murder. In the comic, all of James’s hair is cut off and Alyssa just gets a short bob.
The fight: In the show, James pays a gang of youths to beat him up. In the comic, he gets them to do so by stealing a bottle of alcohol from one of them.
The shoplifting: In the comic and the show, Alyssa shoplifts some new clothes after getting her period unexpectedly. But in the show, she steals tampons and underwear, whereas the comic just shows her stealing pants. (In both, a security guard catches her, then lets her go, but he’s much more stern about it in the show.)
Alyssa’s dad: In both the comic and the show, Alyssa’s dad is a deadbeat who lives in squalor. But in the comic, he has an apartment and his job is unspecified, whereas he lives in an RV and deals drugs in the show. He’s also way more ostentatious and memorable in the show; he’s a pretty low-key dude in the comic.
The setting: One of the biggest differences is the fact that the book is set in the United States and the show is set in Britain. The specific American location isn’t stated, but a scene in which the lead characters, James and Alyssa, hitchhike a ride implies that they’re somewhere in or near the Midwest. The show is explicitly set in the south of England. The show takes place in the present, whereas the comic seems to be set at an unspecified date in the past, as there are no computers or smartphones.
The time span: The action of the show takes place over the course of a handful of days, whereas the comic tells us that James and Alyssa have been on the run for months before the story concludes. In the show, they’re in the rapist’s home for a few hours; in the comic, they’re there for “about a week.”
James and Alyssa’s personalities: In the comic, James and Alyssa both think of themselves as outcasts and misanthropes, but they’re somewhat closer to being normal teens than they are in the show. James is quiet and glum, not jittery and perpetually agitated like Alex Lawther’s performance on the show; Alyssa is calm and prone to smiling, unlike Jessica Barden’s domineering and confrontational depiction.
How James meets Alyssa: In the comic, James and Alyssa have a brief, mundane first conversation on the street while the former is skating on his skateboard. But in the show, it happens in the school cafeteria and features more dialogue and action, including Alyssa smashing her phone.
The relationship: James and Alyssa are pretty comfortable with each other in the comic, whereas a defining aspect of the show is James’s tendency to freeze up during interactions with the aggressive Alyssa.
The murder scheme: In the comic, James fantasizes about murdering Alyssa by choking her to death; in the show, he thinks about doing it with a knife. As a result, he carries a knife around with him throughout the first part of their road trip, acting as a kind of Chekhov’s gun, whereas he doesn’t even have one in the comic.
James’s dad: In the show, Phil is a genial dweeb who makes constant efforts to connect with his kid. In the comic, he makes a joke on the first page, but subsequently is seen screaming at his son during a fight, which ends in James punching him. That leads us to another difference: In the show, the punch immediately precedes James and Alyssa running away, but in the comic, it’s a separate incident.
The car crash: Though James and Alyssa crash the stolen car in both the comic and the show, only the show depicts the scene in any detail. There, it accidentally smashes into a tree and explodes; in the comic, it somehow ends up at the bottom of a valley, but we don’t find out whether that was a deliberate move on the kids’ part or not.
The rapist: In the comic, we learn next to nothing about the rapist whose house James and Alyssa break into, whereas in the show, we learn his name and that he’s an author. That’s not all: In the comic, we discover the gruesome detail that the rapist is part of a murder-cult that carves pentagrams onto its victims, whereas in the show, we only know that he captures and assaults young women.
The murder of the rapist: In the show, a terrified James comes into the rapist’s bedroom while Alyssa is sleeping with the intent of killing her with his knife, then ends up popping out to kill the rapist when he suddenly appears and forces himself on Alyssa. In the comic, he and Alyssa hear the guy coming home and James calmly concocts and executes the murder before the rapist can even touch Alyssa. Also, he uses the rapist’s own knife.
The rapist’s mother: In the show, the dead rapist is discovered by his mother hours after the murder. In the comic, his body is found almost immediately afterward — while James and Alyssa are still in the house, no less — by a fellow member of his cult who happens to be a police officer. They escape her clutches, but she catches up to them at the end.
The stabbing: In the show and the comic, Alyssa’s dad gets stabbed after he calls the cops on the two youngsters, but in the show, Alyssa does the stabbing, whereas James does the deed in the comic. The circumstances are also a little odd in the comic: We don’t find out how James knows the dad phoned the police, and he stabs him in the hand while he’s asleep; in the show, we see James figuring it out in real time and Alyssa stabs her dad in the leg while he’s fully alert.
The ending: In the show, the cops (who are generally good people and not members of an evil cult) eventually track down James and Alyssa. They chase after James, who tells Alyssa to stay put and claim she was kidnapped by him. Afterward, he runs and it’s left deliberately ambiguous as to whether the police shoot him dead — we just see him running and hear a bang after a cut to black. In the comic, there’s less ambiguity: The cultist cop finds him, cuts off some of his fingers, and slices his cheek with a knife — but James turns the tide and headbutts her to death, only to find that another cop is behind him, holding a gun directly at him. The next page is just black-and-white crosshatches with a narration box reading “I love you” and a sound effect reading “BLAM.”
There’s also an extra final scene in the comic, where we first see Alyssa’s mom on the phone with someone, talking about how James was terrible and wondering whether she’s a bad mother. The last panels reveal Alyssa — now a brunette — alone in her room, where she heats up a nail and carves James’s name onto her arm. It’s a bloody and romantic ending for a bloody and romantic story.