2:00 pm EST, November 28, 2019

‘Looking for Alaska’ episode 8, the ending: Can a story end without all the answers?

With Looking for Alaska episode 8, Hulu’s excellent adaptation comes to a powerful end about love, the soul and afterlife.

In Looking For Alaska episode 7, Miles and his friends dealt with the direct aftermath of Alaska’s death, trying to overcome their own rage, guilt and confusion. Now, Looking for Alaska episode 8 — the end of the series — brings the story to an end, as Miles channels his grief towards making decisions about his future and how he will choose to think about his life and Alaska’s.

looking for alaska window

Was Alaska suicidal?

After finding the mysterious writing in the book, all Alaska’s friends can think about is whether the accident really was an accident. Miles and the Colonel obsessively go over the signs that a person is suicidal, but none of it really seems to fit.

Alaska was always a little moody and always drinking, she definitely didn’t have a decrease in sex drive, and she was planning for the future. Her personality was too unpredictable to distill into a series of signs, and it doesn’t make sense that she would have planned all of this in advance. After all — as Miles is happy to remind everyone — she said “to be continued”!

So who was Alaska, really? Was she the outgoing, wild personality she projected, or the disturbed, depressed teenager inside? What was she hiding from her friends — or what was she trying to tell them?

The Colonel is coming to the conclusion that Alaska must have decided to kill herself in a split second as she sped down the street. But Miles refuses to accept this option, because it’s so tied to his last memories of her. He wants her to have been in love with him too, or it’s like he’s lost her all over again.

Things escalate until Miles and the Colonel fight. It’s clearly a manifestation of the grief they’re both feeling. I was worried that Looking for Alaska episode 8 would drag out the spat between friends for the sake of drama, especially since the Colonel and Miles have never had a proper fight before, but thankfully the fight is over quickly.

The Colonel apologizes sincerely, and Miles admits that he was wrong — he doesn’t know what Alaska was thinking, and he needs to keep an unbiased mind if they’re ever going to get to the bottom of this.

And by the way, I love that the show includes Takumi in this part of the story way more than the novel did, quickly overcoming the drama with him to make him a key player in Miles and the Colonel’s journey.

looking for alaska bridge

Hypothesizing together

With renewed purpose, the Colonel, Miles and Takumi head to the police station to meet the officer who witnessed the crash. The Colonel pretends to be Alaska’s brother, which happens in the novel as well, but in Looking for Alaska episode 8 it’s pretty funny to see the police’s faces due to the Colonel and Alaska looking so different.

The officer gets visibly emotional as he shares the story: how Alaska never stopped, how he almost died, how she died instantly. Alaska never hesitated, never swerved: she just kept driving, directly to her death.

After that conversation, the Colonel becomes angry. He hates that Alaska made them accomplices to her death by asking them to help her escape, and in admitting this, admits what’s probably the number one reason behind the group’s obsession to figure out why she died: they want to know if it was their fault.

So, they make a plan. They will recreate Alaska’s drunken condition with the Colonel, hoping that it’ll give them insight into her state of mind at the time of the accident — how well could she drive? Was she capable of making logical decisions?

To replicate Alaska’s exact level of drunkenness, they need to steal the Eagle’s breathalyzer. This brings on the first of a few surprisingly comical moments in Looking for Alaska episode 8, as the boys walk into the Eagle’s house to find him making breakfast… for the French teacher, who is in a bathrobe! Takumi barely gets away with the “borrowing”, and the Colonel deploys some truly egregious French. It’s great to see that despite everything, the Eagle is living his best life with his new girl.

That night, they get the Colonel drunk, which really seems like torture for everyone involved. The Eagle nearly catches them, but Miles uses grief as an — not entirely untruthful — excuse. They come to the conclusion that there’s no way Alaska could have driven well in that state, much less make a rational decision.

miles halter phone

A breakthrough

On the phone with his parents, Miles sees the daisies Alaska doodled on the wall by the phone and runs off to find his friends (Miles is terrible at phone etiquette — does he ever speak to his parents for more than thirty seconds?). Alaska had had the daisies in the car — why? Where was she going?

In an attempt to learn if daisies had any special meaning for Jake and Alaska’s relationship, the Colonel persuades Miles to make a painfully awkward phone call to Jake.

Jake, of course, is SUPER SWEET because he is the perfect man — he’s actually happy to hear from Miles, even though he’s clearly aware that Miles had feelings for Alaska. Miles feels terrible about calling to ask something and hangs up abruptly when the Colonel tells him to. The Colonel has no emotional bandwidth to deal with Jake’s feelings.

What they do learn is that the daisies have nothing to do with Jake. So where would Alaska take flowers to? That’s when it clicks: Alaska’s mother’s grave. A quick online search reveals that, that night was the anniversary of Alaska’s mother’s death.

Elated, Miles and the Colonel reveal their discovery to Lara and Takumi. Alaska was crying because she had forgotten the anniversary of the mother’s death, a fact she realized when speaking to Jake on the phone. It all makes sense!

But Lara and Takumi aren’t really impressed — Alaska still died, and they still don’t know why.

looking for alaska hyde

Christmas after Alaska

Everyone goes home for the holidays. The Colonel goes back to his mother bitter, angry and depressed. He’s being so mean that his mother calls Dr. Hyde to offer him advice.

This is quite different from the novel, where the Colonel’s emotions don’t escalate to this degree. But Denny Love’s performance is so good that his character deserves his own character arc; his own crisis of faith.

Dr. Hyde acts like the perfect male role model in this situation, patient in the face of his anger, consoling in the face of his tears. And as in grief, Dr. Hyde’s presence doesn’t fix all of the Colonel’s problems, not at all… but it’s a source of comfort, forcing the Colonel to face his emotions instead of channeling them into rage.

Meanwhile, Miles has gone home and his parents are SO WEIRD. I CAN’T GET OVER IT. I really hope that the show intended to make them as awkward as they are, because every interaction they have is absolutely cringe-worthy. Worried about him, Miles’ mother encourages him to not return to Culver Creek, and go back to his old school instead.

Miles recites the “If I was a drizzle, she was a hurricane” line for the sake of The Internet and shares his frustration — he doesn’t know if he wants to forget Alaska or not.

But maybe staying would be a better idea. Miles calls the Colonel for Christmas to break the news that he won’t be going back. Is this a selfish choice? I’m not sure. But the Colonel certainly thinks so.

looking for alaska prank

The prank to end all pranks

But of course, Miles comes back after all. They start off the new year unveiling a memorial bench for Alaska, and at the event Miles sees that Takumi and Lara are clearly now in a relationship. He gives a rather overt nod of approval, which is kind of hilarious but also sweet. Honestly, I just want Lara and Takumi to be happy because they deserve it.

Back at the Smoking Hole, the gang laughs at the idea of memorializing Alaska with a bench. She would have hated it. They decide that they need to do something more fitting… something like a prank.

Everyone gets a task. Takumi reaches out to the guy from the convenience store, who on their way back from the police, remembered Alaska and gave them stuff on the house. Miles reaches out to his dad, who had a prankster career at Culver Creek in his day. The Colonel approaches Sara and Longwell (with his “blinding” torso) and gets Sara to join Miles for a meeting with the Eagle.

And so, that’s how Speaker Day brings Culver Creek a certain “Dr. Morse” coming to school to present his research on “teenage sexual deviance”… except “Dr. Morse” is actually the convenience store guy who reads a short speech about the patriarchal paradigm and then (at Lara and many other girls’ request) proceeds to strip and dance in front of the entire school. The entire male student body then files suit, stripping and cheering, to the horror and amusement of the faculty (and the poor politician who was also invited).

It’s hilarious, it’s adorable, and it’s the one moment when the Weekday Warriors and Miles’ friends all unite and work together in Alaska’s memory, shouting “This is for Alaska Young!”

Afterwards, Miles defends himself to the Eagle, pointing out that technically there’s no way to prove that they weren’t just as fooled by Dr. Morse as everyone else was. But the Eagle isn’t mad — he’s actually proud of them for memorializing Alaska so befittingly.

hug

Saying goodbye

Miles writes his final paper for Dr. Hyde, focusing on Alaska’s death and the way he chooses to remember her. He tells the Colonel that as Alaska envisioned that he would be a writer, it makes sense that the first thing he writes should be about her (interesting parallel to the fact that Looking for Alaska was John Green’s first novel). It’s this essay, in the form of a monologue, that ends Looking for Alaska episode 8 and ends the show.

The Colonel and Miles are finally ready to face the place where the accident happened. They borrow Lara’s limo and drive off. By the way, Lara and Takumi are now wearing matching outfits and I am LIVING FOR IT.

They speed up as they reach that spot in the road, as if recreating the moment Alaska died — except there’s nothing to crash against now, and they drive right through that spot. Then they leave the car and overcome with grief, hug each other for a long time.

This final monologue marks the end of the show, as it marked the end of the book. Miles didn’t know if there was an afterlife, but after knowing Alaska it’s the only thing that makes sense. Alaska, he sustains, was much more than the sum of many parts. Something else was there, something transcendental — a soul, perhaps. And it had to live on, in some way.

“I don’t know where ‘there’ is, but I believe it’s somewhere. And I hope it’s beautiful.”

Lara and Takumi are happy together, the Colonel seems to have finally forgiven himself, and Miles has a renewed sense of faith in where life is taking him. It’s a powerful ending to a powerful show, made all the more captivating because it ends with John Green’s own words.

It’s hard to make a show that gets better with every episode, but Hulu’s Looking for Alaska did it. Even though, like Miles, we’ll never know if Alaska’s death was an accident or not, Looking for Alaska episode 8 teaches us that it’s okay to walk away without all the answers, as long as you can find closure within yourself and within others — by forgiving and loving yourself and others.

And it’s just as beautiful on screen as it was in the book.

All episodes of Looking for Alaska are available on Hulu.

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