I feel like Season 8 for Alex can be summed up in two words:
Let's start with the biggest one first:
Why bother forcing Ariel Winter to put aside for (at least?) a year her goals of attending UCLA and studying law so that she could focus on “heavy story lines” for Alex, and then not doing much of anything with Alex for the past eight months? I mean, seriously, the only thing that came close to a heavy storyline was her new romance with Claire's assistant Ben. The other main two stories they gave Alex both fizzled out to one degree or another. Honestly, I don't feel like Ariel needed to defer college at all – given how little they did with her she should have had more than enough time to focus on her studies.
And I don't think it would've meant that many more Alex-less episodes above the three she did miss – maybe she misses one or two more (and I predicted six before the season started so it still wouldn't have been as bad as I thought).
Now, speaking of those two stories that didn't live up to expectations:
Why bother saddling Alex with a bout of mononucleosis and forcing her to stay home for a semester, when that didn't mean more things for her to do? This is kind of a “art imitating life” question – just as I feel it was a waste for Ariel to miss a year at UCLA, it was a similar waste for Alex to miss a semester at CalTech, seeing that she mostly was still in the background at home, giving her very little of the spotlight. I feel they might as well as let her continue at CalTech and pop in at home once in a while.
And, why bother using that story virtually only for laughs? Although it's not generally a fatal disease, mononucleosis does take a while to get over, and thus as we did see Alex did have to change her life drastically for a few months. But instead of focusing on how Alex was trying to cope emotionally with her plight (and getting some seriousness out of it), they just used her condition as a series of jokes – first by having her family cruelly take advantage of her situation to advance their own agendas (until she finally melted down, which in and of itself they treated as comedy, though I got teary-eyed watching her fall apart again), then by using her symptoms for jokes (OK, admittedly the signs she had to write when she lost her voice were funny, but still).
I feel like this was the biggest wasted opportunity of the season.
Moving onward and downward:
Why bother having Alex take a job as a barista, then take three episodes before actually showing her life at it before totally ignoring it after that? This should have been a big moment in Alex's life1, but the first two times we saw her there she was mostly only scenery, watching while other characters' stories played out.
At least they did finally get something right on the third time, as we got to see Alex in a story with minimal family interaction, as they focused on her relationships with her co-workers. But, even then they couldn't give Alex a happy ending, as she was thrown under the bus by the coffee shop manager, who quit and left her holding the bag with two unhappy baristas who were her friends until she got promoted.
And that wound up being that – we never saw her again at the coffee shop, so we don't know if she kept that job after she went back to school. I get the feeling if I could ask someone with the show what became of that, they'd probably serenade me with Swedish hip-hop while ranting about trying to catch a tortoise.
And we never did get to see Alex interact with the customers (save for the one who ruined Cam's moment at Lily's recital and who accused Alex of stealing her tablet) – what happened to her having to reflect on her life based off playing sidewalk psychologist with her customers?
I also feel like asking why bother having Alex and Sanjay reconcile last season, when this season he wasn't even mentioned even once (hopefully he didn't die from complications from mono or something). I also get the feeling I'll be asking a similar “Why bother” question next year about Ben – I feel like he'll be long forgotten (at least as far as Alex is concerned - even if the relationship ends he might still have a story as Claire's assistant) by this time next year.
OK, rant over – I've run out of steam. I think it should be obvious by now that I consider this season to have been almost a total waste for Alex. I doubt even the best episode ("Heavy Is The Head") will even crack the Alex Marathon list (I'll decide sometime in the next few months).
Thank you all for putting up with me for another season, especially given how frustrating this one was. As in the past I'll have a post or two during the next couple of months (hopefully including some thoughts about Dog Years when and if I get the opportunity to see it) just to keep everyone updated.
1 I know she worked as Mrs. Claus three years ago, but that was just a brief seasonal job. In many ways this was her first real, if not permanent, job.