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The final episode of Looking For Alaska is cathartic and beautiful, honoring Alaska’s spirit while remaining faithful to the novel. It sticks the landing effectively and left me in tears. Josh Schwartz, Stephanie Savage, and the entire cast made a stunning show that pays tribute to the novel while taking it to even greater heights. This finale is the culmination of that effort, and I’m so glad this adaptation happened the way it did (even if we’ve had to wait nearly fifteen years for it). Read on for the final recap of Looking For Alaska …
Miles is frantically Googling signs of suicidal ideation. He, Takumi, and The Colonel go over the past in detail, trying to find signs they might have missed. The Colonel’s theory is that it was impulsive, like everything Alaska did. That it was spur of the moment, a reaction to feeling guilty about being with Miles and forgetting her anniversary with Jake. Miles doesn’t want to believe that Alaska wasn’t totally in love with him and gets angry with The Colonel, who accuses Miles of not really wanting to know the truth or caring about Alaska. Miles shoves him, then says, “F*ck you,” as he walks away. The cafeteria is stunned into silence.
Hyde continues the earlier discussion about Alaska’s question. He tells them to ask, “What is my cause for hope?” The Colonel chases Miles down and apologizes, wanting their relationship to go back to normal. Miles offers that the best way to do that might be to find the answer. They go to the police station and demand to speak to the cop who saw the accident. The officer is upset. He says he’s never seen anything like it, that she didn’t even brake. Miles asks if she had any last words, but the officer says she was dead instantly. They ask if he thinks it was an accident. He says he’s never seen anyone who was so drunk they couldn’t swerve. The Colonel asks for the police report, and the officer says he’ll see what he can do.
The Colonel reads the report and thinks it’s strange that she didn’t plan to kill herself since all the websites they’ve been reading mention a plan as a large part of deciding to commit suicide. He thinks their best plan is to get as drunk as she was that night, to see how they feel and if they could make logical decisions. They need the breathalyzer that The Eagle has, and they head to his house. The Eagle seems happier, cooking lunch with Madame O’Malley. Miles and The Colonel distract him as Takumi sneaks in to steal the breathalyzer. The Eagle thinks he sees something as Takumi leaves, but he is gone by the time The Eagle gets to the door. He apologizes, saying he’s still on edge. The two leave, with The Colonel saying that he’s rooting for The Eagle and Madame O’Malley.
The Colonel begins the process of getting drunk, taking many shots. It quickly becomes clear that Alaska must have been extremely drunk that night since The Colonel can’t even sit up. Takumi asks if he feels like he could drive right now, and The Colonel just responds that he and Miles were stupid for letting her drive. Just then The Eagle enters, and The Colonel pretends to sob to distract him. The Eagle believes him and sends Takumi away, telling Miles to let him know if The Colonel needs a grief counselor.
Miles is on the pay phone with his parents when he notices a doodle in the wood. It’s a daisy, like the ones Alaska always had around. He has a sudden realization and hangs up, running to The Colonel. He looks in the police report. The plastic daisies she had in her room were found with her in the car; why did she have them? They call Jake, since they don’t know what the flowers meant. Jake says he and Miles are similar, since they both loved Alaska and lost her. He says that when he met Alaska, she was sad and had a daisy in her hair. But he doesn’t know why she’d be bringing him daisies.
They hang up, and Miles and The Colonel realize that you bring flowers to a funeral. They look up Alaska’s mother’s obituary, and her date of death is the same day as Alaska’s anniversary with Jake and her death. She was going to the cemetery that night, and it explains why she was sad the night she met Jake. They rush to the Smoking Hole to tell Takumi, who is sitting with Lara. Takumi isn’t as impressed, saying that her secrets died with her. They can’t get inside her head that night. Even if they figure it out, it won’t change what happened. They will have to live with that. Takumi and Lara leave Miles and The Colonel.
Miles sits underwater in the pool at his house; it’s Christmas break. The Colonel is at home, helping his mother with the store and generally having a bad attitude. He says he’s not going to church, and Dolores tells him not to turn his back on God now. The Colonel asks what kind of God would let a girl die in a car accident as he walks away. Miles is at home, with his well intentioned but ultimately clueless parents trying to draw him out. He goes to his room, and his mother follows. She offers to let him leave Culver Creek, to come home. She wants to help him get over his sadness, but Miles says he doesn’t want it to get easier because it will mean he will forget her. He is sad and angry and unleashes it all on her. His mother just asks him to think about it, and leaves him to think. Miles calls The Colonel and tells him about his parents’ offer. He says he doesn’t think he can go back to Culver Creek. He doesn’t want to see a world she can’t see. The Colonel pretends this doesn’t upset him, but then says, “It’s nice to know you can just run from your problems and everything will be all right.” He hangs up. Miles is more confused than before. He sees Alaska’s book on his desk and starts to read it, trying to understand her.
A car pulls up to The Colonel’s: it’s Hyde. Dolores has called him in as a reinforcement. She leaves them alone to talk. Hyde says he’s not here to cheer him up. He wants to allow The Colonel to feel all his feelings, anger included. The Colonel’s bravado stops and he just screams as Hyde holds his hand. He says he doesn’t understand why God had to take his best friend. Dolores hears this as she waits outside, but lets him have his moment. Miles reads all night and finally finishes the book in the morning.
A cab pulls up to Culver Creek; Miles has decided to return. The Colonel is happy to see him, and they head to their room together. There is now a bench bearing Alaska’s name dedicated as a memorial to her. The Colonel is upset, knowing that Alaska wouldn’t have wanted that as her memorial. Lara suggests a prank, since that’s what she loved. Takumi mentions that Alaska had one final prank planned that she was saving for their senior prank. It’s epic, and The Colonel thinks it will be a fitting tribute to her. They will need the whole school to help. Lara, previously prank-averse, says she’s in.
A montage of prank planning begins. Miles even enlists his prankster father to help legitimize the plan with The Eagle. As Speaker Day begins, it becomes clear what has occurred: the clerk from the liquor store is pretending to be their class speaker. The clerk then starts to talk about how men objectify women’s bodies, reading from a speech Alaska could have written about subverting the patriarchal paradigm. Lara plays along, standing up and telling him to take off his clothes.
He pretends to be shocked at a female objectifying a male. Sara and several other girls do the same. Takumi switches the music and the speaker performs a striptease to “Milkshake” while yelling, “This is for Alaska Young!” It’s an immediate hit with the students, and all the guys start stripping along with the speaker, each yelling that this is for Alaska. It’s just as epic as Alaska imagined. The Eagle tries to regain control, but he fails. After the assembly, The Eagle goes after the boys, but it’s to praise them. He cautions them to never do it again, but says he could feel her influence over the prank. He says, “Subverting the patriarchal paradigm…that’s exactly what she would have said”. He walks away laughing, an unfamiliar sound from The Eagle. Lara declares it the greatest prank ever.
Miles finishes his essay for Hyde, and The Colonel says they have one last thing to do. Miles’ narration plays over Miles and The Colonel driving alone with images of Alaska’s life. They drive past the accident site, and as they pass it it releases its psychic hold on them. They approach the memorial and hug each other, sobbing.
Miles says, “I choose the labyrinth, even if there’s no way out,” as the camera pans to Hyde reading the essay, smiling. The Eagle walks across campus and notices that Alaska’s bench is gone. It’s been moved to the Smoking Hole, where the group sits on it. Miles sees a vision of Alaska sitting where she used to, and he smiles, saying, “I will always love Alaska Young, my crooked neighbor, with all my crooked heart.”
He then utters the final words of the novel and the show: “Thomas Edison’s last words were, ‘it’s very beautiful over there.’ I don’t know where ‘there’ is, but I believe it’s somewhere, and I hope it’s beautiful.”
“It’s Very Beautiful Over There” Mixtape:
“The World At Large” by Modest Mouse
“Tipsy (Radio Mix)” by J-Kwon
“She’s Comin’ Home” by The Wailers
“Quite Often” by Trent Dabbs
“Ooh La La” by Goldfrapp
“Milkshake” by Kelis
“Shine” by Mondo Cozmo
Special shout out to Siddartha Khosla, who composed the score for this show and for This Is Us. His lovely score, combined with the soundtrack, created a great sonic identity for the show.
Looking For Alaska is now streaming on Hulu.