Alien Nation #10: Three to Tango

George and Susan are having a baby and need a binnaum (or catalyst), but someone's been killing them.
SLAGS LIKE US: The racist gun nut who thinks God is his partner in violent crime seems ripped from today's headlines. The white majority's fear that ethnic minorities are "breeders" who pose a demographic threat is also something we contend with today; the careers and life styles of the upper middle class (and those who strive to attain that status) don't allow for as many offspring, so as long as you keep minorities down economically, you're going to have to live with that fear, wingnuts. (It is a deep irony to me that Fox was behind Alien Nation.)

REVIEW: Now that George and Susan have decided to have a baby, it's time to talk about sex and procreation, because we hardly know anything about how the Newcomers do it. And perhaps Three to Tango falls under the heading of "too much information", but somehow, it all comes across as rather sweet, even though there's an awkward "penetration" shot in it. That the Newcomers have a third gender was previously not known, and given the rarity of these "binnaums" who essentially secrete a catalyzing agent into the female's womb so the male can fertilize her eggs - less than 1% - it would seem the Purists' hate-filled claims that the Newcomers are super-breeders whose population must be controlled is just propaganda. Though there's a semi-religious order of binnaums that services thousands of women, it's still an obstacle to unrestricted reproduction and must slow things down (even if we don't know what the gestation time is yet). No doubt, the Overseers used the binnaums to control the slave population on the ship.

To Matt, this is of course quite kinky. A woman who wants a child must lay with two men. And as it turns out, they invite people over to watch the binnaum do it with their wives. George has little patience for this, irritated that humans sexualize everything and taint a beautiful thing with their prurience. He's not wrong, and overcoming cultural prejudice is a necessary part of Matt's journey. After all, he's also dating a Newcomer, or what would you call those dance lessons in her apartment? The sexual tension between them comes to a head in this episode when - and this is a moment I had to watch twice to really get - during the binnaum ceremony, he starts out wanting to take a peek at the action, but winds up just looking at Cathy next to him. It's the first time he sees her using, as a filter, Newcomer standards of beauty. The way her spots flow down her neck, the shape of her ear slits... and it makes him fall for her for real. It's a moment the show has been building to. Where he isn't just accepting her despite her biological differences, but also his partner's culture. What could have been, through Matt's eyes, an unacceptable sexual display, is transformed into the beautiful community moment George spoke of. And only minutes earlier, it was an awkward function, at most to be used to embarrass despicably-pragmatic Captain Grazer.

This is also Albert's story. He's revealed to BE a former binnaum, which personalizes the case the boys are on when binnaums start turning up dead. The plot is somewhat predictable, especially after the lone gunman is caught early, but does have some good action beats. It's not about the police procedural anyway, but about the characters. For Albert, a janitorial position the cops look down on is actually a life-affirming choice. He's chosen freedom over a life of institutionalized coupling, and is trying to forge his own life and identity, which certainly explains why he is such a misfit, even by Newcomer standards. For his Order, what he's done is a terrible thing, an attitude Matt equates with the way organized religion failed him. He's wrong to think so, but that's Sikes. He sees things in human terms. By the end, he doesn't just embrace Newcomer culture, but his own, and finally lets go of his resentment; his point of view really is shifting. Nevertheless, the Order has a point; the freedom inherent in American culture (whether it is illusory or not) IS having an effect on the Newcomers, and could, if more binnaums go Albert's way, lead to de-institutionalized coupling, and what would that mean? Coupling for profit? Coupling outside of wedlock (the "lock" seems a powerful thing, but a female could be forced or tricked into fertility)? Nightmare scenarios that bring us back to the slave ship come to mind. Not all as black and white as all that.

THE MOVIE LEGACY:
Still using establishing shots of the streets of L.A. at night from the film.

REWATCHABILITY: High
- The subject matter could have led to a terrible episode, but by embracing the Newcomer point of view in the writing, acting and directing, it actually makes it palatable, even touching. I'd say this was a better indicator of the status quo changing than the previous episode's more plot-driven machinations.

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