Television: Resident Alien Ep. 1 (2021) - Reviewed


Alan Tudyk has long been a favorite actor of mine. Like many of my peers, I came to know him as Wash on the TV series Firefly and its sequel film Serenity. My first exposure to just what a chameleon he could be, however, was in an underrated Sandra Bullock movie, 28 Days, wherein he plays an addict who brings some much-needed humor to an otherwise serious movie. Over the years, he’s played comedic characters as well as delightfully sinister villains, and his new show, Resident Alien, happily allows him to blend the funny with the menace quite nicely. 

Tudyk plays an alien, Captain Hah Re, who crash-lands in a small, isolated Colorado town during a snowstorm. After meeting and supposedly killing Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle, Hah Re assumes Harry’s identity and spends four months isolated in Harry’s cabin, searching for an object that fell off his ship during the storm, which he tells us in voiceover is critical to his mission on Earth. When the local doctor dies under mysterious circumstances, Harry is asked to autopsy the body by Sheriff Mike Thompson (“Big Black,” as he prefers to be called), much to Harry’s chagrin. 

It’s a lot of fun to see Tudyk playing a role he clearly relishes, though, from the one episode I’ve seen, he may be bringing a darker tone than the series itself, which presents itself as light and silly. So far, Harry doesn’t seem to like or understand humans, apart from Sara (Asta Twelvetrees), who befriends him (somewhat forcefully in terms of scripting a genuine friendship) after they autopsy the body together. Along the way he plots to murder a child who can, for some reason, see his true form, and he delights in squeezing the brains of the dead body he’s autopsying. It’s somewhat funny, but at times feels like a conflict of tones.

None of this is a good or bad thing, yet. It’s a good opener, as pilots go, and I’m very curious to see what direction the show takes. I would imagine that he’ll become more human as the series progresses, but the way the Tudyk plays him, I’d be excited if the writers subvert expectations and lean into the show’s more horror-like undertones. 

Harry is particularly obsessed with watching older episodes of Law & Order, so the idea of doing a Law & Order-like investigation thrills him. To that end, creator Chris Sheridan hints at a potential season-long mystery involving someone murdering the town residents, which could prove to be fun if handled correctly. 

Apart from Harry and Asta, the other characters are not quite as fleshed out in the premiere. The sheriff is, I think, meant to be comedic relief – think Adam Baldwin’s Casey in Chuck – but he doesn’t quite stick the landing. The town’s very young mayor, Ben Hawthorne (Levi Fiehler) appears to be out of his element as well, but he’s barely on screen. I imagined they’ll get their due in the coming weeks, but so far there isn’t much there.

Make no mistake: This is Tudyk’s show and serves as a vehicle for him to shine. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I hope that the series can raise itself to Tudyk’s prestige as it progresses. 

--Matt Giles