Thursday, June 20, 2024

Alice Isn’t Dead: Prey

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Review of Season 2, Episode 9 of Alice Isn’t Dead, “Prey”

How thrilling and rewarding to be reaching the end of these reviews! With a season soon entirely put under scrutiny, Alice Isn’t Dead still holds up as a strong and deep narrative in present-day America that is more than needed. With only one episode left, “Prey” left us on the edge of our seats, or at the least our earbuds. Reflections on what it means to be a traveler, cars disappearing and reappearing in the most mysterious circumstances, the same old dangerous criminal still chasing after Keisha: this episode is densely packed. Let’s dive into the core of it.

After last week’s chase, Keisha is still hiding from the Officer and ponders on how she has never felt safe in her entire life and now least of all. Somewhere along the road, she spots the erratic behavior of a sedan on the highway acting all sorts of weird. She lies to herself to not get worried about it, but she keeps seeing it in different states on the roads in various states of oddness and demolition. Her fears are confirmed when on a parking lot, she sees the Officer racing towards her. Later again, she spots another weird truck and perched on the cab of the truck, the woman is there, howling. When Keisha finally reveals her plan to go into hiding in a different country, lose her identity by any means possible, she gets caught by the Officer who demands they talk somewhere quiet. Curtain falls.

Peppered with Keisha’s ponderings on how, as not just a constant traveler but a runaway, she has no home and no concrete hope anymore, this episode was a heavy dose of grim. Of course, that’s to be expected in some measure. It is a horror story after all and although this episode was light on the gore and cruel, it was packed with hopelessness to the point that I just wanted to reach out through my phone’s screen and hold Keisha tight to tell her it was all going to be okay. Well. We’ll see about that. There’s still the finale, right?

But what I found fascinating throughout the episode is that Keisha was not particularly desperate. Or at least not to the measure one would expect considering she is being tracked down by a violent assassin sent to end her once and for all, who toys with her victims before making a meal of them. She is afraid, of course, and God knows she is anxious, but she has a rational plan out of the situation. She’s determined.

“So here’s what I’m going to do next. I’m going to leave the country. I’m ditching the truck and leaving behind the radio. […] I’m leaving everything behind. I’ll leave behind my identity.”

And as I was listening to the episode wondering if Keisha would break down, what she was going to do, I realized something. This has happened before. This episode mirrors in so many ways the narrative of season one but showcases perfectly how much Keisha has grown in the meantime. She knows what didn’t work last time, she knows what she’s able to do and she’s set her mind to try to reach that. Specifically, this episode is just like last season’s pre-finale, “Go Home Again”. In that episode, Keisha had been tracked by the Thistle Men all season and decided to say goodbye to it all, to give up and just go home. She then got harassed by a Thistle Man inside her own home, which led her to her decision to attack the Thistle base she knew of. “Prey” takes a different road. After being tracked by the Officer all season, Keisha decides to give up on the fight and just run away. She then gets assaulted by the Officer, which leads to… well, to the next episode to be explored in another review.

How heavy the weight of Keisha’s experience still on her shoulders. One scene in particular explores the trauma she bears. During a shower she takes at a Love’s near Sioux City, she has an anxiety attack that is probably best described as a PTSD reaction. She’s showering but keeps seeing the image of the Officer running after her from last episode, flinching in anticipation. However, when she is later confronted with the Officer for real, she’s able to keep her head straight for two seconds and run to her cab to drive away. Compared to how she reacted in the 9th episode of last season when a Thistle Man found her:

“I ran back to the bedroom knowing that he could hear me now, slammed and locked the door. I cried, I cried…”

Now, this is a bit dishonest to claim that this is the sum of Keisha’s character development, because in many episodes of season one, she did choose to run away from the monsters as well. She also found the strength to fight them when she could. But the distinction I would bring to this episode’s portrayal is that Keisha is not choosing to run away out of mere instinct as she was before, but rather as part of a plan. She’s grown smarter, understands that she does not understand the situation at all, and chooses to opt out of it until her time comes. Her running away is no longer a sign of cowardice but of caution, of careful thinking.

Indeed, the big difference between those two narratives is that while least season, she decided to go after the Thistle Men and launch an attack on them, which was the big event of the first season’s finale, this time, Keisha is determined to run away. She evoked that possibility last season:

“I thought about trying to disappear, vanishing off the map – or, more accurately, into the map – driving into the map of America so deep, and so far, that no one would ever find me again. But there is a fine line between disappearing from view and disappearing altogether. How far could I run? How much could I change before there was nothing left of me to hide? Before all that was left was the disguise?” − (Season 1, Chapter 9, “Go Home Again”)

And the sad thing that I touched upon last episode is that Keisha has come full circle and has accepted that a future with Alice might not be in her cards anymore. Which is all the more heartbreaking because this episode features more direct calls to Alice than most of the season. Now that she has a new plan, she can’t stop wondering what Alice would think of it, what Alice knows, what she knew before she left. In a way, now that she has lost pretty much anything she had to lose, she’s ready to accept the idea of that she has already lost the one person she loves the most and that those ties are cut already. This is also a callback to what she thought about way more often back in season one: her resentment of Alice’s abandon.

“There are times I hate you more than any of them, Alice.” − (Season 1, Episode 1, “Omelet”)

“Alice, as long as I’m asking you questions: do you have any idea what it is they wanted me for? I hope not, because the thought that you knew that I would be involved and then hid that from me is the most painful thought of all.” − (Season 2, Episode 9, “Prey”)

Because in the end, she resents Alice for being gone, but also for not telling her about any of this conflict. She is still completely in the dark as to what this war is even about that she is running away from. Though she says that she will try to honor her role in it when the time comes, she has no idea what that role looks like, how it will become apparent to her, what it entails. Which brings this whole thing back to square one.

“This is useless. I’m not going to be able to guess what my role in this is. And seeking out something when you don’t know what it is, is indistinguishable from random wandering.”

Another full circle. Keisha went from wandering to try and find Alice, to wandering to try and find Bay and Creek, to wandering to try and escape Thistle. She is still spiraling, but her goals have evolved and her wandering is not as random as she would like to say, self-deprecating Keisha. Her running away may not have a destination, but it has a clear enemy she is running away from, which is half of the journey already.

But in the end, all these wonderings are made irrelevant by the Officer capturing Keisha. Of course, it wasn’t entirely unexpected, far from it. The episode has been building up to their confrontation, not to mention the whole season itself. With just one episode left to at the very list tie some loose ends, there is a lot that the finale needs to cover for our satisfaction as well as Keisha’s. And we will see next time if it delivers.


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