The spot-on casting helps, too. If Black Mirror's "Shut Up and Dance" didn't convince you of Lawther's power to portray "I'm fine on the outside, I'm screaming on the inside," his performance here will. Barden thrills as the no-bullshit rebel who revels in pushing people's buttons. And the supporting cast, from Gemma Whelan's lame British Columbo to Barry Ward's scuzzy deadbeat dad, feels far from contrived. Much of this character- and world-building is, of course, also thanks to the writer, Covell, who was adamant the creative team honor the source material as much as possible.
Fans of the graphic novel will spot occasional deviations -- the tweaked time span, the absence of the cult, the addition of Topher, to name a few -- but they'll likely be digestible. If there's one thing that's proven to be polarizing about this adaptation, it's the ending. The road trip ultimately finds James and Alyssa begging the latter's estranged father (Ward) for a hideout. He obliges, briefly, till he learns of a reward and calls the cops. With nowhere left to go, James orders Alyssa to tell the police he kidnapped her -- she didn't technically kill anyone, after all -- and he runs for his life. "I've just turned 18," an armed James says, zigzagging across a beach to dodge bullets, "and I think I understand what people mean to each other." Readers of the original will recognize the BLAM! that prompts an abrupt cut to black, raising questions about James’ fate. Where the book gives answers in the form of an epilogue, the TV show opts for a potentially frustrating cliffhanger. "It's kind of nice that people are annoyed by the ending. I feel like it ends the way it started, where people are like, Who are these insane people?" Entwistle says. "I hope that it leaves the show open for expanding the world."