The following contains spoilers for Resident Alien.
Most of the time, Resident Alien is a science fiction show that doesn’t lean all that hard into the sci-fi angle of its story. Sure, its main character is secretly an alien and the premise of the series involves him hiding that fact from those around him, but, for the most part, the stories the series choose to tell are distinctly human ones, about friendship, grief, love, and regret.
And, at first at least, season 2’s “The Alien Within” seems as though it will be no different, an hour that wrestles with everything from the effects of corporatization on small-town America and the need for environmental justice to the failures of a police department that wrongly accused a widow of her husband’s murder. But the episode ultimately pulls the rug out from us entirely, completely changing our understanding of season 2’s arc, and Harry’s larger journey.
The final moments of “The Alien Within” contain a one-two punch of shocking revelations: Not only has Harry come to care about Earth so much that he apparently spent hundreds of years trying to find a way to save it from the smoking ruin it is seemingly destined to become in just sixty short years, but he has attempted to do so by (somehow) traveling back to the past, becoming the being known as Goliath, and working to change his own future by sending his past self warnings. Given that Resident Alien has been a fairly low-key sort of science fiction series to date, watching it make a sudden hard turn into post-apocalyptic time travel is kind of a lot to process. Though it does, in its way, make a strange kind of sense.
True, the revelation that a future version of Harry is Goliath is a big deal, as is the fact that he actually did father the alien hybrid child he’s been so desperately trying to find and did have a functional romance with a human woman he seemed to have genuinely cared for. (At least, if Violinda’s own commentary about her relationship with him is to be believed.) But, truly—time travel and portals and ominous alien messages hidden in paintings aside—isn’t this sort of always what Harry’s been heading toward?
fter all, one of the biggest conflicts at the heart of Resident Alien is the question of Harry’s humanity. Though the disguised alien frequently (and several times in this very episode) insists that humans and their messy emotional ways disgust him and declares that he’s still as other-–and otherworldly—as he’s ever been, his behavior up until this point doesn’t exactly bear that claim out. Sure, the show is clear that Harry’s growing understanding of human emotions like love, anger, and fear is often occurring despite his best efforts or even, in some cases, his own awareness of them, but it seems impossible to argue anymore that he is somehow unaffected by those around him. He cares about Asta, but more than that, he cares about the other people of Patience, above and apart from the ways they impact his supposed “mission” even if he can’t entirely figure out why.
In this episode, we see Harry (repeatedly!) experience sincere sympathy for and demonstrate care toward others, even those he would argue he doesn’t like. He tries—and fails miserably—to return to living life in his alien form. He seems genuinely hurt when the alien baby doesn’t immediately choose to respond to his alien call over Sahar’s human one. Heck, he even likes Halloween!
“Look at what happened to Goliath,” Asta tells Harry before they’ve figured out that Harry is Goliath. “He was an alien and look how human he became.” And though Harry insists that he will be an alien for as long as he is on Earth, because that’s who he is on the inside, this entire episode—heck, most of this series—is essentially about how very wrong that assumption is.
Because, in many ways, that’s what “The Alien Within” is all about—what we’re all looking for, whether we’re humans or aliens or townies or transplants—is somewhere to belong. D’Arcy doesn’t know who she is if she can’t ski, which is why the thought of another injury is so terrifying to her. Sheriff Mike questions whether he can ever be happy in a place like Patience when he still sometimes longs for the bustle of Washington, D.C.. Ben is desperate to leave his mark on the town beyond the fact of his last name and earn the respect of those that live there. Kate, possibly for the first time, finally feels at home in Patience (thanks to the supportive girl gang of female friends she’s found there). And Harry has genuinely made a place for himself amongst the group of misfits and outcasts of this town, simply by being himself. (Well, as much himself as he can be while wearing a human suit, but you know, details.)
Stories that involve time travel almost always come complete with a series of dire warnings about the possibility of multiple versions of the same person interacting, predicting that time paradoxes or other similar potentially apocalyptic events will occur in their wake. Since Harry and Goliath technically never met, Resident Alien has neatly dodged the need for that particularly sci-fi trope, and the question we’re left with is (unsurprisingly) a largely emotional one. Because Harry, at this point in his journey, is still incredibly resistant to the idea that he might be experiencing human emotions and real connections, now knows for sure that he cares enough about Earth and its people to risk himself and whatever future he has or will make in order to save them.
That he will—technically he already has-–father a child with one of them. That the alien baby the government kidnapped is actually his child. How will this foreknowledge affect him? Can better understanding the full extent of his embrace of humanity now help him to make better choices in the future? Or just different ones on the way to the same place?