Review: ‘Resident Alien’ Takes Advantage of Lazy Tropes in “An Alien in New York”

The last couple of episodes have been thematically focused on family, in its various found and unfound, loving and icky connotations. Episode 6 is more about advancing the main plot as we move towards the second half of the season, moving to land the alien pie spaceship in the oven. To mix a metaphor. (“I like pie. It’s like cake, except made with real food,” as Harry puts it.)

The main plotline is Harry (Alan Tudyk) finally heading to New York to try to find the source of the mysterious alien radio signal he received, and maybe meet another of his own kind. Before we can get started on that though, the episode opens with a flashback to when Harry was human, before the alien killed him and took his flesh face.

Apparently, Harry was involved in some shady dealings with the Galvan Powell Group, whatever that is. This has something to do with why human Harry murdered town doctor Sam Hodges (Jan Bos) and also with why (to Asta’s considerable surprise) there’s a duffle bag full of cash in Harry’s apartment with Sam’s medical records at the bottom. The plot thickens.

But before it does, we get to see Alan Tudyk act as human Harry for the first time, which is pretty awesome. His entire personality changes and he no longer looks like his face is a mask that doesn’t fit. You’d think everyone in town could instantly recognize that that alien Harry is not that Harry. But on the other green mottled hand, most people don’t expect their neighbors to get killed and replaced by aliens, which provides some insurance against discovery.

Oh, and one more bit of business before heading off to New York; they need to kill off Harry’s octopus relative because he’s not going to be on screen much with Harry in New York, and presumably Nathan Fillion needs to find other work than voicing large mollusks. So the dog that Harry stole gets a hold of it and shakes it to death. (The dog is fine and gets back to its home, never fear.)

resident alien octopus
Courtesy of Syfy

Harry weeps and tries to resuscitate an octopus relative with CPR, but squishing an octopus’ head doesn’t revive it, as it turns out. Harry then apologizes to the octopus because the last time they spoke he yelled at it for wanting to watch home improvement shows (“You live in water what do you care about breakfast nooks?”) There is a touching montage of Harry remembering highlights of their time together—meeting the octopus in a restaurant, stealing the octopus, feeding the octopus at home, and finally in accord with the octopus’ last wishes, eating the octopus with garlic sauce, which Harry does with relish. Aliens—they like to eat. And are cannibals, apparently?

Finally, we’re off to the Big Apple! Asta (Sara Tomko) may have spent her life in Patience, Colorado, but she loves the big city. Harry on the other hand is a cosmopolitan space traveler who is horrified at the crowds. “Why does the city smell like so many things ripening at once?” he asks.

The phone number they received sent them to a pizza parlor. Harry orders a lot of pizza and asks for information about aliens, and he gets one of those two things and it is the one he can eat.

However! Outside the pizza place, they see a mural signed in alien script. It is by the mysterious artist Goliath, who Harry figures must be the alien he’s looking for. Unfortunately, google tells them no one knows who Goliath is.

While they’re trying to figure that out they pass the Galvan Powell Group. Asta goes in to investigate and while Harry waits in a restaurant eating pie, some unpleasant besuited dude who knows old human Harry accosts him and demands to know why Harry is in New York and tells him to say that he has destroyed the medical records.

Harry says he is in New York to eat pie and then says he has destroyed the medical records since that is what the guy wants him to say. But the guy is unconvinced because Harry is unconvincing. There is probably trouble brewing, there, though Galvan Powell’s besuited minions don’t know Harry is an alien with some sporadic super-powers, so that’s a disadvantage they have.

Meanwhile, Harry figures out that Goliath’s mural placement is a clue for other aliens, mapping out a constellation. He and Asta head to an art gallery which marks the place where the alien sun would be in said constellation.

There they run into proprietor Violinda who after some shilly-shallying tells Asta she knows Harry is an alien. Meanwhile, Harry has taken LSD. All the paintings come alive and he sees himself as an alien. “This is bullsh*t,” he says with feeling, which is a sentiment many people who have experienced bad trips can probably relate to.

The episode ends there—but! There are also subplots.

One features Mayor Ben (Levi Fiehler) who wants to take some pictures to show to a developer of a possible resort location. D’arcy (Alice Wetterlund) is the only one licensed on the ATV vehicle he needs to get out there, so he reluctantly agrees to go with her, even though she kissed him last season making him very uncomfortable since he’s married.

resident alien
Courtesy of Syfy

The two bond though, and go back to his house where they reminisce about being childhood friends and D’Arcy reveals she hid weed in his bedroom, now his son’s bedroom, some twenty years ago. They smoke and get high on the improbably potent 20-year-old cannabis.

Ben reveals that he feels like he can’t always be himself in his marriage. He’s timing his wife’s cycles to make sure they don’t have another kid. He also tells D’Arcy she is the one who inspired him to attack the robbers who kidnapped his son (actually secretive anti-alien agents, but he doesn’t know that.)

All of which seems like a prelude to D’Arcy and Ben sleeping together. But this is a comfy sitcom rather than a horny prestige drama. So instead D’Arcy falls asleep and Ben tucks her in. Aw.

The last subplot is about Sheriff Mike (Corey Reynolds), who is being a jerk. He gets on Deputy Liv’s case because Liv (Elizabeth Bowen) is investigating flying saucers, and also because she ignores him when someone becomes violent in the station and he tells her to step back. Liv is worried about him and meets him after work in the park.  She cuffs him to a bench and demands that he tells her what’s going on. Tough love, police-style.

After some reluctance, Mike tells Live it was recently the anniversary of the death of his police partner and lifelong friend, who was killed in Washington, D.C. on duty. There’s an extended emotional recap of their life together, complete with somber music, and Liv is supportive.

I’m not though. We’ve been building to this for the entire season, and I wish we hadn’t been. I don’t know why the writers decided that Mike needed a tragic backstory. It feels like they didn’t know what else to do with him so defaulted to the easiest, laziest trope. Usually, the show is better than this. More kill-shaking the octopus, less tragic backstories, writers.

And on that somewhat disappointing note, we’ve come to the end. Again, it’s a transitional episode, but a strong one. I’m a little concerned about finding Goliath, since how can he possibly be as awesome an alien as Alan Tudyk? But they’ve covered themselves a bit by warning us that Goliath has been on earth for a decade, and so is probably more human (much to Harry’s distress.) In any case, four episodes to go!

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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.