Dec 8 2009 5:02pm

Alice 2: The Confusening

Sunday night, SyFy premiered Alice, a miniseries based loosely on Lewis Carroll’s Alice books and given the same slightly-punk treatment as 2007’s Tin Man. I reviewed the first half, which showed promise, and mentioned I was looking forward to last night’s conclusion.

Then I saw last night’s conclusion.

SyFy? We need to talk.

Below the cut, I review the good and the bad, and talk about what Alice can teach writers about endings.

The milking-humans plot, which was straining credibility from the beginning, fell apart completely in the second act. Do the Wonderlandians have no emotions without human assistance? No, they seem fine. Do we see a single person in Part Two use human emotionade to enhance faculties? No, we don’t. Was this the most useless frame plot in the world? Yes, it was.

The more immediate plot is no better; the Queen and Alice snatch the ring back and forth at five-minute intervals, an entire casino of spellbound humans is awakened with a homeroom lecture about getting your head out of the clouds, and we find out that the Queen’s crack bodyguard team uses flying flamingocycles to get around.

Then again, we can’t expect too much from the Suits; when the White Knight props up some rows of skeletons and sets off some firecrackers, the Suits treat the army as a serious threat, even from such close range that you start to worry about their eyesight. (“Oh no, incredibly skinny knights are attacking!”) Later, they turn on their queen on a stern word from Alice. I feel like a little Determination Human-Extract would have gone a long way here, but now we’re applying logic to the situation, which gets us nowhere.

However, the frame plot was bad from minute one, so at least on that front there were no surprises. What was surprising was the waste of secondary characters; Harry Dean Stanton literally vanished after five minutes, the Duchess’s change of heart was nothing but a plot device in a skirt with a gonad window, and surely hiring Tim Curry for a four-hour miniseries and then using him in a single scene has to be a misdemeanor in at least five states.

The writers were able, at times, to employ a light hand, such as in their backpedaling of Jack from romantic interest to That Guy You Dated Who Helped You Move On, and the development of Hatter into a beautiful example of the beta-male hero who has a personality of his own that does not hinge on having his own way, and who actually gets the girl.

Therefore, one can only assume the writers wrote off the Resistance subplot and its characters on purpose in favor of two hours of Benny Hill chase scenes. This was probably not the best idea the writers ever had, since this means that we’re left with a lot of unanswered questions, which is always awkward when you’re trying to stage the big emotional finish.

(So the Carpenter needs Alice to wake him up to the idea of being her father so he might stop his evil ways, even though they have two undercover guys close enough to the Carpenter to just assassinate him? So the Suits don’t have a vested interest in keeping the humans around for emotionade and happily turn on their Queen because some stranger told them to? So the entire economy of Wonderland is in a shambles now? So Alice was on Narnia Time and only gone an hour, but her father’s been gone fifteen years in real time, so that’s...maybe the sort of thing a writer could answer. If only this episode had had one!)

Look here, Alice writers: you can set up as much as you want in the first half, as long as you address it in the second half. If you hope we’ll just ignore it, then you have another thing coming, because we are not going to be distracted by some nifty tri—wait, Alice and the Hatter get together after four hours of buildup? Best ever! (Damn you, sneaky writers!)

So what did you all think about Alice? Could you overlook the disastrous plot? Were you happy the White Knight didn’t go to that big chessboard in the sky, even though we all totally thought he would? Was the big reveal of Alice’s dad a genuine surprise or a dirty trick? Are you writing Alice/Hatter on your Biology notebooks right now?

Genevieve is looking very sternly at all the Alice writers. You can read more about it on her blog.

Dru O'Higgins
1. bellman
I think Matt Frewer as the White Knight was really underused. He can be a great comic actor but he bored me, much like the show itself.

Whatsisname - the Hatter - almost pulled the show together for me. I liked him in Primeval, but he showed he can carry a production. I really hope he gets the chance with something that's actually, you know, good.
2. firstgentrekkie
Loved it.
Yes, and I didn't think it was disastrous.
Genuine surprise.
No, but only because I don't have a Biology notebook.
Dee Richards
3. Dee
The Hatter was a bargain-basement Johnny Depp - I hope the real one will do better next March!

I give the whole 4 hours 1.5 stars - not the best Alice re-make ever...
Alex Brown
4. AlexBrown
Meh, I was mildly interested in this once I heard the Primeval dude and Frank-N-Furter were in it, well, that and I really like Carroll's Alice, but I held off because I'm still pissed about the name change to SyFy which is just about the stupidest thing I've ever heard of. And now I'm glad I didn't waste my time.
5. firstgentrekkie
Don't any of you ever conduct a "re-read" of the original Lewis Carroll. Or a "re-watch" of the original The Day The Earth Stood Still. I'm begging you, please don't.
7. kirkgray
Isn't the saying "You have another THINK coming"?
8. just_v
Oh man. I can say that I watched it and rather enjoyed it, even without a plot. I never got the whole oyster thing and the tattoo bit? Too weird and pointless. Thankfully, I watch SciFi minis with my "believability" filter turned off, or I would have changed the channel before Curry showed up as the Cheshire Cat. I spent the remaining 3 hours of the viewing waiting for him to reappear. Alice was well done, however, as was Hatter, although I would have liked to have seen a bit more 'madness' from him. The lack of plot and weird oyster business would bug the heck out of me on repeated viewings, but overall, I found it a nice escape.
9. Jjude
After reading this review, I'm glad I only watched about 15 minutes of Sunday's show.
Ben HM3
10. BenHM3
If you ARE going to re-read "Alice" make sure you choose "The Annotated Alice" with notes by Martin Gardner. (The Puzzles editor for Scientific American)

It's really a pretty good read.

Glad I dumped cable, and stopped watching skifee about 5 years ago. Even "Warehouse 13" can't drag me back.
11. Clare K. R. Miller
Did anyone understand why the King of Hearts decided to stay in the collapsing building? "I did it all for you, my love" does not equal "time to die now" to me.

@just_v: Tim Curry was the Dodo ;) So, so underused.
12. T.O.S
@11 - I viewed it as his Rhett Butler moment (frankly, my dear...)

It being "Alice" in derivation, I didn't worry too much about making sense of the plot, I just enjoyed the characters. And I really liked the last few minutes!

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