The End Of The F***ing World
Tuesday, Channel 4
The X Factor Live
Remember, remember the fifth of November. When you happen to have been born on that day, it’s the nursery rhyme that stays embedded in your memory for eternity. It’s not a great birth date, to be honest. When your party guests bring you explosives rather than a proper present, it tends to turn the event into a bit of a damp squib.
Add to that my lifelong misophonia – literally, a hatred of sound – and a firework display was never going to cut it for me. I spent all my childhood parties cowering indoors under the dining table with my hands over my ears, while my guests enjoyed my father nailing Catherine wheels to the wall outside.
I just wanted everyone to be gone and, to this day, I cannot go to a firework display. Mind you, I can’t listen to people eating popcorn, either; or tapping on a keyboard; or breathing, come to that. Misophonia is a demon.
Creator, co-executive producer and star, Kit Harington (as Robert Catesby) is very big in Game Of Thrones, a show I don’t watch because I have a preference for TV based on reality
So maybe Gunpowder was never going to be my thing. I had no problem with the torture scenes in episode one, as my sadistic history schoolteacher used to read them out loud in graphic detail for his own erotic delight. But last night, when talk turned to that of explosives, I felt myself preparing to run for table cover again.
‘My purpose is to kill the King of England,’ said Bearded Man 1, Robert Catesby (I found it easier to name them according to their beards – Red Beard, Scruffy Beard, Spanish Pointy Beard. Sometimes you can have too many beards in a single drama).
Creator, co-executive producer and star, Kit Harington (Catesby) is very big in Game Of Thrones, a show I don’t watch because I have a preference for TV based on reality: lawyers arguing and having sex and/or alcohol at the end of a busy day being top of my list.
Beardie 1 stares a lot into the middle distance throughout. It doesn’t matter if he’s watching a priest being hung, drawn and quartered, telling his son off for sleeping in the bed in which the boy’s mother died giving birth, or brandishing a sword – you’d need a topiarist to break through the facial forest to find any semblance of an expression.
Quite frankly, he needs a firework up his backside to inject some energy into what makes for pretty tedious viewing. As an example of the ludicrous stances people take in the name of religion (and still do, the world over), Gunpowder is an interesting history lesson: the 17th-century equivalent of Brexit – a battle of wills between the Protestants and the Catholics.
The lighting is also terrific, although you know you’re struggling with the plot when you resort to scrolling the credits for lighting. The dialogue is stilted, unrealistic, and far from the torture scenes being offensive, they are the show’s saving grace. Just don’t bring on the fireworks. Please.
There was evidence of torture at the start of The End Of The F***ing World in which we quickly learned that teenager James (Alex Lawther) used to torture small animals to death and has now raised his sights to doing the same to humans. He’s just not sure how or when.
Based on the award-winning graphic novel by Charles Forsman, it features youngsters James and Alyssa (Jessica Barden) embarking on what is a very disturbing path. He’s a killer in waiting; she’s hormonal – and not in a good way.
You can’t understate how astonishing these two actors are, nor how compelling the show is from beginning to end. Seen alternately from each character’s perspective, the narrative builds disturbingly but humorously.
‘I thought that she could be interesting to kill,’ says James, ‘…so I pretended to fall in love with her.’ Alyssa’s view is somewhat different: ‘I feel comfortable with him – sort of safe.’ My guess is that she’s an even bigger psycho than he is. Who knows? But I want more of it.
Great graphics and music on the opening and closing credits, too – and, no, I’m not commenting on those because the plot was disappointing. They just are, and absolutely capture the tone and essence of everything brilliant in between.
The X Factor Live shows have just begun and the 12 less-than-hopefuls have embarked on the ‘journey’ (oh yes, they all have a journey, as per usual) that will take the lucky few up to the grand final on December 6 (the Strictly Come Dancing final is on December 16, should anyone be hyperventilating about a potential conflict of interest).
Overall, they are a pretty disappointing bunch this year, but who knows. With training and guidance from their mentors, any one of them might become a reject of Simon Cowell’s record label in as little as a year. Doubtless we can expect the usual fireworks along the way, though alas, not the kind we would like. Guy Fawkes, where are you when we need you?
Deborah Ross is away