Almost Paradise took Alex Walker on a memorable hero’s journey.
There’s no TV crime drama like Almost Paradise, and no hero like Alex Walker.
When creating the protagonist of the WGN America series, Dean Devlin and Gary Rosen crafted a character who’s different from the genre pattern, and Christian Kane delivered one of the best performances of his career in bringing that character to life.
On the surface, you might think you know Alex: a former DEA agent who retired to the Philippines to get away from the various issues in his past. He’s got issues with his ex-partner, his family and his health. And yet when he comes to Cebu, he ends up working most of those issues out.
TV cops or ex-cops with issues aren’t new. Neither are characters who get away from something only to find what they’re looking for wherever they end up, usually in the form of a surrogate family or a new love interest. Audiences have seen those arcs to death.
But Devlin and Rosen didn’t rely on them. They didn’t follow the blueprint. They had that framework, and then the deeper that audiences got into the character of Alex Walker, those presupposed expectations actually served to highlight what made him stand out—because he’d start in a familiar place and go in an unfamiliar direction. Not unlike the whole theme of the show.
So many shows have tried the quirky crime-solving hero before, many of them great. USA had a whole stable of them for years with Psych, Burn Notice and White Collar. With Almost Paradise, the character of Alex has that same charm but the writers were also not afraid to make him a bit of a mess. He never had his stuff entirely together, and sometimes that could lead to him being a pain in the butt, or get him into further trouble. Alex was allowed to be falliable, to be vulnerable, and what we saw over the first season was him growing.
What audiences have to remember is that Alex’s entire self-image is changing over the season, not just his world. He never expected to end up on an island in the Philippines; he thought he’d be working for the DEA. That’s part of what drives the show: he can say he’s retiring, but he can’t turn off the instincts to be the guy that stands up. He had everything figured out, only to realize that he didn’t have anything figured out, and now he’s having to put the pieces together all over again. With each episode, he might screw up a little, but he learns a little more—about the island, about the people in his life now, and most importantly about himself.
The Almost Paradise season finale, “Something Walker This Way Comes,” was the planned endpoint from the start. It made perfect sense: the whole point of Alex coming to Cebu was for him to move on with his life, but emotionally and mentally, he would never be able to move on unless he dealt with the betrayal that had sent him there in the first place. In order to go forward, he needed to go back. Which he did in spectacular Terminator-style fashion.
Alex defeated his ex-partner Todd Carpenter and ensured he’d be doing a long stint in prison. He also made peace, or the start of it, with his estranged daughter Evelyn. Everything that had been on his shoulders was lifted in that last episode. Now Alex can be happier and build something new for himself, and viewers are happier for him and can’t wait to see what that something will be.
Because knowing Alex, it’s going to be something a little bit crazy.
Dean Devlin had Christian Kane in mind from the start for the role of Alex Walker, and it’s easy to see why from how Christian has knocked the part out of the park. Almost Paradise has given him a lot to do, both comedy and drama, and that is not an easy balancing act but he hasn’t missed a step in the first 10 episodes.
So much of the humor in the series comes from Alex’s reactions to what is happening around him, and the reactions that he prompts in everyone else. That’s not something that can completely be scripted; it comes from Christian Kane’s facial expressions, the tone with which he delivers a line, and the rapport he’s able to build with his co-stars and guest stars.
But there also has to be some weight underneath the jokes. There needs to be depth to the hero, a reason for fans to invest in him, and to care about what he goes through. Alex had to have gravity to him, especially since his starting point in the show was coming out of a difficult place. That pain and that introspection had to be honored, and Christian has done a wonderful job of weaving that into each episode.
He didn’t turn Alex into a caricature just because he was no longer a crack DEA agent; he kept that very serious and very intense part of the character simmering just underneath the surface. That’s not only been great for Alex, but great for the entire show, because it gives the show a credibility that it needs—it’s not just light entertainment. What happens on Almost Paradise matters and it all starts with Alex Walker.
What’s great about Alex, too, is how human he is. He’s not an archetypal hero; he feels like an ordinary guy who just happened to become a hero. He can be snarky and neurotic and a little bit much at times, and then compassionate and thoughtful and a true badass at others. Alex will always do the right thing; he just doesn’t always do it the conventional way. And that not only is fun as a viewer to watch, but it’s easier to identify with because he doesn’t feel too perfect or like we’re looking up at him.
The finale was Alex Walker in a nutshell: he busted a corrupt ex-federal agent and saved his daughter, but he did it with guns he kept in a fake fish and by staging a criminal accountant’s death. And we could see and understand every emotion he went through while he was doing it, including that sense of accomplishment when it was all over.
Hopefully there will be an Almost Paradise season 2; if any show deserves a sophomore pickup, this is it. That’s because while Alex’s journey might have gotten off to a shaky start, it blossomed as the season went on. Now with Alex having put the past behind him (or in handcuffs), there’s no limit to what he can do next—and we as an audience want to see him flourish too. While the finale ended one chapter in his life, the real story of Alex Walker is just beginning, and it’s going to be one heck of an adventure.