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 triwait, 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.