Resident Alien Showrunner Unpacks the Finale’s Big Reveals

Resident Alien showrunner Chris Sheridan discusses how the finale sets up season 2 and when he’ll know the show is over.

Harry Vanderspiegle (Alan Tudyk) in Resident Alien
Photo: NBCUniversal

The first season of Syfy’s comedy-drama series Resident Alien is like the plot of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial — if, before returning home, E.T. was a surly, not incredibly lovable being, who wanted to kill all humans, and tormented Elliott. So maybe not like E.T. But in tonight’s finale, the alien posing as human Harry Vanderspeigle does finally head back to his world.

However, Harry’s departure from the planet and Patience, Colorado, ends up not being as simple as the Reese’s-loving alien’s. Instead, Harry (Alan Tudyk) ultimately abandons his mission to wipe out humanity in the interest of saving his friend Asta (Sara Tomko). He also attracts even more attention from the extra-government agents led by Linda Hamilton’s General Wright, discovers young Max (Judah Prehn) has stowed away on his ship, and he left all that pizza back on Earth.

Even though alien Harry manages to get rid of the pesky corpse of the real Harry — right before his farewell to Patience pizza montage set to “Our Town” by Iris DeMent — we’re not yet done with that story. In the finale’s pre-credits shocker, it’s revealed in flashback the human Dr. Vanderspeigle is who really killed Dr. Sam, which set the series events in motion. (The scene of Mayor Ben and Kate kicking agent ass to the tune of Dr. Hook’s “Spending the Night Together” is also pretty shocking, but satisfying.)

Season 2 of Resident Alien has been confirmed, but when it returns, our Harry is going to have to deal with the Not Men In Black, the past of the real Harry, the fact that Sheriff Mike and Deputy Liv (Corey Reynolds, and Elizabeth Bowen) are closing in, and the fallout of failing his mission to destroy mankind — which might lead to some ticked-off family back home (not to mention the other aliens of his race on earth, such as the octopus voiced by Nathan Fillion).

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Thankfully, show creator and executive producer Chris Sheridan joined Den of Geek to unpack what the finale means, and how it sets the stage for the next season of Resident Alien.

Den of Geek: Before we get into the finale, last week Harry encountered the Alien Hunter, played by Terry O’Quinn, who is a high caliber guest star. Were you laying the groundwork to do more with him next season?

Chris Sheridan: We would be lucky to have Terry O’Quinn come back. There’s more to be done with that character. There’s a reason we started the episode the way we did [with a flashback to New York City in 1991, when his unborn child is abducted]. What we’d like to do is create a little bit of backstory that sort of lingers there until we find a time that we could go back to it. At this point, what we’ve set up is the only person he knows of that might be able to answer the questions that he has is Harry Vanderspeigle. I’d like a scenario in which he comes back if we can make that happen.

Where are you in the process of plotting the second season?

I’m just starting now. I have a bunch of ideas in my head that naturally popped up while plotting the first season. But I just finished post-production of the first season a couple of weeks ago. So I haven’t had a chance to really dig into it, but I’m going to start very soon trying to figure out what that second season is.

The reveal that the real Harry killed Sam Hodges was a big surprise. Was that plotted from the beginning?

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That was the plan from day one. When I pitched the show, I pitched that concept and Alan was the only actor that knew it before reading the tenth script. At the beginning of the pilot, when Harry’s in the living room, and the door opens up with what we find out now was the alien coming in, he grabs the poker and he says, “Who’s in here?” I told him the real story: The real Harry Vanderspeigle just killed Sam Hodges, and thinks the person or something that came in the house is related to that. Is it the people who got him to do it, or were involved in that somehow, and he thinks they’re there to sort of take you out now as well?

Does this all connect to why the real Harry left New York City?

It’s all tied into what Harry was involved in. The way I structured the first two seasons in a general sense was the first season would be about who killed Sam Hodges, and the search for that, and then the second season would be about why. I want to explore, in the second season, the town story. Why did he do it? What was going on in the town? What was going on behind the scenes that we didn’t see, that we didn’t know about.

You also set up a larger world here with Linda Hamilton, and these not-quite Men In Black. Are you expanding the scope of the show for the second season?

I would say no. These shows are sort of living organic creatures, and you have to feed them in the way they want to be fed. If things aren’t working, you pivot and go towards something that works. The balance of the show is working pretty well right now, so I don’t want to put aside the balance, and go away from the town stories to go more into the government. The balance is working pretty well, so I’m going to try to keep the balance the way it is.

Which is not to say that the government story is over.

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I always saw the show as trying to thread two storylines through the whole thing. One is the town’s storyline which is. If the alien never arrived, this town story would play out and would be interesting to watch. And then I have the alien story, which is Harry’s journey. What I always want to have in the show is the alien story playing at the same time that the town’s story is playing, and how those two intermingle, and Harry’s journey towards learning what it’s like to be human. I definitely want to move forward with the government story. And I would love to have Linda Hamilton back. She is amazing, but I think the balance right now is working pretty well.

We know Nathan Fillion’s Octopus alien is on earth. And the folks back home on Harry’s planet are probably going to find out he failed in his mission. Harry spoke a couple times about karma in this episode, so might more of his people, or even other aliens, enter the scene?

Your instincts are very good. It’s a natural way to go, isn’t it? Whether it’s season 2 or not, I can’t tell you mainly because I don’t know yet. If it’s going to be in the show, there’s a perfect time for that to happen. I can’t honestly tell you I know it’s the perfect time for that as yet … But look, I’m with you. In writing the show, and running it, and I’m part of it as a fan as well, I want the coolest thing to happen. And that is a move that would make sense, you’d think.

Can you tease how the dynamics between characters might change as more people learn about Harry, and the story evolves?

There’s a new relationship that’s going to happen between Dan and Harry because now Dan knows who he is. So there’s someone else that Harry can talk to. The advantage of having a couple more people know is I can get away from the voiceover a little bit, and go into more conversations that Harry has with people about humanity.

Which means Harry, despite his choice not to kill all humans, has not fully embraced his humanity?

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When Harry feels completely human and understands what it’s like to be human, I think the show’s over. What’s fun about the show is Harry being uncomfortable with [humanity], Harry not knowing what it’s like to be human, Harry acting like a 10 year-old, and being confused about it, and Harry still having contempt for humans. One thing I have to be careful about is making sure that Harry’s journey towards full self-reflection and awareness of his own humanity doesn’t go too fast. He’s one foot in, one foot out. He’s not a 100 percent sure he’s not going to kill everybody. Where we left it at the end of Episode 10 is, he still wants to kill everyone. He just knows he can’t because then he’d have to kill Asta too. She’s the one person he doesn’t want to kill.