Based on a Dark Horse comic from Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse, SyFy’s latest stab at a comedy drama revolves around the antics of an alien who has crash landed in Patience Colorado, a very small and very cold town in the middle of nowhere. After murdering one of the locals he’s taken on that man’s form, and is now doing his best to find the at first mysterious device that he lost when crashing his ship.
Then the town doctor is murdered and he’s asked to do the autopsy, as the man he killed was also in the profession and no one else is capable. What follows is your classic fish out of water kind of comedy with Harry Vanderspeigle (Tudyk) not understanding the ways of the world and often saying things which upset or bemuse as he’s a straight talking son of a gun. During this Harry and the audience are introduced to the core cast of the show, including nurse / potential love interest Asta Twelvetrees (Sara Tomko), the young and vaguely naïve town mayor Ben Hawthorne (Levi Fiehler), and Sheriff Mike Thompson (Corey Reynolds), who likes to go by the name of Big Black and thinks that Harry is “One creepy son of a bitch”. He’s not wrong either, and to complicate matters further one in a million people can see Harry in his true alien form, and unfortunately for Harry that comes in the form of the Mayor’s young son.
Why he can see Harry as an alien when we witnessed him physically change form, werewolf style, in to the man he killed doesn’t make much sense, but it’s one of those occasions where you just have to go with it and presume the science makes sense in this fictional universe at least. Of a greater concern is that Harry travelled here to destroy everyone on Earth, and once he finds the device that allows him to do so Earth is doomed, or so we’re led to believe at the end of the episode.
Tudyk delivers an often sardonic voiceover at certain points, either to fill us in on the plot or allow us to know what Harry is thinking, and it’s a device which only sometimes works, and at other points comes across as a little patronising. Right at the beginning of the series he explains “No one in their right mind would live in a place like this, unless they have something to hide”, though that doesn’t make much sense as he’s not really in hiding and is just here to murder us all, and there’s a couple of other examples which felt like lazy writing. At least sometimes it’s handled amusingly, the best being where Harry samples alcohol for the first time and Tudyk’s drunk alien dancing is bizarrely endearing.
Harry’s obsession with Law and Order also lead to a good few laughs, as he watched the show to help him learn English, and his very blunt and very honest responses to those he meets in the first episode are often funny too as he fails to understand sarcasm and takes everything said to him at face value. Tudyk’s superb in the role, making a potential mass murderer very likeable, but the show relies on him a little too much for the humour found in the show and while the Sheriff and the mayor have a couple of comic moments it would have been better if they’d been given a few more.
The dramatic side of the show is also of slight concern, its heavy handed portrayal of domestic violence could and should have been a little more nuanced, and it needs better writing if it plans to deal with subjects along these lines in the future. I’ve also concerns that the show might be a little predictable as well, already Harry is growing fond of humanity, commenting in an annoyingly obvious manner at the end that he previously thought humanity’s need for a connection was our greatest weakness, but now he believes it might just be our greatest strength, and it’s cringeworthy moralising at its worst. Perhaps it won’t go in the obvious direction that this pilot set up, there is the odd moment which wasn’t too predictable, yet I wouldn’t be shocked if Harry suddenly changes his mind about killing us all and it’s also hinted in a rather obvious manner that the body of the man Harry is impersonating will rear its ugly, bloated head, and it’s a shame the show often lacks subtlety.
At least it contains an incredibly strong lead performance, and thanks to Tudyk his oddball behaviour makes this a show which I want to like more than I currently do. Due to this it’s something I’ll definitely watch at least a few more episodes of, hoping that it will throw in a fair few curveballs along the way and that it’s lulling me in to a false sense of security, if it’s a show that avoids the obvious plotlines and doesn’t settle in to being a quirky procedural then it could develop in to a really great show.