Resident Alien : Season 2, Episodes 1–10
Might contain spoilers.
This season starts out well, apparently having learned to better balance slapstick, stories about the indomitable human spirit, and the central conflict of Harry being a genocidal alien. I’m sorry to say it reverts to its prior form after only a few episodes, leading me to abandon it not too far from the end. There are too many scattered subplots with dissonant—not just differing—tones, all reaching for but failing to find profundity, insight, and empathy. I was often left wondering where it was headed.
The show is also overly reliant on soap opera melodrama or low-brow humour and keeps its engrossing characters and capable cast from interacting naturally. The collisions at the only big bar in town in Girls’ Night offer a glimpse at how entertaining that could be.
Liv, Mike, and Ben are my favourite characters, in that order. Most of all, it really is Liv who moves me more with every new revelation. Her relationship with Sheriff Mike is a highlight, like when they go to meet the real estate agent and she swaps roles with him. Her expression when he tells her he has a clear memory of the day she’s unsure about—thanks to Harry’s abilities—and she quietly leaves, questioning her own sanity, after having gathered her courage to ask him about in the first place, is simply heartbreaking. Seeing ‘The Ghost of Bobby Smallwood’ turn her into a caricature is frustrating.
That said, I wasn’t as impressed by Liv and Mike’s serious conversation on the park bench; I still can’t decide whether Corey Reynolds was extremely good or extremely ridiculous in that scene. He’s otherwise a reliable performer even when the writing is bad, like Mike’s date with the unnecessarily nosy woman whom he deliberately scares off. It’s a nice moment, early in the season, when his father pushes him off his stool to make him dance with Judy.
I adore D’Arcy too: no one is proof against that amazing grin and that infectious laugh. The way Alice Wetterlund says her lines is beautiful. I admit I liked her a little better before the forced attempt at engendering sympathy by saddling her with disappointed parents. She still deserves every bit of happiness she can get, though. Meanwhile, who could possibly not like Nurse Ellen, (non-)keeper of secrets and de facto winner of the chili-eating contest? And I like Kate well enough too.
Asta gets the short end of the stick, imprisoned in the role of Harry’s caretaker and love interest. The theory that her excessive warmth in the finale last time was hiding a newfound dislike for Harry appears to have been incorrect. Her fight with D’Arcy is stupidly quick and unearned; their day out together is over practically before it begins. She almost inhabits a separate story where her father keeps popping up at just the right moment, and she must endure shock and anguish at having killed the person who had Sam killed and who shot Harry, until Harry erases the very memory of it.
Any scene is made better by including Sahar but not the uninteresting Max (notwithstanding a few
funny moments like her asking him,
Is your brain in your butt?, or Harry being foxed by
I know you are but what am I?). Max getting an accidental dose of testosterone and hitting
on Sahar is unpleasant no matter how restrained it might be. The character is much better as the
empty-headed idiot who likes Ben’s amusingly bad play about the 59 enough to make him want to stage
Alan Tudyk always made it a point before to differentiate the Harry-that-was and the Harry-that-is, but I’m starting to feel like he’s struggling to maintain that separation. When the real Harry is speaking on the phone in ‘Alien in New York’, for instance, there’s a particular line that sounds like the alien Harry speaking. He’s at his best as a big alien baby rather than a human. I must say, Alex Borstein does a good impression of him in ‘Girls’ Night’.
The ‘girl power’ sequence in that episode is reasonable since it was written and directed by women,
but it falls victim to the same lack of meaning as the rest of the show. Having Asta explicitly tell
shut up and say yes ma’am so he can do exactly that a few minutes later with Sahar
would have had more of an impact if it hadn’t been a single isolated instance with no relevance
beyond those two scenes. I am always happy to see anyone stand up for Liv, though.
Harry and Dan chatting over a meal at the diner might be one of my favourite scenes, thanks to the great Gary Farmer. Harry paying him for the food he cooked for everyone in ‘Alien Dinner Party’ made me giggle.
The show’s New York doesn’t appeal to me and Goliath is an escapee from a full-blown soap opera. Logan’s story develops at a slow pace until Lisa suddenly reappears only to be (brutally) removed from the show, with Logan himself being summarily ejected not long after. It’s unclear why Dr. Ethan doesn’t just prove to General Wright—Linda Hamilton of that voice, mostly wasted—that he’s not an alien by having her make a small incision somewhere safe instead of waiting for her to stick a fork in his hand. That said, D’Arcy looking for Ethan as David hides around the corner with a gun makes for a properly tense scene.
I deeply dislike the alien baby. It has no redeeming qualities. In contrast, #42 the octopus is
Run, you elegant bastard, run!) but Harry having to eat him after he dies is
disgusting. I also can’t look at Nathan Fillion—so to speak—the same way any more, having learned
what an egotist he is; I still can’t believe he worked to have Stana Katic fired from Castle
because Beckett was more popular. I know Alan Tudyk has said some things he oughtn’t have too, but
at least he took responsibility, to some extent. Why do both of these talented and lovable men have
to be such asses?
One of the least appealing traits of the show is how we’re meant to be on Harry’s side because, in general, the things he wants also lead to good things happening for other people. Liza is a prime example: the real Harry might have been a bad father, but the alien who killed him is meant to appear sympathetic because he’s not as bad. It’s a lazy approach. The same goes for Harry uncharacteristically putting a good memory of Mike fishing with his father in his head. It doesn’t help that the alien abilities are too often a magical solution unless the plot requires them not to function.
This series has a terrible soundtrack. I’m constantly taken aback by the poor choice of songs and the unthinking way in which they’re used.