Warning: Major spoilers ahead for Hulu's Looking for Alaska.
The finale of Looking for Alaska, “It’s Very Beautiful Over There,” takes a hard swerve into 13 Reasons Why territory. The series’ titular inspiration, Alaska Young (Kristine Froseth), is dead and her surviving friends are desperate to understand the circumstances of her last moments. In the same way Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) spends 13 Reasons season 1 doggedly trying to unravel the mystery of his late crush (Katherine Langford), so does Alaska lead Miles Halter (Charlie Plummer). It’s no surprise both of these series are adaptations of mid-2000s YA novels.
Only the final moments of Alaska proves the Hulu series is the ultimate antidote to 13 Reasons Why’s darkest habits.
13 Reasons Why suggests that one can solve a tragedy; that if you listen to enough tapes and yell at enough people in hallways you can fully understand why someone dies in a shocking and devastating way. Miles and his roommate Chip “The Colonel” Martin (Denny Love) share that painfully incorrect sentiment for the first half of“Beautiful Over There” due to the unclear circumstances of Alaska’s death. All the boys know is that Alaska showed up in their dorm in the middle of the night, demanded they help her drive off of campus, and refused to explain why she needed to leave. Then, on her way to wherever she was going, Alaska passed a cop car, sped past it, and drove directly into a truck that was stopped in the middle of the road. She died instantly. There were no tire marks at the scene of the crime, so Alaska did not swerve or brake.
Miles and The Colonel are left wondering whether Alaska meant to die, and that is why she didn’t attempt to brake. Or, considering the fact that Alaska was extremely drunk, if she simply was too incapacitated to realize what was happening.
Eventually, the boys get a break in the perceived mystery when Miles remembers Alaska’s obsession with daisies. She drew them everywhere and had a jar of plastic daisies in her room. When Miles checks the police report for Alaska’s accident, he learns she strangely had the plastic daisies in her car. This fact leads Miles and The Colonel to realize Alaska must have been taking the faux flowers somewhere. After some internet sleuthing, they figure out Alaska died on the same day as her mother Mary (Kelly Murtagh). The boys deduce that Alaska must have felt forgotten to visit her mother’s grave on the most important day, remembered in the middle of the night after hooking up with Miles, felt guilty, and fled campus to make amends.
Miles and The Colonel proudly unveil these findings to Takumi (Jay Lee) and Lara (Sofia Vassilieva). This is where the story changes and Looking loses its macabre hunger for a fruitless investigation into a horrifying tragedy. As Miles and The Colonel loudly congratulate themselves for finding the supposed “answers” to Alaska’s death, Takumi asks, “What answers? What does that prove?” Takumi reminds his friends that no matter what details they may have ferreted out, only Alaska knows what truly happened that terrible night, and that secret died with her. “Even if you did figure it all out, what would it change?,” Takumi asks.
Lara adds one depressing punctuation on Takumi’s speech, explaining, “It won’t make her any less dead.”
With the wind out of their sails, Miles and The Colonel have to let go of the distraction of “solving” the worst thing that has ever happened to them. Clay never gets to that point in 13 Reasons Why. Instead, once he has fully “understood” Hannah Baker’s suicide — something in reality only Hannah can ever fully know — Clay jumps from crusade to crusade to busy himself in the wake of Hannah’s memory.
Miles and The Colonel avoid that pitfall by experiencing the stages of their grief in a few ways. Over the holiday break, The Colonel goes home and has an impromptu meeting with his religion teacher Dr. Hyde (This Is Us' Ron Cephas Jones). In that moment, The Colonel finally allows himself to feel all of the anguish he has been avoiding. He screams and cries, creating one of Alaska’s most powerful scenes. Similarly, Miles unloads all of his rage and hurt during a conversation with his mom Judy (Joy Jacobson). Both vignettes are big reminders that one doesn’t have to sit in their grief in silence.
Once the boys have acknowledged their feelings off campus, they’re able to memorialize Alaska back at their school, Culver Creek. First, they pull of a massive prank in celebration of Alaska’s life (it’s a stripper). Then they go the spot where she died to say goodbye. “I know so many last words, but I’ll never know hers,” Miles says in voiceover. “But the not knowing will not keep me from caring.” Watching Miles and The Colonel sob next to the place where their friend died is crafted to bring a tear to your eye.
Although Looking for Alaska could easily end in that dark place next to the side of the road, it does not. The final scene of the miniseries shows Miles, The Colonel, Takumi, and Lara moving their school’s Alaska memorial bench to their secret smoking spot by the creek — it’s where Alaska would want to be. Here Miles says goodbye to Alaska, wishing that it’s beautiful wherever she is now.
At last, an ambiguous concept Miles can embrace with arms wide open.
If you are thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433.