Review: ‘Resident Alien’ Heads in the Right Direction, but Doesn’t Go the Distance in “Girl’s Night Out”

Resident Alien S2E3, “Girl’s Night Out,” is the feminism episode. As feminism, my wife ruled it, “better than some!” As comedy-drama entertainment, it was probably the best of the season so far. Harry’s seduction mode remains a terrifying and giggle-inducing sight.

On to plot! The last episode ended with Sheriff Mike (Corey Reynolds) and Deputy Liv (Elizabeth Bowen) cornering Harry (Alan Tudyk) for last season’s murder. It seems like the gig is up! But then Harry uses alien superpowers to scuttle around the cabin and then to mind-wipe them so they think the FBI took over the case. Improbable? Overly glib? Sure, but Harry in prison would be a very different series, especially since he wouldn’t be able to build the radio to stop his people from coming and destroying the earth.

The radio has hit a snag though. Harry lacks certain materials, and is using an inside-out potato chip bag as a substitute, which as you’d expect doesn’t work very well.  He is stumped until Kate (Meredith Garretson), the mayor’s wife, introduces him to her cousin Carlyn (Alex Borstein). Alex is a laser physicist, with access to a lab that has all the equipment Harry needs. Unfortunately, lab security is tight.

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Courtesy of SyFy

Carlyn is talking about her nether bits because she is attracted to Harry. Harry plans to seduce her and steal her lab pass. Harry gets his groove on like ET (who Harry describes as “an idiot; obviously sexy, very attractive, but so dumb”) and he and Carlyn have an intense conversation about hand soap. They end up back at Harry’s cabin, where she “wanted me to take over her body,” Harry tells Asta (Sara Tomko).

Instead, Harry hypnotizes her with alien power and then takes her form with his newly revealed alien shape-shifting mojo. This gives Alex Borstein an opportunity to imitate Alan Tudyk playing an alien, which she does to amazing effect, capturing his awkward mannerisms and vocal cadence perfectly. It’s instantly apparent that she’s Harry—even though, you know, she’s not actually Harry because actors can’t shapeshift. But it’s like she did. Because she is just that good.

In Carlyn’s shape, Harry then goes to the lab, where he is sexually harassed by Carlyn’s boss. But he’s got super alien strength and tosses the guy back and forth across the screen, which is very satisfying. Debriefing with Asta, he says that everyone treats Carlyn badly because she is short. But Asta explains no, you ignorant alien male jerk, it’s because she’s a woman.

Meanwhile! Most of the women of the series have a girl’s night out, in which they get very drunk and discover that Liv, the deputy, has never had a raise. Fueled by rage and alcohol, they break into the city records and find that women who work for the town are systematically underpaid. So they (including the mayor’s wife) stomp over to the mayor’s house and demand answers (his wife pauses to vomit in the garbage can.) The next day the pilot D’Arcy (Alice Wetterlund) drops flyers from a helicopter while the M.A.S.H. theme plays, and Mayor Ben (Levi Fiehler) agrees to push the council to change things. He also decides not to tell his wife that he kissed D’Arcy back in season 1, which seems like a good move.

And finally, Ben and Kate’s son Max (Judah Prehn) is experiencing premature puberty because he stole a silver alien ball from Harry. His friend Sahar (Gracelyn Awad Rinke) has to shave his back, which interferes with her religious principles regarding seeing undressed boys and is also, as she says, gross. She figures out that the ball is at fault and confronts Harry for not telling them earlier. Warned by Asta to be more respectful to women, he says, “yes, ma’am.”

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Courtesy of SyFy

The show’s heart is in the right place. Pay discrimination and sexual harassment are bad. My wife pointed out that the solutions are a little glib though. Harry is basically turned into a feminist by a day or so of putting himself in a woman’s place. Similarly, the woman manages to fix the problem of unequal pay in less than a day, which is not generally how activism works in the real world.

The episode also doesn’t really engage with the trans implications of Harry’s shapechanging. What gender are aliens anyway, exactly? Is he a man because he’s more comfortable as a man, or just because that’s the body he happened to pick out first? When he’s a woman, does he experience body dysphoria? Gender transition is treated as a joke rather than as something people actually experience. That’s not unusual for television historically, but we’re getting to the point where it seems like writers could do better.

It's possible that the series will explore some of this later. In the meantime, the show really seems to have found its groove with the dialogue and characterization. My favorite quip may be when Asta tells Harry he needs to put himself in other people’s shoes. “Other people’s shoes smell like other people’s feet,” he protests, deadpan. It’s hard to argue with that.

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This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Image Credit: SyFy. 

Noah Berlatsky is a freelance writer based in Chicago. His book, Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics was published by Rutgers University Press. He thinks the Adam West Batman is the best Batman, darn it.