okay but why didn’t they spread this hallucination plot over like three episodes for the maximum unhinged psychological drama effect
michael and alex get actual development in the first half of the season and are back together by 3x06 no i won’t justify or explain just know that i’m correct. we cut the vision plot and anything else that wasted time and accelerate the lockheart machine and jones because those are the ones that are a) semi-interesting, b) purposeful, and c) relevant
we actually see michael or alex asking each other out on their very first real in-public date because that’s a big fucking step for them and i think it’s dumb that we got told it happened in some dialogue
it can be that it wasn’t going to be for another day or two because hello they have other priorities like kyle, who is mentioned every other sentence in my version of s3 because everyone in this town loves him and is horribly repentant over how they’ve underappreciated him <3, and max, who is also unconscious while a sexy maniac borrows his body
anyway they spend time apart working on their respective side plots and that is okay! because we’re getting indications that they’re thinking about each other either from direct mentions or glances at texts or dumb little post it notes from each other that they keep on their desks
and we actually get to see that conversation with sanders because michael being able to confide in someone about this is a big fucking deal and again i didn’t deserve to be told about it in some throwaway dialogue like it wasn’t a scene that had the potential to shatter me
alex is working on the lockheart machine in the meantime and he genuinely thinks that he’s accessing an alien visual guide for the machine because it’s nora! nora is good! nora can’t be evil! and she’s generally unhelpful and speaks like a guide he doesn’t understand how to use properly and then he notices the project shepherd insert and thinks - oh! duh! - she’s corrupted! but technology is his thing and he’s going to figure this out, so he keeps working
and we get a scene of him going to visit kyle, who is safely being cared for at deep sky, where their scientists are working on waking him up under ramos’s constant, intense, unyielding supervision, which coincidentally alleviates the confusion of “why is this coma patient in a random barn” and “why has nobody noticed alex sitting around for two days even though all the walls are glass”
and alex gets to have a little self pep-talk with kyle about how he’s nervous and how he’s trying to resolve the machine issue before it becomes a problem like everything always does, and he also gets to be a little teary and say that he misses working with kyle and that he wonders if maybe he hadn’t been distracted by deep sky things and if they had stayed a team if kyle would’ve still been in so much trouble now
so alex feels guilty and helpless and he goes hard into solving the machine, and he does something - he moves the turquoise closer, he turns a knob, he prods at the project shepherd insert a little too hard - and suddenly the nora that he’s talking to is a little different. she’s a little more personable. she’s kind. she’s friendly. she still doesn’t have a lot of super helpful answers for him because she’s still kind of corrupted. but he doesn’t mind talking to her.
we can still get the same “how’s the office honey” convo because that was cute, but i think alex should be surprised when michael calls because he hasn’t realized how long he’s been working. he didn’t realize that his safety window expired. he didn’t even hear the alarm. he didn’t realize he turned it off. and nora is there the whole time, just smiling and being fond, and alex swears that he won’t forget their date and hangs up.
the music starts playing again, and nora tells alex that there was no music on the planet where she lived, and then alex gets caught up in telling nora about michael because for a second he forgets that she’s not nora. that she’s just a visual manual. she’s not actually michael’s long-lost alien mother that alex accidentally got killed when he brought two civilians along on a recon mission
but she likes alex, which is appealing in a way he can’t explain. she thinks he’s smart and she believes he’s going to solve the machine and she likes knowing that he’s been trying to take care of michael. he leaves deep sky to do other plot related things in town, to visit kyle, whatever, and when he comes back, she’s there and she’s smiling and she’s so happy to hear about her son. her beautiful son that obviously loves alex very much and who alex has worked very hard to protect
but she doesn’t like that he hasn’t always been successful
she doesn’t like that alex was the one that put michael in jesse’s crosshairs, and she doesn’t like that alex didn’t have the foresight to think twice before bringing michael to the shed, and she doesn’t like that he’s made michael feel like he was ashamed of him, and she doesn’t like that he lied about having the console piece - that he tried to trap michael just like every other manes man was always trying to do - and she doesn’t like that he got her blown up. that she lived all those years, that she survived the worst that jesse manes had to offer, that she had hope of escaping and finding her son, all until alex came along. and even after that, alex didn’t learn. even after getting nora blown up, alex still tried to trust his father, still took the console piece back and got himself kidnapped and made it so michael had to build a bomb that would kill what was left of his family just to save alex from his father
and now it becomes clearer that alex’s progress with the machine isn’t really progress. it’s still turning off and on at random. he can’t reach the project shepherd piece. nora isn’t speaking to him kindly anymore, and her clothes are tattered and her hair and face are dirty.
she prods at him again about the ways he has put michael in danger, and alex argues back that he has worked very hard to make sure nothing his father did could touch michael. he looks tired, frazzled
and nora thinks this is especially amusing because maybe the one thing that alex should be making sure isn’t touching michael is himself. maybe alex himself is the one manes weapon that he hasn’t considered.
and the conversation devolves into the same fight and comes to the same conclusion - that alex fears his capacity for love is not enough to overcome his father’s capacity for hate
and alex knows that she isn’t real. she isn’t real, she isn’t real, she isn’t real. she’s a hallucination, she isn’t real
but she doesn’t need to be real to tell the truth, alex. she doesn’t need to be real to be right. all it means for her to be a hallucination is that alex has known the truth all along, that deep down alex has always known that he isn’t enough, that he’s broken inside, that michael is better off without him.
and - oh, look! - the balcony door is open