Life is a journey, and along that journey, we are all searching for something.
On Looking for Alaska Season 1 Episode 1 and Looking for Alaska Season 1 Episode 2, we are introduced to the students and faculty of Culver Creek Academy who are all just trying to get out of this world unscathed, or without the label of a rat.
Read our review as we discuss how they are navigating the labyrinth that is life at the Creek.
Miles Halter had no idea what he was getting himself into when he convinced his parents to let him transfer to Culver Creek Academy, a boarding school in Alabama that his father had attended.
In search of a Great Perhaps, a term coined by a French poet, Miles feels like he can find it there.
Mrs. Halter: But why do you have to go now, that's what college is for.
Miles: I've told you why.
Mrs. Halter: Because of some French poet's last words. A Great Perhaps? What does that even mean?
Miles: That's what I need to find out.
Miles is in the thick of it now, though.
You have to wonder how different Miles’, or Pudge as he has been dubbed, life at Culver Creek would have been if Chip, better known as the Colonel, wasn't his roommate.
Pudge and the audience are better off not knowing though because this gang of misfits that Pudge has found himself a part of is television gold.
Given that Josh Schwartz is a genius of the young adult television genre, it should come as no surprise that he has managed to handle the source material of the incredible John Green with exquisite expertise.
Each character we meet in the first two episodes are fleshed out and authentic characterization of teenagers. This is something that so many of the shows that are churned out now in the genre are lacking.
Pudge is socially awkward but in the most loveable way. If you are expecting Pudge to be the Seth Cohen of Looking For Alaska you are sadly mistaken.
Whereas Seth had innate confidence to him, even though he was an outsider with no friends outside of his parents and Captain Oats, Pudge is completely lacking.
If anything, the Colonel is much more like Seth. Even the Colonel's interactions with the Weekday Warriors, rich kids who go home for the weekends, is reminiscent of Seth's relationship with the popular kids of The OC.
Whereas people like Pudge stick to the background and try not to make waves, the Colonel faces adversity head-on in the loudest way possible.
The Weekday Warriors may think they are superior because of their athletic builds and their parents' bank accounts, the Colonel has intellect on his side, and he isn't afraid to remind them.
Kevin: Wanna say that to my face 'cause you're talking to my sternum.
Colonel: Closer to your heart when I rip it out.
The Colonel and the Weekday Warriors may be different on a fundamental level, but they can agree on one thing, and that is that they hate rats.
An unspoken rule of adolescence is that you don't narc on people. Ratting people out, no matter what the reason, almost always comes back to haunt you when you're a teenager.
The students of Culver Creek take things to another level though.
Maybe it is the fact that they all live together and are forced to form their own community that they take the "snitches get stitches" rule so seriously.
Whatever the reason may be, the last thing you want to be at Culver Creek is a rat.
The idea of a boarding school sounds great in theory. You are away from the prying eyes of your parents and allowed independence that you never would be able to have at home.
However, the fact is that even though you aren't living under your parents' roof, there are plenty of watchful eyes on you. If your school has anyone like the Eagle, then you are in for a rude awakening.
Poor Marya. How awful is it to have your first time rudely interrupted by your principal? Your first time is already such an awkward thing. To have your principal catch you in the middle of it could scar someone for life.
Watching Mayra drunk and stoned, with nothing more than a sheet covering her up, pleading for mercy in front of half of the student body was sad to watch.
She was only lucky that Looking for Alaska takes place in 2005 and not 2019. If the happened now, there would be viral videos of her going around on the internet. Instead, she will get a few posts about her on Myspace.
This is also something that helps the show. 2005 was such a different time.
Making a show about teenagers now looks so different than making a show about teenagers in 2005. While social media and cell phones were around in that time, things were not to the extent that they are now.
These days, if you don't document it on social media, it didn't happen. Back then, you lived in the moment and if you happened to post about it later, that's fine, but if you didn't, that was fine too.
The students of Culver Creek are doing just that; living in the moment and loving every minute of it.
The busting of Paul and Marya by the Eagle started a witch hunt for the rat who sold them out and from that witch hunt came an epic prank war.
Can we please take a moment to appreciate the genius of building a wall of cinder blocks to barricade the Kevin and Longwell in their room?
That moment reminded me so much of The Parent Trap, the Lindsey Lohan version in particular, when the girls booby-trapped the rich girls' bunk.
Hats off to the core four.
That moment was only the beginning though.
The Weekday Warriors can't seem to help but taking things one step too far. First, with wrapping Pudge in saran wrap and throwing him in the lake, risking causing him to drown. Then, cutting up the Colonel's suit for Sara's cotillion.
While the core four are doing harmless pranks, the Weekday Warriors know what they are doing when they cross the line.
They know that the Colonel doesn't have money to afford a new suit. They know that Pudge didn't have anything to do with ratting Paul out. They don't care though.
The core four are just so much easier to root for.
How can you fault people who are having the back of someone, even if they just met him? They are the definition of what it means to be a good friend.
If Pudge had taken the Weekday Warriors up on their offer and joined their side, he would have been like a sacrificial lamb. The low man on the totem pole.
Instead, the Colonel, Alaska, and Takumi welcome Pudge in with open arms and treat him like they have always known him.
With their friendships, you can already see Pudge coming out of his shell. Especially when it comes to Alaska Young.
Alaska, at first glance, seems like the definition of a manic pixie dream girl. She is quirky, tortured, beautiful, and a catalyst for Pudge’s life to change. In fact, the book version of Alaska is very much so one.
TV Alaska has much more going for her, though.
It is impossible not to feel the pain exuding from Alaska. While Pudge is looking for a Great Perhaps, Alaska is searching for a way out of the labyrinth.
Pudge: What do they mean?
Alaska: That's the mystery isn't it? Is the labyrinth living, dying, and which is he trying to escape: the world or the end of it?
Where this could come across as melodramatic in other TV series, in the hands-on John Green, Josh Schwartz, and company, it feels true to the world of a teenager.
Everything feels so much more extreme when you are sixteen.
The thing about Alaska is regardless of how much pain she is clearly going through, she lights up the world around her. Her energy is contagious.
While the Colonel may be the unofficial leader of the group, Alaska is the driving force behind it.
Pudge may be the latest man to fall in love with her at first sight hopelessly, but it seems clear that he isn’t the first.
The Colonel may spend his time fighting with Sara and Takumi may seem more focused on gossip than his love life, but they were at one point in time, and maybe even still are, in love with Alaska Young.
Pudge is the new shiny toy in Alaska’s life and it is almost like there is a tinge of jealousy in the way the Colonel, in particular, teases Pudge about her.
Pudge is just meeting her. There is still a glimmer of possibility that she might fall for him. If she hasn’t fallen for the Colonel or Takumi yet it probably will never happen.
Pudge has hope, where they don’t anymore and that hope is something that is enviable. It also isn’t an understatement to say that Pudge is in completely over his head.
A girl like Lara, the new girl at school that Alaska is intent on hooking Pudge up with, is more Pudge’s speed. She is sweet and stable and probably won’t shatter Pudge’s heart into a thousand pieces like Alaska could by just being her.
That’s the thing though, we can’t help who we want, even if it might not be the best thing for us. Even if we might end up hurt.
Things are about to get even more complicated though.
After watching the Eagle try to force Pudge into giving up the others to save himself, learning that Alaska was caught on the first day by him hiding her alcohol, and suffered no consequences that we are aware of, can’t be a good sign.
-Stand out music moments: It wouldn’t be a Josh Schwartz show without a killer soundtrack. Marya and Paul getting drunk, stoned, and getting it on to a cover of “Milkshake” by Buddy was perfection.
It perfectly conveyed the mood, which is a statement that is pretty surprising about a song with lyrics like “My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard” and “La la, la, la, la warm it up. La la, la, la, la the boys are waiting.”
Another musical moment that stood out was “The District Sleeps Alone” by The Postal Service. A hallmark of great teen dramas like The OC, Gossip Girl, and One Tree Hill was the ability of music to tell us how the characters were feeling at any given moment.
“The District Sleeps Alone” does just that. As it plays, you can feel the longing and loneliness that Pudge is feeling.
-Favorite throwback: The Fear Factor shout out. Who didn’t love Fear Factor back in the day?
-Where were the teachers like Dr. Hyde when I was in high school? That man is truly inspiring.
-Did anyone else get serious flashbacks to Ryan driving away with Marissa in the rearview mirror from the pilot of The OC when Pudge saw Alaska for the first time? That is one of the most iconic visuals from The OC, and that throwback gave me chills.
How did you feel about the first two episodes of Looking for Alaska TV Fanatics? Are you as hooked as I am? Comment your thoughts below and be on the lookout for our review of Episodes 3 and 4.
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Meaghan Frey was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She retired in September 2020.