Resident Alien Season 1 is a Great Ride

by Transmute Jun

Syfy’s Resident Alien arrived in January, and quickly gained loyal fans. Based on the Dark Horse comic of the same name, Resident Alien follows the extraterrestrial being who has taken over the form of Harry Vanderspiegel (played by Alan Tudyk), and lives in the small town of Patience, Colorado. When first watching this program, it was my observation that its success rested entirely on Tudyk’s shoulders, as the rest of the cast played the straight man to his bizarre behavior, strange mannerisms, and humorous insights. Yet as the season progressed, other characters came to the fore, and an ensemble began to form. By the end of the season, the show still centered around Harry, but other storylines and relationships had become a part of the overall plotline.

Warning: the remainder of this article includes spoilers for Resident Alien, Season 1.

The story of Resident Alien naturally focuses around its titular character, and Harry (by which I mean the alien pretending to be Harry) had many adventures this season. Having attended many pop culture cons, some of my favorite scenes were at the ‘alien convention’, with Harry making commentary at panels as various presenters discussed alien life. I also appreciated Harry’s joy in the simple things we all take for granted, such as his intense pleasure at tasting his first slice of pizza (kudos to the writers for circling back to the ‘no pizza place’ comment in the pilot). When Harry discovers something new and wonderful, he wants to share it with others, so that they too can experience it.

At the same time, viewers have known that Harry’s mission was to destroy all human life on Earth. As of the end of Season 1, we are still not certain why this is, yet we have come to learn that it is for the ‘greater good’. Somehow, the death of humans will prevent greater disaster in the universe as a whole. Yet Harry’s refusal to destroy the human race at the end of Season 1 brings into question the future. If humans are allowed to live, is there a greater threat coming to our planet? And if so, will Harry be there to help us in our time of need?

Harry’s journey this season was one of self-discovery, learning about himself and the emotions that humans possess. Yet despite his alien experiences, he was able to help others, usually through his direct (and sometimes brutal) honesty. Harry is a terrible liar, which actually suggests that there is something intrinsically positive about his alien race. His instinct when interacting with others is always to state the obvious truth, and while that can sometimes be painful, it is something we could all use in the world today. When Harry does lie, it is generally pathetically obvious that something is up, yet Harry will congratulate himself as if he had committed a master deception. I was glad to see that his ability to lie had not improved by the end of the series; it was his ability to comprehend human emotions (and emotional connections) that was at the heart of his character.

Not surprisingly, Harry bonded with Asta Twelvetrees, the person with whom he spent the most time. Asta warmed to Harry, even accepting his alien nature, once it was revealed in the ice crevasse. Yet she rejected him when she realized that Harry must have killed the real Dr. Vanderspiegel. Even so, she clearly still cared enough for him that she took Max and followed Harry as he went to retrieve his spacecraft. And she forgave Harry barely an hour later as she saw how he protected her (and Max) from the guards, but by stunning them, rather than killing them. It was only because Asta refused to leave Earth that Harry decided not to kill humanity, and that one gesture illustrates how strong their connection has become.

Harry’s near-death experience in the ice crevasse is another pivotal moment for the storyline, outside of the situation necessitating the revelation of his secret identity to Asta. Harry had no comprehension of the dangers involved in treading on the ice, and easily could have died with his device. Yet D’arcy and Asta risked their own lives to save him. Ironically, in doing so, they enabled Harry to recover his device and therefore regain the power to kill all of humanity. In saving Harry, they potentially doomed themselves. That Harry does not even consider this speaks to his own self-centeredness, yet ultimately, D’arcy’s and Asta’s faith in Harry is proven correct when he chooses not to deploy the device on Earth.

While Harry’s story is obviously the main plotline, I also enjoyed the developing relationship between Sheriff Mike Thompson (Corey Reynolds) and Deputy Liv Baker (Elizabeth Bowen). Mike’s egotistical obliviousness to Liv’s emotions and skills finally broke when Liv quit her job, leaving Mike in the lurch. Their interactions often made me laugh, yet I was glad to see the one-dimensional nature of their relationship evolve into something more by the end of the season. I expect that these characters might eventually become romantically involved, possibly as soon as Season 2.

At the beginning of the season, Mayor Ben Hawthorne (Levi Fiehler) felt like a one-note character, a running gag of a man somehow thrust into leadership (How did such a timid guy become mayor, anyway?) who was awkwardly doing his best to please everyone and offend no one, and failing miserably. Yet as the season progressed, we saw how Ben cares about the town of Patience, and is willing to go out on a limb to help his constituents. If only we had more politicians like this in the real world, whose first goal is to help others, rather than preserve their own power. Yet there is no one whom Ben wants to protect more than his own family. During the season Ben agonized over the decision of whether or not to send his son Max away to school to get him the help he ‘needed’. Later, Ben spent much time and effort attempting to impress and romance his wife Kate (even if he went about it in completely the wrong way). In the final episode, we saw how Ben was able to overcome his timidity and literally fight to protect his wife and son. While I still wonder how he ever got elected, it is clear that Ben is a great representative and caretaker of the people of Patience.

Syfy has already green-lighted Season 2 for Resident Alien, and fans are very much looking forward to its continuation. We need to learn why the original Dr. Vanderspiegel wanted to murder Dr. Hodges, and what the survival of the human race means for the rest of the universe. Yet as we wait for new episodes, I just have one request to all of the fans out there. Once comic cons start up again, can someone please attend a Resident Alien panel and ask Alan Tudyk to repeat his character’s full alien name? That’s something I just have to see.

Do you watch Resident Alien? Join the conversation on the FoCC forums!

Transmute Jun

Transmute Jun has an addiction to pop culture conventions, and attends as many as she can each year. When she's not traveling, she likes to stay at home reading a good book, playing a video game, or binge-watching a TV show. She can be bribed with pizza, Coke Zero and Belgian milk chocolate.

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