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Let’s speculate wildly about the Hulu ‘Alien’ series

A Xenomorph in 'Alien: Covenant'.
A Xenomorph in 'Alien: Covenant'. (Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Xenomorph fans rejoiced last week when Disney Investor Day dropped the news that a new Alien television series was coming to FX on Hulu. After the box office disappointment of Alien: Covenant and the purchase of rights-holder 20th Century Fox by the Walt Disney Company, the future of everyone’s favorite phallic-noggin’d extraterrestrial species was left up in the air, at least on the big screen where it didn’t seem like the kind of intellectual property the family-friendly Mouse House would be keen to capitalize upon. Yet in a massive pivot to streaming and serialization, Disney has found a home for the Alien brand with the more adult-oriented and prestigious FX label. What exactly does that mean to have a small-screen Xenomorph? We have a few ideas.

What do we know for sure?

The information we have so far is pretty scarce. During the Investor Day announcement, Disney revealed that the show would be run by Noah Hawley of Fargo and Legion fame, and that advanced negotiations were underway for Ridley Scott, director of the original Alien, Prometheus, and Raised by Wolves, to join as an executive producer. The series is said to take place in the not too distant future on Earth and will combine the horror of the original Alien with the non-stop action of Aliens.

And that’s it. We have a setting, a creative name attached, and a promise that this is going to be a super cool Alien thing like the films we all agree are the good ones. So what exactly does this series look like in practical terms?

Could this be an Alien: Covenant sequel?

The answer to this is probably kinda yes, but also mostly no. The series is said to take place in the not too distant future on Earth, which brings up a lot of questions about how this fits into established Alien continuity. The Earth setting is likely a cost-saving measure for a show that FX doesn’t want to be terribly expensive, but what raises an eyebrow the most is the near-future angle.

Saying as such would imply that the story is virtually contemporary, but that would necessarily require a retcon of the birth of the original Xenomorph, an event that takes place in the year 2104 during Alien: Covenant. (Before you raise a finger to say "But actually," Alien vs. Predator is non-canonical, and their canonicity would directly contradict Covenant, so don't even go there.) Given that Ridley Scott is being courted for creative input, it seems unlikely that his vision for Covenant will be entirely scrapped. So barring the introduction of time travel to the Alien mythos, it seems most likely that the Earthbound show will take place sometime between 2104 and the launch of the original film’s Nostromo in 2120.

However, I’d say it seems unlikely that this will be a direct sequel to Alien: Covenant, at least in the sense that Covenant will be required viewing to know any characters or plot details. Though many fans, myself included, defend the narrative swings that Prometheus and Covenant took, the latter's failure to draw a large theatrical audience has made it unlikely that Disney would want to invest in a canonical conclusion to the android David’s story. David will perhaps be alluded to in an explanation of how a Xenomorph made it to Earth in the first place, but I would be surprised if we even get a cameo from Michael Fassbender, especially because it seems like this production isn't going to be terribly expensive.

What does Noah Hawley’s involvement mean?

The name Noah Hawley raises a few eyebrows as well, as his previous work with FX has demonstrated a gift for esoteric visual storytelling and dry wit. I would imagine that we’ll receive a combination of his previously demonstrated talents in the form of a Coen-esque cast of potential victims and a perceptual hook that allows for non-verbal storytelling.

I strongly suspect that he would not simply pitch another spin on the Alien monster movie, with the Xenomorph picking off hapless people one by one. For one thing, having a season-long cast doesn’t play well with the necessity that people need to keep dying, unless the season is misguidedly paced like a very long film. But you also need a way to engage the audience in a central struggle with a horror monster that works best either hiding in the shadows or swarming en masse. And here’s where I think I might have cracked where this ride might be heading.

Here’s a wild idea based on almost nothing.

You make the Xenomorph the protagonist.

I know, I know, that brings to mind the kind of Saturday morning cartoon where an R-rated monster is given a friendly voice and fights bad guys like a superhero, but hear me out. Presumably, the Earth setting will revolve around the evil megacorporation Weyland Yutani. Let’s say they get ahold of one of David’s Xenomorph embryos from Alien: Covenant, and they attempt to raise and control a Xenomorph in captivity. Maybe it’s an adolescent queen, not yet fully grown or stunted in some way so that it’s still a threat but not necessarily a killing machine, and Weyland Yutani scientists poke and prod the thing in a clearly torturous way so that we’re primed to sympathize with it.

You build up a cast of Weyland Yutani scientists who are a bunch of assholes, folks who engage in a lot of infighting that, one day, probably at the end of the first episode, gives the Xenomorph a chance to escape. It kills one of the scientists we’ve already been inclined to dislike and crawls into the vents. The facility goes on lockdown, but instead of primarily following the scientists and whatever Marines are stationed in the facility in their bid for survival, we follow the Xenomorph, still weakened from the experiments as it picks off assholes one by one as they get closer and closer to cornering it.

Basically, this is Die Hard with a Xenomorph, and that’s an idea that plays well with Hawley’s penchant for Coen-esque nihilism and trippy unconventional narrative. Having a silent protagonist with a skewed, inhuman perception of the world would fit directly in his wheelhouse, and the singular survival angle is a novel twist on monster movie formula, especially because Weyland Yutani is the poster child for corporate evil and would be fun to see skewered. Then, if they do make the Xenomorph an adolescent queen, the story can also have a coming-of-age angle that culminates in giving birth to a whole Xenomorph brood as the ultimate vengeance against the fools she’s imprisoned with, unleashing an army of her own to take out the army that spent a whole season of television trying to kill her.

Do I think this is what FX and Hawley are actually going to do? Hell if I know. That’s just my wild, pitch for what could happen. But what if I’m right? Isn’t that a show you’d want to see? Disney, if that’s not what you’re doing this season and you’re looking for more ideas going forward, call me.