Written By Emma Towers
John Green’s first novel, Looking for Alaska, was adapted for Hulu in October 2018 and came to BBC3 in October 2019.
The miniseries featured eight episodes which followed the lives of Miles ‘Pudge’ Halter (Charlie Plummer), Chip ‘The Colonel’ Martin (Denny Love), Alaska Young (Kristine Froseth) and Takumi Hikohito (Jay Lee). The series follows the tale of events that prelude an event.
The first episode introduces us to the complexity and simplicity of two of the main characters. Miles is obsessed with knowing famous people’s last words but has mostly only ever read their biographies. In his current state of obsession, he is searching for his ‘Great Perhaps’, inspired by French poet Francois Rabelais’ final words, ‘I go to seek a Great Perhaps.’
This search leads him to make a drastic educational change that his parents are somewhat – and quite rightly – baffled by. When changing schools to the now co-ed Culver Creek Academy, Alabama, ‘Pudge’ soon becomes acquainted with the three friends who will ultimately change his life forever.
Enter Alaska Young, whose only friend seems to be her cat, Raisin. She fills the boot of her car with crates of books and tells Raisin, ‘If he asks, I left for school.’ Her closeness to her friend Marya soon dissuades you of this lonely perception and reveals her rebellious nature also.
Pudge’s quick initiation into his new group of friends feels as fast-paced as The Colonel’s walk away from the ‘Weekday Warriors’, (the elite members of the school). A pace that viewers, like Pudge, may struggle to keep up with.
The soon-to-be-legendary pranks between the group of friends and the Weekday Warriors set up for an epic pranking war and boy does it become epic. The war begins as the Weekday Warriors are obsessed with finding out who ratted. A crime that both sides hold as the greatest act of treason.
Though the closeness of the characters is heart-warming and palpable, the fast-paced nature of the plot at times may leave you feeling undernourished in your understanding of them. ‘The nourishment is palatable.’ – Millard Fillmore, 13th president of the United States.
The final episode recounting the ‘Days Before’ the event is ironically titled, ‘It’s Very Beautiful Over There.’ – Thomas Edison. Culver Creeks’ ‘Over There’ is not beautiful. The realisation that someone from Culver Creek Academy is missing during a sudden assembly and the discovery of whom it is creates widespread grief.
The revelation of both who ratted and who’s missing leads to the unravelling of friendships and the teenagers themselves.
The cast of Looking for Alaska all gave a stellar performance. The creator of the series, Josh Schwartz, has managed to give the story a respectful 13-year update without taking away from the plot or the characters. The update is most noticeable in the beauty of the scenes.
The wait for the adaptation may have been long, but it was worth it. Although the pace of some scenes may be irksome, the quest for answers will see you through to the end.