blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Resident Alien (2021) s01e04 – Birds of a Feather

It’s the best episode of the show so far; easily. Both writing—Tazbah Chavez—and directing—Jay Chandrasekhar. Chavez’s script is able to balance out material for the entire cast in a way the show hasn’t juggled before—front-loading the B plot with the C plot and then introducing the A plot a little later, eventually weaving it into the A plot, of course. Along the way, everyone gets something to do, usually something quite good.

It starts with Meredith Garretson and Alice Wetterlund. The episode opens with mayor Levi Fiehler inviting incognito….

Okay, well, it actually opens with the “Cheers” theme over lead Alan Tudyk having his first dream since he’s taken over a human being’s body. It’s a great sequence. It’s just a lot happens this episode and there’s even a big cliffhanger I might not even talk about. Because the stuff Chavez ends up doing with Sara Tomko is so phenomenal.

But back to Fiehler and company. He invites Tudyk to dinner because son Judah Prehn can see through Tudyk’s human form to the genocidal alien beneath and is terrified. Tudyk’s going to bring Wetterlund to keep Fiehler and his wife, Garretson, busy so Tudyk won’t have to talk to them. He’s decided humans are too noisy.

Only it turns out Fiehler and Wetterlund grew up together and dated and Wetterlund gets real drunk and pisses off Garretson. Garretson is super good in this sequence. Wetterlund sells the drunk and drunker too. Maybe the best she’s been, just acting-wise.

Meanwhile, turns out Prehn and his friend Gracelyn Awad Rinke (who gets a name this episode, right away) have got this Goonies-style plan to investigate Tudyk. Awad Rinke gets this fantastic spotlight sequence, including a scene where she runs sheriff Corey Reynolds and deputy Elizabeth Bowen.

Bowen’s going to get some stuff to do this episode and it’s a really good subplot and hopefully she’ll get more to do, but no matter what, it’s still all about Reynolds. He’s incredible. So funny.

And it’s a hard thing to get bigger laughs than Tudyk in “Resident Alien” because Tudyk gets to be outlandishly absurd and turn being outrageous into part of the joke, but Reynolds can’t ever let the tone break. Tudyk also narrates the show, so the whole thing’s structured because he’s funny and to get his laughs. Reynolds doesn’t get any of that support. It’s just him, being able to sell these incredibly goofy, hilarious lines and he always does it.

So good.

The A plot has Tomko going to her grandmother’s house on a medical visit; Grandma (a very funny Edna Manitowabi) lives on the reservation. Gary Farmer drives Tomko; they have to bring Tudyk along because he needs to administer the shot. It’s becomes this exceptionally touching, confined A plot about Tomko’s family drama and how it plays out. Really good work from Tomko, Farmer, and Sarah Podemski as Tomko’s cousin. And Tudyk obviously.

Real good stuff.

Chavez also references Tomko’s back story from the pilot, which the show hadn’t expressly tied to her current character development arc; Chavez takes care of it, making up for its absence even.

“Resident Alien” is real good this episode. The show seems to know what’s working and is leaning heavily into it. And the cliffhanger’s perfect.

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