‘Alert: Missing Persons Unit’ Boss Breaks Down The Season Finale’s Shocking TwistsFebruary 28, 2023
SPOILER ALERT! This post contains details from the season finale of Fox’s Alert: Missing Persons Unit.
The two-part Season 1 finale of Fox‘s Alert: Missing Persons Unit finally gives audiences answers about whether Nikki and Jason were really reunited with their missing son, Keith, or if the boy who has been living in their home has been lying to them all along.
Since the very first episode, Alert has dropped hints that Keith might not actually be who he says he is. Those suspicions were only heightened when Nikki and Jason’s daughter Sidney revealed that she was there when Keith fell through the ice and into a frozen river, where he presumably died. But if he wasn’t their son, how did he pass a DNA test? And how did he know so much about their family and their past?
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In the first part of the finale, Nikki and Jason go on a mission to find the woman who kidnapped Keith after he explains that he managed to escape from the river and make it to a road, where he was taken. When they find her, they learn that she’s taken other boys as well in an attempt to save her son, who suffered from a heart condition but has since died (though she creepily keeps him hooked up to monitors and transfused with blood from the other boys she’s abducted).
But before they can celebrate, Keith is taken again. This time, it’s actually his biological mother who has come to retrieve him…because he was pretending to be Keith all along. As it turns out, his biological mother used him to get ransom money from the family, forcing him to study their family through newspaper clippings and pretend to be their long lost son.
“What Keith wanted was the type of family he never had. I always imagined that he was someone who was not a villain, but a troubled young man. He was in a situation with his biological mother that was terrible. She was abusive. She was predatory. She bragged about Nikki and Jason and their problem and tried to exploit it through ransom and a fake demand that she actually had their child,” said showrunner John Eisendrath.
She becomes unhappy when she sees him thriving in his new life, and she comes to get him back. Nikki, Jason, and Mike try to rescue him, but his mother shoots him in the chest during a standoff, killing him almost instantly.
Eisendrath spoke with Deadline about the dramatic two-part season finale of Alert and where audiences might expect to find the characters should the series be renewed for Season 2.
DEADLINE: The finale is pretty insane, and it weaves together Nikki and Jason’s personal and professional lives in a bit of an unexpected way. How did you craft these final two episodes to bring Keith’s mystery to a close?
JOHN EISENDRATH: The question we had to ask ourselves is, ‘Who is Keith for real, and what does he want?’ What Keith wanted was the type of family he never had. I always imagined that he was someone who was not a villain, but a troubled young man. He was in a situation with his biological mother that was terrible. She was abusive. She was predatory. She bragged about Nikki and Jason and their problem and tried to exploit it through ransom and a fake demand that she actually had their child. Keith became aware of Jason and Nikki through his malevolent biological mother and started to think to himself, ‘Oh my god. There are these loving parents out there who have lost a young man who, by this point, would be about my age.’ He started to fantasize about it. What if that was him? What if he could be in that position? Once you have yourself into a situation based on a lie, covering that lie is very difficult, and it was proved difficult for him because the sister knew the truth. Keith realized at about Episode 7 that he was going to have to come up with a story that was going to explain what actually happened to him, and how in the world he could have gotten out of that frozen river. We thought, ‘What if he could find a co-conspirator in a young man who’s gone through similar circumstances to what he had? And what if he could get that person to tell him enough about who actually took him that he could manufacture that as being the person who actually took him?’ He fed them a missing person who was really taken, and he knew that that person had been really taken because he was in a group with other kids like him. That meant that the professional story, the episodic missing person of week story, merged with the serialized story about the past.
DEADLINE: Despite the fact that this boy isn’t actually their son, Nikki and Jason have no doubt formed an attachment to him. Then they watched him die. There has to be some lasting trauma there.
EISENDRATH: I think it is incredibly traumatic for Jason and Nikki, who have gone through unimaginable highs and lows this season as parents. They start [the season] feeling as if they’ve lost their son, and then he’s back and they’re on cloud nine. It is the most joyous thing any parents could imagine — the return of their missing child. And then during the course of the season, their other child chipped away at that joy because she has a truth, that ultimately comes out, that contradicts his story. The parents are suddenly confronted with [questions]. Were we just so hopeful that we got our son back that we took in someone who wasn’t our son? They’ve come to love this person. He’s a kind, decent, sweet young man who we have come to embrace. I think that in the month before Keith dies, they are genuinely torn. It is an interesting question, to wonder, if he hadn’t died, what would they have done? Would they have left him? Would they have found a way in their hearts to understand and empathize with this troubled young man? But he dies, and he dies in a way that basically is trying to save them… he made it clear to Nikki and Jason by his actions that he loved them, that he was committed to them over his biological mother, that he wanted to protect them from her. It is an incredibly traumatic turn of events, but it does allow them to finally get something that I believe is incredibly valuable, which is closure. I think this year has been ultimately one that heals the deep wound that they both had when we met them in the pilot. It’s a complicated victory, because they do know in a way that they never did before that they’re not going to get Keith back. They get to celebrate his life and have a memorial for him at the end of this season, which they never were able to have before.
DEADLINE: So, Sidney reveals that she knows this boy isn’t Keith because she actually watched Keith fall through the ice, but she never told anyone because she was afraid that Nikki and Jason, who are her adoptive parents, would abandon her. But as a parent, how do you work through learning that your daughter witnessed your son die and never said anything?
EISENDRATH: Well, a couple of things. Her initial explanation when asked why she didn’t come forward, I thought was very compelling. Sidney was saying, ‘I thought you would reject me.’ She was put into the foster care system by biological parents who had rejected her and she carried that emotional scar forward and was fearful that her adoptive parents were going to push her away if they felt in any way that she was responsible for the loss of Keith. That felt very emotionally honest in a way that Nikki and Jason could understand and forgive, because it was such a natural, confused, emotional conclusion that a 12-year-old might come to. So I think that they understand what motivated her to not say anything. And then I think during the course of conversations they’ve had this year about the details of that night, they have come to the conclusion that whatever she had done — if she’d raced home, if she called them — by the time they realized anything, it would have been too late. I don’t think they are going forward holding on to the feeling like if she had done differently their son would be alive.
DEADLINE: Since the personal story has been largely wrapped up this season, what might you have planned for them for future seasons?
EISENDRATH: There’s definitely going to be a serialized component, a story for their family and their relationship that I have in mind for next year. It will be different, but I’m hopeful that every season could have a contained, mysterious, serialized story. That goes alongside the endless numbers of missing persons cases. There’s all kinds of personal stories that I am looking forward to, like exploring the love triangle between Jason and Nikki and Mike. I love Kemi and exploring more of who she is. We just touched on how she became the person she is and her relationship with her dad. I’m confident we have a lot of incredibly interesting ground to cover.
DEADLINE: You mentioned this procedural being a little different than previous series you’ve worked on. What did you take away from this season that will change how you implement things going forward?
On the procedural side, I learned that there is an endless supply of varied, fascinating missing persons cases. We have so many that we already know we would want to tell, and we’ve barely scratched the surface of thinking about what next year would be. My instinct was that a missing persons procedural story had the possibility of telling more varied types of stories than other types of procedural shows. That definitely turned out to be true. Not only the obvious, which is that some people want to be found and some people are running away, but we told a story about a guy who was basically the last of his tribe and he wanted to repopulate the world with other members… and that led to a missing persons case. We had a simple story of one sister being jealous of the other sister, so a very basic murder mystery. Then much more complicated psychodramas — and they’re all missing persons cases. Not one episode would be similar to the next, and that is what I think is very exciting.
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