Attention: Major spoilers ahead for the book and Hulu miniseries Looking for Alaska.
At the very beginning of Hulu’s Looking for Alaska, an eight-part mini series based on the John Green novel of the same name, there’s a horrifying car crash. It’s the kind of crash that leaves no survivors, though we don’t know who’s been hurt. The accident is an ominous flash forward, and before each episode there’s a countdown that reminds us we’re creeping toward something significant—most likely the crash.
The rest of the show follows a group of teenagers at a boarding school in Alabama. There’s the beautiful and suffering Alaska Young (Kristine Froseth) and her friends Miles “Pudge” Halter (Charlie Plummer), Chip, aka the Colonel (Denny Love), and Takumi (Jay Lee).
By the seventh episode, we learn Alaska was the one who died in the accident. The night of the incident, she was drinking heavily with Pudge, and the two end up making out. Then Alaska gets a phone call that sends her into hysterics. She tells Pudge she needs to leave, and Pudge and the Colonel help her sneak off campus. Alaska drives away, and according to police, she later smashed into a car that was stopped in the middle of the road. The officer says she hit the car straight on, without swerving.
The show, as well as the book, never gives a definitive answer as to whether Alaska killed herself or got into an accident while driving drunk. But Pudge and the Colonel do uncover some clues about Alaska’s state of mind before the crash. They discover that the day Alaska died was the anniversary of her mother’s death, as well as the day she met her ex-boyfriend Jake. When he called to remind her it was their anniversary, she remembered the importance of the date and drove off in a hurry. In the police report, Pudge and the Colonel discover that Alaska had plastic daises in her car when she died, leading them to believe she was driving to place them on her mother’s grave. But Alaska’s intentions when she left in her car are still unclear, and as Takumi says later, “This mystery can’t be solved.”
The Looking for Alaska series creator, Josh Schwartz, intended for Alaska’s death to be ambiguous. According to The Wrap, he said, “We will never know what happened that night. And if you’ve seen the first episode, that is as much as you will see of the event. And it is a mystery what happened and that is part of what the characters will have to grapple with, and the audience.”
Green gave a similar answer when asked about the ending of his book. In the FAQ section of his website, the author writes, “Well, when I was writing Alaska, I wanted the end NOT to give us what we want, which is of course to know whether Alaska’s death was a suicide or an accident. The truth is that in our lives we are all going to encounter questions that should be answered, that deserve to be answered, and yet prove unanswerable. Can we find meaning to life without those answers? Can we find a way to acknowledge the reality (and injustice) of suffering without giving in to hopelessness? Those are the questions I think Miles is confronting at the end, and I wanted to argue that through forgiveness, it is possible to live a full and hopeful life—even if our world is saturated with injustice and loss.”