Resident alien often doesn’t get the credit it deserves for the thoughtful way it tells stories about foster families, but its subtle understanding of the many emotions involved in the process is very well done. From the objective portrayal of the reasons why someone might decide to give up a child to the realization that love isn’t bound by blood, the show gives these relationships a depth and tenderness not often seen in the genre space. Asta’s bond with her adoptive father, Dan, is particularly rich and layered, and their scenes together are some of the series’ best.
Asta has spent most of her life dealing with the consequences of her decision to give her daughter up for adoption when she was sixteen. Although she and Jay are now taking tentative steps toward a true mother-daughter relationship now that the younger girl knows their true bond, there’s never a moment when Asta doesn’t wonder what her life—and their bond—would have been like. if she had made a different choice. The show has always been honest and thoughtful about Asta’s feelings about Jay’s true identity, acknowledging that her decision may have been absolutely the right choice for the girl she was at the time, and something her adult self still regrets today.
Adopted herself, Asta has questions about her birth mother and dreams that their situations were similar: her mother was scared, powerless, and forced to give up her daughter in the name of a better life. In a way, Asta was a wanted child. Her discovery of her birth mother in Harry the Father is … anticlimactic at best and horrifying at worst. Of course, it’s clear from the show that Mary Ellen made the best choice for herself—she didn’t particularly want children, didn’t think she was much of a mother, and didn’t think she’d be a very good mother. And the thing is, those feelings are perfectly fine and fair, and something she shouldn’t be ashamed of, no matter how horrible a person she might otherwise be.
It’s incredibly difficult to watch Asta’s dreams of who her mother was and what their relationship might have been literally shrivel up and die before our eyes on screen, but just as importantly, Resident alien does not judge Mary Ellen for her choice to abandon Asta. Yes, she’s rude and cruel and doesn’t seem to have even what my grandmother would call basic company manners, but at the end of the day, she did the right thing: what was best for her daughter. And while she might otherwise be a trash person, that has to mean something.
So many Resident alien about the power of the established family and the importance of the relationships we form with the people who love us, whether they are related to us or not. Harry may not be able to figure out how to be a dad yet, but he is learning to be a true friend and supporter to Asta. (His attempt to name her birth mother as many different kinds of excrement as possible is juvenile, but very well-intentioned.)