Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s 'Alice & Jack's Fifth Episode

Andrea Riseborough and Domhnall Gleeson as the titular 'Alice & Jack' standing

Andrea Riseborough and Domhnall Gleeson as the titular 'Alice & Jack' 


Brace yourselves: Episode 4 was the carrot after many sticks, but Episode 5 of Alice & Jack punishes us for letting our guard down. For a show that consistently contains more dialogue than plot, the last third of this episode pushes the limits of just how much nonsense an audience can take. In conclusion, this episode is a profoundly unpleasant experience.

The first few minutes contain some of the cringiest moments set to film. We begin in the insemination room, a phrase I hope never to type again. Jack is at Alice’s side while Dr. Feldshue (Amanda Lawrence) prepares her instruments. As the doctor approaches, Alice stops her: “Can Jack do that?” (Um, eww.) The doctor patiently explains that legally, um, no. He can’t. (Also, can we double that order of Um, eww?) But Jack could put his hand on top of the doctor’s. There’s awkward dialogue exploring this option, and then Jack agrees. It’s pretty uncomfortable to be a spectator at this very intimate scene. Let me be clear: this discomfort is not about artificial insemination, but rather these two strange characters clumsily navigating their odd lives. As Dr. Feldshue approaches again, Alice asks the doctor to step out momentarily. Once alone, Alice and Jack lunge for each other. Bada boom, bada bing, and Alice no longer needs the doctor’s help. Maya and the clinic’s receptionist can hear the goings on from the waiting room, and Maya is highly amused.

Afterward, Alice and Jack are glowing despite having broken their cardinal rule. Jack tends to Alice at her flat, bringing her tea as she draws a bath. They both treat Alice tenderly – as if she’s already pregnant. Jack doesn’t want to discuss them crossing the line but admits he loves fussing over her. It seems clear they’re going to fall back into a relationship. Being dense, Jack doesn’t realize this and calls Rachel. He reluctantly tells her what happened: “Alice and I made love on the insemination table.” (Again, eww.) He claims not to know if it meant anything and starts using Rachel to untangle his feelings. She hangs up on him. (Wise move, Rachel.)

Domhnall Gleeson as Jack looking pretulant in Alice & Jack

Domhnall Gleeson as Jack in Alice & Jack 


Lo and behold, Alice becomes pregnant, and Jack is over the moon, whooping in broad daylight. In her weird way, Alice says she wants to try a relationship again now that she’s “good at life.” Jack is hesitant but happy, but their joy is short-lived. Weeks later, instead of updates about the baby, Dr. Feldshue tells them Alice’s tests show signs of cancer. Not just any common variety, but stage 4 bile duct cancer, rare and aggressive. While keeping it from Alice, Jack immediately sets his team of scientists on her case in an attempt to cure her. He has a very specific idea of what can combat this cancer, but it will be nearly impossible to pinpoint, taking dozens of computers and thousands of man-hours. Paul tries to talk Jack out of it since they don’t even know where to start looking. Jack is adamant despite Paul’s gentle reality checks: he is going to do everything he can to save Alice.

Jack surprises Alice at the oncology center and walks her home after chemo. She looks visibly ill, but she’s worried about how Jack is holding up and when he last slept. He starts to descend an anxiety spiral. Alice stops him and suggests he go traveling with her. She wants to go to Cuba, to “their roof.” Jack agrees to arrange the trip. Jack’s soaring stress reaches a crescendo when a seeming panic attack becomes seriously painful. He calls Lynn so as not to burden Alice, and she joins him at his doctor’s appointment the next day. They’re given the news that Jack has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which is genetic (implications for Celia?) and affecting the artery connected to his heart. He has an aortic aneurysm, but now that they know, they can keep it from killing him. So it’s bad, but not the worst. Jack opts not to tell Alice about his condition. (Is Jack going to die before Alice?)

Jack and Alice get into a cab for their trip to Cuba, with Maya seeing them off. Maya has arranged every comfort and is going over the schedule with Alice, who for once is appreciative and tells Maya, “I love you.” Jack is over-the-top anxious, which only gets worse when the cabbie gets into an accident on their way to the airport. Jack’s stress is rising as he sees they won’t get there in time for their flight. He goes over the top, and Alice is worried. She suggests they tell the driver to bring their luggage back to her apartment and skip the trip.

Andrea Riseborough as Alice looking smug in Alice & Jack

Andrea Riseborough as Alice in Alice & Jack


Then we have the 15-minute-long sequence of Alice and Jack just talking. And walking. And talking. And walking. And talking. Listen, if you like this sort of thing, this is going to be the sort of thing you like. If you’re tired of reading that, you’ll be even more tired of watching it. They discuss their fantasy future together in an acknowledgment that Alice won’t see any of it: the kids they wanted to have together (unspoken: Alice is no longer pregnant), Alice’s favorite house in London where she wants to raise their children, what she would do next in her career. They discuss Celia’s future and what they will all be like as they approach ages 70, 80, and 90. 

On their walk around London, over the Millennium Bridge and beyond, they accidentally wander into Celia’s schoolyard and see her talking with a boy. Alice stops Jack from interrupting his daughter. They go to a pub and continue talking. Alice asks if Jack will be okay if she doesn’t make it, and he says no. This is all supposed to be heartwarming and profound, and perhaps if the show had made us care about these characters or love them enough to want to watch a grand old Sorkin walk-and-talk, sure. But it just drags on ad infinitum.

Paul calls to keep Jack updated—no epiphanies, but they’ve examined and eliminated a million candidates and are moving on to the next million. While Alice is getting them another round, Jack begins to break down and says Alice wouldn’t want all the fuss. He tells Paul to stand down, to dismantle the research, and to have the team go back to the other projects. Alice comes back with the pints and sees Jack’s demeanor has changed. She toasts, “To us.”

Having a full third of the episode devoted to Alice and Jack’s doing a walk and talk might have seemed a romantic choice on paper, but as neither has ever proven interesting nor entertaining enough, their conversation wound up feeling like listening in on two people being maddeningly self-indulgent and shallow. This is the show’s continuing problem — the primary relationship has no depth, and the leads are entirely focused on worshiping each other. Alice & Jack is a soap opera without any of the fun, a wannabe existential love story without self-awareness. Thank heavens there’s just one last episode, and we’ll be free. 

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Alice & Jack

Andrea Riseborough and Domhnall Gleeson star in the new series from writer Victor Levin.
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Marni Cerise headshot

A writer since her childhood introduction to Shel Silverstein, Marni adores film, cats, Brits, and the Oxford comma. She studied screenwriting at UARTS and has written movie, TV, and pop culture reviews for, and Wizards and Whatnot. You can usually catch her watching Hot Fuzz for the thousandth time. Find her very sparse social media presence on Twitter: @CeriseMarni

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