The first episode of Alice Isn’t Dead Season 2 is here, and it’s just as interesting as I hoped it would be. It seems like some of my assumptions about who was playing Alice was wrong, but that just gives us more questions than answers. The episode also does an excellent job at exploring the psychological effect of police brutality on people of color.
Spoilers for Alice Isn’t Dead’s “The Last Free Place” below.
The episode begins with Keisha giving a brief overview about what happened to her last time. She explains how she is no longer searching for Alice, who asked her not to find her—now, she is searching for answers. In this episode she follows a woman at Bay and Creek Shipping who Keisha recognizes as the leader of the army that saved her from the Thistle Men last time. Keisha attempts to follow her into Slab City, a real place in California inhabited by artists, hippies, and those trying to live off the grid. However, before Keisha can enter Slab City, she is pulled over by a police car. The woman who pulled her over acts very strangely around Keisha before threatening her, and Keisha quickly realizes that this woman is not actually a police officer; she simply stole a police car. The woman seems to have no intention of hurting Keisha at the moment, telling her that she likes to take her time. Keisha boldly stands up for herself and says that she won’t be intimidated by her, but that only seems to amuse the mysterious woman before she tells Keisha they are going to have fun and leaves. Keisha remains in Slab City afterwards, hoping to find the woman from Bay and Creek that she had been following before, only to realize that she seems to have disappeared.
The most interesting part of this episode is the mysterious and dangerous police woman. It becomes immediately obvious that this is the same woman from the teaser segment last week titled “Haugen, Montana.” I assumed this person was Alice for a number of reasons: one, because this sounds like the same voice at the end of Season 1 who said, “Right, right. I mean, you haven’t even heard from me yet” which most everyone assumed was Alice. And two, because in the “Haugen, Montana” segment, the speaker acted like she was someone Keisha should know. However, in the last segment the speaker also stated outright stated that she wasn’t Alice: “But of course, Alice isn’t here. I am.” I speculated that this might be Alice acknowledging that she is a different person on the road when she is apart from Keisha, but now it has been made clear that this mysterious woman is someone else entirely—someone who works with the Thistle Men from last season but also seems to be of a higher rank than them. She also describes herself as not being entirely human in both this recent episode and in the past segment. I love a good female villain and this character definitely seems like she will be. I’m excited to see how this character develops and how she will fit into the overall plot.
Perhaps the best thing about this episode, though, is how it portrays fear of the police and police brutality. At the beginning of the episode Keisha explains how the U.S. government knows about the Thistle Men and gives them permission to do what they want. We’ve seen this in past episodes, largely through the police. A police officer doesn’t defend Keisha when she is attacked by one of the Thistle Men and even warns her to stop “asking the wrong questions,” implying it’s her fault for being attacked. Later when we meet Sylvia, she describes how none of the police helped her when her mom was killed by a Thistle Man, and when one police officer did try and help her, he ended up dead. Because of all of this, Keisha is understandably fearful of the police and becomes extremely anxious when she is pulled over. She even leaves her radio on so that maybe someone will hear what is happening and that might help keep her safe. However, despite the precautions, there is little Keisha can do when this police officer messes with her, detains her for no reason, and then threatens her.
Though it’s revealed that this policewoman is not actually a police officer at all, the podcast does a great job of capturing the fear of police that many people of color, like Keisha, have. Yes, Keisha is afraid of them because of their connection to the Thistle Men, but it still starkly shows a real world fear. As a white woman, I’ll admit that I have never totally felt comfortable around police officers, but only in the way that you might be wary around anyone that could potentially arrest you. I never feared for my life or well-being. My fear was getting in trouble and my parents getting called, so really it was more a fear of parents and getting in trouble than fear of the police. But for a large portion of Americans, the police are a group of people who can use their power to do them harm for little to no reason. Even if we take out the context of the police being involved in some larger conspiracy, this scene is still truly terrifying because Keisha is forced to obey this woman she thinks is a police officer even when it becomes apparent that this person means to harm her. For people with white privilege like myself, this is a great scene that can really help people empathize and learn how scary this situation can be for people of color.
Overall, this was a great first episode and I can’t wait to listen to more. While there was some social commentary in the past season, there wasn’t nearly as much as what we are seeing here in this very first episode. I hope that is a theme that will continue in this season and that it will all be as well done as it was in this episode. I also look forward to seeing more of this mysterious female villain and I hope we finally get to hear from Alice as the plot plays out.