Resident Alien doesn’t often get enough credit for the thoughtful ways it tells stories about adoptive families, but its nuanced understanding of the many emotions surrounding the process is very well done. From its even-handed depiction of the reasons that someone might choose to give up a child in the first place to its understanding that love isn’t bound by blood, the show imparts a depth and tenderness to these relationships that isn’t often seen in the genre space. Asta’s bond with her adopted father Dan is particularly rich and layered, and their scenes together are some of the best on the show.
Asta has spent most of her life dealing with the fallout from her decision to place her daughter up for adoption when she was sixteen. Although she and Jay are now taking tentative steps toward a genuine mother-daughter relationship now that the young girl knows their true connection, there is never a moment where Asta doesn’t wonder what her life—and their bond—might be like had she made a different choice. The show has always confronted Asta’s feelings about Jay’s true identity honestly and with care, recognizing that it’s possible for her decision to be absolutely the right choice for the girl she was at the time and something that her adult self still regrets today.
A child of adoption herself, Asta has questions about her own birth mother and dreams that their situations must have been similar: her mother was scared, out of options, and forced to give up her daughter in the name of giving her a better life. That on some level, Asta was a wanted child. Her discovery of her birth mother in “Harry, A Parent” is…anticlimactic at best and downright horrifying at worst. Granted, the show is clear that Mary Ellen made the best choice she could for herself—she didn’t particularly want children, she didn’t consider herself particularly maternal, and didn’t think she would have been a very good mother. And the thing is: those feelings are absolutely fine and fair and something that she shouldn’t be shamed for, no matter how much of a terrible person she might be otherwise.
It’s incredibly difficult to watch Asta’s dreams of who her mother was and what kind of relationship they might have had literally shrivel and die in front of us onscreen, but it’s equally important that Resident Alien doesn’t judge Mary Ellen for her choice to give Asta up. Yes, she’s rude and cruel and doesn’t even seem to have what my grandmother would have called basic company manners, but in the end, she did do one thing that was right: What was best for her daughter. And while she may be a garbage person otherwise, that has to count for something.
So much of Resident Alien is about the power of found family, and the importance of the relationships we forge with the people who love us whether they’re related to us or not. Maybe Harry can’t figure out how to be a dad just yet, but he’s learning how to be a real and supportive friend to Asta. (His attempt to call her birth mother as many different kinds of excrement as possible is juvenile but so well-meaning.)