So I’ve decided to write more TV and Film reviews. Partially because people seem to like to read them, but mostly because they’re easy and good practice and practice is a really good procrastination tool because it’s potentially a positive and I can pretend I’m not in fact procrastinating at all. Win/win.
So the next review is Resident Alien. I like my TV off beat and quirky, or fanciful and far-fetched. I live in reality, why in the name of heaven would I want to watch it on TV as well? Resident Alien offers me all of those things plus a good sense of humour to boot. It stars Alan Tudyk as an alien (obviously) who finds himself acting as the local medic, Harry Vanderspeel, of a small Canadian town while he searches for the doomsday device that he has lost somewhere out in the snow and the body of the man he is now pretending to be before anyone finds it. Supporting him (though often unknowingly) is the town nurse, Asta Twelvetrees played by Sara Tomko, who’s remarkably tolerant of his strangeness. To make matters worse the mayor’s son, can see the the real him.
I’ve been a big fan of Alan Tudyk ever since Firefly and A Knights Tale. The death of Wash in Serenity features in my top ten list of most traumatic movie moments. As a true character actor, he thrives when handed a part to play that allows him to spread his over the top wings. No part could be better designed for him than this one. It’s like he was born to it. It would be easy for him to take over and steal every scene but, like many Canada based TV shows, the strength of this series in not in the one, but the many. The town is populated with a cast of off beat, mildly comic characters, all of whom, because they live in a small town, have a long and complex history together. Their relationship are playing out in rivalries and tenderness, the kind of connection that builds the communities of our imaginations but which I’ve never seen in real life. This kind of simplicity and complexity of human interrelation is a necessary backdrop as our alien friend, who starts out wanting to destroy us, slowly learns about the best of humanity.
Sara Tomko is outstanding for her sheer charm. Asta, her best friend D’Arcy Bloom played by Alice Wetterlund and their wider group of girl friends, are the human eyes through which we come to know Harry. You can imagine having grown up with these girls, sharing secrets and swapping boyfriends. I swear Asta has the hips of my husbands fantasies (he always was a hip man until he met me, apparently I converted him to the boob) I’m sure if he ever leaves me it will be for a girl like Asta and that’s the sense of familiarity that they are able to create. These ladies are able to draw you into their friendship until you almost feel like it’s yours.
It doesn’t stop there though. Corey Reynolds is masterful as Sheriff Mike Thompson, the cocky police chief, ably supported (some might say carried) by his deputy Liv Baker, played by Elizabeth Bowen. Their duet of The Wind Beneath my Wings before he went down on one knee to ask her to take her badge back, after she quit, will probably be one of my all time favourite televisual moments. Levi Fiehler, Meredith Garretson and Judah Prehn are also outstanding as Mayor Ben Hawthorne and his family. Their loving but sometimes troubled family life is all too relatable. There is almost too much to talk through, as each character, no matter how small, each brings their own colour and vibrancy to the story and the setting.
What makes Resident Alien special, I think, is that it is less that the story brings life to the characters and more that the characters bring life to the story. The simplest of events are made charming by the care that has been brought to bare in developing each and every one of the cast. In some ways, I’m not sure I care too much what happens next, just that it keeps happening.
Of course, however, there is much that is happening, Lisa Casper (Mandell Maughan) and David Logan (Alex Barima) represent a shady organisation (it’s an ‘s’ in England) that is trying to track Harry down. We say shady but actually it’s Harry that wants to blow us all to Kingdom come and they want to stop him. If you think about it differently they should be good guys but nothing is ever that simple. I’m sure there’s also something dodgy about Dr. Ethan Stone, no one’s that nice. Mini storylines and bigger storylines crisscross throughout the show until again it feels like there’s almost too much to address.
Resident Alien is a triumph of the subtle and the overblown, the complex, the quirky, the lovable and the terrifying. It’s incredibly well written and even better performed. You should definitely watch it, if you haven’t already.