The surprisingly sex positive "Resident Alien"

There’s no crying in baseball and no shaming in “Resident Alien," which takes a refreshingly candid view of sex

By Alison Stine

Staff Writer

Published September 29, 2022 6:30PM (EDT)

Alan Tudyk as Harry Vanderspeigle in "Resident Alien" (SYFY)
Alan Tudyk as Harry Vanderspeigle in "Resident Alien" (SYFY)

This article contains spoilers for Season 2 of the Syfy show “Resident Alien”

Syfy is known for many things. The cable channel that could boasts tales of science fiction, fantasy, horror and . . . sex positivity?

Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle will see you now. Specifically, the alien whose real name is unpronounceable by humans (and sometimes, for actor Alan Tudyk) who's been wearing the person-skin of the Colorado doctor known as Harry, will see you.

In its second season, "Resident Alien," the Syfy show based on the comic book series by Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse, has morphed from a quirky comedy to a downright emotional, heartwarming and still quirky ensemble piece with a townful of unique characters. Some of those characters have sex. A lot of sex. And the show? It doesn't judge them. Instead, it presents some of the healthiest sex lives seen on TV.

In "Resident Alien," extraterrestrial Harry has been sent to Earth to destroy it. Along with crash-landing his spaceship in colorful Colorado, his mission is thwarted when he meets Asta (Sara Tomko), an empathetic nurse to his doctor. Asta befriends Harry, as does her father (the wonderful Gary Farmer) and many other townspeople, and Harry, assisted by pizza, realizes humanity might be worth saving. But Harry's isn't the only alien species hellbent on taking over and/or annihilating Earth (we had it coming), and complications in Season 2 include the imminent arrival of other aliens who might not be so nice. Also he has to deal with fatherhood. Again with the otherworldly fatherhood.

Although surprised by the role, Harry takes parenthood seriously. But not so seriously that he forgets his actualization, which includes being a sexual creature. Harry is attracted to other aliens, specifically "blue aliens, which are very beautiful, if you are attracted to bird faces — which of course I am." He grows nostalgic, waxing poetic to Asta about "hot, sexy worm breath. And wind blowing through the feathers in their hair." Asta leaves the room.

Asta doesn't judge Harry for his avian attraction. Or his crush on E.T., whom he calls "a beautiful moron."

She's used to Harry and his idiosyncrasies, and is very good at ignoring what she needs to ignore. But one of the strengths of "Resident Alien" is that it doesn't forget. Harry's attraction to blue aliens isn't a one-time gag; it's a multi-episode quirk, and it's not a gag at all but part of his development as a character. Harry likes pizza and birds. To each their own. Asta walks away but she doesn't judge Harry for his avian attraction. Or his crush on E.T., whom he calls "a beautiful moron." There's no crying in baseball and no shaming in "Resident Alien."

Resident AlienAlice Wetterlund as D'Arcy Bloom and Meredith Garretson as Kate Hawthorne in "Resident Alien" (SYFY)The story also takes a non-judgmental hand with D'Arcy (Alice Wetterlund, in a typically unforgettable performance). D'Arcy has bonded with several women over their shared romantic issues . . . with the same guys. But D'Arcy is not the jealous type. She's the rock solid, ride or die type. You can depend on D'Arcy. The only person she consistently lets down is herself. Her Olympic skiing dreams ended due to injury. She bartends, her hair in often-changing, lollipop-bright shades. She drinks and flirts with drugs in one of the few subplots that doesn't seem quite developed. But if this is the most irresponsible person in town, what a town.

D'Arcy also works in search and rescue, literally saving people (and also hides a body for her friend, when needed). Romantically, when Harry rejects her, she's disappointed but moves on. When she meets someone who might be different, Elliott (likeable Justin Rain), she's the one attempting to quietly sneak out after they first sleep together. But in a surprisingly poignant moment, D'Arcy changes her mind. She turns, slips back in bed under Elliot's arm and stays. The show allows her to change, in an unfinished portrait of D'Arcy, to be growing and healing, including in her interpersonal relationships and sex. 

Resident AlienTerry O'Quinn as Peter Bach, Jenna Lamia as Judy Cooper and Alan Tudyk as Harry Vanderspeigle in "Resident Alien" (SYFY)D'Arcy isn't a fixed thing but another minor character, Judy (the priceless Jenna Lamia), resists type too. Judy works at the bowling alley, manages the Copper Ridge Motel and is a tour guide (to get by in a town like this, as in many parts of America, you must have one than one job). The "Gilmore Girls" Kirk of Patience, Colorado, Judy is easily distracted, straightforward and loves sex. 

Characters love, they fight, they laugh, they communicate in crop circles. And they have sex.

Her sexual openness is part of the warmth of the character. Judy is up for anything, be it playing video games and drinking soda with her friend's dad, eating deviled eggs that have not been refrigerated, or reenacting a murder scene before skeptical cops. Judy goes all the way all the time; in her enthusiastic reenactment, she gets naked in a hot tub where a corpse has just been. Whoa, Judy. 

But in the words of her actor, "Judy DGAF." She nurses crushes on Harry and the Sheriff (Corey Reynolds) and she's not shy about telling anyone while also not being aggressive about it, just being. "She's just like unapologetically sexual," Lamia says. "She's just like, let's go!" while Tudyk says plainly, "Every scene is better with Judy." Essentially, Judy's sexuality isn't played for laughs, though Lamia is hilarious and deadpan. Judy's simply sexual, like she wears her blond hair with scrunchies and butterfly clips. No one calls her names or calls her out for it — but if they're going out or need a friend? They call her.

Resident AlienLevi Fiehler as Mayor Ben Hawthorne and Meredith Garretson as Kate Hawthorne in "Resident Alien" (James Dittger/SYFY)And sexuality changes. It's fluid. This is most evident in the characters of Ben Hawthorne, an earnest Levi Fiehler as the young mayor of town, and his wife Kate (compelling Meredith Garretson from "The Offer"), who works as a teacher. Kate was a lawyer but gave up her ambitious career dreams to support her husband and to live and have a son in the small town of Patience. Ben and Kate's marriage is complicated and has its stumbles. The accommodating Ben defers to Kate often, then feels like she's dominating their relationship. Everything changes when Ben and Kate work together to fight off a home intruder who threatens their young son. Covered in bruises and blood and charged with adrenaline, they get . . . turned on? 

Resident AlienLevi Fiehler as Mayor Ben Hawthorne and Meredith Garretson as Kate Hawthorne in "Resident Alien" (James Dittiger/SYFY)Thus begins a new chapter in Ben and Kate's sex life: the adventurous one. From costumes to roleplay to water sports, the show doesn't hold back in its frank discussions of kink. After a night with the girls, some of Kate's friends discover just how daring the married couple is in the bedroom, perhaps marking the first time an ice dildo has made an appearance on basic cable. Though there's laughter and teasing, there's no condemnation. When Kate has a pregnancy scare, D'Arcy is right there for her. 

Kate and Ben's marriage isn't perfect, but being honest sexually with each other about their deepest desires has allowed them to come closer together. And the show presents it as "normal" because it is, worthy of occasional jokes and knowing glances but not fear-mongering or moral superiority. Sexuality is a part of a three-dimensional character, but it's an aspect that is often missing in fictional development. Not here. Characters love, they fight, they laugh, they communicate in crop circles. And they have sex.

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There are all types of bodies in "Resident Alien." Some of them are alien. No body is wrong, and sexuality? That's just a normal part of human — and extraterrestrial — life in all its variations and complexities. No judgement.

By Alison Stine

Alison Stine is a former staff writer at Salon. She is the author of the novels "Trashlands" and "Road Out of Winter," winner of the 2021 Philip K. Dick Award. A recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), she has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, and others.

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