Wrapping up This Is Not My Life

This Is Not My Life finished up last night on One (8.30pm), leaving loose threads for the show to pick up in its second series. Though the finale didn't wrap things up as tightly as some viewers may have liked - one Twitter post I read: "As far as resolution goes, that's not even 640x480" - I thought it did a good job of bringing the current series to a close.

The pace was frenetic from the start of last night's episode: Alec (or as we'll call him from now on, Alec/John) is forced to make a quick escape from Mrs Hobbs' office after finalising the transfer of his identity to the real Alec Ross and giving himself a new name, only to find that his outside contact is being followed by Richard Foster's people - but despite a few hitches along the way, and the devastating wiping of Jessica's memory, Alec/John eventually tricks Foster and steals his identity, making his escape to a distant shore with daughter Becky.

The visual impact of the sea was a nice touch. Becky's own disbelief at seeing the ocean for the first time was a nice way of stating that Alec/John has truly stepped out into the unknown, unsure of what awaits him in an outside world that spreads out in all directions. That idea of uncertainty, stepping out into the great unknown, has been a mainstay of the show so far. I feel like it would've seemed strange for the finale of This Is Not My Life to wrap everything up nicely for Alec/John.

The final scene with Jessica, left behind in Waimoana and reading Alec/John's notebook, was touching as well; Alec/John has planted the first seeds of doubt and set Jessica on a path of self-discovery, which we now know is ultimately rewarding. I also couldn't help but notice how Jessica's waking up in bed next to Gordy, seemingly suffering from memory loss after an accident, mirrored Alec/John's own wake-up call in the first episode.

Aside from just the finale, there was plenty to like about the series as a whole. For a start, This Is Not My Life is the most ambitious locally based series any New Zealand production company has attempted, as far as I can remember, which is worthy of praise in itself. Then there's the complicated plot: it can't be easy to rein in this kind of story while working on a (presumably) limited budget and stepping things up from week to week. I find it truly admirable.

I also loved the people - while there were characters I really didn't like (*cough* Gordy and Hope *cough*) I thought the main roles were well cast. Charles Mesure seemed to improve from week to week, stepping up his performance as the stakes got higher and higher for Alec/John. Miriama McDowell (Jessica) deserves mention here too, as does Joel Tobeck, who helped Richard Foster become one of television's most menacing characters by the end of the series.

Of course the series wasn't perfect, and there were a few things that bugged me. Callie Ross is a perfect example: though I think Tandi Wright did a decent job with the material she was given, it was clear that the character of Callie was superfluous to the main plot of the show and she seemed to be chucked into certain scenes without any real point to her being there. That made her annoying, at least to me. By the time the series ended, I was gritting my teeth every time she tried to force some "sexy time" with Alec/John.

Then there was the "is he leaving or not" tease which became more pronounced during the second half of the series. How many times did Alec/John get close to finally escaping Waimoana only to have his plan foiled at the last minute by some unforeseen development? It seems like it happened every week for the last month and a half! Although that may have worked in the shows favour - when Alec/John finally got past border security last night I heaved a massive sigh of relief, not just for the character but for myself as well.

(By the way, I would totally watch a spinoff of reality show Border Security set on the outskirts of Waimoana. Shooting rats in the back of arriving trucks, being overrun by terrorists every few days and getting yelled at regularly by Richard Foster - that sounds like a decent half hour of TV to me.)

So where do we go from here?

I'd like to explore the outside world in some detail. For example, earlier in the series a couple of characters mentioned an event they called The Big Flu, while a news report featured a story about turmoil on a global scale - not to mention the video from Alec/John's ex-wife, in which she appeared to be in Auckland with smoke billowing up from an unknown source behind her. Is this the reality of everyday life on the outside? Or just more constructed memories to pacify the population of the town?

I'd also like to go behind the scenes of Eugene, the company orchestrating the goings-on in Waimoana. Why is John Sheridan on the run from these people, and why did he hide in plain sight? Why did he turn his back on the memory technology he designed? What is the Gaulton facility? These seem like decent enough questions to start from.

All in all, I thought the finale of This Is Not My Life wrapped things up nicely for now, but left enough interesting plot threads to make me want to see another series. Count me among the many hoping it returns in 2011.

What did you think of the finale of This Is Not My Life? Or the series as a whole? Did you make it to the end? What would you like to see happen in Series 2?

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