Resident Alien was one of the treats of last year. Based on the comic book by Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse, it remixed the original premise of a stranded alien masquerading as a country doctor into the tale of a strange visitor on a mission to end the world who just happens to make a friend via being mistaken for the doctor whose body he stole. But what happens when the alien reconsiders his mission? Does the alien – known as Harry Vanderspeigle in his human guise – embrace a newfound humanity? Also, what of the citizens of Patience, Colorado — themselves as colorful and eccentric as the extraterrestrial in their midst?
Season 2 of the Syfy series returns this week with a season full of guest stars like Alex Borstein and Nathan Fillion, and more of the humor, heart, and wrong-headed Harry narration viewers expect from the series. Rotten Tomatoes caught up with stars Alan Tudyk, Sara Tomko, Corey Reynolds, Alice Wetterlund, and showrunner Chris Sheridan to get some of the skinny on Harry’s second year on Earth and his place among the human community.
(Photo by SYFY)
“I really wanted to go into depth with these characters and get to know them more,” Sheridan said of his plans for the second season. “Harry’s journey on the planet as an alien is to sort of gain his humanity. And he’s learning it from these people, these real humans around him.”
The humans, and their relationships, are some of the biggest strengths of the show and one of the key divergences from the source. One such difference is the relationship between Harry (Tudyk) and the town sheriff. In the books, Sheriff Mike comes to rely on Harry’s keen observational skills and love of detective novels to help him solve local mysteries, but on television, Harry and Sheriff Mike Thompson (Reynolds) are far less copacetic. Although, Reynolds foresees a time when their commonalities may forge greater cooperation.
“I think there is more common ground to be found,” he said. “But I also think that the sheriff still thinks he’s a very strange individual as I’m sure Harry thinks of the sheriff in the same way.”
(Photo by James Dittiger/SYFY)
Tudyk added: “I can see Sheriff Mike and Harry Vanderspeigle in old age being like those two Muppets who sit in the balcony and just comment on everybody else. They [both] have a lot of judgment and a way of looking at the world that they could end up like that, just on a porch together talking about the world going by.”
Of course, it still may take some time to get to that relationship with Mike still investigating the death of the previous town doctor alongside Deputy Liv Baker (Elizabeth Bowen), a partnership that reached a place of mutual respect across the first season.
“He has accepted that what she brings to the table is helpful and useful, and, I think, necessary. He needs her and that’s an acknowledgement he was very reluctant to make,” Tudyk said of the police duo.
Despite that acceptance, though, Mike hasn’t really changed, Reynolds was quick to add.
“I think how he sees her has changed,” he said, but some greater soul-searching about his posturing will take up at least some of the second season. “Some of the most dramatic work I’ve done on a series has been in a comedy with this upcoming season. We get into his backstory and it gets pretty deep.”
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Some of that introspection comes via that evolving rapport with Liv.
“She’s the only person who could say certain things or question him in certain ways, [and] it would solicit a response from him that would be introspective of self,” Reynolds said. He likened the situation between the characters to the one between Harry and Asta (Tomko). “Asta’s opinion matters to Harry. Anyone else could say something to Harry, and it wouldn’t cut it as deep as a perceived criticism from Asta. I think Mike and Deputy Liv have a similar dynamic.”
Of course, Tudyk put the Harry-and-Asta dynamic back in perspective: “When it’s her opinion that he shouldn’t kill all of humanity, he wants to respect that opinion and not do it.”
As viewers will quickly learn, Harry’s desire to see the end of the human race isn’t exactly gone in season 2. But it is tempered by his friendship with Asta, a relationship that could read as something more — although both he and Tomko felt it was important to make sure their bond was always presented as what Tudyk called “friend friends.”
“He’s learning about love and to learn about love only in a romantic way is very limited,” the actor explained. Instead, his friendship with Asta throughout the first season illustrated different forms of love that are seemingly alien to Harry. Those interactions, however, particularly with Asta, helped him to make his decision about completing the mission. “He decides not to destroy humanity because he loves Asta. It doesn’t have to be confused with a physical relationship.
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“I think if it became a romantic relationship, it would be, it would definitely change things,” Tudyk added. “It’d be that whole Shape of Water thing again. And that’s just — it’s tricky, all that water.”
Tomko said maintaining the platonic relationship between them is the more interesting choice. In lieu of a “bit of a cliché,” the series depicts “a man and a woman helping each other, being true friends, and trying to maintain this relationship with one another, trying to understand what that relationship means to them” she said. The actor believes the story is a lot more relatable to viewers and it “provides a dynamic that we haven’t seen before. It’s not about sex, it’s about trust.”
Wetterlund, who plays Asta’s childhood friend D’arcy, offered a different interpretation: “We don’t know what romantic relationships look like on Harry’s planet. We have to remember what sci-fi means. We’re talking about exploding our human ideas of relationships and relating.”
“I never considered that,” Tomko replied. “Thank you very much. Now, I’m nervous.”
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Given that Resident Alien is a show about deep friendships, the lifelong bond between Asta and D’arcy proves to be one of the most unique on the show, if not on television as a whole. The tail end of last season saw them drifting apart ever so slightly, as Asta had to keep Harry’s secret and D’Arcy bonded with Jay (Kaylayla Raine), the daughter Asta gave away when she was born. Those tensions — particularly the latter — continue to test the characters friendships in season 2.
“The whole [of] season 1 into season 2 is Asta and D’Arcy making amends, coming back together, figuring it out over and over, and Asta almost telling D’Arcy [about Harry] over and over again, because it’s just so unnatural for her to keep something this big from her, but she has to,” Wetterlund explained. “If D’Arcy ever finds out, we’ll see what the conflict becomes.”
Meanwhile, Asta encourages Harry to make more friends but, as Tomko put it, “she’s seeing new friendships forming between her daughter and her best friend and it’s really, really hard for her to take.”
According to Wetterlund, the origins of that new bond are easy to see: “Jay is a teenager and so is D’Arcy, emotionally speaking.” From that standpoint, she fails to see the harm it could cause Asta.
“She has no clue what it would be like to have a daughter and she doesn’t want to have a clue,” she continued. “She just is like, yeah, we’re friends, whatever. And in a lot of ways, her thoughtlessness leads to this conflict with her best friend.”
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How that conflict plays out is anyone guess. As always, Asta has a full plate with Harry and his latest scheme to ensure their safety. Although, we will tease something unites all the women of Patience early on that could change all the dynamics in town. And as Sheridan explained, building up the town and the bonds between people like Asta and D’Arcy is key to Resident Alien’s creative success.
“Early on, I figured out that I didn’t think the show would work well, unless it could work without Harry,” he explained. “I felt if we could expand all these other characters and create a real talent with real stuff going on that works well on its own and then drop the alien in the middle of it, that’s a much more rewarding experience.”
Harry still serves a sci-fi anchor to both the drama and the comedy, of course, and like in the comic book, he will eventually do so as the town doctor.
“That’s such a big part of the comic, [and] I didn’t want to lose that,” Sheridan said. The early part of season 1 saw him in that role, but as the producer pointed out, it was necessary, “like in the comic, to pull him away for a little bit” to tell certain aspects of the story. But season 2 has a trajectory.
“Our goal is to get him back as the town doctor and plant himself pretty firmly in the town,” Sheridan said.
(Photo by James Dittiger/SYFY)
But when or if Harry returns to the Patience clinic, his emotional journey is far from over.
“I think what’s so much fun about Harry now is that he’s not comfortable where he is,” Sheridan said. “It’s compelling to have someone live in a place they don’t want to live in and want to leave, but are constantly sucked back to that place because of the friendships that they make and the people that they meet.”
Being able to settle into that place and accept his life there is something Sheridan said is an “emotional realization” that will take Harry a lot more time to process, and maybe one day his friends will convince him humanity isn’t so bad.